Singapore is officially the most expensive city to live in 2014, beating Paris, Zurich, Oslo and 120+ other countries according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
Singapore may be known as an expensive city but did you know there’s a lot you can do for free?
With the help of this guide and some smart trip planning, you can see many of Singapore’s best sights for free. Without further ado, here are 37 free things you can do in Singapore.
1. Explore History in Chinatown
The ethic enclave of early Chinese settlers, Chinatown, or “Bullock Cart Water” as it’s called, is today still the favorite haunt of the Singaporean for cheap eats and buys. While a little touristic, Chinatown still retains a strong sense of history and vitality.
2. Sensory Overload in Little India
There’s no way you can walk down crowded Serangoon Road and not feel like you’ve been transported into India. Full of the scents of spices, flowers and oils, Little India is packed full of little shops selling everything you can imagine and it’s truly a journey for the senses.
Tip – for those suffering from jet-lag, you can walk-off the insomnia by window-shopping at Mustafa Center, the famous 24-hour shopping mall in Little India.
3. Discover the Arab Quarters
The traditional home of Singapore’s Sultan and a trading center for the Arabs, the Arab Quarters (aka Kampong Glam) today is a laid-back district, known for its traditional Arabic wares, fabrics, as well as a burgeoning indie arts and fashion scene.
4. Trace History at the Civic District
If you’re fascinated by Singapore’s colonial heritage, there’s no better place to explore than the downtown civic district. Here you can visit grand colonial structures like Raffles Hotel, Asian Civilizations Museum, City Hall and the Arts House (the former Parliament House) and learn about their stories.
5. Bustling About in Bugis
Bugis is a part of Singapore that has its own eclectic character and charm. Once a notorious red-light district for transvestites, it’s now a hip shopping hub with street bazaars, malls, and eating places. Yet you’ll find another part of it is home to a popular temple, the national library and cultural arts places like a calligraphy center.
6. Temples Hopping
A must when you’re here is visiting historic places of worship like the Thian Hock Kheng Temple (@Telok Ayer), Sri Mariammam Temple (@Chinatown) and the Sultan Mosque (@Kampong Glam). You’ll be in awe at the beautiful and exquisite craftsmanship put into building these landmarks.
Entrance to temples and mosques are free but tourists should not being scantily clad.
7. Stroll Along the Singapore River
The Singapore River was the central artery of early Singapore. Trace the roots of Singapore’s past by taking a lovely stroll along the river starting from Raffles Place and ending up at Clarke Quay, enjoying the contrast between old shophouses and towering skyscrapers.
8. Fortune Telling
Divine your fortune at the famous Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple (Chinese Goddess of Mercy Temple) in Waterloo Street. Shake out a divination stick and get a slip with the answer, English translation included.
9. Tuck in Free Vegetarian Food
Yes, there is such a thing as a free lunch (and dinner)! The Buddhist Lodge offers free vegetarian meals everyday of the week to anyone, rich and poor. While many Buddhist temples have the same practice, including the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Temple, the Buddhist Lodge is the most generous, typically offering a buffet of 6 to 8 dishes.
The Singapore Buddhist Lodge: 17 Kim Yam Road, Singapore 239329
Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Temple: 88 Bright Hill Road, Singapore 574117
10. Dance The Night Away
Clarke Quay has several dance bars like Crazy Elephant and The Pump Room featuring live bands and no cover charge on weeknights. If you’re a lady, even better, as Wednesdays and Thursdays are usually Ladies Nights in Singapore, and you will get free entry and drinks practically anywhere you go.
11. Enjoy Stunning Panoramas
You don’t have to burn a hole in your pocket to enjoy gorgeous views of the city. Some free and hidden spots with wonderful views include the 24th floor of a block of apartments at 233 Bain Street, the rooftop of the Esplanade, or the open-air sky garden at National Library. Just remember not to make a racket!
12. Gush Over the Merlion
It’s practically obligatory to pose for a photo with Singapore’s tourist icon, the Merlion. This 8.6 m tall statue with a lion’s head and a fish’s body symbolizes Singapore’s founding legend and its identity as a port. Housed in its own waterfront park adjacent to One Fullerton hotel, it constantly gushes water from its mouth.
13. Stroll on the Marina Bay Boardwalk
The Marina Bay area is rapidly developing into the most popular modern leisure hotspot, thanks to the modern landmarks like the Esplanade and Marina Bay Sands. A lovely boardwalk lets you stroll along Singapore River, admiring the views.
14. Bask in The Botanic Gardens
For a cool respite, head to one of Singapore’s oldest and most beautiful garden. Founded by the Agri-Horticultural Society, the Botanic Gardens is lush and full of beautiful large trees, flowers and ponds, taking you back into colonial days.
15. Wander in the Gardens By The Bay
The Gardens By The Bay is Singapore’s newest garden, daringly placed right in Singapore’s new downtown in Marina. This garden is more of an urban oasis with high-tech “Supertrees” that play music in the evenings. The outdoor gardens are open to public for free and all you need is just a picnic!
Tip – Click here to find out more on “How to get to Gardens by the Bay by MRT“.
16. Get a Free Walking Tour
Why walk alone when you can have a guided walk for free? Singapore Footprints, run by friendly student volunteers, offers free walking tours of the Singapore River and Bras Basah/Bugis every Saturday and Sunday, rain or shine.
