Bloggers have always raved about famous Singapore tourist spots, from the panoramic views in the Marina Bay Sands infinity pool to the blast-from-the-past atmosphere of Palau Ubin.
During my recent visit to Singapore, I tried to visit as many of the city’s important tourist attractions as possible. During my first two days I rode a hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus, which whisked me from tourist spot to tourist spot while allowing me to see the city from above ground level (unlike the MRT public transportation system, which is fast and convenient but sorely lacking in beautiful views).
When I sat down to write a post about my favorite tourist attractions in Singapore, I decided to organize my list into free attractions and paid attractions. Singapore’s reputation for being expensive is well-earned, but savvy travelers can find dozens of free or inexpensive ways to spend their time in the city.
In fact, many of my favorite experiences in Singapore were completely free. That’s why I invited some fellow travel bloggers to contribute to this post. These bloggers checked out some of the city’s more expensive tourist attractions and shared exactly why their experience was worth every last Singapore dollar.
Whether you’re on a tight budget or an unlimited budget (or fall somewhere in the middle) you’ll want to add as many of these Singapore tourist spots as possible to your itinerary – they really are amazing.
The Best Free Singapore Tourist Spots
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Only the most special parks are eligible for UNESCO World Heritage Site status, and Singapore Botanic Gardens obtained this highly-coveted status in 2015.
The gardens cover almost two hundred acres and have been operational for more than 150 years. They are divided into distinct sections including the National Orchid Garden (the only part of the gardens that charges an admission fee), a six-acre tropical rainforest, the Sun Garden, the Sundial Garden, three lakes and an assortment of dining options (including a Michelin-starred restaurant).
Personally, I’m a perfume-lover and I was most interested in the Fragrant Garden and the Frangipani Collection. After visiting those two gardens (which were on opposite sides of the park!) I wandered freely around the gardens, stopping for a lemonade and occasionally gasping as I encountered meter-long monitor lizards on the path (don’t worry, they’re more afraid of you!).
Directions – I arrived at the Botanic Gardens on one of the city’s hop-on, hop-off sightseeing buses. The Botanic Gardens MRT station is on the Circle Line and the Downtown Line. There is direct access from the station to the north end of the gardens, and from there it is a one-kilometer walk to the main entrance area.
Opening Hours – 5:00 am – 12:00 am daily.
Haw Par Villa
If you had told me that Singapore was home to a crumbling Tiger Balm theme park, I would never have believed you. However, it’s true. And it’s just as weird as it sounds.
The history of Haw Par Villa is storied. The original theme park opened way back in 1937, as a way for the Chinese-Burmese creators of Tiger Balm to share their culture and beliefs with the people of Singapore. A theme park company invested $30 million in the attraction in the mid-1980s, but within two years the project had to be bailed out by the Singapore Tourist Board. It has essentially been operating at a loss for the past twenty years, and today the free admission price reflects the general quality of the remaining exhibits and the overall park maintenance.
In total, Haw Par Villas is home to more than 1000 statues spread across 150 different dioramas. The famous highlight is The Ten Courts of Hell, which dramatically portrays the harsh punishments that Chinese myths and Buddhist traditions doled out for unfavorable behaviors (these punishments are oddly specific, like being ground to death by a large stone for disobeying your sibling, or having your body sawed in two for “misuse of books”).
Yes, it all sounds a little sad. But for travelers who love bizarre attractions and unique expressions of cultural identity, Haw Par Villa is actually a must-visit on your Singapore itinerary. I recommend arriving right when the park opens and budgeting about two or three hours to take in all the displays. Although there were facilities to sell food and drink inside none were open during my visit. You can buy water and snacks from vendors at the front gate.
Directions – Use transit to get to the Haw Par Villa MRT station on the Circle Line.
Opening Hours – 9:00 am to 6:00 pm daily.
It seems crazy that an entire neighborhood could be a world-class Singapore tourist spot, but Little India is a neighborhood in a league of its own. Measuring less than one square mile, it is easy to explore Little India’s temples, markets, restaurants and shops by foot.
The most famous attraction in Little India is the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, a huge Hindu temple with an intricate, colorful design. There are also smaller Hindu and Buddhist temples on the surrounding streets, including the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple with a hidden shrine.
