In honour of Singapore’s celebration of half a century of independence, we’ve picked 50 of the most reasonably priced – or free! – things to do in a city state better known for its high cost of living. There’s plenty to do on the cheap and who better to take along with you than your bestie.
Gardens by the Bay
Find a spot, lay down your picnic rug and enjoy the great outdoors under the shade of palm trees at Bay East Garden.
The Southern Ridges Trail
Hike or run the picturesque 10-kilometre Southern Ridges Trail and enjoy nature, history, birds and panoramic views of the city.
Haw Par Villa
This strange theme park takes you on an unusual journey through Chinese mythology.
Wander the courtyards and verandas of this esteemed luxury hotel and don’t miss the lush gardens.
This long stretch of white sand is just waiting for buckets and spades to get to work and create fine sandcastles.
Singapore City Gallery
Learn more about Singapore’s impressive transformation over the last half century at Singapore City Gallery.
Take a ferry to Kusu Island and see holy shrines, a Chinese temple, wishing well and Tortoise Sanctuary.
Skating Rink at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Put your ice skates on and follow in the footsteps of World Champion and Olympic Medalist Michelle Kwan – literally – she christened the rink.
Catch an outdoor drive-in movie and bring a picnic or attend one of Movie Mob’s themed, in-mall or pool screenings.
There are concerts, visual arts, film, workshops and a range of free programmes at this durian-like performing arts centre.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
A stone’s throw from shopping-centric Orchard Road, take a free guided tour, walk a trail or enjoy a gardening workshop at the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Home to 16 international art galleries, three restaurants and the Centre for Contemporary Art, there’s plenty on offer at the former British Army military camp.
Take a free Singapore River or Chinatown walking tour with one of Singapore Footprints’ student Walkaholics.
Enjoy this 13-minute light, sound, projection and water spectacle nightly over Marina Bay at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. with additional 11 p.m. shows on Fridays and Saturdays.
East Coast Park
Try out beach volleyball, cycling, cable skiing, fishing, the Xtreme SkatePark and the 15 kilometres of coastline and beach.
Asian Civilisations Museum
Journey through exhibits dedicated to arts and culture from across Asia, all housed in an impressive colonial building.
MacRitchie Reservoir Park
Work out, canoe, kayak or learn more about the macaques of MacRitchie.
Take a photo with the iconic statue that marks Singapore’s origins as a fishing village.
Singapore Tyler Print Institute
Visit the pioneering contemporary art space and catch works from some of the printmaking’s biggest names.
Shop this tiny but trendy lane in Kampong Glam and discover local creative talents.
Go for a dip and soak up some sun at one of Singapore’s swimming complexes – Sengkang has eight slides and a Jacuzzi while Jurong West boasts a lazy river.
Fort Canning Park
Take a spice garden tour or learn everything you never knew about bananas at Fort Canning Park.
Saint John’s Island
Stay overnight on this reputedly haunted southern island.
Discover the local art scene at this hub for theatre, dance, music, film and more.
National Museum of Singapore
Visit the recently revamped permanent galleries that celebrate the fashion, film, food and photography of Singapore.
Singapore Heritage Trails
Download the app and trace your own walking routes through Singapore’s colourful neighbourhoods.
Singapore Really Really Free Market
Share your stuff and/or skills, whether its books, clothes, toys or tarot card reading, yoga, singing or writing.
Orchard Central Roof Garden
You don’t need to go to a pricey rooftop bar to hang out with a view and this rooftop garden is open 24/7.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Scale Singapore’s highest peak or take your mountain bike for a spin on one of the challenging trails in this ASEAN Heritage Park.
National Orchid Garden
Singapore Botanic Gardens’ National Orchid Garden features more than 1,000 species, 2,000 orchid hybrids, and a VIP Orchid Garden. There are old colonial buildings to explore amongst the beauty too.
The Pantry Farmers’ Market
Loewen Gardens hosts the fortnightly market which features cooking demonstrations and wine talks as well as locally grown produce and freshly made goods.
Kadampa Meditation Centre Singapore
Drop in to one of these lunchtime or evening meditation classes to relax, reflect and revive.
Talk a stroll through Chinatown for street food and temples, including the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum.
Delve into Singapore’s war history with a visit to this museum commemorating the allied POWs.
Hotel art collections
Wonder at impressive hotel art including the regularly rotating Public Art Space at Pan Pacific, Art Path at Marina Bay Sands (with works by Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor) and The Ritz-Carlton Millennia’s collection (Henry Moore and David Hockney feature) accompanied by a 28-minute podcast.
Fun, free walking tours delivered by in-the-know locals – choose from Chinatown Tuesdays, Kampong Wednesdays and Riverfront Thursdays.
Hainanese chicken rice
Indulge in this Singapore staple, found on many a menu, from high-end hotel restaurants to street food stalls.
Katong Antique House
This shop-cum-museum houses some Peranakan antique gems and is ripe for a rummage.
Fabrics, carpets and crafts as well as Middle Eastern food and mosques are all found on this artery of the Singaporean Muslim community.
Singapore Art Museum
Explore one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary Southeast Asian art.
Bukit Batok Town Park
Walk the banks of the tranquil lake and look out upon Little Guilin and its granite rock formation.
A popular drink or dessert, cendol is made from coconut milk, rice paste, palm sugar, pandan leaves, shaved ice and red beans.
Take a small wooden boat to this rustic island, rent a bike and enjoy the peace with a fresh young coconut.
A2 Singapore Parkour
Give Parkour and/or Free Running a go. One-off sessions start at S$20.
The Supertree Grove
Gardens by the Bay’s Supertrees are covered in plants and shoot 16 storeys into the sky. Lit up at night, walk the 22-metre high OCBC Skyway.Search for flights to Singapore
Reflections at Bukit Chandu
Learn more about the Battle of Bukit Chandu, when the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese through this permanent exhibition located in a bungalow once home to senior British officers.
The Arts House
Singapore’s first Parliament House is now a multi-disciplinary arts venue hosting music events, film screenings, and literary, performing and visual arts programmes.
Dine at one of Singapore’s many hawker centers. It’s rare that Maxwell Road doesn’t make a “best of” list, but Old Airport Road and Lau Pa Sat frequently rate highly too.
Spices, saris, flowers and jewels are just a few of the many sights and smells of Little India.
Get out and explore the countryside where you will find organic farming collective Bollywood Veggies and World War II memorials.
Main image: William Cho, When the sun goes down…Marina Bay starts to dazzle, via Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0