Singapore is one city I feel lucky to have called home! A big reason why is, of course, all the fun things to do in Singapore but the unexpected nature of some of them is perhaps what really made it so special to call the city ‘home’ for a while…
My move to Singapore happened right intertwined with my time studying at Cambridge University and I’ve gotta admit, I moved over armed with not much else than a stereotypical expectation of what Singapore, being the global city that it is, would be like.
Shiny, sparkly and chock-filled with glass and steel towers, was pretty much as far as my expectations would stretch at the time.
And don’t get me wrong, Singapore is shiny, sparkly and all the things you’d expect from a global city (well, except for the fact that the crime rate here is really low!
You’d feel as safe wandering around the streets at 4am as you would at 4pm) but here’s the thing – Singapore is about so much more than just those shiny lights.
It’s also chock full of some unexpected surprises (that’s a bit of a tautology – like “wet water” but you know what I mean ??).
And they are great surprises too!
The kind of surprise that makes you realise why the city is not just a great place to visit but also an amazing place to call home. The kind that made me really want to stay on in Singapore long after my initial plans here.
But enough about that, let’s jump right in, shall we? ??
1.) Ubin Island
So like I said before, Singapore is a shiny city! It’s home to many single multi-billion dollar companies available and has the highest concentration of millionaires in the world.
Everything about Singapore seems to shout shiny city so you’d be so easily forgiven for not realising there’s a more natural and rustic side to the city! Said place is Pulau Ubin, otherwise just known as Ubin or Ubin Island. (“Pulau” in English translates to “Island”).
I didn’t actually find out about Ubin island myself. I actually got an invite to a work team day thing on the island (a rustic retreat in Singapore!) triggered my curiosity so I signed up.
Arriving on the island (it’s a short boat ride from the mainland), I realised this was a part of Singapore that’s nothing like the rest of it.
On Ubin island, you’ll find cobblestoned footpaths, abandoned granite quarries and traditional kampongs (villages) – traditional Malay attap houses – and come across kingfishers and Southeast Asian birds in the wetlands. It’s like taking a step back to the past in Singapore and is chock full of amazing wildlife.
It’s the kind of island where you might find yourself at a roadblock as you’re cycling through because the monkeys have decided to have a fruit break on the roads, or find a wild pig rummaging through your bag in search of snacks, or where seeing a hornbill or giant monitor lizard is just commonplace – definitely very different from the Singapore you might expect if you only spend time in the city centre.
Ubin Island is amazing and a part of Singapore most travellers never really think to visit. It’s such a fantastic way to “get lost” in nature and is so impressive to explore. As briefly mentioned earlier, getting to Ubin Island is pretty easy – it’s just a short 10-minute boat ride!
To get around when you’re on the island, you can rent a bicycle, which makes the most sense as it you cover more of the island, though exploring on foot is also another great option here.
Suffice to say, this is easily one of the most fun things to do in Singapore if you’re really looking to get a more balanced view of what Singapore has to offer, beyond bustling city life.
2.) Lazarus Island
Singapore is not one of those cities you’d expect to find a beach in, and it’s not without reasons either. It’s never really been a ‘beach holiday’ destination but that’s not to say you can’t actually have a really lovely day on the beach here.
Lazarus Island is another one of those underrated places in Singapore that most travellers visiting the city never really think to explore.
Most people might think instead to go to Sentosa (there are stretches of man-made beach here) but Lazarus Island is actually one of the best places in Singapore to go to if you want a day out on the beach.
Lazarus Island is never really crowded (it’s typically locals you find here) and it feels like you’ve stepped so far away from the city (you can’t even see the skyline when you’re here because it’s looking away from the city). A trip here is easily one of the most relaxed and most fun things to do in Singapore.
To get here, you catch a boat from Singapore’s Marina South Pier to St John’s Island and just walk over to Lazarus island.
It is also worth checking out St John’s Island for a little bit here and if you get the chance to, after you’re done with Lazarus island, the ticket you get can take you over to Kusu Island -pop in there too for a little bit.
Oh, by the way, you won’t find places you can buy things here and there isn’t really shade on the island unless you step away from the beach and head over to the coconut trees so be sure to bring everything you need with you (sunscreen, food, drinks…etc).
3.) MacRitchie Nature Trail
Carrying on in the nature-based theme, another unexpected thing to do in Singapore was exploring the Macritchie Nature Trail. The Macritchie Nature Trail is one of those spots right in the city that feels like you’re miles away from the city. This 12-hectare nature reserve has hiking trails, kayaks and canoes for rent.
You can catch a taxi (or drive, if you have a car) here, park up and within minutes feel like you’re somewhere else entirely.
We showed up expecting a quick walk around but at 11 kilometres of walking trails (and with multiple options as to how to do this), you could very easily spend an almost a full day just wandering around the trails here (of course, you can choose to be here for as long or as short as you’d want). If you’re up for outdoor adventures, this is easily one of the most fun things to do in Singapore for that!
I think it was while we were here that I realised how active Singaporeans really are. They make the most of the nature around them and it wasn’t uncommon seeing people easily twice our age (more than sometimes) power walking past you at a pace we couldn’t even keep up with (trust me, we tried… many times!!! ??).
There are so many opportunities to spot wildlife here too – especially those cheeky macaque monkeys and you could even find flying lemurs here. The Macritchie Nature Trail has such lush tropical vegetation that it feels nothing like anything you can even hope to find in any other global city and is just such a brilliant place to visit in Singapore.
4.) Little India
When you think of Singapore, it’s perhaps its Chinese heritage that comes to mind for most people but Singapore is such a melting pot of different cultures and this is perhaps most evident that when it comes to the delicious food on offer here.
