If you haven’t visited Singapore you would be forgiven for thinking that the Asian cultural powerhouse was a steely city environment. But look beyond the squeaky-clean image and you’ll discover a country with sense of culture, long-established customs and culinary delights, all mixed up with the many different people that call the island city-state of Singapore home.
It’s true that Singapore is a futuristic country, with its cutting edge architecture, clean streets and world class shopping, but it’s the mixture of cultures living harmoniously side by side that makes it especially captivating. From Indian, Chinese, Malay, European to Thai and Bangladeshi, the broad patchwork of people add to Singapore’s wealth of beautiful architecture, depth of religion and its unbelievably mouthwatering food scene.
Best Singapore Neighborhoods
Stay in one of Singapore’s abundance of 5-star hotels, choose a stylish boutique hotel or sleep in a budget modern hostel and zoom around the city on the ever reliable transport system. Here’s a look at the city’s most popular neighborhoods to help you decide where to stay in Singapore and find out what this exciting country is all about.
Stay along the waterfront at one of Singapore’s riverside Quays, from Boat Quay to Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay, there is something different to discover at every one. The Singapore River snakes through the city, beginning at the luxurious Marina Bay and along past the three Quays, where at night they are lit up with the buzz of nightlife. Bars and eateries serve up classically Singapore food at historic Clarke Quay, which is known for its party culture along with equally historic and fun loving Boat Quay. And then there’s the more upscale restaurants and brunching atmosphere of Robertson Quay, where laid back, romantic dining is the theme.
Hotels around the three Quays are upscale and often stylishly designed, surrounded by museums and a social scene. It’s simple to grab a taxi or take the regular local bus from all of the Quays and explore more of what Singapore has to offer.
Where to Stay in the Quays
Swissotel Merchant Court Singapore – Super stylish and set in an amazing location close to the Singapore River, staying here means you’ll be surrounded by the buzz of Clarke Quay. Complete with picturesque views across the waterfront, this 5-star hotel is nestled among shining skyscrapers and set inside a colonial style building with perfectly manicured gardens and an outdoor pool. Rooms here are simply stylish, with delicate design touches complete with Singaporean details. It boasts an on-site restaurant and cocktail bar, but the nearby MRT means exploring the city is easy.
Grand Copthorne Waterfront – The Grand Copthorne Waterfront is sophisticated and dripping with traditional decor. It boasts rooms that feature floor to ceiling windows allowing you to gaze at the city skyline or out over the Singapore River. The location of this hotel means Orchard Road with all its amazing shopping opportunities is just five minutes away; or you could simply enjoy the hotel itself – swimming in the pool, hitting the gym, or eating at one of the four restaurants.
M Social Singapore – If you’re looking for a touch of class that’s also got a fun and colorful side, then M Social Singapore is the hotel for you. The interiors were actually designed by renowned French designer Philippe Starck and feature quirky color schemes, intriguing design details, and touches of Singapore’s heritage – including Peranakan style tiles in the lobby. Staying in this hotel will make your trip even more memorable; there’s even an actual robot that delivers things from reception right to your room!
Champion Hotel City – An interesting boutique hotel that is close to the Singapore riverside, rooms at Champion Hotel City are compact but designed with an eye for detail, focusing on maximizing the available space and bringing in nature. Think murals of orchids and plants, as well as real greenery in the glass-paneled ceiling, for example. Even your luggage gets cleverly hidden away under the bed. It’s just an easy ten-minute walk from here to Raffles Place, as well as the always fun Chinatown.
Orchard Road is the beautifully designed shopping heaven. The area is the center of shopping for Singapore. Networks of malls connect and entice people in with designer boutiques and fast fashion shops; there is something for everyone in the malls on Orchard Road. Check out the historic department store Tang’s, which has been a staple of Singapore since 1932!
Hotels along the one kilometer stretch of Orchard Road are upscale and luxury. The district is a prime location, as it has fantastic transport links and a whole host of dining choices that are open day and night.
Where to Stay in Orchard Road
Mandarin Orchard Singapore – Relaxing and serene, this hotel also comes with friendly and helpful staff who will work hard to make your stay the best it can possibly be. Located along Orchard Road, this hotel is surrounded by shopping and great places to eat, but it’s also just a ten-minute stroll from the MRT station, meaning you can get around the city with ease. This modern, 5-star hotel is a shining tower of luxury, with some rooms boasting marble bathrooms. There are three different Asian restaurants to choose from, making it great for foodies.
Orchard Hotel Singapore – This chic and sophisticated hotel features traditional Chinese design features with a European twist. It’s very close to the bustling Orchard Road, which means some amazing shopping opportunities to be had. The high-end amenities at this 5-star hotel – ranging from a rain shower to a pillow menu – make for an extremely comfortable stay. There’s also a large outdoor swimming pool, as well as a handy babysitting service. There are four onsite restaurants, one of which serves up particularly delicious dim sum and other Cantonese specialties.
