Visiting, or living in Singapore, you are on to a good thing, The Lion City is high on the list of The New York Times 46 Places To Go in 2013. Here is our insider’s guide to making the most out of your time in the city without breaking your budget. If you are looking for free things to do in Singapore, new adventures are here for the taking.
Early Chinese settlers flocked to Chinatown and you can still soak up a strong sense of history and vitality as you wander through the lively, vibrant streets housing an eclectic mix of family-run tailors, medicine halls and dim sum restaurants. The beautifully restored Baba House near Chinatown offers a very reasonably priced hour-long tour, giving insight into the life of a rich local Peranakan (Straits Chinese) family in the early C20th.
2. Little India
Discovering the rich fabrics, spices and flowers of Little India is truly a sensory delight as it is packed full of little shops selling everything you can think of. Walk off the jet-lag by window-shopping at Mustafa Center, the famous 24-hour shopping mall. I have yet to discover something it doesn’t sell!
3. The Arab Quarter
Arab Street, or Kampong Glam, is the traditional home of Singapore’s Sultan and a busy but laid-back district known for its Sultan Mosque, traditional carpet stores and beautiful, mosaic tiled restaurants as well as a host of indie arts and fashion boutiques.
4. The Civic District
If you want to explore by Singapore’s colonial heritage, there’s no better place 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). You can even join a free walking tour tracing Singapore’s roots from our humble colonial trading port beginnings along the Singapore River.
Arts & Culture
5. Singapore Symphony Orchestra
The SSO’s Community Outreach offers a range of free concerts and plays a complementary role to the SSO main concert series. The Classics at the Park sessions at the Botanic Gardens are particularly distinctive: come early, bring a picnic basket and a blanket.
6. Contemporary Art at Gillman Barracks
This colonial barracks was once a stronghold of the First Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. Now, Gillman Barracks features diverse and ever-changing contemporary art exhibitions and houses an exciting clutch of international galleries. Notable picks include Singapore’s FOST Gallery, Sundaram Tagore (NYC), SHANGHART (Shanghai), Michael Janssen (Berlin), Equator Arts Projects (Indonesia) and Mizuma (Tokyo). All are free.
7. The Singapore Art Museum
Housed in a restored 19th century mission school, this elegant art museum is home to the world’s largest public collection of modern and contemporary Southeast Asian artwork. Best of all, you can visit for free to visit every Friday between 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
8. St Andrew’s Cathedral and the Armenian Church
Aside from being architectural masterpieces that tell many stories of Singapore’s history, once you step inside, these churches offer peace and a respite from the heat and bustle of the city. St Andrew’s Cathedral is Singapore’s largest church, and the Armenian Church its smallest and oldest (built in 1836).
9. National Museum of Singapore
Dating back to the 1880s, Singapore’s imposing National Museum hosts innovative festivals and events all year round – the dynamic Night Festival, visually arresting art installations, as well as amazing performances and film screenings – in addition to presenting thought-provoking exhibitions involving critically important collections of artefacts. You may need to pay a small entrance fee to see the National Museum’s permanent collection but the excellent Living Galleries are free to visit from 6-8pm daily. Look out for free guest exhibitions.