For me, though, the highlight of Little India was sampling the amazing vegetarian food offered at its many 100% vegetarian restaurants. For a solo traveler, Ananda Bhavan is an awesome choice. The South Indian Set Meal, served on top of a banana leaf, includes fifteen different components, allowing you to try all sorts of different flavors in a single menu item.
Little India is also great for shopping – especially if you’re in the market for jewelry or textiles. Since I was a budget traveler with a small backpack, I limited my shopping to a few inexpensive perfumes from Mustafa Center, a huge department store that is open twenty-four hours a day and sells everything you could ever imagine.
During my first visit to Singapore, I stayed at Green Kiwi Hostel, which is now partnered with the adjacent Rucksack Inn, on the northeast edge of Little India. I really liked the hostel’s friendly staff, kaya toast breakfast and proximity to delicious Indian food, and I loved its affordable prices, but it is about ten minutes by foot from the nearest MRT station.
Directions – The Little India and Ferrer Park MRT stations are along the neighborhood’s western edge, while Rochor and Jalan Besar stations are at the southeastern corner.
MacRitchie Reservoir & The TreeTop Walk
In my post about making friends while traveling, I mentioned that I love using Couchsurfing to find events where I can meet cool locals and other travelers. While I was in Singapore, I joined a half-day hiking event into the MacRitchie Reservoir and across its famous TreeTop Walk.
The MacRitchie Reservoir will always hold a special place in my heart, because it was the first place I ever saw monkeys in the wild. We had only been walking for about fifteen minutes when we encountered our first macaque, and after that it was non-stop monkeys all the way through the park!
I can’t emphasize this enough: do not feed the monkeys! The macaques around MacRitchie Reservoir are highly accustomed to people and confident enough to boldly grab any food they can smell (even if it’s inside your backpack). You can reduce your risk of a monkey attack (!) by carrying only pre-packaged food in its original, fully-sealed condition, and avoiding the use of plastic bags (the monkeys associate the sound of rustling plastic with a source of food).
You can expect to see other wildlife in the park as well – there is interesting waterfowl along the water’s edge, and we also spotted monitor lizards, snakes and butterflies (but no flying lemurs, sadly!).
The park around MacRitchie Reservoir is well-signed, and there is a good variety of hiking trails ranging from three to eleven kilometers in length. From Venus Drive, it’s about a five-kilometer loop to the famous TreeTop Walk section. Here, you cross a 250-meter suspension bridge connecting the parks two highest points. From the bridge you can look down into the canopy below, sneak a peak at the city beyond, and wonder at the little slice of nature in an otherwise bustling metropolis. Pedestrian traffic across the suspension bridge only goes in one direction, so make sure to follow the clear signs to the correct entrance point.
Directions – The closest entrance to the TreeTop Walk is the parking lot on Venus Drive. The closest MRT station is Marymount, on the Circle line, and from here it is five stops on Bus #310 (in the direction of “Bishan Int”) to Venus Drive.
Opening Hours – The park itself is open daily, with no posted closing hours. The TreeTop Walk section is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (opening at 8:30 am on weekends). It is best to check the reservoir’s website for details of temporary TreeTop Walk closures.
Have you ever seen a postcard picture and then dreamed of being in that place and enjoying the view? Was the dream so real you could even feel the light breeze on your face? This was Singapore for me. When I moved here after two years of hard work it was like a dream come true.
The first postcard-perfect place I visited was the Mermaid-Lion (Merlion) with water gushing out from its mouth. It stands in front of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the towering financial institutions that mark Singapore’s skyline. Merlion Park’s views are simply unparalleled – if you have time, stay for one of the park’s evening water and light shows for an even more spectacular view.
Look closely and there’s even more to see from this scenic viewpoint. Watch the small river boats sailing in sync with each other, and marvel in the durian-shaped Esplanade Theatres. If your visit coincides with a holiday, Merlion Park is the best place to view the city’s famous firework displays. Of course, if people-watching is your thing, Merlion Park is always filled with happy tourists trying to get the perfect profile picture while balancing a gelato or bubble tea.
Directions – Use the East-West MRT line to arrive at Raffles Station, then head towards the Fullerton Hotel.
Just off the coast of mainland Singapore is Pulau Ubin, a boomerang-shaped island whose name means “Granite Island”.
The fact that this is the one remaining slice of the heavily-urbanised Singapore that still retains its rustic village charm is what makes this popular day trip destination my favorite Singapore tourist spot.
