There’s no lack of things to do here in Singapore. Just do a simple search online and you’ll see a whole list of places to go and activities to do — swimming atop Marina Bay Sands in the Infinity Pool, strolling along the Botanic Gardens, Singapore’s only UNESCO Heritage Site, or even having a day out with the family at Universal Studios Singapore. There truly is a lot to see and do here.
These places are definitely iconic, and they attract tourists who want to see and experience Singapore’s sights and sounds. However, not all visitors are interested in these popular hot spots. Instead, they would prefer the road less travelled, or would rather have an authentic and off-beat holiday — in essence, they would rather experience the lesser known side of Singapore.
If you’re one such person, you’re in luck. There are many hidden gems in Singapore, and while they may not possess the same glitz and glamour as the main tourist attractions, these spots are filled with their own charm and have a different kind of appeal. Here are some of Singapore’s quietly underrated tourist attractions.
Haw Par Villa
Haw Par Villa is classified as a theme park, but if you were to head on down, you’d be in for quite a surprise. There are no Ferris wheels or roller coasters, or anything that you would think you’d find in a regular theme park.
Instead, Haw Par Villa is both weird and wonderful, delightful yet morbid. It was built in 1937 by Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par — two brothers who were famous for creating the famous Tiger Balm ointment (which is why Haw Par Villa is also known as Tiger Balm Gardens). Instead of theme park rides and game stalls, Haw Par Villa is full of statues and dioramas that depict characters and stories from traditional Chinese history and mythology.
You’ll see scenes and characters from popular stories like Journey to the West, and the main attraction would be the Ten Courts of Hell — a gruesome display of miniature statues and tableaux depicting what would happen to you when you pass into the afterlife as a sinner. It’s a safe bet to say you never have and never will see another theme park like this anywhere else in the world.
Wild Wild Wet
If you’re looking for some fun in the sun, but don’t want to jostle with huge crowds, why not pay a visit to Wild Wild Wet? This huge water theme park is located on the Eastern side of Singapore, and while it isn’t as popular with tourists when compared to Sentosa’s Adventure Cove water park, it’s definitely a lot less crowded — which means you won’t need to queue up for rides.
You’ll find everything from water slides to lazy rivers here. There’s even a huge wave pool where you can bob up and down and experience what it’s like when a wave comes at you. Want something a bit more thrilling? Take the plunge and try the Vortex — Singapore’s first high-speed full looped water slide — or the Free Fall — a near-vertical slide where you’ll drop at speeds of 15 metres per second.
If you’re travelling with your kids, you can be sure they’ll enjoy themselves at Wild Wild Wet too. There’s a whole zone of the park dedicated to kid-friendly activities and rides and an enormous playground with shallow pools for them to play in. It’s fun for the entire family!
Old Airport Road Food Centre
Everyone knows the best food is not found at touristy places, and it’s the places the locals go to all the time that are worth checking out. This holds true in Singapore, and to a greater extent than usual because Singaporeans are extremely passionate when it comes to food.
Hawker centres are considered to be a quintessential part of Singapore’s dining experience, and many tourists are always keen to try it for themselves. Places like Lau Pa Sat and Makansutra Gluttons Bay are hawker centres where most tourists frequent, but you won’t see as many locals. That’s because the food at these places are more expensive than other hawker centres, simply because these are tourist hot spots and stall owners want to capitalize on profits.
If you want to experience the same good food that local Singapore residents eat, come pay a visit to the Old Airport Road Food Centre. This humble hawker centre in Kallang may not look as new or flashy as the touristy ones, but some of the stalls here are considered to be the best in Singapore, with tasty and cheap food. With more than 150 different stalls selling all sorts of food, you can be sure that there is something here to suit any taste. We recommend trying the beef noodles at Hock Lam Street Popular Beef Kway Teow, or the fish and chips at Western Barbecue.