Not packed in a bus. Not herded with a group. Self guided walk is the SAFEST way to sightsee while observing SOCIAL DISTANCING!

Singapore Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Singapore

Malay legend has it that a long time ago the Sumatran prince, who sought shelter from a storm, ended up on the island of Temasek where he saw a strange animal believed to be a lion. He then founded a city there and named it Singapura which in Sanskrit means the “Lion City”. In the 14th century, Singapura found itself “between a rock and a hard place” when the neighboring realms of Thailand and Java struggled for control over the Malay Peninsula, which subsequently reduced the city to an obscure fishing settlement.

Devoid of any noteworthy natural resources, Singapore acquired initial wealth courtesy of the robust free trade policy enacted in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles, administrator of British East India, who took advantage of the island’s superb natural harbor and strategic position on the maritime route between China and India and set up a British trading post here. The port thrived from the very beginning and, to this day, remains one of the busiest in the world.

As with neighboring Malaysia, much of the foreign fascination with Singapore comes from its multicultural population, comprising the Chinese, Malay, and Indians. This ethnic diversity is so that a one-hour walk across the city, passing through Chinese and Indian quarters, may result in feeling like you're hopping from one country to another. Excellent historical museums and colonial architecture, as well as great waterfront shopping and dining opportunities also add to the appeal and can keep visitors occupied for days.

This self-guided tour takes you through some of the most popular tourist attractions of Singapore, the majority of which are located along the Singapore River, small but of a great historical importance. To obtain directions to the sights in question, tap the sight's name below this introduction and then tap it on the map at the bottom of the sight's information screen. The GPS navigation function will guide you to the chosen destination.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Singapore Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Singapore Introduction Walk
Guide Location: Singapore » Singapore (See other walking tours in Singapore)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum
  • Smith Street
  • Sri Mariamman Temple
  • Thian Hock Keng Temple
  • UOB Plaza
  • Boat Quay
  • Raffles' Landing Site
  • Asian Civilisations Museum
  • Cavenagh Bridge
  • Merlion Park and Statue
1
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum

1) Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum (must see)

Located in Singapore's Chinatown, this opulent cultural monument is cherished by the local Chinese who make up the overwhelming majority of the city-state's population. The temple's majestic outside appearance is equally matched on the inside.

Always lit up at night, it is open to visitors 24 hours a day. The dress code is strict and demands women to cover their shoulders, with a conservative dress or slacks advised for the lower part. Likewise, men are prohibited from wearing shorts or tank-tops, but oddly enough shoes are permitted for all, as are non-flash photos in some places.

Locals go in to pray regularly and you may find here a monk conducting a prayer or chanting in a microphone quite often. Set in the rear are the statues of Buddhas each overseeing a certain astrological sign, but the key figure in the main hall is Maitreya, a Buddha that is yet to come to Earth, the wooden statue of which here is believed to be 1,000 years old.

One of the temple's floors is fully filled with statues, among which is that of Guan Yin – Chinese Bodhisattva, Goddess of Compassion, Mercy and Kindness. Further up, in the mezzanine, there are life-sized wax sculptures of present and past leaders of the Temple – quite rich in detail actually (even showing wrinkles on hands!) and fit to rival any wax museum in the world. Also here is a balcony from which one can observe, through the drapes, the huge main prayer room down below, on the 1st floor.

Finally, the 4th floor is where the ultimate treasure of the temple is found – the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic Stupa reportedly containing a tooth of Gautama Buddha himself, discovered in 1980 at a Burmese monastery. Now encased in a golden chamber behind glass panels, it can't be inspected up close, but there is an accompanying scale model at the front which can be viewed at any time.

Another must-see within the temple is the orchid garden on the rooftop featuring an enormous “prayer wheel” inside a pavilion of 10,000 small Buddhas lining the walls. Most people aren't aware of this garden, so it is very quiet and relaxing up here – an ideal setting for reflection prior to hitting the streets of Singapore's Chinatown once again.

Tip:
Non-flash-photos are permitted in some places, but not in the relic chamber.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am-7pm
2
Smith Street

2) Smith Street

Singapore's Chinatown abounds in eateries of various sort which are particularly diverse in the heart of the area, right on and around South Bridge Road. A few touts on Smith Street will try to lure you into some foreigner-friendly restaurants, all decent enough if not the best in their class, and varied enough to eat something different every day for a few weeks. So if you want a great selection of different Asian cuisines, head to Smith Street and dine your way around South East Asia with ease. Give the hawker stalls along the road a miss if looking for genuine local food, even though they're also quite delicious and relatively cheap.

