One of the most exciting parts of a world cruise is exploring new cultures. The island city-state of Singapore is an amalgamation of Asian cultures, forming the tip of southern Malaysia. Here, historic enclaves co-exist with innovative architecture to create a fascinating destination.
To find out more about the city, we spoke to Singaporean travel blogger Jaclynn Seah, who runs The Occasional Traveller. Jaclynn describes herself as “your average person with a job and only limited time to travel”, and started her blog while working in advertising. Having realised she was so busy that she’d forgotten to get away that year, Jaclynn decided to create a blog to inspire workaholics to take time out to explore the world.
“I really miss Singaporean food when I travel,” said Jaclynn. “It’s affordable and there’s so much variety! I love just being able to go to a hawker centre or a food court and pick up food from practically anywhere around the region here.
“Some people complain that Singapore is too small, but I love how relatively easy it is to get around, especially with our public transport system. There’s still a lot I have left to explore in Singapore!
“If you’ve never been to Singapore, definitely a view of our city skyline at night at Marina Bay is a great way to experience the city, lots of interesting architecture and a beautiful view. Definitely pop into a hawker centre at some point to eat – you might be sweating with the humidity, but I promise you it’s worth it. I’d also pop by one of our ethnic enclaves like Chinatown, Little India, or my personal favourite Kampong Glam, to enjoy a little history, culture and nightlife all rolled into one.”
Yulia of travel blog Miss Tourist longed to visit Singapore for years and had initially set her sights on living there: “I fell in love with Singapore even before visiting it!” said Yulia. “It has everything my heart desires – it is urbanised and developed, the water is fantastic all year long, the food is delicious, the healthcare is great”.
“If you only have a day to see the whole city, I would go for the most famous attractions – Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay, watching the night shows that look like they came straight from a fairy-tale and going to one of Singapore’s fabulous rooftop bars. The views are to die for!”
With Jaclynn and Yulia’s helpful recommendations in mind, take a look at our guide to 10 things you shouldn’t miss in Singapore on your round the world cruise.
Gardens by the Bay
Perfect for: Everyone
Covering 101 hectares of reclaimed land, the Gardens by the Bay is perhaps one of Singapore’s most celebrated attractions. This remarkable attraction was created to enhance the quality of life by providing more flora and fauna in Singapore. The most photographed feature of the gardens is the Supertrees, which rise between 25 and 50 metres into the sky. These vertical gardens are home to exotic ferns, vines and orchids, and are fitted with environmental technologies that mimic the ecological purpose of trees. In the evening, the Supertrees illuminate in a spectacular light and sound show. The Bay East Garden, with its lush lawns, is perfect for picnics, while the waterfront promenade offers incredible views over the city skyline.
Perfect for: Wildlife lovers
White tigers, pygmy hippos and over 300 other species of mammals, birds and reptiles call Singapore Zoo home. The zoo covers 26 hectares and features 11 zones, leading you through some of the world’s most diverse natural habitats. If you’re visiting Singapore on a world cruise with your family, this attraction should be high up on your list. Look out for bold komodo dragons and mischievous orangutans and even step back in time in the Zoo-rassic Park. Just keep in mind that the zoo is slightly further inland, so you’ll need to plan your day wisely to make sure you can see everything you wish on your stopover.
Whether you spend your stopover shopping or visiting the city’s historic and architectural sights, you should definitely allow time to try some authentic Singaporean cuisine. One tip Jaclynn of The Occasional Traveller shared with us is to check out the city’s hawker centres, which are essentially food courts. You’ll find plenty of these dotted around the city, each serving traditional dishes such as chilli crab, laksa (rice noodles in a spicy coconut curry soup with meat or fish), satay and char siew rice/noodles, with barbecued pork. Singaporean cuisine caters to vegetarians and vegans, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a delicious dish to suit you.
Food markets: Bendemeer Food Centre, Maxwell Food Centre, Tiong Bahru Market and Satay by the Bay
National Gallery Singapore
Perfect for: Art enthusiasts
Just a 15-minute walk from Marina Bay, National Gallery Singapore holds the world’s largest collection of modern art from Singapore and Southeast Asia. Admire over 8,000 artworks on your journey through this spectacular building, which was formerly the Supreme Court. As well as its permanent collection of art from the region, the gallery works with international museums to present fresh and exciting exhibitions. Art enthusiasts or indeed anyone interested in Singapore’s cultural history should take time to explore National Gallery Singapore.
Perfect for: Taking in the views
Marina Bay is perhaps the most photographed location in Singapore, and with good reason. Showcasing some of the most innovative architecture in the world, Marina Bay is the perfect place to soak up the atmosphere of this futuristic city. Looking at it today, it’s difficult to imagine that Marina Bay was little more than a plot of land until the 1970s. Here you’ll find the Gardens by the Bay and some of the best views of Singapore from Sands SkyPark observation deck.
Hugging the riverside, Clarke Quay is the place to go for party people. Bustling restaurants, bars and boutique shops line the waterfront, offering the perfect place to experience Singapore’s modern culture. Dine al-fresco under the quay’s ultramodern roof and enjoy a few cocktails to round-off your cruise stopover.
Perfect for: Retail therapy
For many, the lure of Singapore’s sleek boutiques and futuristic malls will be too tempting. If you’d like to indulge in a little retail therapy on your world cruise stopover, head to Orchard Road. This is the hub of Singapore’s retail district, offering both designer and independent shops, as well as plenty of restaurants to try authentic Singaporean cuisine. Some of the most popular malls include Paragon, ION Orchard and Orchard Central. If you want to stay closer to the cruise terminal, check out VivoCity (Singapore’s largest shopping mall) and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.
Asian Civilisations Museum
Perfect for: History buffs
Not far from National Gallery Singapore, the Asian Civilisations Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of Singapore and South East Asia. Learn about the rich heritage of Asia through a collection of intricate artwork and ancient objects which bring history to life. The main museum is situated close to Marina Bay, however there are smaller branches offering other exhibitions in the city. Take a look at the Asian Civilisations Museum website for full details.
Check out the city’s enclaves
Singapore’s ethnic enclaves, including Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam, are hugely popular. Step into a different culture for the afternoon, sampling foods from across Asia and bartering at stalls. In Chinatown, Hindu temples and mosques sit beside Chinese temples, so there’s plenty of culture to absorb. As the largest ethnic group in Singapore is Chinese, Chinatown is considered to be less of an enclave now, but is still an exciting hub of Chinese eateries and businesses.
Little India represents Singapore’s Indian community and has a vibrant past. The area was once a hub for cattle trading and was home to a racecourse. Today, it remains one of Singapore’s most exciting districts, with plenty of authentic Indian food to enjoy. Kampong Glam, the Malay enclave, is perhaps the most eclectic. Blending history, culture and trendy new businesses, this colourful district was once a fishing village at the mouth of the Rochor River. Today, it’s one of the best places in the city to eat Malaysian food and shop unique boutiques.
The Singapore Flyer
Perfect for: Couples
For unrivalled views over the city, hop on the Singapore Flyer. This giant Ferris wheel gives you 360 degree views of the city and beyond. Reaching a height of 165 metres, this is one of the world’s largest giant observation wheels and one of Asia’s biggest attractions. It’s said that on a clear day you can even glimpse neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia. A ride on the Singapore Flyer is a great way to end your world cruise stopover in the city, particularly for couples on a romantic holiday.
Alternatively: Take Singapore Cable Car for an aerial view. The cable system rises high above Marina Bay and the resort of Sentosa Island. If you’re interested in visiting the island for the day, you can get a combined ticket.