If you’ve seen photos of Singapore tourist attractions, you probably recognize the futuristic Supertrees that dot the small island’s cityscape. But these manmade tree-structures are just one aspect of an ambitious, completely modern urban garden project.
I was thrilled to explore Gardens by the Bay during a port stop on my segment of Holland America Line’s 80-day Grand Pacific & Far East cruise (you should check out their 113-day itinerary for next year!), and I walked away convinced that the Gardens should be a bucket list item for anyone making a visit to Singapore. Even if you’re just stopping by Singapore for a quick visit, you’d be remiss not to check out this particular tourist attraction!
What is Gardens by the Bay?
Aside from a bunch of tall, tree-like structures, what is there to see at Gardens by the Bay? I’m glad you asked! Although Singapore’s reputation as a finance and shipping capital might not suggest it, it’s actually home to one of the world’s most forward-thinking ecotourism projects. Basically, think “Central Park”—but smaller, partially enclosed in glass, and on futuristic steroids.
Overall, Gardens by the Bay is a massive project in environmentally conscious architecture and design. This 101-hectare lot on the water includes two world-class greenhouse conservatories, a skyway, and 18 solar-powered, sky-high Supertrees—and that’s just to start. It’s also the number one Singapore tourist attraction.
Whether you’re wandering through the Supertrees or exploring a greenhouse, you’ll see flora and fauna growing alongside ultra-modern design elements each step of the way. Pretty impressive, right?
Basically, this is an urban garden like you’ve never seen before—and it makes for a pretty memorable walk in the park.
Things to Do at the Gardens by the Bay
I’ll be honest: you’re going to be doing a lot of walking. But with so much to see, a little research can go a long way in making sure that you hit the highlights.
Walk on the OCBC Skyway
The view of the Supertrees from the ground is impressive enough, and one of the most popular of Singapore’s tourist attractions, but walking along the 22-metre high OCBC Skyway is an altogether different experience. The Skyway will lead you on a winding walk between the Supertrees, giving you a birds-eye-view of the Gardens and the bay below. For an even more surreal experience, you can visit in the evening, when the trees put on a music and light show.
See the Art Sculptures
What would an urban park be without a few art installations thrown in? At Gardens by the Bay, an art walk through the grounds will guide you past all kinds of sculptures by artists from around the world. And if you really want to plan out your visit, you can plot your course ahead of time using the Garden’s Sculptures Map.
Explore the Flower Dome
The Flower Dome, one of the Garden’s two greenhouses, is officially the largest glass greenhouse in the world. Not to mention it doesn’t rely on any columns or pillars for support, so it’s a completely open, bright, and vibrant space.
The Flower Dome is home to trees and blossoms from arid regions around the world, like South Africa, South America, Australia, California, and the Mediterranean. Ever wanted to go on an African safari or trek through the South American jungle? The Flower Dome is Singapore’s answer.
Walk Through the Heritage Gardens
The Heritage Gardens are all about Singapore. I couldn’t sum them up better than the folks at Gardens by the Bay: these four themed gardens give you the opportunity to “learn about Singapore’s diverse history and culture, told through the fascinating story of plants.”
If you’re on a layover or are just stopping at the port, like I was, touring the Heritage Gardens can be a good way to get to know Singapore when you’re short on time.
Stroll the Boardwalk Along Kingfisher Lakes
For a more secluded experience (ie: a little less tourists), you can turn to the boardwalk along the Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes. Gardens by the Bay has even turned this serene walk into an educational experience, for those who are curious to learn more about the area’s underwater ecosystems.
See the Forest in the Clouds
Not to be outdone by the world’s largest glass greenhouse next door, the Cloud Forest is the home to the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. At 1.5 football fields in size and the equivalent of 60 Olympic-sized swimming pools in volume, this greenhouse is a world unto itself.
The Cloud Forest’s major draw is that you can explore it from three levels: the ground level, the Tree Top Walk (closer to the canopy), and the Cloud Walk (at the very top of the mountain, above the clouds). The greenhouse’s manmade mountain might be only 115-feet tall, but it hosts diverse flora and fauna that naturally grow at heights of over 2,000 meters.
Marvel at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel
The Marina Bay Sands is yet another famous sight along Singapore’s skyline. If you’re lucky enough to stay at the swanky Marina Bay Sands Hotel, you’ll probably be tempted to spend at least a full day bouncing between the building’s ArtScience Museum, shops, restaurants, observation deck, and 57-story-high infinity pool.
For the rest of us, there are day passes for the observation deck, but the infinity pool is strictly for guests only.
You’ll have a few dining options at Gardens by the Bay, but Marina Bay Sands offers some luxury alternatives for those looking to branch out.
The famous infinity pool— the highest and longest in the world, they claim—is only accessible to Marina Bay Sands guests, but not everything is off-limits. Even without booking a room you can stop in for a meal, check out the museum, and see Singapore from the 57-stories-high SkyPark Observation Deck.
So often, Singapore is quickly passed over by travelers on their way to other Southeast Asian hotspots. For the most part, it still doesn’t have quite the allure to compete with some of its cheaper, better-known neighbors.
That said, this tiny island nation is completely unique, and Gardens by the Bay is just one of a growing number of the Singapore tourist attractions. Hopefully, this review has inspired you to add Singapore to your own bucket list.
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