You could start off the day with a Michelin-star hawker lunch at Liao Fan Hawker Chan; next, you could leave the restaurant and roam the streets for unique souvenirs that are much cheaper and affordable, compared to other places. There are several tea shops, craft beer stalls, and many other Chinese shops set in the historical shop-houses, and you will also be able to buy a Durian fruit here or taste Durian ice cream if you're feeling adventurous.

Wherever you choose to go, you won't feel intimidated or pressurized to buy unlike in many other countries. Curiously enough for a street with so much authentic fare, Smith Street is the only street in Chinatown with an English name.
3
Sri Mariamman Temple

3) Sri Mariamman Temple (must see)

Singapore’s oldest Hindu shrine, the Sri Mariamman Temple, is easily identified by the superb entrance “gopura” bristling with brightly colored deities. Located in the Chinatown district, the temple serves the majority Hindu Singaporeans, known as Tamilians.

Once inside, look up at the roof and you will see splendid friezes depicting a host of Hindu deities, including the three manifestations of the supreme being: Brahma the creator, with three of his four heads showing; Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer, the latter holding one of his sons. The main sanctum, facing you as you walk inside the temple, is devoted to Mariamman, a goddess worshiped for her healing powers. Smaller sanctums dotted all around the temple's walkway honor a number of other deities. In the one dedicated to the goddess Periachi Amman, a sculpture portrays her with a queen lying on her lap, whose evil child she has ripped from her womb, which is most interesting given that Periachi Amman is the protector of children, to whom babies are brought when they're only one month old. Sri Aravan, with his bushy mustache and big ears, is far less intimidating and his sanctum is at the back of the complex.

To the left of the main sanctum is a patch of sand which once a year, during the festival of Thimithi (in October or November), is covered in red-hot coals that male Hindus run across to prove the strength of their faith. The participants, who line up all the way along South Bridge Road waiting for their turn, are supposedly protected from the heat of the coals by the power of prayer.

If you go during certain times you will see different interesting rituals almost every day. Visiting here is guaranteed to be a great, culturally-enlightening experience. As in any place of worship, you must be respectful toward locals and follow their lead. Lowered voices, covered shoulders, and removed shoes are generally required, but bringing a pair of socks would probably help the more sensitive, as the floors can be scorching hot due to the sun and burn the feet.

Why You Should Visit:
If you go during certain times you will see different interesting rituals almost every day.
Visiting here is guaranteed to be a great, culturally-enlightening experience.
Free to enter though there's a small charge for tourists – called a "camera fee".

Tip:
As in any place of worship, you must be respectful toward locals and follow their lead. Lowered voices, covered shoulders, and removed shoes are generally required, but bringing a pair of socks would probably help the more sensitive, as the floors can be scorching hot due to the sun and burn the feet.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 5am-11:30am / 5pm-8:45pm
4
Thian Hock Keng Temple

4) Thian Hock Keng Temple (must see)

To get a glimpse of a culture that is absolutely out of the ordinary, visit Thian Hock Keng, the oldest Hokkien temple in Singapore whose name literally translates to the "Palace of Heavenly Happiness". Now skillfully restored, the temple was constructed in the 19th century in the Southern Chinese architectural style, without any use of nails and with all the materials imported from China. It stands on the site of a small house where immigrants made offerings to Ma Cho Po, aslo known as Mazu [Ma-tsu] in Mandarin, regarded by her worshipers as a powerful and benevolent Queen of Heaven whose statue, also shipped in from China, was set here in time for the temple’s inauguration in 1842. It now stands in the center of the main hall, flanked by the God of War on the right and the Protector of Life on the left.

From the street, the temple looks quite spectacular, with dragons stalking its broad roofs, and the entrance to the temple compound bristling with ceramic flowers, foliage and figures. Specifically, the side entrance gates feature brightly colored tiles portraying peacocks, roses and the Buddhist swastika motif symbolizing good luck, eternity and immortality. Two stone lions, traditional sentinels of any Taoist temple, stand guard at the entrance while the door gods, painted on the front doors, prevent evil spirits from entering.

Beyond this elaborate entrance are two courtyards, straddling which is the temple proper, comprising the shrine of Ma Cho Po. On either side of the temple are pagodas – the one on the left is a shrine of Confucius, and the one on the right houses ancestral tablets of immigrants who founded the temple. Look out for signboards to better understand the significance of various motifs found in all parts of the temple. Look out, too, for the huge ovens, always lit, in which offerings to either gods or ancestors are burnt.

