Although my trip to Singapore was only a brief 4-day stop, this sleek and vibrant city boasted some of the most unique and diverse sights of anywhere else in the world. From Arabic-style markets to futuristic shopping malls, here are 5 of my top things to do when visiting:
1. ARAB STREET & THE SULTAN MOSQUE
Many people, when thinking of Singapore, think immediately of shiny sky-high towers and futuristic metal architecture; nestled in the middle of this urban sprawl is the area surrounding Arab Street. With its low, colourful houses and relaxed, middle-eastern atmosphere, this neighbourhood is one of the most lively in Singapore. Because we were lucky enough to have visited during Ramadan, the streets outside the mosque were lined with brightly-coloured market stalls selling exotic foods and spices – and the huge selection of Arabic restaurants and cafes are the perfect place to enjoy a lamb or falafel wrap and watch the world go by.
2. ION MALL & ORCHARD ROAD
So unlike any shopping centre known to Europe, the ION Centre is located in the heart of Singapore’s shopping district, and contains every shop and every brand that you could ever imagine. More than 5 floors of shopping, including one MRT station, and an entire floor devoted to both Asian and western foods, mean that (alongside the constant and very necessary air conditioning) hours and hours can be passed shopping, browsing and snacking. Outside the mall is Orchard Road, whose high-end designer shops make for a lot of luxury window-shopping; the street is also decorated with statues and figures, and lined with palm trees, adding to the cleanliness and luxury of this district.
Reflecting again the diverse, cosmopolitan nature which makes up the Singaporean culture is Chinatown: an area of the city which offers not only Chinese cuisine, but also Malaysian hawker markets, traditional Japanese restaurants and more westernized takeaway noodle bars. While the district is bustling and busy during the day, Chinatown really comes alive at night, as locals and tourists take to the streets to eat, drink and enjoy the warmth of the evenings. The Katanashi An restaurant looks out over the beautiful Telok Ayer Green park, and serves a wide variety of traditional Japanese dishes in a friendly and energetic environment.
4. MARINA BAY
Perhaps one of the most iconic buildings in the Singaporean skyline, the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, with its boat-topped roof, is located (funnily enough) on Marina Bay. The bay itself is surrounded by a variety of monuments and architecture, and includes the Helix Bridge, Esplanade, ArtScience Museum and Mer-Lion statue – the ‘national personification’ of Singapore. Also unusual is the luxurious Marina Bay Mall, in which you can take a venetian-style gondola from one end to the other in the man-made canal that flows through the centre. If only for the views of the Singapore skyline, Marina Bay is definitely worth a visit.
5. RAFFLES HOTEL
The iconic Raffles Hotel stands out amongst the modern skyscrapers of Singapore with its grand, colonial architecture. While this building is rich in its history, it also boasts beautiful gardens and the renowned Raffles Long Bar, where customers can famously throw their empty peanut shells onto the floor – it is also the home of the Singapore Sling cocktail, which, although pricey, is worth a taste! For those who want to keep prices down, even wandering around the hotel grounds is worthwhile, where you can take in the unique style of the place.