Singapore Things to Do - 2
East Meets West in the Lion City
Singapore is an ideal entry point to Asia, with its mix of cultures and cuisines, historic sites and modern attractions.
Major Local Events
In 2008, Singapore hosted the Singapore Grand Prix, the first Formula One night race, along its city streets. Don’t underestimate the appeal of a Grand Prix—it catapulted the city-state to international prominence, with cheap “walkabout” tickets already selling out for this year’s three-day event from Sept. 25 to 27.
Ask any Singaporean what the national pastimes are, and the answer will always be “shopping and eating.” Find more than 30 malls along a mile of Orchard Road, boutique shopping in the Arab Quarter, bazaars in Little India and souvenirs galore in Chinatown. Plus, every June the Great Singapore Sale draws tourists from around Southeast Asia for the island-wide discounts. [Read more about Singapore Shopping.]
Where to start … Singapore is a foodie’s paradise, offering everything from cheap, delicious street food to five-star French cuisine. Eating at hawker centers, outdoor food courts scattered across the island, is an integral part of any visit. In one aisle, you can find Indonesian satay, Malaysian nasi lemak, Chinese dumpling soup, Japanese teriyaki and Indian curry, each for about $3. One of the best “hawkers” in town is the Maxwell Food Centre in Chinatown, renowned for its chicken rice—a popular local dish that’s as smooth as it is simple. [Read more about Top Singapore Restaurants.]
In the past few years, Singapore has embraced the “if you build it, they will come” motto for its art scene, injecting millions into modernized national museums and annual festivals. By last count, there were at least three festivals happening in 2009 alone—the Singapore Arts Festival (May 15 to June 14), Month of Photography Asia (June 17 to July 19) and ARTSingapore (Oct. 9 to 12)—with the Singapore Biennale hot on their heels in 2010. Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Borobudur hold auctions here regularly, and the Market of Artists and Designers (MAAD) exhibits and sells affordable art a weekend every month.
Check out my favorite gallery, Collectors Contemporary, or the Singapore Art Museum for international contemporary art; visit the National Museum of Singapore and Asian Civilisations Museum for historical artifacts from the region.
To the delight of the locals, major artists such as Elton John, Sting and Coldplay now include Singapore in their touring schedule. Check performance schedules at Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay and Fort Canning Park for shows.
If you’re looking for outdoor adventures, skip Singapore. It’s always hot and humid, and the ocean water is pretty dirty, thanks to the omnipresent tankers off the coast. But if you enjoy walking, there are plenty of options. Start by strolling through the National Orchid Garden at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a place that practically defines serenity. Jurong Bird Park, an aviary with more than 8,000 birds, is family-friendly, while the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is perfect for a quick, short hike and some monkey-spotting.
The best beach in town is on the island Sentosa, just south of Singapore proper. But if you’re strapped for time, take a taxi to East Coast Park instead, where you can wade in the water, rent rollerblades and grill dinner as the sun sets. [Read more about Sentosa Island.]