Wherever you visit there will be the popular tourist attractions, and there will also be hidden gems. Usually off the beaten track, and sometimes only known by locals, they can give a much truer picture of the culture and lifestyle of some holiday destinations. Singapore is no exception to this, it has hidden gems just like everywhere else, the secret is knowing where to find them.
Singapore is a world-class financial and business hub and one of the most developed cities in the world. It looks manicured and well cared for, which it is, but move a short distance from the centre to find some of the places that tourists do not normally venture.
Entering this bar is like going in a time machine back to the 1960’s. Up till 1953, it was a canteen for the British Army and it still serves a wide selection of British beers and western food. What really makes this gem special though is its atmosphere.
When it had to be relocated, the owners ensured that everything from the tin roof to the timber walls was recreated to mirror the original bar as closely as possible. Based in Whitchurch road, with its vintage weighing machines and old photos, it delivers a slice of Singapore as it used to be.
Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle
If you are after a really unique souvenir to remember your Asian adventure, look no further than the Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle. Fist established in the 1940’s, you can even create t=your own piece of pottery in one of the workshops.
Traditional forms of making pottery are still in use and preserved. One of the most unusual features for a pottery of this size is what is referred to as the dragon kiln. This is a 35-metre long firing cabinet that can process up to 5,000 ceramics at any one time. It is one of only two surviving dragon kilns in Singapore.
Kranji Marshes does not receive anywhere near as many visitors as Gardens By The Bay, but that does not mean you should not make your way there. It is over 56 hectares that provides a home for more than 100 species of birds, 54 species of butterflies and countless flora and fauna.
This is a place where nature thrives and flowers like water lilies are a common sight. You can climb a winding staircase to get to the top of the Raptop Tower, which will afford you views overlooking the park and its exotic birds.
Translated, the name of the place means beautiful market, and that is exactly what it is. Situated just outside the city centre, it is a premium destination for grocery shopping from the local farmers and other producers. You will find a great range of organic foods, local and international produce and less common exotic things that will be difficult to find anywhere else.
If you are renting your accommodation instead of staying in a hotel, which can be a good option with the affordable prices on offer, as you can see at hdb toa payoh, this is the perfect place to buy everything you may need for your next weal, including artisan beers, special wines, fresh seafood’s, organic fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy.
The Really, Really Free Market
You can put your purses and wallets away when you visit this market as nothing is for sale. Instead, you offer any skills or goods you may have in exchange for whatever it is you want. Anyone can set up a stall, and if you find something you would normally buy and want, it is yours to take away.
This does not happen just in Singapore. The idea has caught on in several large cities and is seen as a silent protest against capitalism. Goodwill and good skills are all you need to have a great time at the Really, Really, Free Market.
Gillman Barracks is a top quality art gallery set up in a former military barracks and surrounded by lush green vegetation. It is home to local and international galleries, the national research centre NTU Centre For Contemporary Art Singapore, and other art organisations and creative businesses. It often hosts art festivals, after dark parties, family workshops, tours and much more.
Aliwal Arts Centre
Slak Satu was a street artist and much of his work is on display at the Aliwal Arts centre. You will see several of his Star Wars themed works here, his most iconic being the eye-catching spread of the Star Wars vessel, the Millennium Falcon. He represented Singapore in many international graffiti competitions, and he is just ones of the artists whose work is on display at this arts centre.
Hidden Gems On Orchard Road
Orchard Road is one of the most famous places in Singapore. At almost 2 miles long it has more shopping malls than anywhere else and has an ample array of cafes bars and restaurants. It also has its hidden gems though, and there are some places you might not notice among the glitz and glamour of the huge shops.
For Instance, you have to go 56 flights above ground level to find Ion Sky. This offers splendid views across the island, and on a clear day, you can see as far as Malaysia through one of the state-of-the-art telescopes.
Shahlik is an iconic 30-year-old Russian restaurant that is loved by the locals, but not many tourists go there. Located on the 6th floor of the Far East Shopping Centre, their meat on a skewer and baked Alaska doused in rum are likely to have you returning for more.
These are just two of the hidden gems in Orchard Road, this is no doubt many more.
If you like exploring, head into the jungle between Holland Road Napier Road and Tyserall Avenue. Just a short distance in you will find Istana Woodneuk, which is one of the palaces of the old ruling family of Singapore, the Sultans of Johor.
It was built in the late 19th century by Sultan Abu Baker and sold to his son, Sultan Ibrahim Iskander. He rebuilt it in 1930 for his Scottish born wife who became Sultans Helen Ibrahim in 1931.
In 1940, it became a military hospital and was bombed by Japan in 1942, and then in 2006, it was damaged by fire. While it is a derelict property, there are a surprising amount of features still intact and clearly visible. It is still owned by the Sultan of Johor and is reportedly one of the most haunted places in Singapore.
Chinese And Japanese Gardens
This place is greatly underused and yet is perfect for nature lovers to explore. The gardens are connected to each other by the Bridge of Double Beauty, which is ideal to get some great photos.
The gardens have Japanese style pagodas, arched bridges, rock waterfalls, stone lanterns, and stone oaths as well as some wonderful plants and flowers. If you are feeling really fit and adventurous you can climb seven stories to the top of the Cloud Piercing Pagoda to see the gardens from above.
Mention Little India to most locals or tourists and they will immediately think of the Mustafa Centre. This is the only 24-hour shopping mall in Singapore, that sells almost anything you might need at low prices.
However, close by is the Tekka Centre. This is a well-preserved culture spot for foodies, which is full of traditional Indian costumes and outfits from saris to Punjabi suits. It is ones of the few places where different cultures speak to each other in their native languages. For instance, you will see Chinese people chatting to vendors in Tamil, and vice versa.
You may well be wondering why you would want to head for snow while you are in Singapore; you get more than enough of that in the UK. But after a hot day out in a tropical landscape, you might be glad of a cool off session down the slopes of Snow City. You literally put some warmer clothes on, grab a rubber tube and slide down the slopes, it’s as simple as that.
Don’t worry if you have not brought any winter clothes with you; there are free rentals of winter coats and boots available. Wearing a pair of long trousers makes sense as the temperatures are sub-zero, but you can even rent those if you need to.
Many Other Hidden Gems In Singapore
Often, the hidden gems in Singapore are the places the local’s head for and not the glitzy places tourists are usually attracted to. Some of the best restaurants are down side streets, some of the best places to buy clothes in the markets and some of the most interest places out of the reach of the public transport system.
Just explore wherever you can and to find these places. Ask the locals where they eat on a night out, or which bar is their favourite. They might not be too keen to tell you as they do not want them overrun with tourists, but generally, they are very helpful and will point you in the right direction.
So, when can I go to Singapore?