Top non-touristy things to do in Singapore

Once you’ve visited the jaw-dropping Gardens by the Bay, sipped a cocktail at Raffles, shopped your heart out along Orchard Road and toured the national galleries, it’s time to head off the beaten track, discover hidden treasures and live like a local!

Enjoy some island spirit

Enjoy some island spirit

Take a break from scintillating city life with an island getaway. Just 15 minutes by boat from the Changi Ferry Point lies the picturesque island of Pulau Ubin. One of the two remaining kampongs (villages) of Singapore (the other being Kampong Buangkok in Yio Chu Kang) the island is largely unspoilt and a natural wonderland brimming with scenic trails, verdant wetlands, abundant wildlife, and colourful flora. Tour the island on bike or on foot and see if you can spot the resident long-tailed monkeys. Go bird watching at Pekan Quarry, visit Butterfly Hill (home to more than 140 species), and head skyward up the 20-metre tall Jejawi Tower for spectacular views of the island.

Escape to restful wetlands

Escape to restful wetlands

For more natural highs take a trip to the rural hinterland of Sungei Buloh. The lush 87-hectare ecological site is home to herons, monitor lizards, butterflies, snakes, seabirds and otters, among others. Admire the beauty of resident birds such as herons, kingfishers and sunbirds and from September to March keep your eyes peeled for migratory birds such as pacific gold plovers and sandpipers. Weave your way through some of the world’s rarest mangroves along the boardwalk trail, enjoy the free guided tours, take part in art classes and watch the fascinating prawn farming demonstrations – there’s something for every nature lover here.

Take a break in Tiong Bahru

Take a break in Tiong Bahru

Described by Conde Nast Traveler as “Singapore’s little bastion of cool” Tiong Bahru is one of Singapore’s trendiest areas. The nation’s oldest housing estate is now abuzz with vinyl shops, boutique art galleries, creative spaces and quirky cafes. From its Art Deco buildings to its lively wet market, you can spend hours simply wandering around and drinking in the atmosphere in Tiong Bahru. Free guided tours usually operate on the first weekend of every month and are run by volunteers who live in the estate. Don’t miss Books Actually, the most famous bookshop in Singapore where visitors will discover rare editions alongside beautiful collections of poetry, new writing and old texts.

Hang out in Keong Saik

Hang out in Keong Saik

Singapore is much loved for its high-ending Michelin restaurants, plush hotels and fancy boutiques but hip Singaporeans head for Chinatown’s Keong Saik Road for cool hangouts. Once a red light district, today Keong Saik is a buzzing mix of funky fusion restaurants, quirky pop ups, and rooftop cocktail bars. Hang out at one of the popular artisanal coffee shops, stay in Keong Saik’s hip boutique hotels and enjoy craft beers, cocktails and cheap eats at the trendy hotspots that now occupy the colourful art deco shophouses. For a cool vibe head for Potato Head Folk, a dining and drinking emporium housed in a four-floor heritage building. Devour gourmet burgers at Three Buns (on the first and second floor) and then head for drinks at cool cocktail club Studio 1939 on the third floor or the rooftop tropical garden.

Discover alternative art

Discover alternative art

Occupying a former colonial base, Gillman Barracks reopened in 2012 as a cluster of galleries dedicated to the celebration and progression of contemporary art. The galleries host local, international and Asian artists and the Barracks is also the site of the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore. While the galleries and gardens may be on your Singapore must-visit list already, the free docent-led tours by Friends of the Museum are a great addition to any itinerary. The tours enable visitors to learn more about Gillman Barracks’ rich history, the galleries and include a visit to NTU CCA Singapore. Check the Gillman Barracks’ website for new pop-ups, exhibitions, and screenings happening at this artsy haven as the calendar is packed full of evolving installations and events.

Pick up a paddle

Pick up a paddle

Fancy getting a new perspective on the Singapore River? Cruise down to Singapore Sports Hub, situated right next to Kallang Basin, where you can hire canoes, kayaks and pedal boats and enjoy some time on the water under your own steam. Or, if you want to really get away the stunning MacRitchie Reservoir has ample hiking, fishing and bird watching opportunities and also has kayaks for hire.

Find farm life

Find farm life

Kids and adults alike will love a trip out to Singapore’s farm communities. Take a break from city life and discover the Kranji countryside where around 20 of the area’s 100 farms are open to the public. Marvel at the 10,000 American bullfrogs at Jurong Frog Farm, check out the monthly farmer’s market, drink the freshest milk at Singapore’s only goat farm – where you can also pet the goats – and visit the ornamental prize Japanese koi fish at Max Koi Farm.

The Best Ways To Explore

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