Singapore’s charm lies in that it’s small enough to quickly become familiar, yet large enough to constantly surprise. Think sleek modern architecture juxtaposed with heritage shophouses, tranquil temples next to bustling markets, and swanky bars and restaurants neighbouring humble hawker centres. With so much to see and do, deciding where to base yourself when visiting can be tricky. Each neighbourhood has a distinct personality, culture, and heritage that offer a unique insight into the city. But whether you’re in search of rest and relaxation, a culturally immersive experience, or seek the bright lights of the city centre, Singapore has got you covered. Here’s our area guide to help you decide which neighbourhood is best suited to your traveling needs.
Best for beachy bliss: Sentosa
If sun, sea, and sandy toes is what you’re after, make Sentosa your beachy base. This little dot of an island connected to Singapore’s southern coast is home to plush hotels, buzzy beach clubs, and the fun-filled Resorts World Sentosa. If you’re travelling with little ones, you’ll find a myriad of activities and attractions to keep them busy. And for adults, there are plenty of bars, restaurants, and spas that will help you to relax and unwind.
Best for city slickers: Marina Bay
Home to Marina Bay Sands (the iconic hotel synonymous with the Singaporean skyline), the central business district is made for those who live for the excitement of bright lights and late nights. Brimming with swanky rooftop bars competing for the best view of the jaw-dropping cityscape, celebrity restaurants aplenty, and a plethora of luxurious hotels, the Marina Bay area provides the perfect backdrop to experience the more extravagant side of Singapore in a central location.
Best for an authentic experience: Chinatown
Atmospheric temples, heritage shophouses, and Michelin-starred hawker food are just a few reasons why Chinatown is one of the coolest nooks in the city. Also home to a host of hip new bars and restaurants, it’s a brilliant base for intrepid travellers who love to eat! Lose yourself in the narrow passageways and back alleys of this iconic enclave to truly experience the harmonious blend of traditional v modern Singapore.
Best for shopping: Orchard
Famed for its ginormous malls packed with designer stores, Orchard Road is a 2km stretch of shopping heaven. Once your credit card is maxed out it’s worth exploring the surrounding green spaces that you’ll unexpectedly find at either end of the road. At the Tanglin side, you’ll find the Botanic Gardens: Singapore’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. While at the opposite end you’ll stumble upon Fort Canning Park and Istana Park, the latter being a landmark situated in front of the official Presidential Residence.
Best for living like a local: Katong/Joo Chiat
This quaint neighbourhood located towards the east coast is renowned for its distinct Peranakan culture and influences. A stay here will expose you to a unique side to Singapore far from the usual tourist trail. Expect streets lined with ice-cream coloured heritage shophouses, authentic old-school kopitiams at every corner, and an array of wonderful cafes and eateries. With east coast park on the doorstep, you’ll soon realise why it’s one of the most popular neighbourhoods on the island.
Best for backpackers: Little India/Lavender
A sensory overload awaits those who venture to the buzzing historical district of Little India. The vibrant culture of Singapore’s Indian community creates a lively scene, and streets hum with activity by day and night. Expect bursts of colours, wafts of fragrant spices, and temple bells ringing in the day. With plenty of bargains to be found at local markets, and an array of authentic Indian cuisine to feast on, Little India is ideal for backpackers seeking a grittier Singaporean experience.
Wherever you decide to rest your head, it’s easy to explore the rest of the island with an STP. Use your pass to travel on Singapore’s MRT, LRT, and all bus routes to explore everything the little red dot has to offer.