What is Singapore Known For?

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Singapore is one of the smallest countries in Asia, yet also one of the mightiest. The tiny nation sits just below Malaysia and serves as an economic powerhouse of Southeast Asia and a hub for sustainability and luxury, with countless futuristic attractions and high-end shopping malls. When people first think about Singapore, icons like the Instagrammable Marina Bay Sands hotel, Gardens by the Bay or even Changi Airport come to mind, but the country has much more to offer. Despite its current modernity, Singapore has an interesting history, with historic hotels such as Raffles still being famous to this day, while its location surrounded by other Asian countries means it’s a melting pot of cultures.

While in Singapore, you can explore neighbourhoods such as Little India or the Arab Quarter and feel as though you’re in a completely different country. At the same time, away from the luxury restaurants and shops, local hawker centres and street food markets are a sign that traditional Singapore is still just under the surface. More than anything, there’s so much to see and do in Singapore that you shouldn’t just see it as a layover on the way to your final destination, as it’s an incredible country all by itself.

What Is Singapore Known For?

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Top Tours

1- Marina Bay / Marina Bay Sands

Singapore View Of Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands is what Singapore is known for economically.

Marina Bay is arguably the most famous part of Singapore, and walking around the area or taking a boat trip around the bay is a great introduction to the city.

This is where you can view Singapore’s iconic skyline, including a number of skyscraper offices and hotels, plus shopping centres, the Merlion statue and the famous Marina Bay Sands.

You might recognise Marina Bay Sands thanks to its unusual ship-like shape supported by three towers, or more likely from the epic infinity pool on the roof.

The resort is one of the most famous and exclusive in Asia, and aside from the hotel, it includes a shopping mall, cinema, museum, Michelin-star restaurants, and a casino.

Unless you’re a guest at the hotel, you can’t go up to the pool, but there are amazing views from a lower observation deck and exploring all the shops and attractions is fun.

Plus, there’s a light show each evening that illuminates the entire bay if you’re after an exciting evening activity.

2- The Merlion

Merlion Statue And Cityscape In Singapore
The Merlion is what Singapore is best known for.

While strolling or cruising around Marina Bay, you’ll spot the Merlion, a half-fish, half-lion statue that spouts water from its mouth.

This is Singapore’s national symbol and you can find it everywhere in the city and on most souvenirs, from t-shirts and mugs to keyrings.

The reason the Merlion is the country’s symbol is thanks to Singapore’s history as a coastal fishing village.

Supposedly, an Indonesian prince arrived in the country and encountered what seemed to be a lion, leading him to rename the country Singapure, which means ‘lion city’ in Sanskrit.

The statue, which stands in front of One Fullerton on the bay, wasn’t built until 1964 but quickly became an icon of the city, and you can buy some cool Merlion merchandise to take home with you!

3- Singapore Sling

The Singapore Sling Cocktail
Singapore Sling is what Singapore known for among tourists.

One of the must-do activities for anyone visiting Singapore is heading to the iconic Long Bar at Raffles Hotel to sample a Singapore Sling, which was invented in this exact bar in 1915.

The Sling is one of the world’s most famous classic cocktails, made with gin, pineapple juice, and grenadine or cherry liqueur and angostura bitters – depending on which recipe you follow.

The Long Bar is like stepping back into Singapore’s golden age, and you’ll get a big sack of peanuts on your table, which traditionally you should eat and simply throw onto the floor.

You can try the Sling at plenty of other places in the city, but enjoying one freshly prepared at the Long Bar is an age-old tradition; just expect to pay Singaporean prices – roughly $36 (£21) for one.

Be prepared to queue if you arrive in the late afternoon or evening, as it’s one of the most popular activities in Singapore.

4- Raffles

Sir Tomas Stamford Raffles Monument
Named after Sir Stamford Raffles (pictured in the statue above), the Raffles Hotel is what Singapore is known for.

If you’re at the Long Bar, you’re already in Singapore’s famous Raffles Hotel, which you might notice when arriving is quite the luxury hotspot.

The striking, white colonial-style hotel is where everyone who’s anyone stays in Singapore ever since its opening in 1887.

Rooms start from over $1000 per night, but the interiors are exquisite, and you’ll get on-demand concierge service, incredible amenities and multiple award-winning restaurants.

If you stay here, or even just visit for a drink, you’ll be walking the same hallways as the likes of Michael Jackson, Queen Elizabeth II and Charlie Chaplin, to name just a few of the hundreds of celebrities who have stayed here.

If staying here and ‘accidentally’ packing a Raffles embroidered robe in your suitcase is a bit out of budget, there’s also the Raffles Boutique, where you can pick up various Raffles and Singapore Sling-related souvenirs.

5- Cleanliness

No Littering Sign On Wire Fence Beside The River
Cleanliness is what Singapore is known for around the world.

Singapore is famously one of the cleanest countries in the world – there was even a vote on this, which it won by miles.

This is partly thanks to its very strict rules, which are worth a deep dive into themselves.

