Colonial-era buildings contrast against 21st century skyscrapers by starchitects and quaint rows of shophouses – small and young it might be, but Singapore has much to offer in the architecture space. From the Neo-Renaissance style of the Raffles Singapore, to the Anglo-French Gothic chapel at Chijmes, and the Streamline Moderne appearance of Tiong Bahru estate, these are just some of the significant historical structures on the island. Juxtaposing sharply against them are the modernity of the tri-towered Marina Bay Sands integrated resort, the spiky domes of the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, and the stacked shipping container-like form of The Interlace condominium, just to name a few.
With racial harmony one of the cornerstones of Singapore, various ethnic communities live in social cohesion alongside each other, distinguished by their cultural enclaves. Each unique area is a 10-minute taxi ride away and lends a peek into their way of life. In Chinatown, look out for the medical halls, teahouses and temples. Along the lanes of Kampong Glam and Arab Street, bazaar-style shopping results in a riot of colourful textiles and foodstuff on display, occupying what was once the historical focal point of Muslim life in Singapore. Over in Little India, the scents and sights of the subcontinent consume the senses, dominated by shops selling species, sarees and gold jewellery.
If there is one thing Singaporeans are absolutely serious about, it is their street food. Its multi-racial profile means the cuisine is diverse and exotic. Locals are often found debating about where to feast on favourites such as bak kut teh (pork rib soup), chicken rice, rojak (a salad doused with prawn paste sauce), beef kway teow (a type of rice noodle), mee soto (noodles served with shredded chicken) and chili crab, just to name a few. Sampling a few of the dishes is an absolute must before leaving the country.
Just For Kids
Whether they are activities on dry land, under the sea, or up in the air, there are no shortage of options for guests traveling with families in tow. Visit the award-winning Singapore Zoo to meet the 1,600 animals in residence, or head to Sentosa island to immerse in the Marina Life Park, home to one of the biggest oceanariums in the world. Alternatively, Universal Studios Singapore, with its seven movie-themed zones, will keep the young ones occupied all day. Teens will also not want to miss out the MegaZip Adventure Park, that includes an exhilirating flying fox, where they can whiz over the jungle canopy that stretches more than 450m at 72m above sea level.
For a country of this size, Singapore has an unusually large number of museums. The most prominent ones are the National Museum, Singapore Art Museum, National Gallery, Asian Civilisations Museum and Peranakan Museum. Hours alone can be spent wandering through their exhibits. But there is also a quirkier side to the museum scene that includes the Mint Museum of Toys, Fort Siloso and the Singapore Philatelic Museum.
Outside of the central business district, the soaring buildings gradually give way to an abundance of greenery. For instance, Macritchie Reservoir Park is a 12-hectare green lung that borders the country’s first reservoir, with its own TreeTop Walk and numerous trails. The Southern Ridges is a 10km walk that connects Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, HortPark, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Nature Reserve. Get acquainted with the extensive mangrove forest in the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. For a glimpse into Singapore in the 1960s, hop on a boat and get transported to Pulau Ubin, a rustic, rugged island best explored on a mountain bike.