Besides an array of attractions, the Lion City is home to a whole host of hidden gems, tranquil spots and amazing green spaces for moments to slow down, unwind and get a dose of sunshine to uplift your spirits for the day.
While anxieties about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are certainly warranted, you shouldn’t let these worries mar your future visit to our city in a garden.
Our guide to mindful travel in Singapore is discovery at your own pace, both a mental and physical respite that helps you travel with a peace-of-mind at a later stage when the situation has improved and times are much better.
Tranquil nature hideaways
Located in the north-eastern part of Singapore, the pristine white beaches and unexplored trails of Coney Island is a lovely getaway from the bustle of city life and the perfect escape into tranquillity.
You’ll be able to spend an idyllic day roaming around the island, discovering boardwalks leading into lush mangrove forests, and spotting rare birds, squirrels and other gentle creatures in their natural habitats.
As you stroll through Coney Island’s green spaces, keep your eyes peeled on tree boughs and towards the canopy. Coney Island Park is also home to over 80 species of birds, including rare red junglefowls and the Oriental Magpie-Robin, the latter known for its melodious birdsong.
A tip is to rent a set of wheels from the nearby Punggol Point Park for a cycle around this scenic island. Given the secluded locale, you would want to pack sunscreen, insect repellent and water in advance.
As the hike should work up an appetite, you should consider taking a short 15-min detour to the nearby Punggol Settlement, a seafront dining destination serving delectable seafood and zi char (traditional dishes infused by home-cooked Chinese food).
Coney Island. How to get there: From Punggol Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station, head to the bus interchange (Exit C). Get on bus 84 and alight at Punggol Road End. Walk to Punggol Settlement, and follow the signs towards Coney Island.
The Southern Ridges
A hidden gem that stretches across the hills of Singapore’s lush southern region, the Southern Ridges is a 10-kilometre stretch connecting beautiful parks and gardens such as Mount Faber Park, Hort Park and Labrador Nature Reserve. Escape from the frenzy and go on a slow adventure, where you’ll take about three to five hours to complete the entire route.
Spend the morning and early afternoon amidst the chirping of cicadas, as you explore the lush greenery of Marang trail, which winds up to the peak of Mount Faber. The short 350-metre trail takes you from Mount Faber Park to Bukit Chandu in about 15 to 20 minutes – remember to snap a photo of Singapore’s southern coast before you descend.
Meanwhile, look out for the beautiful Henderson Waves, a wood-panelled pedestrian bridge suspended 36 metres above the ground that offers beautiful vistas of our ‘city in a garden’. We suggest visiting around sunset for a breath-taking view. As the bridge is well-lit in the evening, you should also take a stroll after dinner.
More adventurous travellers can attempt a hike at Forest Walk, which takes about 2 hours to complete. This 1.3-kilometre trail starts from Telok Blangah Hill Park and takes you through the Singing Forest—an area with more than 200 bird-attracting trees—and across various bridges, including the majestic Alexandra Arch bridge.
As you find yourself elevated above the Adinandra Belukar forest canopy, do pause, take in the fresh air and enjoy the cool breeze above the trees.
The walk continues as you meander along Berlayer Creek, one of the two remaining mangroves in the southern part of Singapore. Always keep your eyes peeled for the more than 60 other species of birds as well as the beautiful flameback woodpeckers.
The Southern Ridges. Singapore 099203. If you go on the route from Mount Faber Park to Telok Blangah Hill Park and Labrador Nature Reserve, you should start from Harbourfront MRT station and end at Labrador Park MRT station.
Thomson Nature Park
Officially opened in October 2019, Thomson Nature Park is one of Singapore’s newest green spaces. With five compact trails varying from 350 metres to one-and-a-half kilometres, this park is perfect for visitors looking to take a quick jaunt into nature.
More than just a natural sanctuary, this 50-hectare space is also a window into the past. The Ruins and Figs trail will have you marvelling at Jalan Belang, a ruined Hainanese village that hearkens back to the 1930s.
For travellers who love tropical wildlife, this verdant sanctuary is bound to be up your alley. Look out for rare creatures like the spotted tree frog as you pass by the park’s Stream and Ferns trail, and keep an eye for the Raffles Banded Langur in the trees.
Peckish nature lovers feeling hungry after their visit can drop by Casuarina Curry to enjoy classic Indian fare like prata (South Indian flat bread) and aloo gobi (vegetarian dish made of potatoes and cauliflower). Alternatively, head towards Sembawang Hills Centre to pick from a variety of eateries serving local staples like popiah (spring rolls) and laksa (spicy coconut milk-based noodle soup).