If you’re looking for some of the best Indian curries outside of India, Little India in Singapore is one of the best places to visit in the city.
Thanks to Singapore’s relatively huge Indian population, you get to dine on some of the most amazing meals when you’re in Little India and at such amazing prices. It’s easily one of the most delicious places and one of the most fun things to do in Singapore.
When you’re done eating to your heart’s content, a little jaunt around the area is so worth it as there are so many opportunities to snap up a bargain or two on things you perhaps don’t really need but really want. ??
5.) Marina Bay Sands
This one’s an easy one. It’s actually not unexpected in the way you might think – in that everyone knows about Marina Bay Sands and would probably look to spend some time around here.
People even know about that amazing swimming pool right on top of the hotel here. What might surprise people is that this is both the largest and the highest infinity pool in the world!
Even though we were living in Singapore then (quite literally down the road from here), I just knew I had to stay here even if for just a night so that I could go to the pool (the pool is only for hotel guests).
Spoiler alert – it’s so worth it! It felt like something of an unnecessary indulgence at the time but arriving there, I knew I’d made the right call not to miss out on getting to enjoy the world’s largest and highest infinity pool! (Suffice to say, the view up there is also pretty amazing!). It’s one of those fun things to do in Singapore that I just can’t recommend enough! ??
I stayed up here till long after my fingers had gone as wrinkly as prunes! We were the first up there the next morning too! If you ever get a chance to, even if you’re not a guest at the hotel for the entire time, be sure to book in a night here and arrive as early as possible to make the most of that amazing pool!
6.) Gardens by the bay
This one is perhaps not so much so ‘surprising’ or ‘unexpected’ anymore but is only included on here as at the time, finding such an amazing place in the city centre was a tad unexpected – especially so, the supertrees around here which are as tall as a 16 story building!
These days, it’s easily one of the most popular and most fun things to do in Singapore and with very good reason too.
It’s another brilliant example of how Singapore does such a great job at balancing nature with city life and is one of the reasons why Singapore is lauded as one of the most natural (or, I guess green) cities to visit.
7.) Hawker Centre
Singapore being something of an expensive city is something most visitors have come to expect of the city.
Like I mentioned earlier, the city is home to the largest concentration of millionaires in the world and is constantly ranked as one of the most expensive cities to buy a property in and even to live in.
As such, it’s understandable that most people expect to have to spend a lot of money when they visit but this couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to food.
Some of the best food in Singapore can be found in its hawker centres, where you’ll find a plethora of delicious local meals available at pretty incredible prices (sometimes as much a 1/10th of the prices you’ll find in more formal restaurants).
If you want the best meals on your travels, eating where the locals eat is something of a no-brainer and in Singapore, that place is the hawker centres.
Case in point – did you know that Singapore’s Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken & Rice currently holds the honours as the world’s cheapest Michelin-star meal at under S$3 (approximately around £1.70 ) – how amazing is that?
Why was this unexpected? Well, I guess when you arrive in a city that’s famous for being pretty fancy, finding out that this is so not the case when it comes to something as essential as food is definitely one pleasant surprise to find in the city (especially so when the food is so good).
8.) Tasting Durian Fruit
For the uninitiated, durian is that stinky fruit that for lack of a better way to describe it, smells like sun-ripened garbage. For some reason though, it’s so popular here in Singapore and is one thing you have to do when you’re here.
Everyone is so fascinated with it and it’s almost marmite-like in that people either really love it or really hate it – no in-between! No one is ever ambivalent about it.
It took me several months to finally work up the courage to try this and spoiler alert – it’s tastes pretty similar to how it smells.
If for nothing else, you need to try durian here to see if you’re gonna be one of those who thinks it’s a lush, creamy fruit or indeed, something you never want to smell again! ?? It’s definitely of the most fun things to do in Singapore for foodies and the culinary-adventurous!
9.) The World’s Tallest Waterfall
Singapore’s Changi Airport has for a while now been widely regarded as one of the best airports in the world. There’s just so much to see and do when you’re here that’s it’s become more than just a place to catch a flight from!
Instead, it’s more of a fun hub for travellers and locals alike. It’s a place that you might want to arrive early just so you can spend time in and is truly one of the most fun things to do in Singapore.
The most exciting addition to the airport now is the impressive circular waterfall which is easily one of the most impressive installations in any airport – it’s also the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. Once you’re done here, there’s actually a lot more stuff to get up to at the airport but I’ll leave you to find those out when you do visit.
10.) Universal Studios
It’s not very often that you find a full-on theme park smack within a city.
They’re usually a lot further out of the city and are places you don’t really think of just “popping in” for a few hours so this one totally took me by surprise when we were in Singapore, as we were making our way to an entirely different spot in the city. When we saw the sign for it though, we decided we had to check it out.
It was such a hot day that we just decided on a whim to pop in just to get soaked on the Jurassic Park ride. One ride later and we promptly upgraded to a season ticket and even threw in a queue jump to the mix. Best impromptu decision we made in Singapore without a doubt! ? ?
In London, we have to traipse out of the city to find anything like this so while we lived in Singapore, I made it a mission to visit as much as possible, especially considering how easy it is to get to.
If you’re here with friends, family or even kids (‘big kids’ ?? and little ones, of course), it’s totally worth popping in for a fun-filled day! (Think about how much time and money people spend to go to places like Orlando for a full-on holiday and here you have the option to do so right on your doorstep).
And there you have it! Some of the parts of Singapore the most fun things to do in Singapore that absolutely surprised but thoroughly thrilled me when I lived in this amazing city!
When you find yourself in Singapore, be sure to check at least one of the above out (if not all of them!).
Have an amazing trip!
VISITING SINGAPORE SOON?