Singapore: An Innovative, Artistic, and Liveable City

Singapore is a destination that completely took me by surprise. Based on the descriptions I had heard from certain locals and visitors, I shouldn’t have liked this city state at all. They described it as a dull, orderly, expensive, and over-surveilled concrete jungle that wasn’t worth lingering in.

Seeing pink in Kampong Glam, Singapore.

While I can see a sliver of truth behind these statements, I think it’s a bit harsh to wither the city down to that.

Yes, Singapore is more expensive than the rest of Southeast Asia, but business is booming here and there are so many cool start-ups pushing new ideas. Yes, Singapore is very orderly and people are actually law abiding, but I think that’s a great thing! For once during my entire year of travel in Southeast Asia, cars were stopping at pedestrian crosswalks as opposed to trying to run me over. And yes, Singapore may have a lot of surveillance, but it’s not like people are being observed with binoculars 24/7. I noticed some police presence at large metro stations and a few surveillance cameras in malls and bus terminals, but it was nowhere close to the scale I was expecting; I’ve seen more surveillance and police presence in Manhattan, so let’s give Singapore a break!

Colourful buildings in Singapore.

If I had to describe the city to people, I would say Singapore is innovative, artistic, pushing architectural boundaries, and very liveable.  Perhaps I’m judging the city too soon – after all, I’m just a visitor and not a resident –  but here’s why I feel this way:

A liveable space

For a small city state, Singapore has a lot of green space. Whether you want to go for a stroll along the historic Esplanade Park which is shaded by towering trees, or whether you prefer the thrill of riding down one of the mountain bike trails at the Kent Ridge Park Trail, there is plenty of greenery to lure you out for some exercise. Also, aside from the main island, Singapore is made up of 60 smaller islets, many of which you can visit for a little city escape.

Another thing that makes a city liveable is transportation and I was very impressed with Singapore’s MRT system. It was modern, sleek, efficient, and spotless!

The mosque in Singapore's Arab Quarter.

Singapore may be expensive, but when it comes to eating out, food doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Hawker centers are extremely popular and this means affordable dishes made right before your eyes.

What I liked about the hawker centers was all the variety they offered under one roof. Most places served up dishes like Indian curries, Hainanese chicken rice, Singaporean chili crab, Malay laksa, and more. And the best part – these dishes only cost around $5.

Colourful windows in Singapore.

Mind-blowing architecture

Since I only had a few days in Singapore, I decided to do the hop-on-hop-off tour so that I could see as many of the neighbourhoods as possible. I’m not kidding you here, I seriously spent half the ride with my mouth agape, trying to get Sam’s attention from across the aisle every time we drove past a cool building. I sounded like a broken record, of ‘Oh my gosh, look at this one!’ and ‘Whoaaa! Did you see that one?’

The Marina Bay Sands as seen from The Esplanade, Singapore.

Some of the structures that most stood out to me included Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay which are nicknamed ‘the durians’ for their spiky exterior, the ArtScience Museum which resembles a giant lotus flower, and the mind-boggling Gateway buildings which look like they’re only 2 dimensional (I had to do a double take to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me because from a certain angle these structures look like they are paper thin!).

Then, of course, you have the Marina Bay Sands which dominate the skyline; I’m still trying to decide if it looks more like a boat or spaceship!

The Super Trees lit up at night during the Garden Rhapsody in Singapore.

And don’t even get me started on the Gardens by the Bay. I was there for their nightly light show and all I could do was stare in awe as the super trees lit up and the tribal soundtrack of the Garden Rhapsody transported me to the world of Avatar.

A thriving art scene

When it comes to the arts, there is always something happening in Singapore.

I was only there for a few days, but my visit happened to coincide with the Mosaic Music Festival, which hosted well-known bands from the UK, Norway, Iceland, the United States, as well as local Singaporean acts. I even got to watch an indie rock band from South Korea play at The Esplanade!

Mosaic Music Festival in Singapore.

i Light Marina Bay was also taking place; this was a cool light installation that came to life at night with music. It was open to the public free of charge.

Meanwhile, Savour was calling all foodies to come and indulge in Michelin star and award winning cuisine from Singapore and around the world.

And that was just the beginning! There were also numerous photography exhibits, theatre productions, and festivals – all happening within a span of a few days. If you live in Singapore, there is no reason to stay home on any given night.

Cool street art in Singapore's Arab Quarter.

One of my fondest memories from my time in Singapore was stumbling upon an open air concert at the Gardens by the Bay. It was late afternoon and out on a green field, hundreds of people had come with their blankets and picnic baskets to listen to a free performance put on by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

Couples were drinking wine out of plastic glasses, friends were sharing a sushi dinner, and children were running around while songs from The Sound of Music played. If this weren’t idyllic enough, we had the Singapore skyline at sunset dominating the landscape.

That’s when I thought to myself, I could live here someday.

Have you been to Singapore?
What were your thoughts?

40 Comments

  • Lauren says:

    You’ve definitely made me want to travel to Singapore. Those buildings are SO cool, such interesting architecture, and I love how clean everything looks! It sounds like there are lots of things to do and see!
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  • wana says:

    super duper agree with you! I myself didn’t expect S’pore to be so amazing in so many level. Love love the calmness as well as the fantastic architecture of the city.

