I think Singapore is one of the most misunderstood destinations I’ve ever been too. Its position as a transit hub between Europe and Oceania make it a perfect stopover destination, but to give yourself just 24 or 48 hours in this island city would mean you ultimately miss a lot of the best bits.
I’ve enjoyed extended stopovers in Singapore 3 times while travelling between the UK and Australia and only now do I feel I’m starting to understand its unique blended culture, architecture and cuisine. (I’ve also enjoyed a lot of comfortable stays at Changi Airport when I don’t have enough time to get into the city.)
Singapore has rapidly changed in the years in-between each of my visits, so I’ve always had something new and cool to add to the list, and with the opening of Jewel last year my most recent visit was definitely my favourite.
So, let’s get stuck in to some of my favourite places to go and things to do in Singapore and hopefully you’ll take a new shine to The Lion City too.
Cool things to do in Singapore
1. Gardens By The Bay
Don’t be a fool (like me) and think that as you’re not really into plants you can give Singapore’s award-winning conservatories a miss, because, honestly, you have never seen plants like this.
Gardens By The Bay is an out-of-this-world horticultural park featuring 2 humungous conservatories (Cloud Forest and Flower Dome), a giant man-made waterfall and a grove of solar-powered ‘Supertrees’ that dazzle and dance like fireworks as part of a free show in the evenings.
The mesmerising Garden Rhapsody light and sound show takes place at Supertree Grove daily at 7.45pm and 8.45pm.
You’ll feel like you’ve fallen into the Avatar movie while scaling the Skyway that connects 2 of the 50-metre-tall Supertrees, and you can even grab a cold drink at the Supertree Observatory Cafe atop the tallest one while you’re up there.
There are an array of food halls and cafes in the park including a super-clean hawker centre, aptly named Satay By The Bay, where you can enjoy foliage-framed views of Marina Bay Sands and tuck into satay sticks by the plate.
Families note: This whole complex is incredibly child and buggy-friendly with ample lift access, high chairs and baby changing facilities, plus they are happy to let you store things with reception if, like us, you’ve come with a car seat you can’t be bothered to cart around with you!
2. Jewel at Changi Airport
Singapore’s award-winning Changi Airport became even more impressive in 2019 with the opening of the Jewel dining, retail and entertainment complex. At the centre of this shopping-centre-like-none-other is the world’s largest indoor waterfall, and, my goodness, is it a stunner.
The incredible 40-metre-high HSBC Rain Vortex creates rainbows during the day and is turned into a creative light and sound show by night. (7.30pm – 11.30pm daily, at hourly intervals.)
While Jewel is connected to Changi Airport (via the arrivals hall of terminal 1 or link bridge and /or shuttle bus to the others) you don’t have to have a boarding pass to get in here. Entrance is free with just some additional cool features like a Hedge Maze, Mirror Maze, Canopy Bridge and Park ticketed. (Available from machines on the day.)
If you’ve got a flight later in the day, I recommend spending a few hours here before flying – a number of airlines let you check in your luggage on L1, so you don’t have to wheel it around with you.
For families with older kids (or adults with lots of energy!) you can wear them out before flying at the Manulife Sky Nets. This giant 250-metre-long net extends above the Canopy Park on Jewel’s upper level and lets you leap right up to the ceiling. (Or at least feel like it.)
The Sky Net ticket includes access to a number of fun things in the Canopy Park, including Discovery Slides & Foggy Bowls(!), so you’ll easily pass the time before a night flight here.
Find more ideas for things to do in my guide to Jewel for First Stop Singapore.
3. LeVeL 33 Craft Brewery
You may already know about CÉ LA VI SkyBar at Marina Bay Sands, (S$20 entry fee redeemable on food and drinks) but I always think that the view from there is missing something – you know, like one of the most iconic buildings in the city.
So, for sweeping views of Singapore, including unobstructed views of the Marina Bay Sands laser light show, AND a delicious cold craft brew, I recommend you head to LeVeL 33 Brewery and grab a seat at their restaurant or roof terrace.
The world’s highest urban craft brewery offers tasters by the paddle and a dining menu that pairs perfectly if you’re peckish. There is no entry fee and we found it easy to get a table (with Miles!) during the day. (Lonely Planet says it gets harder after 6pm – read more here.)
4. TreeTop Walk at MacRitchie
If you stick to the Marina it’s easy to think Singapore is an island city filled with skyscrapers and super modern architecture. Head to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (known as MacRitchie), however, and you’ll soon discover Singapore’s lush rainforest and some of the skinks, lizards and birds that live there.
A 6km walking trail will take you on a loop of the reserve, including across its 250m-long suspension bridge, that offers a birds-eye view of the forest canopy.
Click here for a guide to the walking trail. It takes approx. 2-3 hours so pack lots and lots of water!
5. Henderson Waves
Closer to Downtown, in the green belt south of Singapore, are the eye-catching curves of a 274-metre long pedestrian bridge known as Henderson Waves.
This fantastical wooden structure, the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore, connects 2 parks in the Southern Ridges Walk and is lit in LED lights at dusk.
It’s a lovely place to go if you want to feel like more of a local, and the photography opportunities are plentiful. (Sorry my pic from 2014 doesn’t do it justice!)
6. Peranakan Houses in Joo Chiat
To learn about the more traditional architecture of Singapore and the area’s rich cultural mix of European, Chinese, Malay and Indian influences, check out the Peranakan Shophouses in Joo Chiat and Katong.
While the rainbow-coloured row of houses in Joo Chiat have become a bit of an Instagram sensation, don’t forget to explore the surrounding shops, cafes and businesses to learn a bit more about Peranakan fashion, cuisine and custom.
Where to stay in Singapore
We chose to base ourselves at Hotel Indigo in Katong during our recent visit (who can resist Laksa and gelato on your doorstep?), which combines retro Peranakan décor with giant bathtubs and a rooftop pool.
We used the Grab or Uber app to get taxis to all places mentioned as it was the easiest way to do it with a baby. We travelled with our own car seat for this reason. Find more of our baby travel essentials here.
Singapore Airlines offer some great stopover packages where you can add a hotel and 1-way transfer onto your flight booking from as little as $40 SGD. Find more information here.
Read next: 5 things that surprised me about Singapore
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