From museum-hopping and thrift shopping to nature hikes and happy hour deals, here’s our list of wallet-friendly things to do in Singapore.
Singapore may be the land of Crazy Rich Asians, but we aren’t all big spenders. So if you’re looking for ways to spend a fun weekend without blowing your budget, you’ve come to the right place! No matter if you’re into arts and nature or a little retail therapy and gourmet goodness – there’s something for everyone here.
Explore the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage site
The original park to rule all parks, our Singapore Botanic Gardens is a landmark in itself. And its constant flow of visitors, both local and international, speaks to its popularity. Besides admiring the green spaces blooming with a wide array of plants, trees and flowers, you can check out its Heritage Museum, go on a walking trail or sit by the stage to enjoy the occasional performance.
Get your fill of art
Calling all culture vultures! The art scene in Singapore has loads to offer, from historical artefacts to cultural relics to rare works. Keen to check out the best museums and art galleries in the country? Bigwigs like National Gallery Singapore, National Museum of Singapore and the Asian Civilisations Museum welcome Singaporeans and PRs for free (just bring your identity card), while visitor passes start from about $15. Alternatively, head to exhibitions at Gillman Barracks, Deck or Goodman Arts Centre for your dose of independent art.
Feast on hearty hawker fare
Eating out can be expensive, but hawker food never fails to satisfy both our stomachs and our wallets. It’s the quintessential Singaporean experience, digging into local dishes such as chicken rice, nasi lemak, roti prata, biryani, satay, fried carrot cake and more. Our recommendation? Pop by hawker centres like Maxwell Food Centre, Old Airport Road Food Centre, Tiong Bahu Market & Food Centre and Amoy Street Food Centre to nibble your way through everything.
Spend time with Mother Nature
We may be known for our sleek skyscrapers and cosmopolitan vibes, but there’s a good reason we’re called the Garden City. Singapore’s full of green spaces like parks, reservoirs, nature trails and wildlife habitats – best of all, they’re free to explore! Just bring along your trusty hiking gear, a spritz of natural mosquito repellent (for good measure) and an adventurous spirit.
Hit up thrift stores
No money? No problem. Rummage through the treasure troves at secondhand shops for pre-loved apparel, accessories and furniture. Who knows, you just may end up going home with a lovely vintage find to add to your retro stash.
Wander around cultural enclaves
The vibrant heritage ‘hoods of Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam are home to streets full of Insta-worthy alleyway art, hip cafes, great local grub and quirky treasures. We love how you can always find gems that won’t burn a hole in your wallet amidst all the shops selling spices, jewellery, fabric, homeware and even kitschy tourist trinkets.
Watch indie flicks at alternative cinemas
We love a good blockbuster hit or laugh-out-loud comedy as much as the next person, but sometimes you just want to do things a little differently. Like catch a cool drama at an outdoor screening or go the non-mainstream route at indie cinemas. So forget about Gold Class or premium seats for the time being and head to places like The Projector ($13.50/ticket) or The Screening Room ($15). On occasion, you can even have a free alfresco experience when movies come out to play under the stars during festivals and pop-ups by the likes of MovieMob.
Set sail to surrounding islands
We’re not just talking about Sentosa – it’s great fun and all – but the quieter islands beyond our waters offer a rustic experience for adventure seekers, beach enthusiasts, history buffs and everyone in between. Immerse yourself in nature at Pulau Ubin or St. John’s, Lazarus, Kusu and Sisters’ Islands for a day – all you have to do is pay for the boat rides (or any outdoor activities you’re keen to take part in).
Toast to happy hour deals
Cocktails are best enjoyed when they’re cheap and cheery, we say. And since we’ve already done the legwork for you, rounding up the top happy hour spots in town, here’s to evenings of boozy highs without your purse feeling the pinch. Some of our fave joints include Chico Loco, Loof, Martini Bar, The Flagship and Fat Prince.
Grab your picnic basket
Take your picnic to the next level by romancing your partner at sunrise spots around town like Marina Barrage, Changi Boardwalk, East Coast Park, Mount Faber Park and Kranji Reservoir. Sure, you may have to sacrifice several hours of sleep to immerse yourself in sleepy morning light, but it’ll be worth it when you’re enjoying strawberries and sandwiches, clinking glasses to the glorious sight in front of you.
Take a tour of quirky museums
Sentosa may be home to pricier attractions like Universal Studios Singapore and Adventure Cove, but it’s also got breezy beaches that the entire fam can splash around in. If you’re looking for some indoor fun, head to the Trick Eye Museum ($25/adult) for cool optical illusions or Madame Tussauds (from $28/adult) to snap all the selfies you want with your fave celebs.