Thomson Nature Park. 832 Upper Thomson Road. Daily 7am-7pm.
As parking space is limited, you are recommended to take public transport. Take bus 138, 167, 169, 860 or 980.
Artistic awakenings in our museums
National Gallery Singapore
Escape into the world of art and spend the day feeling inspired at the National Gallery Singapore. Housed in twin buildings that were once Singapore’s Supreme Court and City Hall, this iconic art gallery boasts the world’s largest public collection of modern art from Singapore and Southeast Asia.
New exhibitions and tours are available on a regular basis, and visitors travelling with children can sign up for drop-in art classes, which will make for a great family bonding session.
The gallery’s current line-up includes a photography exhibition showcasing the work of Chua Soon Bin—one of our island’s most celebrated photographers—and Between Declarations and Dreams: Art of Southeast Asia since the 19th century, which presents over 300 works of art from across the region.
The gallery is a work of art in itself, so make sure to pause, marvel and snap a photo of its unique architecture before wandering the vast interior at your leisure.
If you’re looking to take home a memento or grab a quick bite, Gallery & Co—the establishment’s museum store—offers both Western-style comfort food and charming art-themed souvenirs like tote bags, stationery and notebooks.
National Gallery Singapore. 1 Saint Andrew’s Road, Singapore 178957. +65 6271 7000. Mon-Thu, Sat & Sun 10am-7pm; Fri 10am-9pm.
Drop by the ArtScience Museum™ and lose yourself in the traditions of art and the technological possibilities of the future.
You’ll be able to take things slow and spend an entire afternoon exploring this beautiful space, located along the waterfront of Marina Bay, and just a stone’s throw away from the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands®. The worlds of science and art intertwine at this establishment, and the exhibitions here are bound to help you forget your day-to-day worries.
FUTURE WORLD: Where Art Meets Science—the museum’s most iconic permanent exhibition—boasts interactive art installations themed around nature, science and urban architecture.Visitors should complete the trip with a relaxing stroll along the futuristic Helix Bridge. We recommend timing your walk for sunset, so that you can snap a photo of Singapore’s iconic skyline at dusk.
ArtScience Museum™. 6 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018974. +65 6688 8888. Daily 10am-7pm.
Cultural insights on walking tours
‘Balik Kampong’ Tour
Take a walk down memory lane and be entralled by expert storytellers with the ‘Balik Kampong’ tour. This immersive tour will have you uncovering the heritage of Kampong Gelam, a cultural precinct steeped in history and once home to Malay royalty.
Learn about the construction of the golden-domed Sultan Mosque and how its onion-shaped domes are decorated with glass bottle ends. Visitors on the tour will also get to explore the graffiti-adorned streets, authentic hawker eats and the charming hipster haunt of Haji Lane. For the latter, you can shop at your own pace from boutique to boutique and discover an eclectic mix of unique retail finds for the collector in you.
To book this tour, click here.
Red Clogs Down The Five Food Way™
With its lantern-bedecked streets, cheerful street vendors and traditional boutiques, Chinatown is truly a feast for all senses. To really soak in the details of this charming heritage district, you’ll want to dive deeper into its lesser-known stories and vibrant past with Red Clogs Down The Five Foot Way™.
This comprehensive tour will educate you on the facets of Chinese culture, from the intricacies of medicine and culinary traditions to the fascinating nuances of ancestor worship and other religious customs.
The tour takes about two-and-a-half hours on average and includes admission to the Chinatown Heritage Centre.
To book this tour, click here.
Wet Market Adventure in Little India
If you find the bold tastes of Singaporean cuisine alluring, you may want to delve deeper into the intricacies behind our iconic dishes such as briyani (Indian spiced rice dish with meat or vegetables) and roti prata (South Indian flatbread).
Helmed by Karni Tomer and her team of veteran guides from Wok N’ Stroll, Wet Market Adventure in Little India takes you into the heart of the cultural district, as you uncover bold new flavours and unforgettable stories of the Indian community.
Sample traditional dishes like thosai (Indian pancake made from fermented rice and lentil batter), experience the vibrant colours and smells of Tekka Wet Market and befriend the passionate hawkers and vendors who make Singaporean cuisine a labour of love.
Asian food culture is all about sharing the love and communal dining is a big part of local culture. Do remember to wash your hands before and after your meals, and use serving utensils when sharing dishes on this tour.
To book this tour, click here.