In March 2018, in news that stunned nobody, Singapore was named the world’s most expensive city for the fifth year running. The Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed the price of over 150 items in 133 cities worldwide and Singapore came top, just ahead of Paris and Zurich who jointly nabbed second place.
For travellers to South-east Asia, this may well ring alarm bells and cause anyone who’s considering visiting the ‘little red dot’ to think again. With so many comparitively inexpensive destinations surrounding Singapore, you wouldn’t blame them.
Let’s not blow this out of proportion however. While travellers from Asia will find Singapore expensive, travellers from elsewhere and particularly Europe will still find things in Singapore are reasonably well priced or at least similar to what they’re used to.
While Singapore’s main attractions will set you back a bit, there are still some things to do in the world’s most expensive city that are completely free! With the help of some Singaporean friends, I’ve collated as many of Singapore’s free things to do as I can to help you save money during your visit.
Let’s dive in!
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At a Glance
Jump ahead to a section of our guide that interests you most.
- Places to Visit
- Festivals & Celebrations
- Museums & Galleries
- Live Music & Shows
- Places of Worship
- Wildlife, Parks & Nature
Don’t forget, you can always jump back to the top of this post by clicking the up arrow in the bottom right hand corner.
Neighbourhoods to explore in Singapore
Strolling Singapore’s neighbourhoods will always be free and are a great way to get to know the city’s diverse population.
The smell of incense permeates through the air as soon as you emerge from Little India MRT station. This cultural area for Singapore’s Indian community is full of shops and restaurants. There are also beautiful temples which you are welcome to explore. It’s a small taste of India, but one you’ll really appreciate.
Highlights: Beautiful and fascinating Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is one of Singapore’s oldest hindu temples (see below); Tekka Centre is Singapore’s largest indoor wet market selling a large array of products; shopping institution Mustafa Centre is open 24 hours and sells just about everything.
Beautifully restored colonial buildings painted in bright colours greet you as you arrive whilst street vendors and hawkers selling food and trinkets ply for your attention. The area truly comes alive during Chinese New Year season, when a market stretches around the block and decorations adorn building.
Highlights: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Sri Mariamman Temple (see below) can both be found in Chinatown; buy an assortment of cheap to mid-range products in the Chinatown Street Market.
This cultural area for Singapore’s Arab community is well known for it’s Persian carpet shops, jewellers and stores selling leather goods. Make sure you stop for a Teh Tarik at one of the hole-in-the-wall cafes and that you also check out the impressive Sultan Mosque.
Places to visit in Singapore with free entry
No need to fork out for every attraction you visit in Singapore. These places to visit are completely free!
Haw Par Villa
Built in 1937, Haw Par Villa is famous for its often gruesome depictions of Chinese folklore’s 10 Courts of Hell. But this bizarre theme park also has more tasteful scenes from other Chinese legends, such as Journey to the West and Madame White Snake.
In stark contrast to the rest of modern Singapore, Kampong Buangkok is a living, breathing reminder of how Singapore started its existence. Built in 1956, it is the last surviving kampong (village) located in mainland Singapore and is well worth seeing.
Getting there: From Serangoon (NE12/CC13) MRT station, take bus 70(M) or 103 for around 15 minutes to Ch Of St. Vincent De Paul bus stop. From there, walk towards the Shell petrol station and cross the road. Here you will see a ramp leading down towards the canal. Cross the bridge over the canal, then keep walking along Lor Buangkok until you see a sign pointing left for Kampung Lorong Buangkok.
Jewel Changi Airport
The “world’s best airport” is now even better, thanks to an extraordinary new complex that mixes nature with retail. The attraction boasts the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, 280 food & shopping outlets and exceptional indoor gardens and parks. It has to be seen to be believed.
Please note: A boarding pass is not required for entry to a majority of what the Jewel has to offer.
The Merlion, half fish and half lion, is an icon of Singapore. There are a few Merlins dotted around Singapore, but the one you always see in publicity photos is here at Merlion Park. There’s not a lot else to see in the park, but if you want that classic Singapore selfie, you’ll want to drop by.
Getting there: Merlion Park is alongside the Esplanade Drive bridge, a 9 minute walk from exit B of Raffles Place MRT station.
