Singapore, a city state, is an island south of the Malay Peninsula and the only country in the world that gained its independence against its own will. Today Singapore is one of the richest countries in the world, and one of the regional leaders in tourism. It is a city of skyscrapers, colonial architecture, Chinese, Indian and Malay temples and a surprisingly large number of newly built green areas. Unlike its neighbors, it has successfully preserved most of its architectural heritage from all different styles, and managed to maintain a clean environment. Its name comes from the Malay word Singapura, which in Sanskrit means Lion City.
On a first look, it is pretty similar to its biggest rival, Kuala Lumpur. Both are large metropolises, with a colonial center and disperse suburbs, fairly developed and modern. Both are dominated by high rise buildings and good modern public transport. But when it comes to urban development Singapore is much better. The City center – Riverside and several old parts, where different ethnic groups have settled down, are well connected with the suburbs forming a continuous integrated area. While Kuala Lumpur does not recognize the importance of public space, in Singapore the streets are walkable, highways are replaced by boulevards and all the rapid transit is underground, which makes it much more pedestrian friendly. More importantly, Singapore has recognized the value of its architectural patrimony and did it best to incorporate it to its modern development plans. The additional asset is its connection with the sea, where the newest projects make a special effort in integrating the city to the water.
Singapore’s tourist offer relies on its cultural heritage and at the same time in showcasing how far new technologies can go. The best example is the new Marina Bay area with the amazing Gardens by the Bay, Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. Two times a day in the evening, a spectacular light show is not to be missed. On the other side, in the Riverside area, don’t miss several important landmarks such as the Cavenagh Bridge, the city’s oldest and the Fullerton Hotel, it’s most expensive hotel. Where the Singapore River enters the sea, the great Merlion, half lion half fish is maybe too touristy, but the views from there are certainly worth visiting. The other areas not to be missed are Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam, each with its unique rich cultural identity. The most beautiful temples are located there. The Orchard Road, away from the centre offers a great insight into the high tech architecture and excellent shopping.
Check out this post if you have 4 days in Singapore.
Singapore is the most expensive city in the region, so it’s not a surprise that hotel prices are considerably higher than those in neighboring countries. The best place to stay is in the Riverside district, since it is close to most of the important landmarks, between the three ethnic neighborhoods and the sea. Most of the hotels in this area are quite pricey thus not an option for many visitors. Try Chinatown, Little India or Bugis for decent hotels at a reasonable price.
Singapore has probably the best public transport in the whole region. The most convenient one being the Singapore metro, a well organized underground system that consists of several lines connecting most of the city. It is also the fastest way of moving around. Walking in Singapore is a great option too. Traffic jams are relatively rare, and drivers respect pedestrians, so walking around the city is a delightful experience. Besides, in spite of its size, most tourist areas are accessible by foot.
Being a city-state makes Singapore a unique place. The whole island is completely urbanized, attention is paid to every detail, and basically everything is perfectly controlled. It may be a good system when it comes to heritage preservation or pollution control, but it does give a sense of overprotection and lack of freedom. Perhaps the city is too clean, its buildings are too renovated and its parks too organized, but the spectacular location on the Singapore Island, between Malaysia and Indonesia, and the fact that here old neighborhoods blend perfectly with new mega structures makes it a place worth visiting. And let us not forget Singapore’s delicious cuisine.
Check out this post if you are visiting Singapore with kids.
Singapore Travel Guide
- Stay in Bugis. Happy Frog recommends Village Hotel Albert Court
- Cavenagh Bridge, Fullerton Hotel and the Merlion;
- The Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest;
- Chinatown, Sri Mariamman and the Budhha Tooth Relic temple;
- Little India and Kampong Glam.
- Have a drink at the rooftop bar in the Marina Bay Hotel.
- More tips here: Singapore for 10 dollars
- On foot, by bike, metro, bus, boat or taxi.
- Go to the beach on Lazarus island or the East coast.
DO NOT MISS:
- Take a walk around Singapore river;
- Spend a day in the Gardens by the Bay and stay for the night show;
- Take a boat tour around the city;
- Walk around the financial district starting from Ruffles place;
- Shop at Bugis and Orchard road.