Asia & Oceania Travel

Sensational Singapore – A Visit to the Lion City

This was my second time visiting the sparkling city of Singapore. Our first visit five years ago was only for a couple of days. So when we had a transiting opportunity to visit again we grabbed it. We spent five nights in Singapore this time, which gave us a perfect opportunity to return to some of our favorites, and discover lots of new things. Let’s talk about Sensational Singapore – A Visit to the Lion City.

Sensational Singapore – A Visit to the Lion City

The Lion City

Officially the Republic of Singapore, this island/nation city/state in it’s present form came to be in 1819. That’s when Stamford Raffles established Singapore as a trading post for the British Empire. But through the centuries prior to that, the region was a maritime stronghold through several empires. Singapore’s perfect location about one degree of latitude (137 kilometres or 85 miles) north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, bordering the Strait of Malacca to the west, the Singapore Strait to the south along with the Riau Islands in Indonesia, the South China Sea to the east, and the Straits of Johor to the north. (Wikipedia)

Singapore gained independence in 1965. Over the past fifty years Singapore has seen rapid growth and expansion as center for international trade and economic globalization. Today it is a sparkling city of high rises, fantastic tourist attractions, exceptional food, beautiful parks and gardens and a varied ethnic base. It also is home to the best airport in the world – Changi – definitely an important part of Sensational Singapore – A Visit to the Lion City.

Where to Stay

Singapore can be very expensive, but we found a really lovely hotel in a perfect location, central to most attractions. Our room at the Oasia Downtown was about $200 a night, more than we pay in most cities but a bargain in Singapore. We declined the $25 per person breakfast and instead easily found breakfast for $3 to $5 at the nearby Hawker Center…more about those in a minute.

Oasia Hotel Downtown
A bit of a view

Our Favorite Things to Do

We re-visited some of our favorite spots from our last visit, and discovered a few new spots as well. We had four full days, but you could easily see the city in less time, so just choose what is most important to you. There are a few things we wanted to do that we did not get to because of a big rain storm…but that leaves us something for next time!

Gardens by the Bay Super Trees and Sky Walk

Possibly the most popular thing to do as a visitor to Singapore, the fascinating Gardens by the Bay glowing trees, is a must. Each evening at 7:45 and 8:45 pm the trees perform a beautiful light show choreographed to music. There is also a sky walk, which we did before sunset, that offers great views of Sensational Singapore – A Visit to the Lion City. This is my favorite thing in all of Singapore.

Sky Walk
Super Tree Light Show

Cloud Forest

We timed our visit to the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome perfectly, as we woke up to a deluge of a tropical storm. We took a Grab car (one of Singapore’s alternatives to Uber) to the Cloud Forest, and hardly got a rain drop on us, as Singapore has laid out this city with covered walkways to protect pedestrians from both rain and sun. The Cloud Forest is a fascinating domed tropical garden with waterfalls, and thousands of trees and tropical plants

At the top of the Cloud Forest
Cloud Forest

Flower Dome

Next door to the Cloud Forest is the colorful and cheerful Flower Dome. I love this place. Christmas decor was still up when we visited in January, but the festive flower displays change seasonally and so you can visit often and see something new each time.

Flower Dome
Flower Dome

Merlion at Marina Bay

The Merlion is the symbol of Singapore, and the statue with the cascading fountain is a gathering place. Each evening at 8:00 pm you can sit at the Merlion and enjoy a light show across the bay looking at the iconic Marina Bay Sands Resort.

The lightshow looking across at Marina Bay Sands

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Located in the Tanglin neighborhood of Singapore and easily accessible by Metro (Napier stop), the Singapore Botanic Gardens is a beautiful space to wander with lovely lakes, ponds and plants and flowers. It is also home to the National Orchid Garden.

Lovely art as well as gardens
Singapore Botanic Gardens

Sentosa Island and Cable Car

There is a lot to do on Sentosa Island, including beaches and amusement parks. But we just took a leisurely ride on the cable cars for a wonderful view of the island and the city.

