Singapore has reinvented itself as one of the world’s most coveted destinations, and the stylish city-state was selected as one of Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel destinations. In 2015, Singapore celebrates its 50th birthday with 12 months of cultural festivals, parties, and special events taking place around the country. The tiny country of Singapore mixes the traditional, colonial, and futuristic effortlessly, and the result is enthralling. Whether you’re a nature lover, thrill seeker, shopaholic, or culture vulture, there’s something to captivate you here.
Known as the Garden City, Singapore emerged as a nation in 1965 after nearly 150 years as a British colony. Singapore’s population is only 4 million, but its harmonious blend of Chinese, Malay, and Indian cultures makes a big impact. In diverse ethnic neighbourhoods such as Chinatown and Little India, visitors can enjoy authentic cuisine, picture-perfect natural features, fabulous shopping, and stunning architecture.
Singapore is a world food capital and eating plays a huge role in the country’s life and culture. But what exactly is Singaporean food? Its origins lie in India, China, Malaysia and other countries in the region. Drawing from the best flavours of the world, the food options here are tantalizing and endless. You’ll find dishes from chilli-spiked crab, to fragrant laksa, rendang, and biryani being served up in restaurants and hawker centres around the country. Hawker centres are open-air complexes housing various stalls that sell a variety of inexpensive food. Visit bustling Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre to sample foods like Hainanese chicken rice and fried carrot cake from myriad stalls. On the weekends, seaside East Coast Parkway is filled with families dining on chili crab, and in Little India, vegetarian restaurants serve coconut curries on banana leaves or tin plates.
Singapore has a booming restaurant scene and many Singaporeans eat out regularly since their homes are typically quite small. Striking new hotel restaurants offer modern menus and expertly curated cocktails. Before leaving Singapore be sure to stop into the stylish Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel and sip a world-famous Singapore Sling.
Shop Till You Drop
If you love a little retail therapy, you absolutely must visit Singapore at least once in your life. This is shopping heaven! Singapore offers one of the best shopping experiences in the world and there are hundreds of shopping centres here to choose from. Singapore’s most renowned shopping is found on Orchard Road, which is gleaming with sleek and modern malls. Here you’ll find catwalk couture and cutting-edge electronics, as well as budget-friendly fashions. Singapore’s Little India and its many night markets are also great places to find unique handicrafts, clothing, and treasures.
Gorgeous Arts & Culture
English is one of the country’s four official languages (along with Chinese, Malay, and Tamil), which makes the tiny country’s cultural scene very accessible. You’ll be spoilt for choice at Singapore’s world-class performing arts centre, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. It features a year-round lineup of impressive international music acts, festivals, and theatre productions. Take a morning visit to the Malay Village which depicts the lifestyle of the 50s and 60s here in the form of a replicated kampong (village).
The Garden City
Of the main island’s total land area, more than half is industrialized, while the rest is made up of parkland, farmland, plantations, swamp areas, and rain forest. Singapore is famed for its gorgeous gardens and parks, especially the spectacular Gardens by the Bay. The park spans 101 hectares of reclaimed land in central Singapore. The National Orchid Garden is a work of art in itself. Nestled on the highest hill within the Singapore Botanic Gardens, it boasts a sprawling display of thousands of exquisite orchids.
Discover the Rainforest
In Singapore, tropical rainforest and mangrove swamps are close enough to the city that you can visit them on a morning or afternoon visit. Pint-sized Singapore has fifty parks and four nature reserves, and just 15 minutes from the city centre you’ll be in primary, ancient, virgin rainforest. Southern Ridge Forest is a 10 kilometre long trail connecting a series of hill parks in the southern tip of Singapore. Here you’ll get a taste for the beautiful outdoors as well as fantastic aerial views of the city.
At Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, visitors will find exotic flowers, curious lizards, cheeky monkeys, and more. Nearby farms are heaving with fresh bananas, papayas, and jackfruit. Check out the Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve nestled among the farms in Neo Tiew. What was once commercial prawn farms, have since transformed into a nature haven. Explore Singapore’s wild side among crocodiles, Monitor lizards, migratory birds, and otters.
Swinging Through Singapore