Singapore is well-known for its sprawling garden displays, mouthwatering cuisine, and futuristic skyscrapers. Everything for a weekend stopover in Asia. 

Within this tiny country-city, you’d think that hidden gems simply don’t exist here. But you’d be wrong. 

Beyond those overly touristy attractions, Singapore hides a wealth of lesser-known treasures that are just waiting to be unearthed. If you think you’ve seen everything the Little Red Dot has to offer, think again!

In this post, I’ll take you past the selfie-stick-wielding masses jostling for the perfect picture with Marina Bay Sands in the background. REAL exploration happens off the beaten track. And seen as we’re Broke Backpackers, we’re looking to do it on a budget too.

So let’s deep dive into the most intriguing hidden gems in Singapore.

The sky trees of Gardens by the Bay lit up at night in green, blue and purple in Singapore.
Ohhh nice!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

What’s Singapore like?

Singapore is an island of gorgeous contrasts: on one hand, you’ve got the futuristic buildings, neon-lit casinos, and tropical parks stretching for as far as the eye can see. On the other hand, there are the colonial areas, WW11 military tunnels, thick jungles, and abandoned quarries. What’s not to love, right?

If this is your first time visiting Singapore, believe me when I say you really want to kick off your trip with a visit to the ridiculously famous Marina Bay Sands! Often said to be a destination for travelers who appreciate luxury, this resort also happens to be eye-wateringly expensive. Fret not though: you don’t need to actually stay in this 55-storey building to explore it.

Street art showing a man selling ornate masks in Singapore.
A bit of a culture blend.
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

Be sure to check out the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark, known for its 360-degree observation point. This spot can get quite crowded so it’s best to go early.

While you’re at it, you can also consider booking a Sampan boat ride along the still waters of the Marina Bay Canal in search of the Rain Oculus, an indoor waterfall that plunges down 2 stories. Yes, I did say indoor waterfall. Singapore sure doesn’t do things halfway!

If you’d like to check out some of the more popular attractions, you can always get a Go City Explorer Pass that’ll give you access to 2 to 7 spots.

But enough about these already-famous attractions and let’s venture off the beaten track! 

1. Wander the City Alongside a Local

Is there any better way of uncovering all those concealed treasures than by wandering a city alongside a local? I think not!

Well, with this activity, you’ll be able to see Singapore from the eyes of a local guide. When you get out of the places people stay in Singapore, you uncover secrets of this global icon – and you see what it’s really like.

Perfect for covering more ground in less time, this activity features both the well-known spots and the hidden gems.

What Tourist Services Have Reopened in Singapore

While you’ll explore popular landmarks like the Tiong Bahru Market and Chinatown, you’ll also uncover secrets that only locals would know about. Curated to help you experience a more authentic side to Singapore, this private tour also includes a special treat at a local eatery!

Bear in mind that walking around the city wears out your poor feet quickly. So forget those fancy flip-flops and pull out your comfy walking shoes.

  • Rating: 10/10 – Bucket list essential!
  • Cost: $150 – unless you’re lucky enough to find a friend.
  • Personal Opinion: I’ll remember this one forever.

2. Visit the Japanese Cemetery

I know what you’re probably thinking. What’s a cemetery (of all the things!) doing on a list of hidden gems in Singapore?

Well, wait until you see this place for yourself!

Tucked away in a tranquil corner of Hougang, the Japanese Cemetery Park dates all the way back to 1891. The largest of its kind in Southeast Asia, the cemetery is known for being exceptionally picturesque, with pink floral archways echoing Japan’s iconic Sakura season.

Japanese-Cemetery Singapore
Photo: ProjectManhattan (WikiCommons)

Covering a surface area of more than 29,000 square feet, the Japanese Cemetery Park also has sculptures representing heritage trees and Buddhist cultures. There’s even a prayer hall built in classic Japanese-style architecture.

While there’s no doubt that this is one of the most beautiful hideaways in Singapore, don’t forget that this is a cemetery, so please be respectful of the graves if taking pictures.

