Singapore has been described as a playground for the rich, and it's true that the small city-state does have a certain sheen of wealth. But Singapore offers more than just high-end shopping malls, luxury hotels, and fine dining (though it's worth indulging in those a bit if you can). There is also a vibrant history and diverse ethnic quarters to discover, along with many family-friendly attractions and lovely public spaces that make visiting this slightly futuristic city worthwhile.
1. Marina Bay Sands
The opulent Marina Bay Sands resort complex includes a high-end luxury hotel, a mall with a canal running through it, the ArtScience Museum, and the Marina Bay Sands Skypark Observation Deck—a vantage point for taking in the entire city. The Skypark's viewing deck and infinity pool are found in the ship (yes, ship) that tops the hotel. Only hotel guests are allowed to use the infinity pool, but anyone can visit the observation deck.
From the Skypark, you can see the innovative double helix bridge, the port, the Gardens by the Bay (101 hectares of land converted into waterfront gardens), and the impressive skyline.
2. Gardens by the Bay
Once you've glimpsed this beautifully designed green space (from the top of the Marina Bay Sands, perhaps) you won't be able to stay away. Wander through the Bay East Garden, perfect for enjoying the vibrant plant life and escaping the city bustle for a moment.
You won't want to miss Supertree Grove, where you'll find a cluster of the iconic, futuristic structures designed to perform environmentally sustainable functions. Then, head to the Cloud Forest Dome to see the world's tallest indoor waterfall and learn a bit about biodiversity. Check the website for ticket sale prices and tour times.
3. Botanic Gardens
Not to be confused with the Gardens on the Bay, the Botanic Gardens are also worth a visit. Singapore received its first UNESCO World Heritage nomination for its botanical gardens, and with good reason. The city can sometimes feel like a concrete jungle, albeit a clean and comfortable one, but the botanic gardens preserve pieces of Singapore's wilder heritage.
Here, a walking trail leads to the gardens' heritage trees, which are conserved as part of an effort to protect the city's mature tree species. Make sure to visit the impressive National Orchid Garden as well.
4. Singapore Flyer
If the observation deck at the Marina Bay Sands doesn't quite do it for you, try taking in high tea while looking out over the city from the Singapore Flyer, the world's largest giant observation wheel. Choose from several different packages that allow you to be served and pampered while enjoying a view that encompasses not only the Singapore skyline but as far away as the Spice Islands of Indonesia and Malaysia's Straits of Johor.
There are several different ticket packages to choose from, and each includes access to the multimedia Journey of Dreams exhibit, which delves into Singapore's history and the creation of the Singapore Flyer.
5. Sentosa Island
Singapore isn't exactly known as a beach destination, but if you're really craving some fun in the sun, Sentosa Island is the place to find it. Siloso Beach is a good spot for getting in beach time, and visitors can play volleyball on free courts or go kayaking and skimboarding. There are several other beach attractions as well, plus an Underwater World aquarium, where you can swim with dolphins.