Festivals & Celebrations in Singapore
With so many different faiths and cultural backgrounds represented among Singapore’s population, the calendar is full of free festivals for you to experience.
Lunar/Chinese New Year
Location: Island-wide/Chinatown (Google Maps) | MRT: Chinatown (NE4/DT19)
Dates: Annually in January/February
Lights and elaborate decorations hang in malls, public buildings and across streets bringing an energetic sense of celebration. Check out the market stalls throughout Chinatown.
Location: Island-wide/Orchard Road (Google Maps) | MRT: Orchard Road (NS22/TE14)
Dates: Annually throughout December
Singapore goes all out for Christmas. It’s mostly an opportunity for some retail therapy (like Singaporeans need an excuse) but the huge decorations, particularly across Orchard Road are really worth seeing.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri
Location: Sims Avenue & Changi Road, Geylang Serai (Google Maps) | MRT: Paya Lebar (EW8/CC9) & Eunos (EW7)
Dates: 4-5 June 2019 (festival light displays for one preceding month)
On Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Muslims in Singapore end their time of fasting with a joyous celebration of forgiveness, fellowship and food. Head to Geylang Serai Bazaar to see stalls selling a vast variety of food and wares.
Location: Little India (Google Maps) | MRT: Little India (NE7/DT12)
Dates: 27 October 2019
Little India is always a vibrant, bustling neighbourhood, but its particularly so during Diwali. Hastings Rd and Campbell Ln host a market village while Race Course Rd is decorated with illuminated decorations.
Free Museums & Galleries in Singapore
Most of Singapore’s museums and galleries charge entrance fees. There are some though, mostly focusing on niche subjects, that are free to enter.
Visual Arts at Esplanade
A continuous programme of visiting art exhibitions is run all over the iconic Esplanade with free access to all.
Civil Defence Heritage Gallery
The Civil Defence Heritage Gallery traces civil defence developments in Singapore from the late 1800s up until today.
Getting there: The gallery is a 6 minute walk from the North Bridge Road exit of City Hall MRT station.
Air Force Museum
A museum housing (unsurprisingly) exhibits on the history, heritage, and values of the Republic of Singapore Air Force.
Getting there: Take bus 94 from outside Eunos MRT station.
The Changi Museum
The Changi Museum is dedicated to all those who lived and died in Singapore and, in particular, the Changi area during World War II.
Getting there: Take bus 29 from Tampines East MRT station.
Republic of Singapore Navy Museum
Take a trip down memory lane, as you view weaponry and other components taken from now decommissioned warships.
Getting there: From Expo MRT station, walk to Singapore Expo bus stop on Xilin Avenue and take bus 35 for 5 stops.
Free Live Music & Shows in Singapore
Singapore loves putting on a show. As well as permanent music and light shows, there are a handful of regular free music events in the cultural calendar.
By day, the Supertree Grove is a marvel of engineering. By night, these impressive structures come to life in a spectacular burst of colour. For the best view, take a seat right amongst the Supertrees.
Fire and lasers burst from the water whilst images are projected on clouds of water vapour. This 15 minute show is packed full of tricks and is genuinely impressive. Tiered seating can be found right in front of the display area.
Sentosa Crane Dance
A fabulous show involving two huge animatronic cranes, lots of water and lots of lights and pyrotechnics. This is a one-of-a-kind show that really shouldn’t be missed. Spectators sat at the front might get a bit wet.
Address: 70 Airport Boulevard, 819661 | MRT: Changi Airport (CG2)
Save on Google Maps | Show times: Hourly from 1930
Standing at 40 metres high, Jewel Changi Airport claim that the rain vortex is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. At night, the fall is illuminated to music for a five minute show every hour from 1930.
Lake of Dreams
At the heart of Resorts World Sentosa is this choreographed display of fire, water and light. The narrative is a bit cheesy, but the show itself is still quite spectacular. A good way to end a day at Universal Studios.
Esplanade Outdoor Theatre
The nearby Esplanade venue (affectionately known as the Durian for its shape) has an outdoor stage where free concerts are put on daily and theatre performances every weekend.
A free, once-a-month, live local music performance held in the prestigious Esplanade Concert Hall gives everyone the opportunity the enjoy music and cultural in plush surroundings.