Hotel Jen Orchardgateway – You will be positively wowed by this 4-star hotel’s rooftop swimming pool; the views of the city skyline that it boasts are simply stunning. It’s the ideal place to come and chill out after a long day of hitting the shops – or equally a busy night hitting the town! Rooms here are decorated with light wood and a neutral color scheme; they’ve got large windows too, through which you can gaze across the city. This large, modern hotel boasts plenty of space to find somewhere chilled to unwind.
The famous Marina Bay is home to Singapore’s best known landmarks. This is where the iconic Marina Bay Sands is found, standing out in the city’s skyline with its quirky, boat-like silhouette – in fact, no visit to Singapore is complete without a drink from the skybar right at the top of the skyscraper. There are luxury design outlets dotting the bay which sit alongside 5-star hotels and Michelin star dining; staying in hotels along Marina bay is an ideal choice if you have a big budget and like luxurious living.
Across the expanse of water are museums and low-key eating at the hawker center which sells classically Singaporean food from independent sellers. Taxis and buses are easy to pick up from the area but, as always, taking the time to walk around a city – especially along this city’s glowing riverfront – makes for an extra special visit.
Where to Stay in Marina Bay
Marina Bay Sands – This veritable icon of Singapore itself is a genuine world of luxury and style – staying here really is the ultimate in Singaporean extravagance. There’s the famous – and we mean famous – rooftop, with the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool. The cocktail bar plus restaurant offer up incredible views. Staying at MBS – as the locals call it – is like staying in a spaceship, with all the amenities you could ever want: there are 20 restaurants, a casino, a high-end shopping mall, and even the ArtScience museum to explore.
Pan Pacific Singapore – Located at the gateway to Singapore’s financial district is this 5-star gem, the Pan Pacific. This resort hotel comes fully equipped with fantastic restaurants serving up high-quality food, as well as an outdoor pool and cabanas to recline in – all wrapped up in a bow of high-end design and impressive service. And if that wasn’t enough, there are two tennis courts, an award-winning spa, and a gourmet grocery shop, along with a cafe.
Set in amongst the soaring skyscrapers, Chinatown has seen a lot of development and love poured into it. As the center of Chinese culture in the country, Chinatown is home to an exciting side of Singapore. Traditional hawker centers sell unbelievably mouthwatering food and shops sell classically Chinese trinkets. At night, Trengganu Street and Pagoda Street play host to a night market. During Chinese New Year the neighborhood is lit up and adorned with decorations, and the pedestrianized streets become marketplaces that sell essential CNY items. The New Year parade also runs through the main street in the district and is a big event drawing crowds from all over Singapore.
The MRT stops in the center of Chinatown, right in the center of Chinese shopping centers. Accommodation in the area is made up of stylishly converted, historic shophouses and various mid-range hotels which combine a bustling location, modern style and affordable prices.
Where to Stay in Chinatown
Parkroyal on Pickering – Another of Singapore’s iconic buildings, this one themed around the idea of a ‘hotel in a garden’, the Parkroyal on Pickering is the ultimate in the city’s futuristic urban design. Staying at this super special hotel is like living in a utopian future of a green city, with levels of outdoor space all overflowing with waterfalls and tropical greenery. Designed by Singapore architect firm WOHA, there’s nothing about this 5-star hotel that could possibly disappoint. Needless to say, the rooms are beacons of taste and design-led beauty.
Oasia Hotel Downtown – Located in the bustle of Chinatown, Oasia is another of design team WOHA’s masterpieces. The building is a tower of red girders slowly being engulfed by creeping tropical vines and greenery, helping to realize Singapore’s ambition to become a green city. It’s surrounded by the buzz of downtown Singapore, where you can explore Singapore City Gallery as well as the Red Dot Design Museum – the Sri Mariamman Hindu temple. There are some super chic places to get a drink and grab a bite to eat back at Oasia.
Kampong Glam, along with Bugis, is where you will find Singapore’s Arabic and Muslim culture. Packed full of markets and bazaars, the shops and stalls sell Arabic infused goods and foods. You will never be lost for something to do if you stay in these districts. If you are into Turkish and Lebanese food then you should head to the restaurants around the area; eateries with mosaics of blue tiles and shisha pipes welcome visitors to eat halloumi and pitta bread with hummus whilst sipping on mint tea. There is also a Hindu influence in the area, especially around the delicate design of the local Hindu temple.
The perfect district for budget travelers looking to soak up the depth of culture in Singapore, there are many hostels in the area which offer brightly decorated budget accommodation. Cheap and tasty eats can be bought at the Singapore Bazaar and quirky garbs purchased at the Flea Market. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming, many shop and restaurant owners are keen to chat and learn more about the visitors passing through. It’s easy to catch the always reliable MRT and travel to other districts.
Where to Stay in Kampong Glam & Bugis
Mercure Singapore Bugis – A great contemporary stay at a laid-back yet stylish hotel, which mixes a fusion of cultures in its design – reflecting the makeup of Singapore itself. This branch of Mercure is set in the lively area of Kampong Glam and Bugis, which makes for a fun night out with lots of trendy eateries and hip bars. The MRT is nearby, however, so if you want to explore the city further afield that’s easy to do from here.