Popularly believed to be the last real kampung (village) in present-day Singapore, Pulau Ubin was once home to thousands of settlers dependent on granite quarrying. Though abandoned since the 1970s and reclaimed by nature, these quarries remain a picturesque relic of the past.
You can explore this quiet island on foot or by cycling along the many bike trails at your own pace, stopping along the way for a birds-eye view of the luxuriant tree canopies and flourishing bird life from the viewing tower, or simply kick back your heels and have a picnic on the jetty.
Directions – Palau Ubin is a separate island from the rest of Singapore. Catch a small passenger ferry (called a bumboat) from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal for $3 (each way).
Opening Hours – While the island is always open, ferries typically start operating around 6:00 am and stop around 7:00 pm.
Submitted by Neeharika from Map in My Pocket
Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay
Out of all the famous Singapore tourist spots, the Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay may be the single most iconic. And what’s more, it’s possible to visit these world-famous attractions for free!
The Supertree Grove at Gardens By the Bay consists of twelve “supertrees” ranging from twenty to fifty meters tall. Each tree consists of a concrete core with a steel frame surrounding it. Planting panels cover each of the frames and create a home for more than 160,000 plants from 200 species.
You can freely walk through all of the ground-level outdoor areas of Gardens by the Bay, including the Supertree Grove, the Heritage Gardens (featuring traditional plants from each of the Indian, Malay, Chinese and British Colonial cultures), Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes, and the desert-inspired Sun Pavilion. You only need to pay money if you want to walk on the skyway above the supertrees, or enter the Cloud Forest or Flower Dome (see below).
Directions – The closest MRT station to the Supertree Grove is Bayfront (Circle Line and Downtown Line). Use Exit B.
Opening Hours – 5:00 am to 2:00 am daily.
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
If Little India can be a tourist attraction in its own right, so can Singapore’s Chinatown. However, it’s impossible to speak about this neighborhood without mentioning its most famous attraction: The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, situated at the corner of South Bridge Road and Erskine Road (which is also the best spot for snapping photos of the colorful building).
Travelers who have visited other parts of Asia might mistake this temple for a historical site, but in fact it was opened in 2007. The centerpiece of the temple is (what is believed to be) a highly sacred relic – a tooth that once belonged to Buddha. The tooth is held inside a huge gold stupa crafted from more than three hundred kilograms of gold.
There are other places to explore within the temple complex, including a museum of Buddhist culture, a rooftop prayer wheel and a vegetarian dining hall in the basement. Every Saturday there is a free, English-language tour of the temple at 2:00 pm. Your volunteer guide will explain Singapore’s history, Chinese culture, the history of Singapore’s Chinatown and Buddhist philosophies over the course of your two-hour tour.
Directions – The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is located in Chinatown, just across the street from the infamous Maxwell Hawker Center. It’s midway between the Chinatown MRT Station and the Telok Ayer MRT Station, though it’s a more scenic walk to the temple from the former.
Opening Hours – The temple is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
The Rest of the Best Singapore Tourist Spots
You never get bored on Sentosa Island, where dozens of tourist attractions keep visitors coming back for days!
Palawan Beach is perfect for sunbathing and beachgoing, with all the services you could possibly need nearby. It is the perfect calm place to relax between busy days of sightseeing. A suspension bridge connects Palawan Beach to a smaller island, where the Tiger Sky Tower stands. In clear weather you can see as far as Indonesia and you may be able to spot a famous luxury ship, the Royal Albatross, too.
Even after numerous visits to the resort island, we still hadn’t explored all the island’s sights. One of the main attractions on Sentosa Island is the Universal Studios Singapore theme park. For adventurous visitors, the longest and steepest ziplines are also a must-try in the Mega Adventure Park.
Directions – Sentosa spreads along the southern coast of Singapore, and you can reach it by monorail from VivoCity Shopping Mall or by cable car from HarbourFront MRT Station. It’s also possible to arrive on foot. We preferred to walk one way, while in the other direction we usually took the (much faster) monorail.
Opening Hours – Each attraction on the island has its own hours, but island management notes that most are open from 9:00 am until 10:00 pm.
Submitted by Katalin from Our Life, Our Travel
The Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay
When tourists think of Singapore tourist spots, they often group the Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay in with the Supertree Grove at the same tourist attraction. However, I would consider them two separate sites, especially since it’s completely free to wander through the Supertree Grove while The Cloud Forest charges $28 for admission (which includes the adjacent Flower Dome).