The government employs more than 50,000 staff for the sole purpose of cleaning the city’s streets, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a speck of dirt or any litter anywhere while walking around the city.

One of the main reasons Singapore, and its first Prime Minister, was so keen on implementing a serious cleaning system is due to the country’s humid climate, which can lead to any rubbish and food quickly going off and creating an unpleasant environment, which can also lead to more tropical diseases.

This tradition of cleanliness can also be seen in all aspects of Singaporean life, from its widespread sustainability efforts in hotels and attractions to its clean and upmarket eateries and ingredients, which have led people here to live some of the longest lives in the world.

6- Rules And Fines

Tied in closely to Singapore’s cleanliness are the country’s extremely strict rules.

There’s a running joke that often appears on souvenirs: Singapore, a fine city!

This is due to the punishments and fines in place for just about anything you can do wrong, particularly things like littering and public urination, and most famously, chewing gum; in fact, gum is banned in the country.

Just a few of Singapore’s laws include not being allowed to feed wildlife, jaywalking, using e-cigarettes and not flushing a public toilet.

These might not seem that extreme, but unlike many countries, the laws are strictly enforced by patrolling police and you can get a fine of more than $500 for breaking them or worse.

While this may seem a little stifling, what draws tourists and the millions of Western expats here is that these rules make the city extremely safe, clean and friendly, making it a great place to live, work and raise children (so long as you follow the rules!).

7- Changi Airport

Terminal 3 At The Singapore Changi Airport
Changi Airport is what Singapore is best known for among international air travellers.

You may have stopped over at Changi Airport on travels elsewhere, or maybe you’re just planning on hopping straight in a taxi when you arrive here in Singapore, but a tip from us – don’t!

Changi Airport is voted the world’s best airport year after year, and for good reason.

Its multiple terminals are a destination in themselves, home to a shopping mall, swimming pool hotels, butterfly garden, jungle, the famous sky waterfall and dozens of restaurants, along with much more.

If you do have a layover in Singapore, remember that layovers of more than 5 hours mean you can go on a free 2-hour city tour – and with the city being so small, this is a great way of taking in the sights!

Even with less time, you’ll have a chance to shop, eat, relax, and even get your hair done or a massage.

Don’t skip exploring one or two of the terminals, particularly Jewel, with its gardens and shopping mall.

Singapore Airlines is also known as one of the best airlines in the world, thanks to its ultimate comfort and in-flight amenities, if you have the chance to fly with them to Changi or check into the premium lounge.

8- Gardens By The Bay

Singapore Gardens By The Bay
Gardens by the Bay is a place Singapore is famous for.

Gardens by the Bay is one of Singapore’s most famous attractions and something not to miss when visiting.

The complex is a giant nature park, which is home to the city’s iconic Supertree Grove – a collection of futuristic, carbon-negative trees that stretch into the sky, which you can climb up and which are lit up each evening during a light show.

The Gardens are home to more than 1.5 million different plant species spread across three gardens and a variety of other sites, such as the Flower Dome, the largest greenhouse in the world, packed with thousands of beautiful flower displays, and the Cloud Forest and Floral Fantasy, where you can find some of the rarest plants on earth.

With so much to see, it can take most of a day to explore the whole area, and you’ll need tickets for certain attractions such as the greenhouses and supertrees, but these incredible structures are one of the coolest things to explore in Singapore.

9- Hawker Centres

Singapore is notoriously expensive, from luxury shops to exclusive hotels, living costs and high-end restaurants.

While many of the city’s eateries are worth splurging at, if you want to do Singapore on a budget, make sure to eat where the locals eat – at hawker centres.

These are big, open-air food courts, although you can often find similar ones inside malls and office blocks that sell a variety of Western and Asian meals, drinks and snacks at extremely low prices.

Try local favourites such as Hainanese chicken rice, fish head curry and laksa.

These centres are so important in Singapore that they are officially a part of the country’s UNESCO Cultural Heritage, and there are more than a hundred of them around Singapore, meaning you can enjoy a tasty local meal for less than $5 while you’re here!

10- Multicultural Neighbourhoods

Colorful Windows In Little India
Multicultural neighbourhoods such as Little India is what Singapore is known for.

If trying local food and drink is your scene, then another famous thing you should do while visiting Singapore is to visit the city’s many cultural enclaves.

Not only is Singapore close to many other Southeast Asian countries, but it’s also a cultural and economic hub where dozens of different cultures have found a home.

Little India is one example – when you step out of the station, you’ll feel as though you’re actually in India.

Bustling streets, produce markets, traditional Indian restaurants, and photogenic, brightly painted houses make this feel like a world away from the rest of the city.

Elsewhere, the Arab Quarter is home to a stunning gold-topped mosque, dozens of traditional Middle Eastern restaurants and cafes and loads of winding alleyways where you can try shisha, shop for rugs and lanterns, or buy clothing and souvenirs.