    • Audrey says:

      I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your time there, Wana. And I have to agree with you, the city feels quite calm and relaxed. In a way it reminded me of Hong Kong without the traffic and the masses of people.

  • Wow, those buildings look amazing! I’m stopping over in Singapore on my vacation to Malaysia this summer and I was thinking just one or two days, but this makes me think I might need a few more days after all!
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  • Jen says:

    Great shots Audrey! You have really captured this amazing city well. I love Singapore, infact it is one of my favourite cities that I think I could keep going back to time and time again. What I love more of all is that it is ever changing. Each time I visit something new has popped up and since I last visited Gardens by the Bay was completed so I am definitely keen to head back there soon.
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  • CurlyTraveller says:

    Oh, Audrey, I am so happy you wrote this!

    I live in Singapore since a bit over 4 years and I have written several times on my blog what’s to love about Singapore.

    There is so much complaining and whining going on about Singapore: boring, artificial, super expensive and the list goes on. Now I’m no fool and I’m not ignorant, so I realize very well that Singapore has it’s flaws. Some of them quite major.

    But there is also a lot of good stuff in Singapore and personally I have not been bored even one day.

    There is indeed a lot of greenery, there are pretty lights everywhere, and there is gorgeous architecture. Hawkerfood is good and cheap, and so is public transportation. You are very right about that.

    Thanks for sharing some positive experiences and feelings about Singapore!
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  • nayeema says:

    I have been to Singapore twice…and I totally loved the place. The security was reassuring and I felt very safe. People are nice there…will definitely go again!!

  • Sheryl says:

    Singaporean here and I’m so glad you wrote this post! Singapore has its flaws (no one is better at pointing it out than its own citizens) and it is more expensive than its neighbours. However, for tourists or visitors it is wonderful! If you dont come for anything else, just come for the food. It’ll take days to sample a good portion of what we have to offer. If there is one attraction you should go to, try the zoo the next time you come around! It is one of the best (if not the best) in asia!

    Of course, it is a very expensive place for its citizens. Public housing costs in the high 6 digits, cars in the high 5 digits. Private housing takes millions to own. But if you are just visiting, these do not concern you. It is cheaper than you think as long as you know where to go. Thanks again for the post! (:

  • Rachel of Hippie in Heels says:

    I agree, I just went two weeks ago and I can see that you, too liked the shutters! I kept telling my bf LOOK at those SHUTTERS!! he’s like what is your problem… but really they were all painted so many fun colors. The MRT is great, nightlife was rockin, and as for cleanliness- bring it on! After India I was dying for that, plus it wasn’t over the top clean. It was just normal. I actually didn’t see any police, and our friend who has lived there 3 years said he hardly ever sees them!
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  • I went to Singapore only a month after landing in SE Asia. So when I got there after being in Thailand for my first month, I was like NNNOOOO!!!!! Too modern! Get me out! It’s like back home! haha.
    I totally agree looking back though, certainly a livable city. I don’t think I would ant to live there though.
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  • Heather says:

    I agree with you, Audrey. I think Singapore gets a bad rap but I really enjoyed my time there! I relished the cleanliness and order after living in China, and liked having so much cultural diversity in one place. I’d love to go back!
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  • Pauline says:

    I’ve only been to Singapore once and I didn’t find it impressive – definitely way too commercialized for my liking (i.e. Orchard Road and the malls lining it!). However, now that you’ve written this, I’m thinking I should give it a second chance and steer away from Orchard Road.
    Pauline recently posted..Venice: the City of DreamsMy Profile

    • Desiree says:

      Yes, definitely give Singapore a second chance! We’re so much more than our malls and Orchard Road. If you like something less commercialized, I would recommend visiting Pulau Ubin and taking a walk in one of our neighbourhood districts (Joo Chiat/Katong, Little India, Kampong Glam to name a few!) 🙂

  • Jeff says:

    The buildings are very beautiful. I have never been there, but now, i would love to travel to Singapore.

  • Aggy says:

    I have been to Singapore so many times. First time I didn’t like it so much, but the more time I spend with this country I love it more and more. There is just so much more to Singapore than shopping (because that’s what it’s popular for in Indonesia). There is awesome hiking tracks, cool islands like Ubin and so many amazing architecture beauties – just like you said. I’m so glad you enjoyed your time there!
    Aggy recently posted..An Honest Opinion on BangkokMy Profile

  • Franca says:

    Even if I found Singapore being almost too perfect and in some cases it looked like people were living in a bubble, I completely agree with you about how artistic the city is and how fantastic the architecture (both new and old) is too.
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  • Alison Pirtle says:

    I haven’t been to Singapore yet, but this is some great insight. I admittedly took it off my travel list, but maybe it will earn a spot back on…
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  • Lisa - Wee Wanders says:

    I’ll be stopping off in Singapore later this year to visit a friend and had heard very mixed reviews…as soon as I read about the art/architecture and saw your pics I was completely sold!