Is admission to the Cloud Forest really worth $28? In my opinion, it depends on how much you love gardens and/or contemporary architecture.
If you’re a gardener at heart, you’ll probably love the humid conservatory that showcases the plants most commonly found more than 2,000 meters above sea level. A new addition to the conservatory, called the Secret Garden, features microscopic orchids that are almost invisible to the human eye. You’ll also want to take advantage of the combined admission with the Flower Dome, which holds the world record for being the largest greenhouse. It’s divided into sections based on the native plant life of each continent.
Similarly, if you love contemporary architecture, you’ll be awed by the suspended Tree Top Walk and Cloud Walk, balanced precariously over the gardens below and offering stunning views of the Singapore skyline.
And if neither of those things sound interesting to you, then you’ll definitely want to save your $28!
Directions – Follow the directions above for the Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay.
Opening Hours – The Cloud Forest is open daily from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, with the last ticket sale and admission at 8:00 pm.
Observation wheels are popping up everywhere, from the London Eye to the Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57. Singapore is no stranger to the ferris wheel game, with the Singapore Flyer having moved visitors for the past ten years.
Singapore Flyer has twenty-eight capsules complete with air conditioning, interactive multimedia and space for more than twenty-five passengers. It takes thirty minutes for the wheel to make one compete rotation, during which time you’ll have views of central Singapore, the Indonesian Spice Islands and the Straits of Johor in neighboring Malaysia from heights of up to 165 meters above the ground.
The Singapore Flyer is an awesome activity for your first day in the city, as it helps put some of Singapore’s landmarks in perspective and gives you a sense of how the city is laid out. Admission is $33 for adults and $21 for children.
Directions – From the Promenade MRT Station, follow the clearly-marked signs to the Singapore Flyer.
Opening Hours – The first departure is scheduled for 8:30 am and the last ride leaves at 10:00 pm.
Singapore is a city my husband and I hold deeply in our hearts. We are big fans of well-rounded adventures and we find it important to mix both budget and luxury travel to receive the full experience of a city.
When you hear that Singapore is known for its luxurious hotel, the Marina Bay Sands, and its exquisite views of the city skyline, you may be inspired to stay a night. But when you then read that it’s known for the world’s largest infinity pool on top of its three, 55-story towers, the decision to splurge is that much easier, this one time. Hop in the infinity pool and gawk at the entire city with a fruity cocktail in your hand. When you’re ready to get out, slip on your complimentary robe and kick back under an umbrella while watching the sunset.
Does it get much better than that? Well it does. On top of the pool, Marina Bay Sands is home to a casino meant for high rollers, high-end retailers that attract window shoppers and big spenders alike, and multiple restaurants hemmed by world-renowned celebrity chefs.
A stay at the Marina Bay Sands is a worthwhile splurge, and we don’t regret one penny of it.
Directions: The hotel is connected to the Bayfront MRT Station, which is on the Circle Line and the Downtown Line.
Submitted by Cydny from GoalTraveler.com
Singapore ArtScience Museum
Singapore is no stranger to iconic architecture like the ArtScience Museum.
Located near the famous Marina Bay Sands hotel, this can’t-be-missed building is shaped like a giant lotus (though it has also been called the “welcoming hand of Singapore” – can you spot it in the photo showing the Marina Bay Sands?). The exterior is not the only impressive part, though… walk inside to experience the stunning world where art meets science.
There are many interactive exhibits like “FutureWorld” on the lower level (easily the most popular exhibition for Instagrammers, this sparkly, diamond galaxy-like tunnel makes for perfect photos). Other exhibitions at the ArtScience Museum include “Marvel Studios 10 Years of Heroes”, “Into the Wild” and “Art From the Streets”. Combined admission to all of the exhibits costs $37 for adults and $27 for children. You can also buy partial tickets to just the exhibits that you’re most interested in seeing.
Directions: The ArtScience Museum is centrally located in the heart of downtown and accessible from Bayfront station by a 12 minutes walk. Definitely a can’t miss on anyone’s Singapore itinerary!
Submitted by Viola from The Blessing Bucket
Did our team miss any of your favorite Singapore tourist spots? Let us know in the comments!
Continuing on to Thailand? Check out my post about Bangkok’s unexpectedly upscale food courts!