Places of Worship with free entry in Singapore
Singapore is a melting pot of cultures, all living together side-by-side. There are therefore many places of worship, most of which welcome visitors without charging an entrance fee.
Masjid Sultan (Sultan Mosque)
Built in 1824, the gold-domed Sultan Mosque is the focal point for Singapore’s Muslim community.
Please note: Visiting hours are restricted and access is reliant on several criteria. See the official website for guidance.
Sri Mariamman Temple
You’re free to roam around this ornate and elaborately decorated Hindu temple. Colourful sculptures of deities and mythological beasts are in abundance and are in stark contrast to the nearby skyscrappers in the CBD.
Please note: Shoes must be removed before entering the temple. Additionally, shoulders and knees must be covered. Shawls can be provided on request if you need them.
Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple
This Buddhist temple, built in 1884, is thought to bring good luck to visitors. Its central location means it’s busy all day, therefore it’s great for respectful observance of Buddhist worship.
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Exhibits on Buddhist art and culture, a rooftop garden and pagoda and the centepiece, The Buddha Tooth Relic housed in a giant stupa made from 320kg of gold makes this temple a must visit.
St Andrews Cathedral
An Anglican cathedral with gorgeously plain white Neo-Gothic architecture. Inside, the simple white pillars contrast nicely with the bright colours from the stained glass windows.
Wildlife, Parks & Nature in Singapore
Despite being tiny and densely populated, Singapore is surprisingly green. In terms of free things to do, Singapore’s wildlife and nature offering is second to none.
Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay captures the essence of Singapore’s tropical Garden City image. This huge development houses several themed gardens, bio-domes (entrance fees apply) and a remarkable Supertree Grove. You could spend an entire day here.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is home to around 40% of Singapore’s flora and fauna and is a popular popular spot for those looking to get close to nature.
Getting there: From Beauty World MRT station, walk northbound along Upper Bukit Timah Road. At the junction, cross the pedestrian bridge to the left and once across the road, take the right-hand staircase and bear left onto Hindhede Road. Walk underneath the narrow bridge and keep walking straight. With a car park on the left, the road narrows and a visitor centre will appear on your left.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Founded in 1859, the Singapore Botanic Gardens showcases a wide variety of spectacular tropical flora set amongst a carefully manicured landscape.
Labrador Nature Reserve
Built on the edge of a forest with a picturesque view of the sea, Labrador Nature Reserve is an oasis of tranquillity and natural wonder. Looks out for the squirrels and resident birds species.
Pulau Ubin/Chek Jawa Nature Reserve
Be transported back in time to 1960s Singapore as you embark on a trip to the nearby island of Pulau Ubin. Home to Singapore’s last villages or kampongs, the island still retains the rustic beauty and simplicity of a bygone era.
Lower Peirce Reservoir Park
The Lower Peirce Reservoir, Singapore’s second-oldest, was commissioned in 1912. The forest that lines its banks is considered a mature secondary rainforest and is still dotted with numerous rubber trees and oil palms.
MacRitchie Reservoir & TreeTop Walk
This trail takes you to the TreeTop Walk, a 250m long freestanding suspension bridge between the two highest points in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (MacRitchie) and the first of its kind in Singapore.
Dairy Farm Nature Park/Singapore Quarry
Set in a rustic environment with multiple trails for hiking and biking, the 63-hectare Dairy Farm Nature Park offers a host of recreational activities and amenities such as a nature trail and former quarry.
East Coast Park
East Coast Park is one of Singapore’s most treasured urban getaways, offering an invigorating and exciting diversity of sporting, dining and recreational activities. With the theme “Recreation for All”, the park has an activity for everyone.
The Southern Ridges
An urban hiking trial that connects 10km of green spaces. The trail crosses secondary rainforest, goes over the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore and offers great panoramic views of the city and harbour.
A 24km walking path, following the route of former railway tracks. The trail is one of Singapore’s wildest and unmanicured natural pursuits and offers tranquility and peace amongst the hubbub. Enjoy it while you can as plans to redevelop the route are afoot.
That concludes our collection of free things to do in Singapore. We’ll keep this post up to date so whenever we find any other free things to do in Singapore, we’ll add it to the list.
Did we miss anything out? Please share your suggestions in the comments box below.