Some of the activities in this post are sponsored, and I wrote only about what we really liked. A special thank-you to Jyotika and Juliana for the warm welcoming at the Science Centre.
After spending a month in Paris, where almost everything felt difficult and dirty and smelled like pee (you can read about it in my parent-friendly guide The Truth about Paris with kids), we landed in Singapore, our first Asian destination.
We chose it because we wanted to ease in to our new Asian life, and Singapore is a mix between Asia and Europe. What we discovered, though, is that it’s also an amazing mix of cultures, nationalities and languages, and it’s also an amazing mix of nature, city, and metropolis.
There are no mixed feelings here, though—we loved our time in Singapore 100%!
Fun facts we learnt about Singapore:
- S’pore is an abbreviation for Singapore.
- The Jewel at the Singapore airport is an attraction in itself. So gorgeous. Allow time to visit it when you land or when you leave. (There’s also a paid canopy playground on Level 5!)
- You don’t need a ticket on public transport, pay directly with your contactless card (or Apple Watch 😉 You scan going in and again going out (using the same card!) and get charged based on the distance.
- You can’t take Durians (a fruit) onto busses because of their smell.
- To own a car you need to pay a licensing permit, min S$40,000!
- Singapore plans they city reforms and projects 50 years in advance! (Quite a change from Spain, that plans for the next year, and when the budget ends, the project is left unfinished)
- Once a year, the fires from the forests burning in Indonesia bring a week or two of haze to Singapore, and everything looks like this:
- You can’t buy or consume chewing-gum in SG, you can go to prison for it. (There are high fines for everything, but when you ask people if they’re happy with the government, the answer is always yes… because things work there!)
- You can almost always order a family Grab (private car app) that comes with a baby seat.
- Monkeys near nature reserves go to the houses and can open windows, cabinets and fridge to steal food. They love Parmesan!
- Don’t expect to enjoy the view on the beach, the horizon is filled with shipping boats 🙁
- They take education very seriously in SG: there are after-school learning centres, private tutoring and school ads literally everywhere.
- You can reserve a table at a Hawker Center by putting a package of tissues on the table. And do bring tissues, as your hands will get messy and there are no napkins on offer!
- In Singapore you speak Senglish (Singapore English, and it was so much fun to get used to it!
Where we stayed
It’s a ground floor with a beautiful swimming pool and gym right next to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve where we took hikes, and saw all sorts of animals (monkeys, turtles, squirrels, monitor lizards, tropical birds, snakes, flying foxes…).
Animals are neighbours here: people don’t really like monkeys because they steal food if they manage to get in the house, but we’re from Europe, so we loved them! 😉
If you’re staying in a different area, I’d highly recommend visiting the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve: there’s a small playground with a long zip line, but nature is definitely the main attraction here (especially the “turtle lake”).
La Tela tip: prefer weekdays over weekends, because it gets quite crowded on Saturday and Sunday.
How we got around
At the beginning we used most metro and busses (the Downtown metro line is very convenient), but unfortunately our condo was about 10 minute walk (20 minute with kids) away from the metro station and the bus stop, so by the end of our stay we were using Grab more than public transport.
In the app you can select what kind of car you want: the family Grab will come with an Urban Kanga for Emily (compact seat with 5-point belt) and one MiFold for Oliver (so we didn’t have to carry our own).
Places we loved
Singapore is so kid-friendly that I feel like this guide will be good for nothing—everywhere you go, you can be sure that you’ll feel welcome with your kids.
But you know me, I always research, try everything, and scout the best kid cafes and play areas: these are our favourite places (together with my tips to visit them).
We spent here a whole day, from 10am to 6pm: the kids never got tired… and didn’t want to leave (I was exhausted, but happy)!
KidsSTOP is not the usual indoor soft-play area, it’s an interactive and educational play area, where kids learn by playing (or play while learning). Oliver and Emily’s favourite areas were the “emotions cabins” and the food shelves where you can learn where your food comes from.
We were also lucky enough to watch The CATalyst show, which I absolutely loved: the actors were amazing, the script was great, the show was fun and itinerant, and it kept the kids focused for the whole time! It’s now over, but I really hope they’ll show it again soon.
We also had tickets to the Omni-Theatre show, which I found spectacular: unfortunately, though, Oliver and Emily were both scared, so we had to leave soon after it started (I was sooooo sad, best “cinema” I’ve ever been to!).
The Science Centre is connected to KidsSTOP by a long corridor, and we spent the rest of the day there. We had a quick lunch at Coffee Bee, and then went on exploring ALL the different exhibits, and in each one we found something suitable for Oliver and Emily to enjoy (don’t miss the movie Changing Climate Show in the Climate Change exhibit!).
We also watched the shows the Fire Tornado, the Tesla Coil and experienced the Dino Quest, but Oliver and Emily (4 and 2) only really enjoyed the Fire Tornado (the Tesla Coil was too loud for them, and the Dino Quest was fun, but better for older children, in my opinion).
