Although Singapore is a well known for stopovers on the way to Australia or New Zealand, rarely is it spoken of as a destination in itself. It’s a shame that so few people give it a little more time though, because beyond the incredible airport and free city tour for stopover passengers, there are loads of hidden gems worth exploring. Here are some of the hidden gems of Singapore that you should check out if you find yourself in this fascinating city for longer than just a few hours:
Also known as Ubin Island, this little piece of land is considered to be one of the last remaining rural areas of Singapore, with only about 100 residents living in the village, or ‘kampong’, which has remained untouched since the 1960s. The name Pulau Ubin means ‘Granite Island’ in Malay, but there’s so much more to see than the island’s abandoned quarries. The intertidal flat at Chek Jawa is a popular attraction on the island due to its extremely rare ecosystems, animals and plants. One of the best ways to see Pulau Ubin is to hire a bike and ride around the island, or simply take a stroll to admire the old wooden houses and beautiful scenery. Guided trips and nature walks are also available to explore the beauty of Pulau Ubin. For those who wish to stay on the island for longer than a day trip, Ubin Celestial Beach Resort can be reached after a short ride through the woods by bicycle.
You can reach Pulau Ubin by taking a boat from Singapore’s Changi Point Ferry Terminal.
One of Singapore’s hippest areas, Haji Lane was once an abandoned street full of pre-war shophouses. The original architecture has remained, but the lane is now buzzing with life thanks to the boutiques, cafes and restaurants that line the colourful street. Offering everything from vintage clothing to quirky, locally made fashion, Haji Lane is a must-visit destination for lovers of unique style and quaint surroundings. Shops to look out for include The Blog Shop, where local designers showcase their work, Pluck, which offers homewares and ice cream and Straits Record, a store selling vinyl and books. When you’ve perused all there is to offer on Haji Lane, head one street over to discover fabric shops that have been in business since the 1950s!
Maxwell Road Hawker Centre
Foodies take note: if you’re looking for an authentically Singaporean dining experience, head to Maxwell Road Hawker Centre to satisfy your senses. A Hawker Centre is basically a street food market – you’ll also find them in Malaysia, Hong Kong and a handful of other destinations. You don’t have to go far to reach the Maxwell Road Centre, with over 100 stalls, as it’s located right in the middle of Singapore’s Chinatown.
Here you can sample a greater variety of local cuisine than almost anywhere else in the country. If you’re looking for something uniquely Singaporean, try Tian Tian Chicken Rice, congee with pork and century egg from Zhen Zhen Porridge stall or char kway teow from the Marina South Delicious Food stall.
Like Haji Lane, the original architecture of this historic district has been either preserved or restored, thanks to its status as a conservation area since 1989. Many colourful shophouses adorn the streets in the area, which now house art galleries, shops and other businesses. Apart from these candy coloured buildings, don’t miss these sights in Kampong Glam:
– Muscat Street: Here you’ll find the Masjid Sultan (Malay for Sultan Mosque), which was rebuilt in 1928 and is one of the most important mosques in Singapore.
– Bussorah Street: On this pedestrianised shopping street you’ll find old haberdasheries mingling with new stores. Shop for your very own version of the infamous Singapore Airlines kebaya dress, books and souvenir trinkets.
– Arab Street: Once a textile hub in the 50s and 60s, here you can still find all sorts of fabrics either to purchase or to have tailored into your very own custom made clothes.
– North Bridge Road: More shopping, but here you’re looking for religious items such as prayer beads and rehal (stands used specifically for the Quran) as well as quirky goods like wooden toothbrushes!
You’ll find Kampong Glam close to the Bugis MRT Station.