Looking at the city from Sentosa
The beach at Sentosa

China Town

Our hotel was situated on the edge of China Town and we spent some time walking around, looking at shops and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which is right across the street from the Maxwell Metro Station.

Budha Tooth Relic Temple

Arab Street

We had not visited Arab Street or the Muslim Temple on our last visit. There are many shops here and a ton of restaurants catering to the tourists. We ate a quick lunch at a Turkish Restaurant and also had quick visit to the Muslim Mosque.

Muslim Mosque
Arab Street Dining

Peranakan Museum

I’m so glad we took time to visit the Peranakan Museum. Housed in a historic building that was formerly a school, the Peranakan Museum explores the culture known locally as Peranakan. The term refers to a person of mixed Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage. Many Singapore Peranakans trace their origins to 15th-century Malacca, where their ancestors were thought to be Chinese traders who married local women.

Once stigmatized and looked down on, today Peranakans are proud of the unique heritage and deep roots in Singapore.

Beautiful Building for the Peranakan Museum
Peranakan Museum

Little India

We only had a quick walk through colorful Little India, but it’s worth a visit if you have time. There are lots of restaurants and shops. On our visit locals were preparing for the upcoming Pongol Festival with lots of decorations and flowers being prepared.

Little India

Things We Did Not Do

Bumboat from Clark Quay

I really wanted to take the little Bumboat Tour from Clark Quay down the river to Marina Bay. But the night we planned to do it was too rainy. I’m gonna save it for next time.

Bumboat in Marina Bay

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

On our last visit we went up to the top of Marina Bay Sands and had a drink in the bar. It was the most expensive gin and tonic of my life…but it was worth it for the view. We did not do it again this time, but if its your first visit to Singapore I recommend it.


I’m not much of a shopper, but if you are, Singapore is your dream come true. There are many malls as well as sections of the city like Orchard Road, designed for shopping with everything you might need and want.

Where to Eat

Hawkers Centers

We love eating at the Hawkers Centers in Singapore: inexpensive, delicious and a big part of the local culture. We ate nearly all our meals at three different Hawkers Centers; Lau Pa Sat, Maxwell Center and Tanjong Pagar.

Hawker culture started in the 1800’s after Sir Stamford Raffles turned Singapore into a thriving port city. The Street Hawkers where often migrants from China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and other lands. For them, street hawking was an easy way to earn a living as it required little capital.

Breakfast at Tanjong Pagar
Famous Chicken and Rice dish at Maxwell Center

After WWII and independence in 1965, effort was made to license and oversee the burgeoning hawker culture. In 1986 the government decided to open Hawker Centers, and move the hawkers into collective spaces. Today, the Hawker Centers are not only an inexpensive way to dine and enjoy a wide variety of ethnic foods, but these places are the gathering point for residents and visitors alike. Today Singapore is home to 119 Hawker Centers.

Dumplings at Lau Pa Sat
Satay Street at Lau Pa Sat

Lau Pa Sat is the largest and most well known. Excellent food 24 hours a day. And every night around 7pm (earlier on weekends), Boon Tat street on its SW side closes and becomes Satay Street. An absolute must not just for the food but for the atmosphere!

Kaya Toast

We also ate breakfast one morning at Tong Ah Eating House to try a Singaporean local favorite called Kaya Toast. I had read about this very simple breakfast enjoyed by locals and Tong Ah was an easy walk from our hotel. Kaya Toast is toasted bread with coconut “jam” served with two soft boiled eggs. Simple and delicious.

Kaya Toast
Served with strong and sweet coffee

Peranakan Cuisine

It was really fun to connect finally in person with a social media friend who lives in Singapore. We all enjoyed a wonderful Peranankan dinner at True Blue. The food was interesting and the company divine.