This is a cute cafe in Dempsey, a very peculiar district, expat enclave in Singapore, and the area where you’ll find the most family cafes.
We had a lovely Sunday lunch at Carrosticks and Cravings: we were lucky fo find a table, because it usually gets quite busy on weekends so I’d recommend going during the week or booking a table.
I have to admit it, I wasn’t impressed when I first got here: the playground is on cement and the cafe is built in an old military barracks, typical of the Dempsey district. Also, the tables are all outdoors, so there’s no air-con, which is pleasant in the Singapore heat.
BUT. The food is amazing, fresh and healthy (honestly, the best food we’ve found in family cafes in Singapore, and in my opinion better than The Open Farm Community, which everybody talks about). The cafe decor is cute, and the staff is so kind, and welcoming. And the kids played non-stop for hours on the toy motorbikes and the trampoline… Alex and I couldn’t ask for a more relaxing time!
National Gallery for families
The National Gallery is a must! I took the kids by myself, planning to spend only a couple of hours, but instead we were there for about 5 hours!
It’s a bit difficult to understand how it works, and the website doesn’t help, so I’d recommend going to Level 1 (L1) and asking the staff (ask for Teresa: if she’s there, she’ll be very happy to help—please give her a hug from me!)… once you understand, there’s so much to do, and it’s ALL FREE!
The main rooms for kids are on Level 1. On Level B1 you’ll find the beautiful “Music room” and the “Illusion walk”, and there’s a couple more activities on Level 3 (if I remember correctly).
La Tela tip: the coffee shop Courtyard Cafe on the first floor is a good option for lunch: we had the corn soup and they were kind enough to make something up for Oliver who wanted a burger, but doesn’t eat meat (they made a delicious omelette burger!).
Oh, and don’t leave without going all the way up to the rooftop to see a breathtaking view of the skyscrapers!
Ps. To see the paintings you have to purchase a ticket: I didn’t know, so we visited a few rooms before the staff kindly pointed out that we needed a “blue sticker” to visit the exhibits (Oops! But at least I took the gorgeous photo above!).
You can’t come to Singapore and not visit Gardens by the Bay. It’s simply spectacular!
You can find info about it everywhere, but here’s my tips to have a pleasant experience with kids:
- Get the Attraction Bundle at the ticket counter, so you can visit everything without worrying about queueing. It also includes unlimited rides on the shuttle (great on hot days… which is every day in Singapore 😉
- If you don’t get the attraction bundle, then you can anyway buy the shuttle ticket: S$3 for unlimited rides. The park is amazing to walk, but not so much with kids complaining at every step…
- All the attractions, except the playgrounds, are indoors. Oliver and Emily enjoyed all of them, except for the 4D show at Floral Fantasy (lesson learnt: my kids are definitely afraid of big screens with loud sounds :-D)
- I’d recommend doing the OCBC Skyway on a different day (see below).
- For a quick and easy lunch head to Cafe Crema, which was decent and perfectly easy for what we needed!
- The easiest way to see the attractions without going back and forth is: Floral Fantasy 1h (right by the entrance, hourly time slots starting at 9am) > take the shuttle > Flower Dome 1h > have lunch > Cloud Forest 1h > playgrounds for the rest of the day 😉
- Don’t forget swimming suits!! There’s a huge water playground which is a glorious relief from the heat (and it’s got an amazing view!). Right next to it, you can’t miss the beautiful playground (it goes on for ages and it has many levels of difficulty)! We spent over two hours just in these two playgrounds… priceless! Oh, and they’re free!
- If you want some extra WOWs, make sure you visit the Marina Bay Sands hotel (it’s connected to the park through a bridge). If you want to see the infinity pool on the rooftop (we decided against it with kids), you should be able to avoid paying the entrance ticket if you go eat in one of the restaurants/cafes on the roof (just tell the staff at the ticket desk).
Gardens by the Bay is huge, so I was glad we divided it into two days. One day for the Attraction Bundle and one late afternoon/evening for the Supertree Grove Skyway (which is not included in the bundle anyway).
You can combine it with a visit to the Marina Bay Sands hotel (don’t forget the mall), an EARLY dinner at the SuperTree Dining food court by the Supertree Grove (we went at 7pm and it was way too crowded, so maybe 5.30/6pm would be a better option), AND the 7.45pm 15-minute Light Show (free). It’ll be crowded, but worth it!
You can even decide to watch the light show from up the Skyway (22m metres above ground), but make sure you buy the tickets as soon as you get to the park (there’s a max of people allowed), then you can have dinner, walk around and head there slightly earlier to enjoy the light show at 7.45pm (there’s another light show at 8.45pm, but with small kids we preferred the early one).
Chinatown and Downtown tour
Here’s a suggestion for a hard-core sightseeing DAY with little ones in Singapore.
Oliver and Emily especially loved the rooftop gardens where they slid down the cement by the stairs, and turn the giant “wheel”. Kids, you know?!
