There aren’t too many places in the world that attract a variety of visitors like Singapore does. There are some awesome things to do in Singapore for everyone. International business people, students abroad and nomadic backpackers, and luxury and thrill-seekers alike all flock to the city-state year in and year out, making it one of the most visited cities in Southeast Asia.
The truth is that all of those different kinds of travelers are looking for different things, and will prioritize different aspects of this fascinating destination. However, there are certain aspects of Singapore everyone should experience on a first-time trip. So below, I’ll go over some of the most essential highlights.
Here are the Top 5 Things to do in Singapore on a First Visit
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1. Explore the Cloud Forest
The Gardens by the Bay have become one of the most famous attractions in Singapore. The Gardens is a massive nature park alongside the city’s postcard-pretty marina, separated into three gardens and frequented on a non-stop basis by tourists. It’s essentially a given that first-time visitors should stop by these gardens. Our real recommendation, though, is the special forest within the gardens.
Singapore’s Cloud Forest is a “domed conservatory” packed with jungle-like vegetation from all around the world. At its core is a 35-meter mountain covered in greenery and flowers, and wrapped in elevated walkways for visitors. A waterfall tumbles from the top, and there are additional plant formations (including towering arches) all around the mountain. While you’re conscious to some extent that you’re inside a sort of massive greenhouse, the Cloud Forest truly gives you the sensation that you’re exploring an actual rainforest.
2. Wander the Wetland Reserve
Singapore is thought of mostly as a large, modern city these days, but it’s also still possible to step away from the hustle and gain an appreciation for the natural land that surrounds it. This is exactly what you can do at the wetland reserve — which, interestingly enough, is a bit like a real rainforest to counter the one inside the Gardens by the Bay.
The Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is a unique wildlife haven that preserves the natural green charm and biodiversity of the land before the city came to be. It contains nature trails and canopy walks that allow visitors to experience the lush surroundings up close. And while it is perhaps best known as an excellent place for bird watching, it is also home to giant native lizards, and an extensive variety of plants. All in all, the reserve can make for a wonderful getaway if you’re spending most of your time in the city.
3. Play at Resorts World Sentosa
The Marina Bay Sands Resort is Singapore’s towering monument to entertainment of all kinds and is likely the main reason some think of the city as something of a casino hub. However, many who have visited will tell you that Resorts World Sentosa is where the world-class casino action truly resides. Resorts World is also something of an entertainment Mecca (it’s even where Universal Studios is), but its casino is the class of the city-state.
This is in part because of the general sprawl of games, but also because this is where you can find poker (which is mysteriously absent at Marina Bay). And even if you don’t fancy yourself a gamer, the world’s most iconic casino game at a casino like this makes for a memorable experience. It’s best to study up on the rules and get some practice in advance, and beyond that, partypoker’s strategy and tactics guide can help you to learn about the different types of bets you can place within a game. Getting these basics down will have you prepared for a high-end venue of this nature so that you’re able to hold your own. Then, even if you don’t bet much at all, a few rounds of poker at Resorts World Sentosa can be some of the most fun you have on your trip.
4. Watch the lights
I just mentioned Marina Bay Sands as the entertainment capital of Singapore, and this is more or less an accurate description at all times, day and night. The bay itself also draws plenty of attention though, most of all thanks to “Spectra – A Light & Water Show.”
There’s really no way to accurately describe what it is about this show that’s so spectacular. So suffice it to say that for 15 minutes every night, the bay beneath the resort comes alive with lights, lasers, projections, and fountains, providing a spectacular free show to everyone within range. Yes, it’s an almost Disney-like tourist attraction, but it’s also breathtaking to watch and should not be missed.
5. Eat street food
Last but not least is the Singapore street food scene — a classic example of an extremely popular tourist recommendation that is absolutely worth paying attention to. In recent years, word has gotten out that street food stalls in Singapore win Michelin stars, and the film Crazy Rich Asians certainly helped this culinary hot spot’s publicity as well. But don’t dismiss it all as hype. You haven’t experienced Singapore unless you’ve tried some of the street food.
Suggesting how to go about enjoying the street food scene is almost a shame because really it should just be explored. There are multiple prominent outdoor markets, and there are also tours you can take that expose you to a lot of variety in a short time. That said, Eater has a list of some of the best dishes to keep an eye out for – from chicken-and-rice dishes to special toast – that should give you a few items to check off your list.
So there you have it! Now you’re ready to enjoy one of the world’s most interesting cities the first time you visit.
Best hostel in Singapore
The Beary Best! Hostel has a cozy atmosphere and it is a great budget choice for backpackers, whether you are traveling alone or in a group. What makes it one of the best hostels in Singapore, is the prime location and low cost, including complimentary breakfast.
Beary Best is literally across the street from the Chinatown metro station. Also in within walking distance to major attractions such as the Merlion, Marina Bay Sands, and Gardens by the Bay.
The dorms are clean, bright, and comfortable. Each bed has a warm blanket, a reading lamp, a small shelf, and a locker. The bottom bunk has a curtain for added privacy. Also, there is free Netflix in the common room! A great value-adding amenity to a budget hostel.
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