Slow Stewed Meat at True Blue

Dining in the Dark

I read about Nox Dining in the Dark and thought it would be something fun to try. Well, it was unique that’s for sure, but I don’t think I would do it again. You start with an amuse bouche and a drink in a bar with lights on, then you are taken to a completely dark room where you dine. Multiple courses served, some easily identifiable and others plain flabbergasting. Afterwards you guess what you ate and learn if you are right. You understand how much of the enjoyment of food is based on visual input once you don’t have that input!

Amuse Bouche before the lights went out

Changi Airport

I don’t remember ever recommending an airport as something to do at a destination before. But Changi Airport is a must. It’s big and beautiful with so many options for dining. If you have a layover, there are places to stay, shower, and play. There are gardens, a pool, a giant slide, arcade, art, butterflies and so much more. Make time for Changi as a layover, or like us, on our departure day we went several hours early. Most airlines offer early bag check to give you hands free time in this beautiful airport.

Changi Airport
Changi Airport

Sensational Singapore – A Visit to the Lion City

As one of the worlds major hubs, many flights make stops in Singapore. You will find connections to all of Asia, Australia, Europe and the USA. So be sure to add a few days in this fascinating, modern yet historic, and culturally enticing city. You’ll be glad you did.

Did you see last week’s post Seventh Annual Travel Awards 2023? It’s a good one. Don’t mis sit!

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  • Reply Bejal

    I love this extensive guide. I went to Singapore many years back on my honeymoon but didn’t get the chance to go to Hawkers centres. The food looks fab. I’ll definitely be consulting this post when I plan another visit.

    January 27, 2024 at 2:17 am
  • Reply San

    “Sensational Singapore – A visit to the Lion City is an awe-inspiring journey through a dazzling blend of modern marvels and cultural richness. The vibrant cityscape, iconic landmarks, and diverse culinary delights make it an unforgettable experience. Truly, Singapore captivates the heart with its unique charm and dynamic energy!”

    January 27, 2024 at 3:53 am
  • Reply Hels

    Wow, that airport is amazing! Also loving Little India and the cloud forest. We visited in 2000, it looks like there have been many exciting additions since then. Will just have to go back!

    January 27, 2024 at 7:01 am
    • Reply Laureen

      A strange and wonderful place!

      January 27, 2024 at 2:26 pm
  • Reply Linda (LD Holland)

    We enjoyed our first visit to Singapore and always wanted to return. Glad to read a second visit can be as good. It is a great city to wander in the day or at night. And certainly offers great different neighbourhoods for food! Although I will say that one night dining in the dark was enough for us too.

    January 27, 2024 at 8:09 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Haha. No more dining in the dark!

      January 27, 2024 at 2:26 pm
  • Reply Sonia

    I have visited Singapore for work, and found the food incredible as you point out. It sounds like another visit is in order, as I missed some of these sites.

    January 27, 2024 at 12:52 pm
  • Reply Mohana Das

    Singapore is just awesome! I love Changi Airport! We would love to visit and eat the local food. The Hawkers Centres sound like the best places to try the local cuisine.

    January 27, 2024 at 1:46 pm
  • Reply Lisa Bundesen

    It’s been so long since I have spent time in Singapore. So much has changed! Thank you for the reminder that I really do need to get back there and not just use it as a transit stop!

    January 27, 2024 at 4:55 pm
  • Reply Heather

    Singapore was such a surprise! I spent a week there and still didn’t see everything. This is such a great post!

    January 27, 2024 at 8:05 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Thanks Heather!

      January 27, 2024 at 10:59 pm
  • Reply Holly Giordani

    What a well rounded guide! I absolutely HAVE to make it to Singapore, especially after reading this! Saving for later, thanks!

    January 28, 2024 at 5:45 am
    • Reply Laureen

      You will love it

      January 28, 2024 at 1:25 pm
  • Reply Elizabeth Bankhead

    Perfect timing!! We are going to Bali and may have a layover in Singapore. If so, we’ll stay a couple days and I will put this in my back pocket!

    January 28, 2024 at 5:57 am
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