The Lion City, the Little Red Dot, or simply Singapore, whatever name you call this small and modern Asian country at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, there’s no denying that the country has a lot more to offer than you may at first expect. Known for its fantastic shopping, abundance of tasty foods, and soaring skyscrapers, Singapore also has delightful beaches, pretty gardens, historic sites, exciting theme parks, and more.
The three major ethnic enclaves are particularly great for unraveling some of Singapore’s secrets and seeing how the country became the great nation that we know today. Explore with a Singapore tour guide and experience the country’s past and present through the eyes of a local. Here are some prime places you can look forward to:
Singapore’s Little India is a thriving and bustling area, filled with plenty of vibrant colours and tantalising aromas. The upbeat sounds of Hindi music waft through the air and there’s something interesting around every corner. Shophouses in an array of shades line the streets, and small shops sell a quirky and eclectic selection of local goodies, from exquisite saris and beautiful bangles to strong-smelling spices and spiritual icons. See local life in the market of the Tekka Centre, and peruse a staggering array of items in the large 24-hour Mustafa Centre.
Follow your nose and tuck into tasty delights like an assortment of curries, breads, and chaat, knowing that whether you sit down in a fancy restaurant or grab something to go from one of the roadside vendors that your taste buds are sure to be in for a treat.
Sacred places of worship abound, with the attractive temples of Sri Veermakaliamman and Sri SrinivasaPerumal serving the local Hindu population, and the striking Abdul Gafoor Mosque (also known as the Dunlop Street Mosque) sending out the regular Muslim call to prayer from its ornate minaret. You can see an enormous statue of the Lord Buddha, bathed in the glow of many lights, in Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple (Temple of 1,000 Lights), and observe traditional Taoist merit-making in the gorgeous Leong San See Temple.
Another of Singapore’s fascinating ethnic enclaves, Chinatown is steeped in heritage; it is easy to feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you wander the lively streets of Singapore’s Chinatown. Traditional shophouses still sell herbs and natural remedies, the shimmer and glitz gleams from the windows of gold stores, and vendors on the thronging market streets sell almost anything you could imagine, often at reduced prices.
Noodles sizzle in large roadside woks, cute bite-sized dim sum beckons, and foodies can feast on a mouth-watering selection of rice dishes, soups, and other Chinese Singaporean favourites.
The multi-level red Buddha Tooth Pagoda is one of the area’s newest attractions, whilstThian Hock Keng is the country’s oldest Chinese temples. An area of superlatives, another of Singapore’s oldest temples can be found here: Sri Mariam man Temple. The oldest Hindu temple, it features a colourful and intricate carved gopura that shows various deities, animals, mythical creatures, flowers, people, and symbols.
Learn more about the struggles, challenges, and daily life of Singapore’s early Chinese immigrants at the Chinatown Heritage Centre, which is located in converted shop houses and contains period items and personal accounts. Baba House is another great place for visitors who love learning about people from the past. It lets you take a peek into the life of a wealthy Peranakan household from times gone by.
The Red Dot Design Museum is ideal for anyone interested in contemporary designs, and is one of the more unusual attractions in Chinatown. For sweeping views, let your Singapore tour guide lead you up a local housing tower to [email protected]
Traditionally a prominently Malay area, Kampong Glam is another of Singapore’s interesting ethnic enclaves. The Malay Heritage Centre isa terrific place to learn more about one of Singapore’s major ethnic groups. An area with age-old traditions, Kampong Glam was, and still is, the heart of the country’s Muslim community for many years. It is home to the opulent and spectacular Sultan Mosque, one of the country’s most significant Islamic places of worship. Many Arab traders journeyed to Kampong Glam in times gone by, with Arab Street still home to exotic shops today, selling items like heady fragrances, Persian carpets, decorative lamps, head scarves, and abayas.
Sample traditional Malay dishes, including nasi goring and mee goring, from one of the many eateries, and rest your weary feet in one of the cute cafes along the energetic Haji Lane.
The lesser-visited areas of JooChiat and Katong are ideal for uncovering more about the Peranakan heritage of Singapore, and the charming PulauUbin, with its idyllic fishing village ambience and wooden homes, offers a glimpse of the Singapore of old.
Orchard Road is a haven for shopaholics, whilst Sentosa Island, home to Universal Studios Singapore, SEA Aquarium, Fort Siloso, Madame Tussauds Singapore, Adventure Cove Waterpark, the Tiger Sky Tower, the Trick Eye Museum, Wave House, and much more, is rightfully known as the country’s centre of fun and entertainment. Take a ride on the world’s biggest observation, the Singapore Flyer, visit the iconic Raffles Hotel and sip a Singapore Sling cocktail in its birthplace and feel the colonial atmosphere of yesteryear, and experience one of the country’s most bizarre attractions at Haw Par Villa.
Make feathered friends at Jurong Bird Park, contrast the styles of the exquisite Chinese and Japanese Gardens that sit on neighbouring artificial islands, gaze in awe at the magnificent and somewhat futuristic Supertrees in the stunning Gardens by the Bay, and take a boat trip to some of the country’s smaller islands, like St John’s Island, Ghost Island, and the Sisters’ Islands. Eat your way down a nostalgic path at the Singapore Food Trail, party hard in towering sky bars, enjoy a combination of nature, culture, and history in Fort Canning Park, and, with the help of your Singapore tour guide, be amazed by the sheer diversity that Singapore has to offer.