The story of the Chinese immigrants who, in the early 1900s, left their hometowns in Southern China for Singapore in search of a better life is very nicely painted as a wall mural that runs the entire length of the temple's back wall along Amoy Street, so don't forget to check it out before leaving.

Why You Should Visit:
Very peaceful atmosphere and a wonderful piece of Asian architecture.
A photographer's dream, with ornate and colorful carvings everywhere.

Tip:
Make sure that you respect the privacy of those praying and only take photos in the front area.
Located literally next door to the temple is an Indian Muslim Mosque – the Nagore Dargah.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7:30am-5:30pm
5
UOB Plaza

5) UOB Plaza

They say that the main reason to visit Singapore's Financial District is to feel like a tiny ant in a canyon of gleaming skyscrapers. To see what things look like from the top of the man-made canyon, the best place to head is the OUB Centre – home to the Overseas Union Bank, which is the complex to the west of the United Overseas Bank Plaza, offering truly amazing panoramic views from its rooftop bar, the world's highest alfresco bar, called 1-Altitude. To the right of the soaring metallic triangle of the OUB Centre are the twin towers of the rocket-shaped UOB Plaza One and the slightly older UOB Plaza Two. Both buildings are connected by a 45 m (148 ft) podium supported by four columns. Also visible from there are the rich brown walls of 6 Battery Road, the sturdy Singapore Land Tower, and the almost Art Deco-style Chevron House.

The adjacent area along the river has been well arranged and is a great place for river views and a walk, surrounded by lots of pubs and restaurants. As in most cities, public opinion is fiercely divided over high-rise architecture, but so far Singapore has been spared the more eye-soaring modern follies that blight other cities. The UOB itself is well known as a patron of local art and takes pride in displaying its collection at their art gallery, so by going during office hours, you may admire the view and paintings at the same time. Fans of surrealistic master Salvador Dali wouldn't want to miss the sculpture named “Homage to Newton”, a typically bizarre work that feels somewhat out of place in a city not known for its appreciation of the hallucinatory.

The three roads that run southwest from Raffles Place – namely, Cecil Street, Robinson Road, and Shenton Way – are all crammed with more high-rise banks and financial houses.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-6:30pm
6
Boat Quay

6) Boat Quay (must see)

The historic Boat Quay in Singapore, upstream from the mouth of the Singapore River was once the busiest part of the city's old port – a true center of commerce handling three-quarters of all shipping business back in the 1860s. Because the southern part of the river resembles the belly of a carp, which according to Chinese belief is where wealth and prosperity lay, many shop-houses were built in the area, making it quite crowded.

Although maritime trade is no longer Boat Quay's primary role, the shop-houses here remain and now, carefully conserved, accommodate colorful restaurants, bars and shops of various sort. Thus the area's social-economic role has shifted towards tourism seeing the commercial zone enclose the Singapore River. As such, this is an example of successful urban regeneration, given that in the early 1990s the area was derelict.

It is here, in the Boat Quay, that you will find the most atmospheric riverfront restaurants serving all manner of Singaporean delicacies. There are also German, Indian and Korean foods on offer, as well as heaping plates of seafood to choose from; or, if you just want to watch the boats go by with a pint, that is perfect either. On top of that, visitors get a scenic view of the Financial District and the river and, with such a stunning location, it is good to walk along this shore on a nice balmy night, too.

Before ordering food in the Boat Quay, just make sure to ask about the price or pre-agree it, as many things here are charged per 100 grams and you may end up paying exorbitant prices at some restaurants! Keep in mind that if you venture just a little further down the road, to one of the more local street food venues, you might get just as richly rewarded for a smaller bill.

Tip:
Before ordering food in the Boat Quay, just make sure to ask about the price or pre-agree it, as many things here are charged per 100 grams and you may end up paying exorbitant prices at some restaurants! Keep in mind that if you venture just a little further down the road, to one of the more local street food venues, you might get just as richly rewarded for a smaller bill.
7
Raffles' Landing Site

7) Raffles' Landing Site (must see)

The statue of Singapore's founder, Sir Stamford Raffles, reportedly marks the spot on the northern bank of the Singapore River where the general set foot on the island the very first time on 29 January 1819. Back then it was just an unwelcoming swampland and tiger-infested jungle, while today the area serves as the Civic Precinct accommodating government buildings, a concert hall, galleries, and museums.