More information at www.singaporefootprints.com
17. Explore Sentosa
It does cost S$1 to get into Sentosa on foot from the bridge (Sentosa Boardwalk) at HarbourFront, or S$3 if you take the light rail from VivoCity. But once you’re in Sentosa, you can enjoy many free attractions like an open-top double-decker bus ride, the Animal & Bird Encounters, and of course, sun-tanning on one of its pristine white beaches.
18. Visit Resorts World Sentosa
Foreign travelers can get into Resorts World Sentosa free at anytime by boarding the free shuttle provided by Universal Studios Singapore at hotels along Orchard Road or Bencoolen/Marina area. Once there you can wander about the resort and open-air mall, or take in some free performances like the spectacular Crane Dance.
19. Watch Outdoor Movies
If you’re in Singapore at the right time, you could catch a free outdoor movie. ION Orchard shopping mall screens a free movie on its huge outdoor video screen on the last Saturday of every month. The National Museum of Singapore also plays free movies from time to time.
20. Catch Arthouse Shorts
Singapore’s center for indie arts, the Substation, runs First Take every first Monday of every month, playing short films from notable local directors.
21. Take a Tree Top Walk.
If you can find your way to the slightly more remote MacRitchie Reservoir Park, you’ll be rewarded with a great nature hike that includes crossing a 250m-high suspension bridge.
22. Learn Qigong for Free
Go to any park in the morning during daybreak and you can see groups of senior citizens practicing qigong. If you ask politely if you can join in, you can be learning the finer techniques of this gentle Chinese martial arts.
23. Fly a Kite on the Marina Barrage
Ok, this requires bringing a kite, the kid in you may enjoy running along the grassy rooftop of the Marina Barrage. This is really a center showcasing the dam that converted old Singapore’s harbor into a reservoir, but has become a hangout for kite enthusiasts.
24. Celebrate A Festival
The best time to come to Singapore is undoubtedly during a festival, and thanks to our many cultures, you have lots to choose from, the best being the Lunar New Year, Hari Raya Puasa, Mid-Autumn Festival and Deepavali (Diwali). During these festivals, there will be free events and activities galore.
25. Catch Spectacular Fireworks
If you’re here in the month leading up to Singapore’s national day on August 9th, you’re likely to be able to see fantastic fireworks at Marina Bay where the rehearsals for the National Parade take place. Alternatively, New Year’s Eve is always a great time to see fireworks.
26. Visit the National Museum of Singapore
Singapore’s grand and beautiful National Museum, dating back to 1887, is the museum to visit if you can only go to one. For free entry, you can visit after 6p.m. daily. You can’t enter the main History Gallery but the smaller galleries stay open till 8 p.m.
27. See the Singapore Art Museum
This lovely art museum is a must for art-lovers as it’s home to the world’s largest collection of contemporary Southeast Asian Art. Best of all, it’s free to visit every Friday between 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
28. Appreciate Free Art
If you can’t get enough art, there’s always free art on display in the galleries at the Esplanade or sculptures at Sculpture Square. And if you’re near the ION Orchard, be sure to visit the well-known Opera Gallery on the 3rd floor, which sells beautiful art pieces and welcomes gawkers.
29. Go Round The F1 Singapore Race Track
If you’re a F1 fan, it might give you a thrill to walk around the Marina Bay Street Circuit, home to the only night race in the Formula One Grand Prix league. They are all public roads, so feel free to walk along them as you visualize the race.
Tip – If you intend to experience the heart-thumping excitement of F1 Singapore Grand Prix, check out these budget hotels near Singapore F1 circuit. They can help you to save a bundle.
30. Climb Bukit Timah Hill
Singapore’s tallest hill, Bukit Timah, is also a nature reserve rich in plant diversity and wildlife. There’s no fee whatsoever, although you should familiarize yourself with the trails and sights to look out for at the Visitor Center.
31. Roaming in Pulau Ubin – Last Kampong of Singapore
It will cost you S$2.50 to take a bum boat to Pulau Ubin, but nature lovers will find it well-worth the visit to this rustic island, home of Singapore’s last rural village. It’s like taking a trip back in time. Make sure to visit the unique Chek Jawa (free entrance), a massive wetlands that is an unspoilt paradise rich in corals, fish and other marine life.
32. Watch Birds in Sungei Buloh
This wetland reserve is located in the remote northwest of Singapore, but if you like bird-watching at all, you won’t want to miss it. Sungei Buloh has a rich eco-diversity that’s home to many rare migratory birds during colder seasons. Admission is free on weekdays.
33. Trek the Southern Ridges
The Southern Ridges is a walking trail that connects the parks along Singapore’s southern ridge. Not only is it full of fascinating, tree-top boardwalks, the trail also features stunning structures like the curvy and snake-like Henderson Waves Bridge.
34. East Coast Park
A favorite weekend hangout for Singaporeans, East Coast Park is a leisure beach park where families and friends gather for barbeques, picnics, or even camping. It’s a great place to chill out on the beach under a coconut tree.
35. Arts Performances at the Esplanade
Singapore’s premier performance center of the arts is worth a visit for its own unique architectural merit, with its spiky “durian” exterior, but it is also a great place to see the arts on display. On any weekend, you’ll be likely to catch a free performance of some sort, ranging from classical to rock.
36. Concerts in Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Gardens are well known for hosting open air concerts at its bandstand, typically by student groups, but also by the Singapore Symphonic Orchestra. Bring a blanket and a picnic basket and enjoy the music.
37. Extraordinary Christmas Light-Ups
It may be tropical here all year round but Orchard Road’s Christmas light ups are something to behold as they are some of the loveliest and most lavish street decorations you’re likely to see.