There are more to Singapore than Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay or any of the glitzy places shown in Crazy Rich Asians (read: tourist traps). Here are 10 lesser-known, underrated and free attractions in Singapore which are worth exploring.
1. Keppel Island
Keppel Island (formerly known as Pulau Hantu) is a tiny island located in the southern part of Singapore between the main island and the island of Sentosa (an island previously used as a British military base during WW2). There is a marina in the island with several cafes and restaurants located on Keppel Bay (Plaza). For those looking for dining options in the island, one of the restaurants (Sushi Jiro at Keppel Bay) offers 25% discounts via the Entertainer app. Walk to the west-end of the island to enjoy great views. Keppel Island is best reached by car as the nearest MRT station (HarbourFront station) is quite a distance away from the island.
2. Nankai Street (Row) and Pekin Street
Nankai and Pekin Streets are relatively unknown compared to other touristic streets like Haji Lane. These two streets might be a better option for those seeking (relatively) more laid-back and less crowded F&B establishments (restaurants, pubs and bars). The streets are just a few minutes walk from the Telok Ayer MRT station. In addition to F&B establishments, there are a few street arts and murals that worth exploring. We recently had an affordable staycation at a nearby 5-star hotel (Sofitel City Centre) which is within walking distance to these two streets.
In terms of gardens, most tourists would flock to the Botanic Gardens in the first instance. We are of the opinion that HortPark, a park with landscaped gardens and restaurants located in Alexandra, is a hidden gem. The park features two restaurants (Canopy and Vineyard), gardening workshops, themed gardens (e.g. the scenic Silver Garden) and walking trails. Visitors could also walk to the adjacent Alexandra Arch pedestrian bridge for photo-taking opportunities. HortPark is best reached by car.
4. Singapore Coffee Museum @ Nanyang Old Coffee, Chinatown
This is a coffee museum located within a coffee shop (Nanyang Old Coffee) in Chinatown which is easily reached on foot from the Chinatown MRT station. The museum features antiquated tools used for handmade coffee brewing practices. The menu items at Nanyang Old Coffee are affordable and make for great breakfast to start the day before venturing into the heart of Chinatown. Just beside the museum is Smith Street which well-known as a food street at relatively affordable prices.
Side note: Many restaurants, cafes and shops in Singapore currently accept Shopback app for payment. If you do not have a Shopback account, sign up via my referral link to immediately receive $5.
5. Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre
It is rather surprising that the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (about 1 km on foot from Marina Bay MRT station) is relatively unknown, even among the locals. Entrance is free. It features intricate designs of information panels and elaborate interior decorations which provide insights on Singapore chinese culture. There is also a rooftop garden with views on the surrounding bay area.
6. Antique Chinese buildings @ SUTD
There are four antique Chinese buildings located in Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) which were donated by Jackie Chan. They include a pavilion, an opera stage and two chinese houses which originate from China’s southern Anhui province. The area is just a few minutes walk away from Upper Changi MRT station.
7. Teck Ghee Court (Food and Market Centre)
The Teck Ghee Court has hawker food stalls and market centres as well as less-publicised Old Ang Mo Kio murals drawn by a local artiste, Yip Yew Chong. The murals can be found at Block 341 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 which is about 1.2 km from the Ang Mo Kio MRT station. The murals depict the kampung (village) lifestyle in the olden days.
8. Upper Seletar Reservoir Park
Upper Seletar Reservoir is one of the four reservoirs that bound the nature reserves in Singapore. It is well-known among locals for its “lone” Casuarina tree which is one of the most photographed (instagrammed) trees in Singapore. There are also a viewing tower (Seletar Rocket Tower) close to the tree and running paths, where you can find many long-tailed macaques. The park is best reached by car.
Gardenasia is an area in the northern part of Singapore that consists of a bistro (cafe), farm stay, event space, horticultural garden and marketplace. The area is located in the Kranji countryside and quite isolated from the city (like Punggol) – as such, it is best reached by car. Dishes served at the bistro are sourced from the surrounding farm.
10. Funan Rooftop Garden & Urban Farm
The newly renovated Funan mall (nearest MRT station: City Hall) features an extensive rooftop garden with an urban farm. The farm contains a variety of fruits and vegetables which are used in several restaurants in Funan. Adjacent to the urban farm are a restaurant (Noka) and a futsal court. The skyline view from the rooftop offers a great photo-taking opportunity.
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