For someone who had spent a very limited time on the island (his longest tenure in Singapore was only eight months), Raffles had an extraordinary influence over its development. His name shows everywhere throughout the city, yet his impact extends way beyond the purely civic commemoration. The streets you walk in the heart of Singapore still largely follow the original layout drawn by Raffles. The ethnic districts, such as Little India, were all demarcated by him as well. Even the classic shop-house design – built of brick, with a central courtyard for light, ventilation and water collection – is attributed to Sir Raffles, too. But more importantly, Singapore’s very existence – as one of the world’s greatest seaports – is a direct consequence of Sir Raffles’ vision.

Recognizing the island’s potential as a post to counter the Dutch power in the region, Raffles immediately struck a deal with Abdul Rahman, chieftain of Singapore and subordinate of the Sultan of Johor, to set up a British trading station here. Understanding that the sultan’s loyalties to the Dutch – who were furious at the British incursion into what they perceived their territory – would make the final approval of his deal impossible, Raffles approached the sultan’s brother, Hussein, addressing him as His Highness the Sultan, and concluded a second treaty with both him and the chieftain. Thus, the Union Jack rose over Singapore and sealed its future as the British trading post.

Years on, thanks to its duty-free stance and strategic geographic position at the gateway to the South China Sea, Singapore experienced a meteoric expansion, seeing Chinese, Indian and European migrants coming in search of work and commercial success. By 1860 the city's population had reached 80,000. By the end of the 19th century, with the opening of the Suez Canal and the advent of the steamship, Singapore’s position as the regional hub of international trade had been consolidated.
8
Asian Civilisations Museum

8) Asian Civilisations Museum (must see)

The robust former Empress Place Building, located at the mouth of the Singapore River, is one of the city's architectural treasures – elegantly proportioned and symmetrically laid out, adorned with many decorative features, such as exquisite plaster mouldings, architraves, and cornices. Completed in 1867 and named after Queen Victoria, it still wears the original Neoclassical Palladian exterior, despite having undergone a series of renovations and extensions, featuring same Roman Doric facade for the principal storey with pitched clay tile roofs, arcaded verandahs and timber-louvered French windows that used to keep the interior cool and well ventilated in Singapore’s tropical climate before air-conditioners were installed and which caught the attention of many migrants sailing into Singapore harbor over the years.

Today, this white two-storey edifice houses the Asian Civilisations Museum that ambitiously tries to pull together the various threads of Asian civilizations, from the Middle East to China, thus helping to better understand and appreciate all the different cultures that went into making Singaporeans what they are – a cosmopolitan nation.

Informative and well-presented, with special exhibits not often seen in public, this museum has a few highlights worth mentioning, starting with the Hindu-Buddhist gallery and its beautifully-lit displays featuring a stunning 18th-century Burmese Buddha head and a large bronze drum. The Chinese influences are also well represented, from tomb remains to ceramics over a thousand years old that have been recovered from a shipwreck found in 1998. All in all, the recovered cargo comprises more than 60,000 well-preserved pieces, including gold and silver items produced in China during the Tang dynasty. In the small Malay World section, look out for a spectacular Kelantan Makara, a huge goggle-eyed mongrel creature once used in rituals, while elsewhere you will find exquisite examples of porcelain, textiles, lacquerware, costumes and traditional huge procession statues.

The museum also has a restaurant, called “Empress”, serving traditional Chinese cuisine in a contemporary waterfront setting, plus a cafe, called “Privé ACM”, where you can relax at the alfresco area, enjoying view of the Singapore River and the city's business district skyline. The museum shop carries souvenirs and a wide range of books on Asian art.

Tip:
You can take one of the free English tours which are very worthwhile, usually beginning in June and running at 11:30am, 1:30pm, and 3pm most days; and if you plan to go to more than one museum, consider getting a multi-museum pass while you're here.

Opening Hours:
Sat-Thu: 10am-7pm; Fri: 10am-9pm
[English Guided Tours] Mon-Fri: 11:30am/1:30pm/3pm; Sat, Sun: 11:30am/1:30pm
9
Cavenagh Bridge

9) Cavenagh Bridge (must see)

Spanning the Singapore River with elegant suspension struts between the Empress Place and Fullerton Building (currently Hotel), Cavenagh Bridge is one of the witnesses of Singapore's eventful history. This is the only bridge to have survived intact in its original form since construction in 1869, when it replaced its rudimentary pedestrian predecessor.

