Singapore: what to see in the Lion City (part 1) – City Centre, Riverside e Marina Bay

Singapore…. if I had to pick a word to describe it I would say: green! We are in the heart of the city and it feels like we are in a rain forest: there are trees, flowers, moss and leaves everywhere – all over the walls, on balconies, on bridges and on gangways. Everywhere, really.Singapore Obviously this green would not exist is it did not rain. And, trust me, it rains a lot. We visited between December and January, during the rainy season. Our friend Andrea who lives in Singapore, tells us that it rains all-year-round. At the end of the year the skies are mostly grey, but the positive aspect is that these are the coolest days of the year. Trust me: even it is not hot, the humidity is not always pleasant.

Singapore in a nutshell

Singapore is truly ca hild-friendly destination, both for its many attractions and for the services it offers. Criminality is virtually non-existent and everything is spotless – so clean that it makes Switzerland look dirty.

The city is modern and multicultural, and in a handful of days you can have a taste of Asia. In this trip Stefano discovered China exploring Chinatown, enjoyed the colours and the smells of India  in Little India and savoured the Middle East Kampong Glam. We visited buddhist temples, hinduist temples and mosques, then “saw” the future in the Marina Bay area, which is the beating heart of the city.

Singapore marina sandsMarina Bay

In the Marina Bay area, you’ll walk through green landscapes, see what the future will be like, and enjoy a little of the city’s historical past. Towering above everything is Marina Bay Sands: three skyscrapers topped by a single platform (the Skypark, with an impressive infinity pool for the chosen few – the guests). They are home to a casino, a huge shopping mall, two theatres, the ArtScience Museum, restaureants galore (including Gordon Ramsay’s) and an ultra-luxury hotel.

On New Years, in front of the hotel, there’s a fireworks show. We therefore had the brilliant idea of maybe spending a night in the Marina Bay Hotel. Then we saw the room rates and wondered if it was worth to sell a kidney (or two) for a simple overnight stay. Next time, maybe! We came back on a different night to enjoy the free sound and light show, which takes place daily.

Singapore art science museumIn a lotus (or halved durian) shaped building you can find the ArtScience Museum, which your kids will love. It has a multi-million-budget and offers temporary and futuristic exhibitions.

My son and I visited two: one about sounds and light, mostly designed for the little ones, interactive and with a movie-like slide (and much more), and one on the treasures of the natural world with objects on loan from the British Museum. It was less spectacular, but it offered the possibility to visit it dressed as wild animals or as an explorer, with fake binoculars, camera, compass and so on.

I have the feeling that the dress-up part was the most fun. Exhibits change once or twice a year, but I am sure that whenever you go, you’ll find something amazing.

Singapore museumGardens by the Bay

In front of the Marina Bay Sands you can find the huge Gardens by the Bay, with themed gardens and statues of animals (which kids can climb) and 12 super trees. These bizarre trees will not disappoint them : they are structures 25 to 50 metres tall shaped as trees, like vertical gardens. The amazing fact is that they are ultra-technological and ecological.

Thanks to a revolutionary technology and solar panels, they mimic photosynthesis (illuminating the trees at night) and collect rainwater for their own irrigation. You can find panels explaining more in detail this procedure.

The two tallest ones are linked with a suspended walkway but in case of bad weather, the walkway is closed, due to lightning danger (so we couldn’t go). For a bizarre experience, in one of these supertrees there’s a fancy restaurant!

Singapore supertreesRight in the middle of the Gardens by the Bay there are two “glass” domes: the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. They are certainly worth a visit, and they are suitable to all ages. The Flower Dome is a very colourful botanic garden with trees and flowers from all over the world. If you look carefully here and there you will find characters from Alice in Wonderland.

Singapore The Cloud Forest is even better: a waterfall 7 storey-high covered in thick vegetation, looking straight out of a rain forest. Inside you can ride an elevator to the top floor, and then walk all around it on a suspended walkway. If you are scared of heights, don’t worry: it’s wide enough. At some point the gangway enters the waterfall again and you reach the crystal garden. There’s not much in terms of crystals, there – but plenty of stalactites and (obviously) flowers and plants.

Singapore cloud forestSingapore Riverside e City Centre

From Marina Bay you can stroll along the Singapore river, exploring both sides. The south quay leads to the Merlion statue (the real one!), with the body of a mermaid (or sea monster) and the head of a lion: kids will appreciate it. If you keep walking you’ll reach Boat Quay, (too) full of restaurants and people.

The north quay is more relaxing, there’s a nice promenade with statues and runs along several nice colonial buildings and museums before reaching Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay. If you are not much into walking, you can take a 45-minutes-long boat cruise, but do not make our mistake and go during the day: at night, it’s much more suggestive!

Singapore merlionAlso at night, if you like ferris wheels, you could choose to ride the Singapore Flyer. The wheel rotates very slowly and you’ll be spending over 30 minutes in the air, so think about if you really want to ride it. During the day, it is lethally boring.

Singapore Philatelic MuseumFinally, my son’s top choice, in the colonial district but far from the river: the Singapore Philatelic Museum. I’m not sure why he chose it, but I guess he weanted to buy stamps for his godfather.

Luckily this museum was small. On the ground floor you can admire some very rare stamps, like the Penny Black (the world’s first adhesive postage stamp), one covered with diamonds, one printed on a gold sheet, and so on. And since he is a lucky kid and loves Japan, what would he find but a temporary exhibit on Anime stamps?

Would you like to read more about this wonderful city? Read our article about the ethnic neighbourhoods. And this is our article about Sentosa Island.


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