  • Rating: 8/10 – You should go.
  • Cost: $
  • Personal Opinion: A great way to open your perspective in Singapore.

3. Discover Colonial Singapore

Singapore is famous for its glitz, glamour, and gleaming buildings. But did you know that behind this ultra-sophisticated façade lies a gritter side of the city that few tourists know about?

If you want to immerse yourself in the island’s past and learn more about what life was like back when Singapore was a British Colony, you should sign up for this activity that takes you through the Civic District and the Old European Town.

National Museum of Singapore

While the tour features stops at famous places like City Hall, St. Andrew’s Cathedral and the National Gallery, you’ll also go off the beaten track where you’ll find lesser-known treasures like the Asian Civilizations Museum, the Old Hill Street Police Station, and the Central Fire Station.  

Oh, and did I mention that you’ll be treated to a scrumptious lunch right by the river?

  • Rating: 7/10 – Make it part of your route if you can.
  • Cost: $40
  • Personal Opinion: Good for crazy contrast in the city.

4. Hit the Lesser-Known Pubs

Singapore’s nightlife is pretty legendary: you’ve got the food stalls, the Azzura Beach Club, and the arcades – not to mention the Marina Bay Sand’s bars and nightclubs.

Hit the Lesser Known Pubs

But if your plan is to get away from the overly loud crowds, I can recommend this activity that’ll take you through some of the most magical places in Singapore. Perfect for travellers in Southeast Asia who’d like to mingle with the locals, this activity also features exclusive food and drink deals to help stay fueled throughout the night!

As you discover a whole new side of the Singaporean nightlife, you’ll also learn more about the local drinking culture. Because the tour features excellent networking opportunities, it’s also ideal for solo travelers.

  • Rating: 9/10 – I’d give it another point if drinks were cheaper
  • Cost: $25
  • Personal Opinion: I’m a sucker for a secret pub, soooo…. best time ever.

5. Uncover the Treasures of Fort Canning Hill

If you’re a history buff like me, this is one activity that you really can’t miss! I mean, this off-the-beaten-track adventure will literally take you on a history journey through both old and modern Singapore. What’s not to love, right?

As you explore the treasures that lie beneath Fort Canning Hill, you’ll learn more about the rise and fall of the empires that once ruled Singapore back when it was called ‘Singapura’. You’ll also visit a colonial fort that once saw the most important battle in history.

In addition, the tour also takes you into a WWII secret underground command centre known as the Battlebox. This is where the decision was made to surrender Singapore. Your experienced guide will let you in on plenty of historical titbits – something that’ll only enhance your fascination with the country’s past.

  • Rating: 8.8/10 – Ideal for suckers of WWII history.
  • Cost: $120
  • Personal Opinion: I wish I wasn’t hungover for this.

6. Learn the Secrets of the Local Cuisine

If you’ve always wanted to learn the secrets of Singaporean cuisine, here’s your chance! This was one of my favourite things to do in Singapore since it gave me the chance to try and replicate some of my favourite dishes back home.

Learn the Secrets of the Local Cuisine

Not only will your host help you delve deep into the local heritage, culture, and cuisine, but you’ll also learn more about the origins of each dish that you’ll be cooking. After a fun ice-breaker game, you’ll try your hand at cooking not just one but three different signature Singaporean dishes with your instructors.

Afterwards, you’ll get to connect with other travellers as you all sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

  • Rating: 10/10 – Learn all the secrets.
  • Cost: $75
  • Personal Opinion: I got real-life skills from this and a few mates too.

7. Relax in a Hidden Gem Cafe

I stumbled across this Singapore hideaway purely by accident while I was wandering the Bukit Merah area on a rainy afternoon. And boy, does Rookie’s Coffee Shop knock all these other flashy cafes out of the park!

This artisanal hidden gem cafe is often overshadowed by the popular eateries that lie in the vicinity but believe me when I say it’s worth a visit. Outside, the café looks pretty nondescript. The interior is quite small as well, with counter seating for around 6 guests. You’ll also find a few camper chairs outside where you can enjoy your coffee while watching the world go by.

