If you ask any tourist what they plan on doing in Singapore, their answer will undoubtedly involve visiting popular attractions, such as Katong Laksa, Marina Bay Sands or the Singapore Zoo. While it’s true that these are classic places you simply can’t leave without visiting, for the adventurous traveler, they barely scratch the surface. Whether you’re a tourist looking for a road less traveled, or even a local yearning to see your home in a new light, we’ve put together a non-touristy guide to Singapore, away from the mainstream attractions, that will give you an unforgettable impression of the Little Red Dot:
Take a walk at the Botanic Gardens
Established as a recreational garden and a center for botanical and horticultural research, the Singapore Botanic Gardens was the country’s first UNESCO Heritage Site. Within its forested compound, the National Orchid Garden boasts the world’s largest orchid display, while the Swan Lake presents the perfect opportunity for bird watching. On top of that, the country’s oldest garden regularly holds free concerts, walking tours, exhibitions, and is a favorite among locals.
Dine on the Singapore River
There are many great hotel offers in Singapore you could choose from that offer some amazing dining credits and options. But whichever one you opt for, make sure to reserve one night for the incredible experience of dining on a boat while cruising down the Singapore River. You must have seen a lot of tourist-filled sampan boats along the river, but this experience is something else – think a classy mini-cruise with an exquisite four course dinner as you take in the wonderful sights and sounds of the riverside for an hour and a half.
You’ve probably walked past the Istana and its watchful guard sternly patrolling the entrance, as if to say “Do not enter”. But you actually can enter the Istana – its grounds are open to the public five times a year. Boasting lush gardens and incredible architecture, you’ll want to explore Singapore’s own White House, the official residence and office of the president. So, take a guided walk of the Istana gardens and main building or download the Istana Garden Walk app on your phone to scan QR codes around the Istana for a self-guided tour option.
Discover the Peranakan culture
Learn a bit more about the Peranakan or Straits Chinese culture by visiting the Peranakan Museum, where endless exhibits and lavish artifacts are presented. If you want to experience even more of this unique culture, head on over to East Coast Road, a veritable living museum dotted with Peranakan restaurants and cultural galleries. When visiting, don’t forget to try some colorful, steamed and incredibly delicious Nonya cakes.
Explore ethnic neighborhoods
The eclectic ethnic districts of Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India are microcosms of multicultural Singapore. There are endless things to discover in these wonderful districts, so put on your walking shoes and soak up their colorful atmosphere on foot, and be sure to arrive with an empty stomach, in order to be able to sample authentic local cuisine in between your trails.
Kayak through a mangrove swamp
For the ultimate Singapore adventure, paddle through the mangroves of Khatib Bongsu in the North or Pulau Ubin in the East, against the backdrop of lush greenery. This experience presents you with the opportunity to take your love of nature to the next level, and, if you’re lucky, you may even get the chance to spot dugongs in the wild at Pulau Ubin. While it’s relatively easy to get the hang of kayaking, you’ll still need to come prepared for a challenge – capsizing is bound to happen and your arms will be seriously toned after the expedition.
Have a go at underwater hockey
Adding to the list of sports you’ve never heard of before, but absolutely need to try, is underwater hockey. Equipped with their battle gear in the form of snorkels, players play this game with sticks and a puck at the bottom of a swimming pool. You can find an active session almost any day of the week and the best part is that everyone is invited. Even if you are a rookie, fret not – experienced players will always be on hand to teach you the basics of this interesting sport.
Catch a free show at the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
If you want to experience the Singapore art scene in a different way, visit the performing center Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. Since it’s opening, the Esplanade has given the financial district a breath of fresh air by turning the city into one of the world’s busiest art hubs. The Esplanade has a year-long schedule of amazing events, from workshops and festivals to musicals and concerts. They often hold free programs for the public as well – open concerts at the outdoor stage by the river are a crowd favorite.
It’s safe to say we’ve debunked the myth that Singapore is all work and no play. As you can see, there’s endless things to do, rain or shine, both for the young and the young at heart.