Enjoy free melodies by the bay
For a prime waterfront spot, Esplanade’s Theatres by the Bay is where you can usually sit and chill to the tune of concerts, cultural performances and visual arts installations. There’s your weekend entertainment, sorted.
Round up your girls for a night out
Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best times to paint the town red with your best buds, what with all the fancy ladies’ nights going on. Think complimentary house pours, free entry to parties and all the swanky VIP treatment you could ever want. Wanna let your hair loose? Head to bars like Pinball Wizard, Lulu’s Lounge or Bar Rouge to dance till morn.
Admire the city skyline from up top
Rooftop bars are perfect for drinks with a view, but if you’re avoiding booze at the moment, make a pitstop at the Sands Skypark ($26/adult) for a breathtaking panorama of the city. From your sky-high vantage point, you’ll easily spot landmarks like Gardens by the Bay, the Singapore Flyer, Esplanade and the Merlion statue.
See the country’s architectural landmarks
With quaint shophouses residing next to slick towers and futuristic structures, we’ve got loads of architectural wonders to appreciate. So make the most of your trek across the city and swing by icons like Golden Mile Complex, The Interlace, Hill Street Building and Parkview Square in a day. Just remember to strap on your comfiest walking shoes before you head out!
Hop on a bike
To give your feet a break, grab a two-wheeler and cycle your way across the city. We’ve got the lowdown on the best bicycle routes through parks, heartland areas, landmarks and farms – all you have to do is rent a bike and gear up.
Watch a vibrant night show
Every major city has its own light show, and Singapore is no different. Plus, you’ve got two spots to enjoy the spectacular display of light and sound – Marina Bay Sands and Sentosa. Both outdoor extravaganzas are free, and they take place every evening, each with their own unique tale and stunning effects.
Spa time may be more of an occasional splurge than a regular relaxing session, but indulgent treatments can actually be easier on your bank account than you think. For an afternoon of bliss, choose from divine massages, soothing facials and amazing mani-pedis at places like Le Spa, Nimble/Knead, Natureland or Healing Touch.
Get trigger-happy on a street art trail
The city’s teeming with nostalgic murals, funky graffiti and gorgeous paintings, and they’re all free to see. So pick a day with good weather and rock up to the coolest street art spots with your camera to get some great snaps. To continue exploring, lose yourself in the streets of Tiong Bahru, Haji Lane, Telok Ayer and Joo Chiat.
Bask in the beauty of blooms
Continue your love affair with Mother Nature at Gardens by the Bay, where you’re free to roam around the leafy pockets of plants and flowers dotting the landscape. Attractions like Floral Fantasy, Flower Dome and Cloud Forest are ticketed (from $12/adult), but they’re worth it, especially if you haven’t been to the new Supertree Observatory (from $10/adult), which boasts panoramic views of the gardens. Oh, and those sticking around till nightfall can head to the Supertree Grove for the nightly light and sound rhapsody.
Cruise around the river
Prefer to drift down the Singapore River in style, shaded from the scorching rays of the sun? Hop on board a bumboat with Singapore River Cruise to sail from Clarke Quay to Boat Quay to Marina Bay ($25/adult). You’ll get to sit back, relax and feast your eyes on bridges and landmarks like the Merlion and Marina Bay Sands.
Book a staycation without breaking the bank
Forget five-star brands. Boutique hotels are all the rage these days, and the ones on our island run the range from modern minimalist to luxury chic. Check in to staycay spots like Kesa House, The Great Madras, Lloyd’s Inn or Naumi Hotel for a cosy overnighter away from the crowds.
Embark on a walking tour
Whether you grew up in Singapore or you’re just visiting, there’s always something new to discover in the nooks and crannies of our island. We reckon the best way to see the city with a fresh perspective is to stroll through its various districts on a walking trail – that way, you get to tick things off your bucket list with a tour guide on hand to answer your questions. Alternatively, set off on one of the National Heritage Board’s self-guided walks to better suit your own schedule.
Put on your bargain-hunting game face
A 24/7 shopping paradise for night owls, Mustafa Centre in Little India is your go-to when you need a hit of retail therapy… at midnight. The massive building may be a bit of a maze, but it’s the best kind of feeling when you’re lost amidst the rows of electronic gadgets, snacks, skincare, apparel and homeware.
Go on a weekend holiday
Itching to get out of the country for a bit? Take a beachy breather overseas at one of the islands near Singapore – think Gili (Indonesia), Bintan (Indonesia) or Langkawi (Malaysia). Alternatively, scan the skies to find the best-value flights for a weekend adventure at neighbouring Southeast Asian destinations such as Bali, Bangkok, Halong Bay or Luang Prabang. They’ll return you home recharged and refreshed, without the added drawback of jet lag.