Singapore’s Chinatown is also famous worldwide for its authentic restaurants, workshops on Chinese culture and supermarkets where you can find Chinese ingredients; thanks to the large Chinese community living here, it’s like visiting multiple countries in one go!

11- Sentosa Island

Aerial View Of Tropical Beach In Sentosa Island
Sentosa Island is what Singapore is known for tourism for families.

With all the skyscrapers and modern architecture, many people forget that Singapore is surrounded by water and so if you’re in need of some sun, sea and sand, look no further than Sentosa Island.

Sentosa is just off Singapore’s south coast and only takes around 20 minutes to reach – you can even take a cable car, making it very popular with tourists and locals looking for a beach escape.

The tropical island is now a popular resort home to everything from luxury hotels and spas to golf courses, museums and rides, including Universal Studios Singapore.

There are a variety of beach areas to explore, whether you want to swim or relax, and at night, there’s an amazing sound and light show.

Aside from Universal Studios, families can also check out Adventure Cove Waterpark, AJ Hackett’s Skypark, Mega Adventurepark and iFly Singapore, where you can skydive and zipline.

On top of this, you’ll also find one of the biggest aquariums in the world, a Madame Tussauds, a nature trail, an ocean obstacle course and of course, loads of bars, restaurants and shops.

12- Luxury Shopping

Louis Vuitton Store Singapore
Luxury shopping is what Singapore is famous for among Asian visitors.

On the subject of shops, Singapore is one of the best places in the world for a dose of luxury shopping.

This is mainly due to its abundance of shopping malls, of which there are more than one hundred in this comparatively tiny city.

If you’re keen for some retail therapy, the first place to head is Orchard Road, Singapore’s most famous shopping street with wall-to-wall outlets, including high street names and famous designer brands.

Marina Bay Sands is another famous mall packed with the likes of Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, and pretty much any other high-end name you can think of, along with world-class dining and bars.

There are dozens more to explore, some more local and others equally flashy, along with some fun places like Bugis Street – a loud, colourful tourist street packed with hundreds of stalls selling every item and souvenir under the sun; smaller malls in Little India and VivoCity, which is Singapore’s biggest shopping mall.

13- Singlish

If you’re just strolling the city with other tourists, you might not notice the unique dialect of the locals.

Thanks to all the wonderful communities and cultures that call Singapore home, a language referred to as ‘Singlish’ has developed.

Singlish is a big mix of Malay, Tamil, Cantonese and many other languages with English, meaning everyone can get by using their own, often strange, combination of phrases.

The official language of Singapore is Malay, but very few people speak it, and official signs and government information are in English, so using a mix of many different languages with English makes a lot of sense.

It’s not easy to understand unless you’ve been in Singapore for a while, but after a few days in the city, you’re likely to pick up a few fun words that may help you get by with the locals.

14- Singapore Zoo

Zoos are a great attraction no matter what city you’re in, but Singapore Zoo is known as one of the best in Asia and is a fun place to visit, even if you’re not travelling with kids.

Singapore Zoo sits in the northwest of Singapore and is home to over 4200 animals and 300 different species.

The zoo is divided into 12 habitat zones that exactly mimic each animal’s natural environment, with a big focus on the animals that are from this part of the world, meaning it has won many awards for being one of the best zoos in the world.

Throughout each day, there are also lots of fun presentations and feeding sessions and adventure tours.

Kids can do multi-day camps and a junior “Zookeeper for a Day” experience, plus there’s a KidzWorld and a gift shop for taking home fuzzy versions of all your favourite animals.

The Night Safari is an iconic experience offering Safari Trails where you can spot wildlife like Tasmanian devils, Asiatic lions and spotted hyenas while the Safari Tram Adventure allows you to explore the zones in comfort.

15- Tiger Beer

Tiger beer is an alcohol Singapore is known for.

Throughout Southeast Asia, you can see t-shirts and souvenirs emblazoned with a variety of classic beers such as Chang or Singha, and in Singapore, Tiger beer is the national drink.

Tiger beer was invented in Singapore in 1932 and is now one of the most famous and loved beers in Asia, if not the world!

It’s now made by Heineken Asia and can be found across Singapore, although prices are a little higher in its home country than in places like Thailand or Malaysia.

If you’re happy to travel a little by MRT, you can visit the Tiger Brewery, where you can learn about the 500-hour brewing process, find out about the beer’s history, try tapping your own beer and visit the onsite bar, Tiger Tavern, to try Tiger alongside a variety of other famous beers.

World Map With Magnified Singapore

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India Jayne trainor
India-Jayne Trainor is a British/Australian freelance writer, photographer and contributor to various online blogs and travel websites. She has travelled to almost 30 countries, most recently Cuba and Sri Lanka. Her work focuses on solo female travel, having spent two months backpacking alone through South East Asia as well as living in Germany for a year. Her favourite country to date has been Hong Kong, but she is happy in any country by the ocean. Her next destinations are Uzbekistan and a road trip through the American Mid-West. India is currently based in London, UK.