Initially known as Edinburgh Bridge, called so to commemorate the visit by Duke of Edinburgh, it was eventually renamed in honor of Major General William Cavenagh, the last India-appointed Governor of the Straits Settlements. The bridge itself was built in Glasgow and then shipped to Singapore in sections where it was assembled by Indian convict laborers. In 1910, when the nearby Anderson Bridge was completed, the Cavenagh was to be demolished, but, fortunately, that decision was scrapped in favor of converting it to a foot bridge. Presently, as long as the pedestrians who cross it weight not more than 152kg or 336lbs individually – which is the technical restriction – they are welcome to pass!

Why You Should Visit:
A historic bridge right next to the Fullerton Hotel. Apart from the lovely views up and down the river and the historical significance, which is a big draw to the Cavenagh, there is an undeniably cute bronze family of cats – a cat and two kittens – to be found at the end of the bridge, near the hotel. On the opposite side there are bronzes of the children leaping into the water so tempting to follow their suit.

Tip:
More photo opportunities of sculptures depicting life back in the days of yore are readily available on the south side.
10
Merlion Park and Statue

10) Merlion Park and Statue (must see)

No tour of Singapore is complete without seeing the Merlion and the small park surrounding it that caters well to the tourists visiting the city. An imaginary creature, half fish and half lion, the Merlion has been used as a mascot and national personification of Singapore since 1964. The fish body symbolizes Singapore's humble beginnings as a fishing village back in the day when it was called Temasek, while the lion's head, on the other hand, stems from the old tale about the city's present name “Singapura” which translates from Sanskrit as the "Lion City".

Curiously enough, lions with fishtails can also be found on murals at Ajanta and Mathura in India, as well as on Etruscan coins of the Hellenistic period. Merlions, or ‘heraldic sea-lions’, are an established element of Western heraldry, and have been used on the coat of arms of the cities of Portsmouth and Great Yarmouth in the United Kingdom, as well as the City of Manila and the East India Company.

While being one of Singapore's most kitschy of attractions, sitting near this 9-meter statue, that spouts water from its mouth, does provide commanding views of the Marina Bay area, as well as of the city skyscrapers and the Singapore Flyer (if standing on its right). If you’ve already been to Raffles and got yourself a Singapore sling, well, a trip up the Merlion is the next logical step.

It can get really busy here but people come and go quite quickly so, with a little patience, you're bound to get a good shot of the statue. Better yet, try to enjoy the location more rather than worry about the perfect picture, and this place will definitely hit the spot.

Walking Tours in Singapore, Singapore

Create Your Own Walk in Singapore

Create Your Own Walk in Singapore

Creating your own self-guided walk in Singapore is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Colonial District Walking Tour

Colonial District Walking Tour

Singapore was first established as a trading post in Southeast Asia by the British India Company in 1819. Its strong colonial heritage has left a number of European style buildings lining the banks of the Singapore River in the heart of the city center. This self guided tour leads you through Singapore's Colonial District, taking in some of the most famous landmarks in the city along the way.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 Km or 1.2 Miles
Museums Tour

Museums Tour

Singapore's crazy population mix means that there are museums dedicated to the culture of each community that makes up the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural nature of this island state. This self-guided tour will take you through museums that display the Asian way of life, art and religion.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
Singapore Landmarks Tour

Singapore Landmarks Tour

Singapore is an island and a city state with a melting pot population of Asian people comprising the Chinese, Malay and Indians. The city was initially established as a trading post in Southeast Asia by the British East India Company in 1819 and was part of British colony until 1963. Its colonial heritage is still very visible in the city today. This self-guided tour will lead you through some of...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 Km or 2.4 Miles
Singapore Shopping Tour

Singapore Shopping Tour

Singapore being a melting pot of Asian nations, you can pick up stuff from all across Asia here. This self-guided tour will take you through pedestrian shopping plazas, historical shop-houses in Chinatown and local ethnic markets. Enjoy!

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.5 Km or 2.8 Miles
Chinatown Walking Tour

Chinatown Walking Tour

The Chinese make up a majority of the population in Singapore. Chinatown is, therefore, a district full of valuable historical monuments, fascinating museums, and tasty food markets. There are also many wonderful shop-houses that sell exotic items to be found nowhere else. This self-guided tour will take you through the most popular places in Singapore's Chinatown.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles

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