Singapore’s River Safari, the world’s first river-themed wildlife park, recently introduced the first visitors to its 5,000 animal inhabitants during a soft opening in April 2013. The 30-acre (12-hectare) park presents the world of freshwater aquatic animals to guests with a series of walkthrough exhibits inspired by eight iconic rivers, the Mississippi, Nile, Amazon, Congo, Ganges, Mekong and Yangtze.
Of the animals on display, representing some 300 species, the Giant River Otter and the Giant Salamander stand out as rare highlights. Not all the animals at the River Safari are aquatic, however. You’ll also find an ever popular pair Giant Pandas in Southeast Asia’s largest Panda exhibit, the Giant Panda Forest, as well as squirrel monkeys, jaguars, giant anteaters and Brazilian tapirs in the Wild Amazonia area of the park.
Later in the year, the park is set to open the Amazon River Quest, a river boat ride through the Wild Amazonia exhibit.
Merlion Park is not as much a park as it is a standing symbol for all of Singapore. Spread out over 2,500 square meters, or about 27,000 square feet, the park is perhaps most famously known for its centerpiece, a 2 meter tall, or seven foot, Merlion cub fountain at the center.
Because of the great city view from the park, which extends out to the Marina Day Sands , the waterfront park has become a busy destination around clock, with access open 24 hours a day. The park is centrally located on One Fullerton near to the busy Central Business District.
Drawing over a million visitors each year, the park’s Merlion cub was first unveiled to the public in 1972. A large public event was recently held for the 40th year anniversary of the occasion.
For sub-continental color, cuisine, atmosphere and bustle, head to Singapore’s Little India, one of the island’s most vibrant and authentic precincts. Shops, restaurants and colorful Hindu temples line the streets of Little India, and the best thing to do here is to just take a walk and drink it all in.
The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is dedicated to the bloodthirsty god Kali, Sri Srnivasa Perumal is dedicated to the more peaceful Vishnu, the Taoist Leong San See Temple is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, and the Temple of 1000 Lights features a gaudily lit Buddha.
Come to Little India to sample terrific curries, dosas and banana-leaf thalis at restaurants, street stalls and cafes. Shop for everything from incense to saris, and lose yourself in the interestingly named Thieves Market, where anything and everything is for sale.
Sipping a Singapore Sling cocktail in the wicker and palm ambiance of Raffles Hotel is a Singapore must-do experience. With its tropical garden courtyard and elegant galleried architecture, the terracotta-roofed white hotel has been a byword for colonial elegance since 1887. It was named after the founder of Singapore, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.
Swags of famous names from Noël Coward to Somerset Maugham have stayed here, along with more recent stars like Michael Jackson and Beyoncé. You can learn more about the building’s history and see fascinating ephemera at the on-site Raffles Museum. If you’re not staying here, dress up to experience high tea in the Tiffin Room, or order that Singapore Sling in the Long Bar. The hotel has a swag of other upmarket restaurants, cafes and watering holes.
Lining the Singapore River, the renovated riverside warehouses and ‘godown’ shophouses of historic Clarke Quay make up one of Singapore’s major wining and dining precincts.
Now pedestrianised and home to shops, restaurants, nightclubs, river cruise bumboats and floating cafes, the precinct pays homage to Singapore’s river trade and colonial history.
Clarke Quay is a good place to look for varied cuisines, from Italian to brewhouse and fine French, and relaxed outdoor bars with riverfront views. It’s also where you’ll find Singapore’s wild Reverse Bungy adventure ride.
One of the more famous neighborhoods in Singapore, Kampong Glam is a preserved town once home to the Malay and Muslim elite that inhabited it prior to British colonization in the early 19th century. Although the town was comprised of a multitude of ethnic groups over the last few hundred years, much of this pristine town has been restored to its former beauty, with strips of colorful shop houses now home to modern businesses.
Among some of its other key features includes one of the most important mosques in the country, the Sultan Mosque. It also has a peaceful pedestrian walk called the Bussorah Mall as well as the recently opened Malay Heritage Center, which contains loads of cultural pieces and history showcasing the lives of Malay Singaporeans. As a destination for foreign visitors, the town itself now has several local restaurants as well as art galleries textile and carpet shops to peruse.
As one of the most important religious sites in the country, the catholic monument known as Chijmes is a former convent school with more than 130 years of history. Residing in a central area along Victoria Street, the restored complex today serves as a commercialized hub for visitors looking to experience a bit of history while enjoying the modern accommodations inside that includes shops, fine restaurants and even an entertainment center.
The large modern complex is open both day and night, hosting a plethora of celebrations and events such as private cocktail parties and lunches, as well as musical and theatrical performances. To match Singapore’s diverse history and peoples, the restaurants inside offer menus featuring several kinds of cuisines, from French to Italian to Cantonese.
The oldest mosque in Singapore, the Masjid Sultan, is located in the Malay-Muslim quarter of town. The sheen of the two distinguished golden domes that top it, as well as its colorful yet tasteful façade, has made it one of the premiere destinations for visitors of any faith.
Standing on a site totaling 44,228 square feet (4,109 square meters), the massive interior two-stories high can hold about 5,000 faithful Muslims, with separate conference rooms and auditoriums to seat many more. It is also decorated with handcrafted motifs, golden floral patterns and calligraphy to top it all with intricate design.
Having long been a hub for local commerce and art, the mosque is also known to have been the place of several historic events, including where several racial riots took place in the 1950s.
There are a number of places to scope out Singapore’s cityscape and the historic Boat Quay is among the best. Once the epicenter of maritime trade, the famous Quay now boasts loads of great restaurants and bars housed in well-preserved old shop houses. Complete with open-air terraces, these mainstays of the Quay are heralded for not only their terrific viewpoint, but reasonably priced sea food as well.
Open through the late hours of the evening, one can sit back there and take a midday break from the urban sightseeing or have a romantic dinner as the city lights glimmer on the waterfront. The pedestrian area also contains a few great nightclubs and pubs, for those looking to stay out a bit later.
Among the structures you can spot from the Quay are the Parliament House and Empress Place Building along the North Boat Quay Promenade as well as the famous Fullerton Hotel.
Mount Faber Park, one of the oldest green spaces in Singapore, is also one of the best places to go for views over the city and Singapore Harbour. More of a large hill than a mountain, the slopes of Mount Faber are covered in lush rainforest, and if you want to get to the top, you have two options.
Budget travelers looking for something free to do can hike to the peak. The path is paved the entire way up and shaded for most of the way, but bring plenty of water, as Singapore can get hot and humid. If you’d rather save your energy, you can ride the Singapore Cable Car to the top.
No matter how you get to the summit, set aside some time to wander the gardens and take in the views from several lookout points. Mount Faber is also home to the Jewel Box, a shopping, dining and entertainment venue and one of the most romantic spots in the city for dinner.
There’s a lot you can do with $8 billion, and the Marina Bay Sands may have just done them all. Touted as the world’s most expensive casino this 2,561 room integrated resort lavishly offers nearly anything that a visitor could ever need on their stay in Singapore. In addition to the 500 tables and 1,600 slots which comprise the atrium casino, the Marina Bay Sands has also opted to include an ice-skating rink, two entertainment theatres, the 300-store Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands shopping mall, an art science museum and a full range of evening entertainment and shows.
There is also an impressive, 478 foot (145.7 meter) long infinity swimming pool which gazes out over the Singapore skyline at the aptly named SkyPark—an observation deck which stretches longer than the Eiffel Tower were it laid down. Swimmers with a fear of heights beware: the “infinity” edge looks out over a 55-story drop to the street level below.