Psst: Come a little closer as we uncover the city’s secrets and hacks in our guide to all things hidden in Singapore...
Our love for Singapore knows no limits, which is why we’re immensely proud of everything our little island has to offer. From fantastic restaurants and cocktail bars to lush green spaces and cultural enclaves, there are bucketloads to explore. If you haven’t wandered through every nook, cranny and alleyway of the city, let this extensive list be your guide. Behold, all the things you should know about the hidden side of Singapore before you can say: This is home, truly.
1. Want to catch killer views of Singapore’s majestic cityscape… for free? Hop on over to [email protected], a towering HDB estate in Queenstown, and head 47 storeys up to the rooftop garden for an alfresco hang.
2. We found fire-breathing creatures in Singapore! Mother of Dragons, we ain’t, but we’ve got the next best thing: Not one but two old school dragon playgrounds tucked away in the quaint neighbourhood of Toa Payoh.
3. Perched on the foot of Ang Mo Kio Town Garden and block 159, Kebun Baru Birdsinging Club is the most popular and largest songbird display area in Singapore. Watch uniquely crafted cages hoisted 20ft up on poles by hobbyists and enjoy the calming tunes of birds in song.
4. An abandoned green space in Singapore? Yep, that’s Keppel Hill Reservoir. This century-old spot makes for quite the unconventional trek for all you hiking buffs out there.
5. Yes, we love our otters in Singapore. Keep tabs on community page Otter Watch to learn about the different families and watch them in action at rivers around the island – just remember to respect their space.
7. Watch out for the secret trail that loops behind Orto in Yishun. It’s great for birdwatching, and there are plenty of fruit trees. Truth be told, Yishun is really not as bad as its infamous rep would suggest.
8. The Intan at Joo Chiat is a quaint Peranakan house and museum with authentic antiques and art passed down from the owner’s family as well as from his personal collection.
9. Our waterfalls are natural and man-made. Apparently, the first one was constructed in Jurong Bird Park in 1971 and stands tall at a height of 30 metres. Of course, there’s also the lush waterfall at the Cloud Forest in Gardens by the Bay and the world’s highest indoor one at Jewel Changi Airport.
10. Take a day trip to Jurong West and find the last dragon kiln in Singapore. You can even fire it up and make your own ceramic pottery at Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle.
11. If you want to go treasure hunting for vintage finds and local knick-knacks, Odds and Collectables at Telok Ayer is the spot to do it. Sift through all kinds of cool stuff like retro advertisements, photos from yesteryear, vintage mugs and wooden kueh molds. Alternatively, hit up Tong Mern Sern at Craig Road for secondhand shopping – it’s home to sweet old school gems.
12. So you think you’ve covered the entire island? Think again. We’ve got secret spots across the country, from a hidden lighthouse to hilltop forts, that are just waiting to be discovered!
13. Maybe you’ve walked past this mysterious Muslim tomb in the Duxton area. The shrine is dedicated to Sharifah Rogayah, believed to be the granddaughter of Habib Noh, a direct descendant of Prophet Mohammad and Singapore’s most famous Muslim. However, no one really knows much else about her…
14. Concealed beneath the hip ‘hood of Tiong Bahru lies an air raid shelter from the days of World War II. Unlike its fellow underground bunkers, the brick-built one at 78 Guan Chuan Street has not been demolished. The public aren’t allowed into the space, which can hold an estimated 1,600 people, but it has opened on occasion for events and tours. In the meantime, visit the war heritage site to read up on its past from info boards on the walls by the car park.
15. Singapore might be a cosmo city, but if you look beyond the towering skyscrapers and gargantuan malls, you’ll find a handful of countryside farms. Escape the city in a hot minute and soak in the simple life with cute goats at Hay Dairies or stock up on the freshest produce at Bollywood Veggies and Quan Fa Organic Farm.
16. The tourist hotspot that is Sentosa also houses an out-of-sight military compound. Intrigued? Join us on our journey to Fort Siloso and uncover underground tunnels, history museums and wartime relics.
17. If you’ve always been curious about the supernatural, perhaps you’d like to set out on an eerie adventure. We’ve got no lack of haunted houses and former cemeteries for brave souls. Speaking of juicy ghost stories, here’s a look at true-life encounters that’ll give you major goosebumps.
