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Singapore is touted as one of the most expensive cities in the world. However, with as pricey as it can be, there are many free activities available. I've compiled a list of the top 10 best free things to do in Singapore (not in any particular order).
The boyfriend and I found this garden by mistake during one of our rides on the metro. From the train we saw a garden in the distance and hopped off at the next stop (called Chinese Garden by the way). To our surprise, as we entered the garden we found it was FREE! Every place we visited up to this point was free, so we are loving Singapore! The garden spans across many miles and includes an impressive bonsai exhibit, the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum, Pagodas, and beautifully manicured foliage amidst a lake. We only spent a couple hours here, but you could spend all day if you had the time. It would be a great place for a picnic and an afternoon nap! Usually a quiet place, the gardens come to life during Chinese New year and the Mid-Autumn Festival.
2. Singapore Botanic Gardens
The Singapore Botanic Garden is a 156 year old garden with lush foliage, an impressive Orchid Garden (Surcharge), Ginger garden, the Fragrant garden, Healing garden, the Rain forest, as well as multiple houses and centres for learning. We saw a ton of people exercising there; jogging and participating in what seemed like hundreds of fitness classes! What a great atmosphere for getting your heart rate going, or, like us, enjoy the garden at a slow stroll, stopping enjoy the scenery along the way.
3. Top of Marina Bay Sands
If you want to see amazing 360 degree views of Singapore, check out the Flight Bar and Lounge on the 57th floor of the Marina Bay Sands hotel. It is totally free (drinks and/or food cost extra) and offers some of the best views of the city. If you are afraid of heights (like me) it's terrifying at first, but you will get used to it - tough it out, the view is something you can't miss!
4. Gardens by the Bay (fees required for certain areas)
The Gardens by the Bay is located right outside the Marina Bay Sands hotel. The gardens are beautiful and the solar powered "Supertrees" are spectacular. The Supertrees are tree-like structures that are home to many species of plants from around the globe, acting as cooling ducts for the conservatories and collecting rainwater to generate electricity. The garden was developed as part of an initiative to make Singapore a "city in a garden." They are doing a pretty great job from what I can tell. The scenic walking paths within the garden and along the waterways showcase foliage from many different regions to include China, Malaysia, and India. Also, the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome conservatories are amazing, however, neither is free.
5. East Coast Park
East Coast Park is a scenic coastline park where you can enjoy a picnic, ride a bike, play a variety of sports, including water sports, or have a barbecue/picnic at one of the many different picnic areas. For those that enjoy skate boarding, there is also a world class skate park. Public restrooms with showers are scattered throughout the park if you'd like to rinse off before heading to dinner at any of the restaurants or Hawker centres near by. It is a great place to relax and unwind.
6. Singapore's Largest Mosque
The largest mosque in Singapore (Masjid Sultan) is located in the Kampong Glam district right off Arab Street. Originally built in 1824, it was demolished and replaced with new mosque in 1928 due to the numerous repairs required on the old building. Make sure you are wearing appropriate attire (long pants and shirt sleeves) to get into the mosque during visiting hours; if you don't have appropriate attire, there are coverings you can borrow at the front of the mosque. Try to be there during call to prayer times to get the full experience (I missed this, but apparently it is supposed to be quite lovely). There are several tours you can take, however, expect to pay a surcharge for any tours.
7. Art at Gillman Barracks and Esplanade
The Gillman Barracks are a cluster of international art galleries, with a focus on contemporary art. The colonial style barracks are former military barracks located away from the every day hustle of bustle of the city. There are a number of restaurants, cafes, and bars to stop at in between the gallery hopping.
The Esplanade down by the river has the Jendela gallery exhibitions as well as free short films and music events often available at Gardens by the Bay.
8. Southern Ridges Trail
The Southern Ridges Trail is considered one of the best walking trails in Singapore. It spans from Mt. Faber, Telok Blangah, Kent Ridge and Hort parks, as well as crossing Henderson Waves, Singapore's highest pedestrian bridge. The trail takes you through 4 parks, weaves through a jungle-like atmosphere, and takes you up above the jungle for some amazing views. Walk the trail early in the morning or in the evening when it cools off a bit (the trail is lit until around midnight, sometimes later). Whenever hiking in Singapore, always be sure to take plenty of water and sunscreen; it gets hot out there! I recommend trying to catch the sunset from one of the many bridges; they are beautiful against the backdrop of the jungle and city buildings.
The MacRitchie nature reserve is a great spot for nature lovers. Within the reserve is the Treetop walk; a suspension bridge between the two highest points (Bukit Peirce and Bukit Kalang) providing a breathtaking view of the forest canopy. You cannot see a single city building from the walk, providing that feeling of being in nature. The entire walk, including the bridge, is about 4km and takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to complete. Again, I recommend getting here early (park opens at 9) before the heat has had time to set in. Remember to bring water, sunscreen and bug spray!
10. Exploring the City Streets
I've explained in prior posts how important I think it is take time and explore on your own. Put your map away and get lost in the streets and alleys of the city. Sometimes, this is the best way to understand what a city is about. You can also find some great shops, restaurants, and neighborhoods you may have never found otherwise. Besides the food, this is my favorite part of any trip; what a freeing feeling it is to have no itinerary!
The cultural diversity of Singapore is part of what makes it great. While it is a beautiful modern (even futuristic feeling) city, it is those pockets you find off the beaten path that makes the city what it is. You don't need a lot of money to have a great time in Singapore. If you enjoy food (as I do immensely), it is a true foodie destination (check out the best foods to eat in Singapore here) for both those on a budget and those with some cash to spend as well. You can enjoy much of what Singapore has to offer without spending a dime.