Compared to budget-friendly South-East Asia, priced-up Singapore can be a shock to the system. But there’s bargains to be had if you know where to look…
Singapore’s Indian community is richly served in Tekka Market, where goats’ heads parade past on carts, halal butchers do their magic and claw-bound crabs shuffle in buckets. Nearby is Sri Veeramakaliamman: an elaborate Hindu shrine dedicated to Kali.
Every Sunday morning in Chinatown, at the Wah Heng coffee shop, a flock of songbird owners gather to show off their pets. The decorative cages are grouped according to breed, so the birds don’t pick up the distinctive songs of others.
Occupying six hectares of prime waterfront, the Esplanade is Singapore’s biggest arts centre. Its distinctive bug’s-eye buildings are free to enter and hosts lots of free events, from Asian dance to pipe organ recitals.
The Thian Hock Keng Temple is an impressive Hokkien (Chinese) building housing a statue of Ma Chu Por (the Queen of Heaven). Head through the stone-lion guarded doors to find dragons stalking the roof and ever-burning ovens where offerings are made.
This wide, green space hosts more than 600,000 plants. The ‘original Singaporean jungle’ is a small slice of the rainforest that once blanketed the island. The gardens host a free open-air music concert one Sunday each month at the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage.
Heading through Little Arabia, it’s hard to miss the Aladdin-esque domes of the Sultan Mosque – the heart of Singapore’s Muslim community, with space for 5,000 worshippers. The glittering bases of these domes are made from thousands of glass bottles donated by the poor. Closed Fridays.
OK, so you have to pay S$16 (£8) for a tour of the Tiger Beer Brewery, but at the end you do get to sample the wares for ‘free’. The tour consists of a historic film, a walk through the brewing and bottling halls, and an hour or two (or three, or four…) in the company’s own bar. Six tours a day, Monday to Friday; book in advance.
The HSBC TreeTop Walk at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park carries you along a 25m-high, 250m-long bridge through the forest canopy. Catch sight of a multitude of birds and insects (as long as there are no screaming children around). Remember to take plenty of water: this well-signed hike takes 3-5 hours.
To the north of the city, there are well-established walking trails in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, plus the chance of spotting macaques, snakes and sea eagles. Don’t feed the monkeys!
Opened in 1996, the Singapore Art Museum aims to preserve the art history and practices of the region. Normally $10, but free on Friday evenings, 6-9pm.
Grab yourself a Singapore Sling in the place where it was invented: the Raffles Hotel. The cocktail is best enjoyed in the old-school Bar & Billiard Room. And if you’re really feeling plush, treat yourself to a room too.