Be it your first trip to Singapore or your fiftieth, Lion City never ceases to amaze. A melting pot of cultures and an unrelenting sense of innovation can be discovered in every corner of this tiny but tremendous Southeast Asian state. Foodies will be in heaven as they follow their noses to neighborhoods such as Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Gelam. While architecture-lovers can marvel at epic structures like Gardens by the Bay.
No matter what your timeframe is, from 24 hour layovers to week long vacations – there is always something fun to do in Singapore. Before setting off on your adventure, we suggest learning about the history of this island country because without a historical lens it can feel incomprehensible. It began in the late 13th century when the first settlements were established. During this time, Singapore was given the name Temasek or Sea Town.
However, the name changed again when a prince from the Srivijaya Empire visited and claimed to see a lion in the area (an animal he hadn’t seen before). The prince was inspired and decided to found a city where the sighting occurred, naming it Singapura which stems from the Sanskrit words Simha (lion) and Pura (city). A succession of kings went on to rule Singapura. From this, the city did well as a trading post due to its location.
Modern Singapore started to take shape in the 19th century when Stamford Raffles arrived. He had such a profound impact that there is even a hotel named after him now called Raffles. Basically, the British were searching for a port in this part of the world to park their fleet and to use as a base to deter the Dutch. Raffles recognized the potential of the land and negotiated a treaty where Singapore would grow as a trade hub.
After this event immigrants from China, India and the Malay Archipelago rushed to come to Singapore for new opportunities. Fast forward to WWII and the Japanese attacked in 1941 which led the Allies to surrender in 1942. But it was short-lived, as the Empire of Japan was eventually stopped by the Americans and the Japanese handed control back to the British. A few decades later, in 1965, Singapore finally won its independence.
Since the 60s, Lion City or Garden City as it’s referred to today has gone from strength to strength in terms of growth. It’s now a modern city where the interplay of history, culture, food and architecture is nothing short of spectacular. There is no better place for a stopover on your international travels. If this is your first trip to Singapore, have a read through our list of activities below to immerse yourself in this vibrant destination.
10 Things To Do on your First Trip to Singapore
As soon as you touch down in Singapore, especially if it’s Jewel Changi Airport, you will realize just how special this island nation is. Changi is not your standard run-of-the-mill airport where passengers flee as soon as possible. Rather, travelers stick around to explore the range of shops and the super impressive Rain Vortex indoor waterfall. If that waterfall is the first photo you take in Singapore, then it’s bound to be the trip of a lifetime.
Once you have left the airport and checked into your hotel, it’s time to grab a bite to eat. Let’s Go Tour Singapore is the best operator for this type of experience. They offer the city on a plate (so to speak) with their range of culinary adventures such as their Beyond Michelin Food Tour or Chinese Street Food Tour with Hawker Weng. With Let’s Go Tour Singapore as your local guide you will be able to dive deep into Singapore’s culture.
1. Explore the Futuristic Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay is a nature park in the heart of the city that every traveler should visit at least once. Despite being extraordinarily busy with locals and tourists alike, it’s still a breathtaking sight – so don’t be put off by the crowds. The variety of plants on offer and the way they are displayed is mind-blowing. A soaring waterfall can be gazed at for hours inside the Cloud Forest, while the Supertree Grove is always a hit with photographers.
2. Walk Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Gelam
For those who want to see the real Singapore we recommend the Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Gelam walk with Let’s Go Tour Singapore. It lasts for three hours and takes you to three ethnic enclaves. Each neighborhood boasts a colorful history that dates back to the founding of modern Singapore. A guide leads you to bustling streets, cool photo-ops, and plenty of fascinating facts and stories are shared too.
3. Spend a Fun Few Hours at Raffles Hotel
Raffles is a 5-star hotel but you don’t have to pay big bucks to have a good time at this institution. The first thing to do when you arrive is to capture its facade with your camera. The glorious white combined with red roofs, and intricately designed windows, make it a wonderful image indeed. After, you can head to the Long Bar and sip Singapore Slings while snacking on peanuts. Know that it’s tradition to let the peanut shells fall on the floor.
4. Book a Food Tour with Let’s Go Tour Singapore
There is a reason why Let’s Go Tour Singapore earned the title of Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best 2022 with Tripadvisor and in part it was due to their food tours. You can choose one from their selection – whether it be the highly-rated Chinese street food experience with a hawker, or a bike & bites tour that helps you lose the calories you consumed, or a market to table tour that includes a cooking class. You can’t go wrong with any of these.
5. Join the Historical Singapore Bicycle Tour
As mentioned at the beginning, Singapore’s history is incredibly interesting and the best way to learn about it is to jump on a bike with the team at Let’s Go Tour Singapore. Their Historical Singapore Bicycle Tour takes you to a market where you can try local coffee and bites, meanders along the river where you can learn what life was like in the 1800s, to the Raffles statue, WWII monuments, the business district and much more.
6. Snap Instagrammable Photos at Fort Canning Park
Fort Canning was constructed in the 19th century and was utilized in WWII as a bunker for the army to defend themselves. Nowadays, the fort and its park is frequented by locals to enjoy a picnic. While an al fresco meal in nature wouldn’t be bad, the main draw is the bunker itself which you can walk down and take creative photos looking up at the circular opening. The entrance is adorned with lush greenery and trees in the background.
7. Escape the City and Discover Pulau Ubin
Pulau Ubin is an untouched island located northeast of the mainland. The island is blessed with colorful birds, picturesque mangroves, and fantastic hiking and cycling paths. With Let’s Go Tour Singapore you can see its rich biodiversity and discover the wild side of Pulau Ubin. Families with children will appreciate this excursion, as it gives their kids a break from the chaos of the city and they can run around until their heart’s content.
8. Take a Day Trip to the Nearby Sentosa Island
Sentosa is a resort island dotted with beaches that compete for space with high-rises. Again, it’s another great option for families to take their kids to attractions like Universal Studios and the S.E.A. Aquarium. It’s also a nice place for adults who need their next beach fix, a round of golf or a spot of luxury shopping. There are a few ways to get to Sentosa such as by car, bus or monorail but the cable car is often regarded as the most thrilling.
9. Stroll around the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
A series of leisurely strolls await at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. If this is your first trip to Singapore, you might not have the time to tick this ASEAN Heritage Park off your bucket list but if you do go you won’t regret it. Wander across flat and maintained trails and keep your eyes peeled for lizards, crabs, water snakes and maybe crocodiles. The bird species are also plentiful – many feathered friends from around the area migrate here.
10. Watch the Singapore Grand Prix in October
The biggest event in Singapore’s calendar year is the Grand Prix and you don’t have to be a motorhead to enjoy it. Early October is just around the corner in 2022 so why not time your first ever trip to Singapore with this action-packed race in mind? The circuit goes through Marina Bay with the dazzling skyline of the city looking over all the drivers and attendees. There is plenty of entertainment on show such as parties, live music and more.