After trekking through Southeast Asia’s more rugged regions, Singapore may come as a surprise to travelers. High-tech skyscrapers, clean streets, and potable tap water distinguish the “Lion City” from its beighbors. Though stringend laws and formidable wealth lend an imposing reputation, the city’s sway to a decidedly convival beat. Busy sidewalks serve as the dynamis meeting place for four ethnicities. No longer content for being known as a stopover city, the Singapore of today is a luxurious, energetic city with much to offer travellers. Enjoy a drink in one of its many high end cocktail bars, or relax in the billion-dollar Botanic Gardens that somehow blend technology and green space. It’s this variety that makes Singapore such a brilliant destination.
The city center divides into four areas. Orchard Road stretches from west to east of the city center, where it forks into Bras Basah Road and a parallel street to the south, Stamford Road. These two streets are home to the Raffles Hotel and Chijmes in the heart of the Colonial District. When Selegie Rd., which protrudes from the eastern end of Orchard Road, becomes Seragoon Road to the north, you’ve reached Little India. South of the Singapore River, below Upper Cross and Cross St., Chinatown’s many shops and restaurants extend as far as Cantonment Rd. The airport is on the eastern fringe of the city. The railway station is south of Chinatown.
As a melting pot for Asian and European cultures, Singapore has an interesting and varied collection of things to see and do. The tropical climate makes walking the old street markets beautiful almost any time of year. The historic temples and markets are balanced by the modern high-rises and roof-top bars, making Singapore the perfect destination for a wide range of visitors.
With so many cultures in one city, it can be hard to get a taste of them all during your visit. Here is our list of top things to do in Singapore to help you make the most of your time. Click the links to explore and book tours or local guides.
When it comes to swanky Italian or French restaurants, Singaporeans can pick and choose. Still, almost all locals swear by the food served at hawker centers and coffee shops (also known as kopi tiams). These open-air food centers hold countless stalls, serving everything from fresh-squeezed tropical fruit juice to seafood and vegetarian curry. A sufficiently large hawker center should give you the chance to sample most of Singapore’s culinary repertoire. Stalls are often open until the early hours of the morning, and individual vendors keep their own schedules. Just about every shopping center or department store has a food court on the lower level. “Good Food in Singapore” signs mark kiosks that enjoy high ratings from local food critics.
Like Singapore’s other art forms, traditional pen and ink drawing has been influenced by older Chinese styles. Local cultural shows present traditional art, such as Malay shadow plays, kite-flying, and Chinese lion dances. Chinese opera combines high (melo)drama with elaborate costumes. Singapore’s architecture integrates Western, Indian, Arabic, and Chinese styles. The Emerald Hill area, off Orchard Rd., has beautiful shophouses. Colonial architecture is predominantly found in “black and white” style houses.
Singapore’s harsh stance on drugs and crime has been internationally publicized, coming under fire from human rights groups like Amnesty International. The Singaporean government has set about to loosen up Singapore’s international image, relaxing some of the more absurd social codes—but residents claim that little has changed. The government indirectly controls the press by encouraging self-censorship among journalists. Though not tecchnically censored, newspapers critical of the government are rarely allowed into the country. In 1997, the Singaporean government began censoring the Internet, denying access to “unsuitable” websites with references to sex, politics, or religion. Political freedom is limited by the virtual one-party system imposed by PAP. One obstacle facing potential opposition parties is the restriction on freedom of assembly and association. Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Unification Church have both been banned. There are small but pervasive reminders of the government’s tight clamp, including laws restricting those under 21 from watching movies with homosexual content, and government posters gently encouraging procreation. Yet, despite the restrictions, everyday life remains at least superficially liberal, with many residents simply choosing to ignore or skirt some of the government’s limitations