18. Did you know there’s a beautiful natural beach at Sembawang Park? The underrated spot may not be as popular as the sandy shores of East Coast, Pasir Ris or Sentosa, but it makes for a tranquil beachside stroll up north. While you’re there, pay a visit to historical sites like the Sembawang memorial, Sembawang Shipyard and Seletar Pier.
19. Nature enthusiasts, this one’s for you. After you’ve combed through hotspots like the Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay, find your calm in the city’s hidden green spaces and secret parks.
20. Orchard Road may be well-known as a shopping stretch, but it’s got a secret past, too. Oh, and have you explored the history and heritage of Emerald Hill? It’s so much more than just bars and restaurants!
21. Mustafa Centre in Little India is great if you want to hang out somewhere past midnight – minus the booze. From batik shirts and groceries to tech gadgets and toiletries, the maze of a mall is a haven for random finds.
22. Explore the provincial life at Kampong Lorong Buangkok, the last surviving village in Singapore.
23. Move away from the crowded Singapore River to the Punggol East riverside scene where container bistros with no-nonsense grub and craft beer await.
24. On a keto diet? There’s a local version of bulletproof coffee! Ask the kopi uncle for a kopi gu you (the Hokkien phrase literally translates to “coffee butter”) and watch him sock filter a cuppa and add a big slab of butter. Yum.
25. Take home a slice of Singapore at these cool indie stores chock full of local fashion and beauty brands, books, homeware and quirky knick-knacks.
26. At the edge of Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa lies Tanjong Rimau, a raw gem on a thoroughly reconstructed island. Singapore’s western tip boasts mangrove trails, large rocks and even secret, tiny caves that can be accessed via a rocky slope down the beach.
27. Looking for your fellow Rastafarians in Singapore? We actually have a thriving reggae party scene, courtesy of the rude bois behind music collectives Dub Skank’in HiFi Soundsystem and Singapura Dub Club. Check ‘em out for a slice of Jamaica on our shores.
28. Think you know all the ‘hoods in Singapore? Head north-east to Seletar, which used to be Singapore’s first airbase, and explore a slew of cafes and restaurants amidst lush greenery and colonial bungalows.
29. We found one of Singapore’s last streetside barbers, Mr Lee, in an alleyway between Telok Ayer and Amoy Street. Look for him in the back lane right behind Moosehead, and settle in for a fuss-free grooming sesh.
30. Fun fact: A natural hot spring actually exists in Singapore. The recently revamped Sembawang Hot Spring Park features a floral walk, cascading pool and cafe. You can dip your toes into the water here for onsen vibes or try your hand at soft-boiling an egg.
31. Dead tired of cultural precincts and need a change of scene? A self-guided walk around Bukit Brown Cemetery, one of the largest and last-remaining graveyards, might liven things up for you.
32. Dairy Farm Nature Park’s Wallace Trail is not as done-up as other pathways in Singapore. Muddy and perfect for mountain bikers, it takes you past fruit trees, an old kampung and native wildlife.
33. Coney Island in Punggol is the perfect place for “escaping” Singapore – but stick to exploring in the morning before the afternoon sun hits you hard!
34. Mystified by the universe? Catch a glimpse of Jupiter, the moon and shimmering stars through a telescope and discuss the ABCs of astronomy at free stargazing sessions with the folks from Singapore Sidewalk Astronomy.
35. If you’re not buying into the cafe hype, Colbar is one no-frills eatery you can add to your list. It’s a good spot for beer, a classic fry-up and western dishes, and it comes with a bit of a history lesson.
36. Unfamiliar with the coastal ‘hood of Pasir Ris? Perhaps it’s time you pay it a visit. Some of its not-so-well-known features include a terrazzo elephant-shaped playground, the country’s sole commercial saltwater fishing pond and one of the only two protected mangrove forests in Singapore.
38. Need a quiet place in the city? Pearl Hill City Park near Outram MRT might just be your spot. Trek up to this tranquil green patch that also features a lovely pond. Nearby, Ann Siang Hill Park is another peaceful retreat behind the buzzing bars on the stretch.
39. One of Singapore’s oldest coffee shops, Tiong Bahru’s Hua Bee has great kopi and mee pok during the day. But when the sun sets, it turns into a Japanese speakeasy, Bincho. Just enter the hidden back door to step into a whole new world.