From here, with Emily in the carrier and Oliver in the stroller, we walked north zigzagging through the beautiful Chinatown streets, heading north-west: my destination was the Merlion, just to take this picture:
The walk from Chinatown to the Merlion was beautiful: we passed the Speaker’s Corner in Hong Lim Park (the only place where protests are allowed by the government, where you can also see the crazy “plant building”—as I call it), walked along the Singapore river where we took a picture with The Five Boys By The River:
We then crossed the Cavenagh Bridge, back on the Anderson Bridge, and after taking aaaaaall our pictures with the Merlion, we crossed the Esplanade Bridge and continued to Marché Mövenpick where we had a relaxing dinner, while the kids played in the play area (on our way there we also passed the F1 installations, as we were there in September!).
I’d say we rocked our hard-core sightseeing day!
Sentosa Island and Palawan Beach
I was skeptical about visiting Sentosa, as I heard it’s a tourist trap, and… it is! But I think once you know that, and you’re fine with it, you should actually visit it, because it’s got its charm.
La Tela tip: take a picnic lunch and plenty of snacks, because everything is super expensive on Sentosa.
You can spend the morning at Palawan Beach, cross the suspended bridge to the Southernmost Point in Continental Asia, enjoy looking for crabs on the beach, have your picnic, and climb up the towers for a spectacular view.
Then take the free bus (which stops pretty much in front of Palawan) and go check out the Resorts World Sentosa (honestly, it’s an attraction in itself!): there, you can spend the afternoon at the Aquarium, which is the most suitable activity for young kids.
La Tela tip: if you plan to go to the Aquarium, visit Sentosa on Tuesday or Thursday, so you can see the feeding of the sharks at 3.30pm, which was the highlight of our visit to the Aquarium!
Then walk to the “other Merlion” to take a few photos, and take the Sentosa Express to the other side of the bridge back to Singapore (you can also walk, but the kids will love the monorail!), and have dinner at Hans im Glück: it’s a restaurant in a mall, but it’s so worth it—trust me, you can watch the sunset while enjoying your burger (lots of vegan and veggie options, too!) at a table overlooking the harbourfront walk. You’re welcome!
La Tela tip: To spice it up, you can also get the cable car from Mount Faber Park to get to Sentosa (that was our plan, but the cable car was closed that week).
Biking on the East Coast
If you have time, I’d highly recommend you rent bikes for an adventure in East Coast Park! We rented three bikes from GoCycling (because they have a wide selection of kid bikes), one for me with seat for Emily, one for Alex and a 16″ kid bike for Oliver, and had an amazing time biking along the beach (despite the rain).
…then biked on a pier where people were fishing and from where we could see the coast, and then stopped for lunch at the first restaurant on our way, Central Thai, which turned out to be just what we needed: although the food was only decent, it came out fast (maybe a little too fast? ;), and the kids played outside on the toy horses and tigers for about an hour.
Four more places in Singapore that we enjoyed with kids are:
- Baker and Cook in Dempsey: nice grass play area, and you can have a pizza from their neighbour’s Plank (best pizza we had in Singapore)
- Our Second Nature: gorgeous clothes and coffee shop with the cutest play area, perfect to visit Holland Village—it’s nothing special, but we enjoy visit different neighbourhoods.
- The Tampines library: just wow! We read books non-stop for a couple of hours, the children section is simply gorgeous. The huge mall next door is also worth a visit.
- The Botanic Gardens: if you have little ones, just head to the (huge) kids area, the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, and spend all your time there! Delicious smoothies, books and toys at Food for Tots, inside the children area.
- Bonus: if you want to visit the shopping area and the famous Orchard Street, but you’re afraid it won’t be compatible with kids, at the 4th floor of the mall Paragon there’s a play area where you can catch your breath.
The Singapore experience is not complete if you don’t have a meal at a Hawker Centre.
We were lucky enough that Teresa, the lovely lady I met at the National Gallery, accepted to join us for dinner with her daughter Shannon at the Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre (in an old and quite unique residential area) and explain how it’s done: you reserve your table by putting something on it (a package of tissues will do), then go to one stall, order your food and move on to the next stall. When you’re done ordering, you go around again to pay and collect your food.
This Hawker Centre was actually perfect to experience with kids: it’s cleaner than the other ones I visited, it has a little swing in the downstairs garden, TVs in the table areas (which didn’t hurt!), and you can then take a walk around the district looking for cats, squirrels and Papaya trees.
La Tela tip: go around 5pm to avoid the crowd. Here’s the dishes Teresa recommended: Hokkien Fried Prawn Noodles, Chwee Kueh (water rice cakes, a must!), Char Kway Teow (noodles with cockles), roasted pork and duck, Rojak (traditional fruit and veggie salad), and Fried Carrot Cake (nope, it’s not a dessert).
Babysitter in Singapore
But if you are in Singapore and want a date night, write me an email at [email protected] and I’ll share a secret contact with you ;-)!
My Singapore Collection
As you know, I always create a collection of my favourite places when traveling. Here’s my Apple Maps collection for Singapore with children.