    Street art in particular is a real interest of mine so I’m looking forward to seeing what Singapore has to offer. I’d be interested to hear you pinion on the food too?
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  • MollyG says:

    Singapore for us was just a huge culture shock! We flew Phnom Penh to Singapore… They are simple two different worlds. Singapore is beautiful and thriving, but the government repression of its citizens does bother me. Also the humidity makes Thailand and Cambodia seem tame! Holy moly!
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  • We are hoping to tack on a visit to Singapore after our Bali visit. The botanic gardens are said to be wonderful (on the verge of being named a UNESCO site). Lovely to read your post and see your photos…
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  • Tantri says:

    last weekend, I had to transit in Singapore for 8 hours. Unfortunately we lost our time to manage the baggage then looked for a free city trip but we didn’t get that one bcz the trip always fully-booked. But then I had great time walking around the Changi Airport, seeing the cinema theater, looked around the sunflower garden, window shopping in its mall, etc.
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  • David @ That Gay Backpacker says:

    Everybody told me that I would hate Singapore – I LOVED IT. Beyond the sense of order and the precision of the city (which can also be considered as a positive), people were just lovely to me and showed me so much kindness. And there is even quite a cool gay scene considering that homo bumpin’ is technically illegal there 😉
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  • NZ Muse says:

    Singapore is definitely not for me. But those are some seriously awesome photos. Kudos!
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  • Agness says:

    I must say that Singapore had surprised me a lot. During the day this city is pretty boring and so quiet, but at night it turns into a city that quickens your pulse and leaves you speechless. The life in Singapore definitely starts after 10 pm!
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  • Yix says:

    Hi there! Glad that you seemed to have enjoyed your visit in Singapore! I am born and bred here if I have to put it that way. =)

    Singapore is an expensive country to live in and I used to be one of those people who kept thinking that living overseas would be much better than here. But the more I travel abroad. The more appreciative I have come to love my country. From its security to efficient transport system (even though many Singaporeans make a big fuss over it.. but compare it to many countries it really isn’t that bad!) to the many cuisines I can find under the same roof and the upcoming Art vibes the city is emitting is amazing.

    We have a long way to go before we can reach what most 1st world countries can provide/are doing. But I am thankful enough.

    Thank you for sharing my country! =D
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  • Anne @ Pretraveller says:

    Thanks for sharing your visit to Singapore. It is one of the destinations we are considering for our next big holiday so your comments confirmed my desire to visit!
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  • apol | Wanderfultogether.com says:

    shophouses, colorful windows, clean hawker centers and a lot of art!!!
    Definitely going back to SG!
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  • Nikita says:

    Wow, what gorgeous buildings! I’ve never really given much thought to Singapore, but this makes me want to go. The possibility of stumbling upon a random festival is quite alluring!
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  • The Gardens by the Bay are pretty much the #1 reason why I want to visit Singapore. I loved this post. Thank you so much for sharing! Your photos are beautiful.

    Happy travels 🙂
    Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren recently posted..London Food Series – Part 1: Traditional EatsMy Profile

  • Sam says:

    Before I first visited Singapore, a friend of a friend described it to be as Disneyland on Prozac. Weird…but not entirely innacurate, in my opinion. The architecture is out of this world, and indeed the arts scene was surprisingly vibrant. Not sure the weather would entirely agree with me all the time, and I’d never considered whether or not it would be a liveable city, but I see your point!
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  • Craig says:

    Well-said! Singapore doesn’t get enough love. If nothing else, it’s a wonderful break from the general chaos of Southeast Asia. LED signs at bus stops even tell you exactly when the next bus will arrive — beautiful!
    Craig recently posted..Christmas in Sri LankaMy Profile

  • corinne says:

    I love Singapore, and I’m really not a city person. I totally agree about the architecture…so awesome!

  • Yana says:

    I’ve always wanted to go there – the architecture is amazing!
    I think it’s always better to see something with your own eyes and decide for yourself if it was worth it than rely on someone’s (bad) opinion on a certain place… So thank you for bringing the good side 🙂

  • Michelle says:

    I absolutely detest Singapore. Been several times, bored stiff every time I go as it’s too sterile, there are too many rules and everything is far too orderly. On top of that the people are quite dull compared to most other SE Asian countries, the food is very average (and extremely expensive compared to most of the rest of the region) etc etc.

    If I never set foot in Singapore again, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it 🙂

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    Wow! Love the architecture.
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  • I love Singapore, it’s one of my favourite cities and I’d love to live there (leaving aside it’s so expensive). I love that it’s safe, I can walk down the street on my own at 3am and nobody bothers me. My favourite thing though is the trees. Those amazing, huge tropical trees that are all over the place give the feel of a city that has been carved out of the jungle. The Botanic Gardens is one of my favourite spots. Can’t wait to visit again next month and explore more of the country by bicycle!

  • Singapore sounds like a great city to visit. beautiful photos- I hope to get to visit one day! Thanks for sharing!
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  • Deb says:

    Wow! you captured Singapore beautifully. We haven’t been since 2003, but you’ve made me want to go back!
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  • Joan says:

    So glad to know that you enjoyed your stay in Singapore 🙂 Love your pictures!

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