40. You’ve not had the real Singapore shopping experience until you’ve rummaged through pre-loved items in Lucky Plaza on Orchard Road. You’ll uncover affordable cosmetics, perfume knock-offs, souvenirs, electronics, secondhand apparel and loads more.
41. You’ll recognise the scent. Medicated oils and ointments like Tiger Balm and Axe Oil are a godsend in Asian households, curing everything from throbbing headaches to pesky mosquito bites. Fun fact: Did you know that Haw Par Villa, Singapore’s kookiest theme park, is the brainchild of Tiger Balm owner Aw Boon Haw? The eclectic space depicts legends and myths that combine elements of Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese history and mythology – the most famous being the Ten Courts of Hell.
42. If you’re new to Singapore, it can be an uphill task navigating through countless stalls for the best renditions of local food. Fret not, though – just arm yourself with our handy guide to top hawker centres across the city.
43. For a different type of retail experience, head to Far East Plaza, Orchard Road’s most underrated mall, for pocket-friendly eats and local boutiques. Or go further afield to one of the many outlet malls in Singapore for premium brands at discounted prices.
45. If you’re someone who’s particular about toilets, our advice is to head up to higher floors in malls and other buildings for, well, cleaner spaces.
46. You can shop and contribute to a good cause at the same time – start chalking up good karma points at these social enterprises.
47. Pulau Semakau, also known as the landfill island, is the only place in Singapore where the Milky Way is visible from the ground. To continue your island-hopping journey, set sail to offshore spots like St John’s Island and Lazarus Island.
50. Crikey! See crocs in the wild at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
51. Sure, you can eat durian au naturel. But to make things extra fun, try the stinky fruit in sweet, savoury and strange flavours at places like Mao Shan Wang Cafe and Goodwood Park Hotel. We dare you.
53. When those lovey-dovey feelings have fizzled out, these quirky breakup spots will come in handy. Drama-free or not, it’s entirely up to you.
54. Cafes are aplenty, but quiet ones that aren’t perpetually packed with brunch crowds? We’d head deep into the heartlands for them. Add hidden cafes to your food bucket list for good grub that you can savour in peace.
55. Head to Hougang to check out the largest Japanese cemetery in Southeast Asia. Built in 1891, the park is prettier than it is spooky, with pink floral archways that are reminiscent of sakura season in Japan. Serving as a burial ground for nearly 1,000 Japanese civilians and soldiers from the pre-war years, this place has, strangely enough, turned into an IG-friendly spot.
56. You’re more than welcome to have a staycation with your furry best friend at some of the big-name hotels in town. Just check in to these pet-friendly abodes for a relaxing weekend with your furbaby.
57. Sundry stores, more fondly known as “mama shops”, are great for affordable snacks, drinks and other random items like old school toys. Best place to find ‘em? Void decks of HDB flats in the heartlands.
58. Our skyline isn’t just made up of Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer. They’re iconic, but they’re also just two of the many fascinating architectural landmarks on the island. Lesser-known structures include Assyafaah Mosque in the north and The Colonnade in Orchard.
59. Marina at Keppel Bay is not only Asia’s first fish-friendly marina by the Marina Industries Association standards – you can actually find a healthy coral reef ecosystem under Keppel Bay!
60. Did you know: Built in 1869, Cavenagh Bridge is the oldest surviving bridge across the Singapore River. It’s named after William Orfeur Cavenagh, who was the final governor of the Straits Settlements under British India rule. The structure was gazetted as a national monument together with Elgin Bridge and Anderson Bridge in 2019.
61. Drop by your neighbourhood beauty salons for eyebrow threading from only $5. From Hougang to Woodlands, there’s always a good deal.
62. Only got $20 in your pocket? Affordable adventures are everywhere – you just need to know where to look. From art museums and thrift stores to nature trails and free music performances, there’s an abundance of entertainment.
63. Can’t seem to find retro tidbits these days? Pop by old school snack stores when the munchies hit.
64. Searching for a speakeasy is way more fun than cosying up in a regular ol’ drinking joint. Wondering where to start? The Elephant Room, Operation Dagger and The Other Room are all perfectly respectable secret bars.
65. Our island is home to thousands of bus stops: Think modern ones sitting side by side with old school structures. For a blast to the past, cruise along the roads to find retro bus stops at places like Lim Chu Kang Road and Tanjong Pagar Road.