Once you’ve explored the impressive Gardens by the Bay, shopped ‘till you dropped on Orchard Road and visited the iconic Raffles Hotel, head out in search of our top hidden gems to experience authentic Singapore.
1. Smoke & Mirrors
When it comes to rooftop views in Singapore, everybody knows about the bars and restaurants at the Marina Bay Sands, but there’s another incredible (and less touristy) elevated bar in town. Smoke and Mirrors sits atop the Singapore National Gallery – here, a creative menu of carefully-crafted cocktails are served with a superb panorama of the city’s bright and dramatic skyline.
2. Citizen Farm
Hidden in the heart of this built-up, urban environment, Citizen Farm is a haven of community agriculture. The farm was established in 2016 on the site of an abandoned former prison and was designed to give the land new purpose, bring together the local people to learn more about farming and to produce sustainable, high-quality food using modern low-waste technology. Take a tour, join a workshop or sign up to receive a ‘Citizen Box’ of fresh farm-grown veggies to support the farm and local growers, and eat healthily!
3. Gillman Barracks
Once a British army base and steeped in military history, the Gillman Barracks has been completely reinvented and is now quietly home to some of the world’s finest contemporary art. Here the beautiful colonial architecture shelters a cluster of galleries, restaurants and even a bar with live music from local musicians. Every few weeks, the Gillman Barracks have Art After Dark open evenings on a Friday night with new shows, live performances and pop-up food stalls.
4. Singapore Really Really Free Market
At this market, there’s no need to bring your wallet. It sounds too good to be true, but as the name says, things here really, really are free. Designed as a cultural and social enterprise, the market, which has been running for over 10 years, encourages sharing, trading and goodwill to build a happy and caring community. Instead of purchasing goods with cash, you’re invited to trade for items or offer a service or skill as payment; here you’ll find everything from home-baked cookies to unwanted clothes or local art being swapped and shared!
5. Island Penang Cafe
A popular spot with the locals, this little restaurant is a great place to spend a relaxing evening sampling traditional Malaysian Penang cuisine. Not far from West Coast Park, Island Penang Cafe is a little way out of the main city but that’s what keeps it off the tourist radar, meaning that the prices are reasonable, dishes are delicious and you’re often able to still get a table.
6. Sungei Buloh
Singapore Zoo is famous for its night safari experience, but for a more authentic slice of Singapore wilderness head to Sungei Buloh on the northwestern shore. Here, an 87-hectare wetland reserve protects masses of the country’s native plants and animals. Nature trails guide you through biodiverse mangroves, forests and wetlands home to thousands of migratory birds, endemic flowers, mud lobsters and even estuary crocodiles.
7. Timbre+ Food Park
Not the easiest secret to keep on account of its size (this impressive food park has been created using repurposed shipping containers), it’s certainly still a new and exciting addition to Singapore’s list of culinary delights. Here the range of food on offer stretches way past Malay cuisine, with vendors even offering French, American and Spanish dishes, accompanied by live music almost every night.
8. Kampong Lorong Buangkok
If you want to escape the bustle of modern city life, visiting a Kampong (the Malay word for village) is a great way to experience a little traditional Singaporean culture. With the rapid city growth, fewer and fewer Kampongs exist, making Lorong Buangkok one of the last places you can step back in time, see the simple wooden houses and catch a glimpse at a slower pace of life.
9. Smith Marine Floating Restaurant
Situated between Pulau Ubin and Changi Point’s ferry terminal, this floating kelong is a pretty unique setting to enjoy a meal. Serving up only the freshest seafood, this restaurant is a great pick to sample anything from crab and calamari to lobster and prawn. You can even put your skills to the test and catch your own fish.
10. Wessex Estate
In the 1940s, the area of Wessex in the western part of Singapore flourished as a hub of beautiful colonial-style housing for British military personnel. It’s worth heading a little off the beaten track to visit the beautiful bungalows and houses here that remain surrounded by lush greenery. The area today is being transformed into a trendy, picturesque neighbourhood, featuring some new art studios and cafés which celebrate vintage decor and relics from the ‘40s.