Hotel G Singapore – Boasting rooms that are compact and boutique in style, with design-led furniture and quirky decorations, all wrapped up in laid-back minimalism, Hotel G Singapore is a fantastic mid-range option for those looking for a spot of affordable style. This hotel is near the exciting eateries of both Little India and Chinatown, making it a great option for foodies who want to explore the culinary landscape of Singapore. The staff here are pleasant, helping to make your stay that much more enjoyable.
It’s easy to forget that you are in Singapore when you walk the streets of Little India. The clean, ordered image of Singapore soon slips away as you feel like you are transported to a street in Mumbai or Delhi. The area is a fun and energetic capsule of Indian culture, where people of Indian heritage have settled in Singapore and have opened up shops, restaurants and temples which reflect their own culture. Adding to the ever interesting puzzle of people that make up the small country, shopkeepers sell interesting gadgets to the theme tune of Hindi music and the wafting smell of incense. Further up the road, under the arches that run along shopfronts, is the truly Singaporean icon of Mustafa’s – this warren of a department store truly sells everything under the sun.
The area has its own Little India MRT stop at the end of the main street and great links to the bus network. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the neighborhood is a magnet for backpackers, looking to find an alternative experience in the city, as well as a cheaper stay in the famously expensive country. Little India is where you will find cute boutique hotels and hostels as well as cheap eats to keep your costs low.
Where to Stay in Little India
Wanderlust – Set inside a 1920’s building in the very heart of the hustle and bustle of Little India, this budget option is all about fun, humorous, and often wild design choices. The rooms here are all different: think rooms that look like cosmic playgrounds as if you’ve landed on another planet. Some even come complete with large, deluxe baths. It’s a seven-minute walk from here to the incredible Singapore institution that is the sprawling Mustafa’s – the MRT is close by, too.
Perak Hotel – With its location inside a conserved building with charming traditional as well as Colonial features, Perak Hotel has a lot of character and is a lovely budget option in a city that can be expensive. Staying here is like staying in a Singapore of the past, with its white walls and period features. There’s plenty of cultural offerings nearby, such as the Indian Heritage Centre and the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple. The incredible food courts of the Tekka Centre are a 15-minute walk away.
Man-made Sentosa Island offers visitors to Singapore a little slice of beach resort luxury and a relaxing atmosphere away from the city. The island is connected to the mainland by a bridge which charges a toll to visitors arriving by car – but once on the island, the laid-back holiday mindset takes over. Sentosa is home to classically Singaporean, stylish restaurants where expats and wealthy Singaporeans meet up with friends to have lunch and drink nice wine. Some of the restaurants have pools for guest to use and beach views, adding up to the perfect location to soak up the glorious glow as the sun sets across the ocean.
There are various hotels located on the island which offer a bit of decadence to visitors and Singaporeans who want to enjoy a staycation. From the island you can travel by taxi to the Singaporean mainland; it is a quick 15 minutes to the shopping center on Orchard Road. Sentosa is the perfect location for families who have small children as there are many fun, family friendly activities on Sentosa, such as Universal Studios.
Where to Stay in Sentosa Island
W Singapore – Sentosa Cove – Spend some time on your Singapore break in a world of luxury at this hotel. It’s a great place to stay for families, thanks to the accommodating and super friendly staff, as well as a fun outdoor pool area. There are even activities for children, as well as kids movie showings complete with popcorn and hot chocolate for all! The rooms here are peaceful and very comfortable, with enough space for you to spread out and get a great night’s sleep.
Le Méridien Singapore, Sentosa – This Sentosa hotel is a chic and design-led enclave of waterside luxury. The whole hotel has been designed with relaxation and sophistication in mind. Set inside an elegant and lovingly restored colonial building which dates back 1940’s, it is situated opposite Imbiah monorail station, making it easy to get around Sentosa – or off of it, if you can tear yourself away. This hotel is a ten-minute walk to Universal Studios, making it a good family option; plus, it’s just five minutes to the beach.
Geylang has a notorious history of being Singapore’s red light district, but the area has seen a lot of development and is primarily a residential area with beautiful 19th century traditional shop houses. Geylang is a friendly neighborhood and is where you can stay and experience everyday life of Singaporeans. This is the district to stay in if you are a foodie: traditional hawker centers are hidden in the middle of housing developments – this is where you will find the true authentic life of Singaporeans. Choose from savory carrot cake or the utterly delicious noodle and thick juicy sauce which makes up lor mee. The streets here are lined with famous eatery after famous eatery and are best explored with a Singaporean in tow to show you the way through the culinary delights.
There are some mid-range hotel options in the area, which are usually found in the shells of old buildings and are stylishly decorated. There is budget accommodation available and is a great place to stay in the notoriously expensive city. Geylang doesn’t have its own train station, but other popular districts are in easy walking distance, as are great connections to the bus network.
Where to Stay in Geylang
Aqueen Hotel Paya Lebar – Aqueen Hotel Paya Lebar is a comfortable, clean and convenient hotel, close to two different shopping complexes as well as the MRT station. The rooms at this hotel are simple but homely, making for a nice place for a good night’s rest. There’s a garden at this hotel – great for chilling out – as well as a rooftop terrace with great views. Staff here are helpful and provide recommendations on what to do in the city.