Now, the menu is just as unassuming, but they definitely serve great-quality coffee- although I must say that their menu is quite small. In addition to the classic flat whites, black coffee, and hot chocolates, the place offers Aeropress coffee with beans from Kenya, Ethiopia, and Colombia.

  • Rating: 8/10 – Home away from home.
  • Cost: $
  • Personal Opinion: Perfect for a GOOD coffee.
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8. Uncover the Hidden Gems from a Scooter

Here’s another exciting activity that lends itself well to travellers who’d like to venture off that overly-trodden tourist trail!

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Singapore, hop on a kick scooter and traverse the city alongside a guide who’ll lift the veil off speakeasies hidden all over the city. You’ll find out what dark secrets lie behind these insanely famous attractions while hunting down off-the-beaten-track treasures peppered across the metropolis.

Clarke Quay ttd Singapore

It’s not just riding all over Singapore either: you’ll make regular stops throughout to enjoy a meal at a local restaurant followed by a classic Chinese dessert at a hidden back alley eatery. And yes- the meal, drink, and dessert are all included!

  • Rating: 8/10 – With wheels you see more.
  • Cost: $50
  • Personal Opinion: Worth at least trying.

9. Look for the Hidden Waterfall in Yunnan Garden

We’ve all seen those amazing pictures of the Jewel Changi Airport Waterfall floating around on social media!

But tucked away in the far west of the metropolis is Yunnan Garden, one of the most magical places in Singapore. Inspired by classic Chinese gardens, Yunnan features a lush landscape, with various elements designed to pay homage to Chinese architecture, culture, and literature.

Photo: Zhou Guanhuai (WikiCommons)

At the very heart of the park, you’ll find an 18-foot man-made waterfall tumbling spectacularly over a cliff of carved rocks to end in Nanyang Lake. From the waterfall, you’ll also be treated to sweeping vistas of the symmetrically laid-out garden.

A great destination for couples or parents travelling with kids, this secret place boasts a diversity of flora and fauna and wide, stroller-friendly boardwalks. You’ll also find ancient heritage monuments like the Grand Nantah Arch, the Red-Roofed Pavilions, and the Nanyang University Memorial.

If you’re in the mood for a hike, you’ll be glad to learn that the park even features 19 trails and routes to explore.

  • Rating: 9/10 – Chasing waterfalls forever and day.
  • Cost: $
  • Personal Opinion: I’ll be honest, I was impressed.

10. Learn About the Enabling Village

This was easily one of the best and most thought-provoking activities I did in Singapore!

A seriously underrated place, the Enabling Village aims to promote empowerment and inclusivity. During this 2-hour tour, a guide with a disability will take you on a unique experience in the heartlands of Singapore. You’ll discover how the village caters to the diverse needs of individuals with autism, intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, and sensory disabilities.

Enabling Village singapore

In addition to an inclusive preschool, the village even has a dental clinic and a gym that are specially equipped to cater to everyone, including persons with disabilities. An absolute first in Singapore, this village is a pioneering example of what an inclusive community should look like- and definitely worth a visit in my opinion!

  • Rating: 10/10 – Bucket list essential!
  • Cost: $50
  • Personal Opinion: Definitely don’t skip this one!

11. Hike to the Abandoned Seng Chew Quarry

Next up on our list of secret spots in Singapore is the Seng Chew Quarry, located in Bukit Gombak.

First things first before we get into that one though: while this hidden quarry isn’t a restricted zone, it is quite undeveloped and can be dangerous if you don’t know where you’re doing. As such, I really recommend that you hire a local guide to show you around Sen Chew. Remember to wear non-slip shoes since you’ll need to hike steep, hilly terrain to reach the quarry.

bukit gombak singapore

When you make it to the end of the muddy trails, you’ll be greeted with gorgeous views of the surroundings.

Some locals will tell you that the Sen Chew Quarry is a magical place because the water flowing from it has healing properties. Others will tell you that the place brings good luck. Whatever you choose to believe in, there’s no denying that the quarry is a great place to visit, especially if you’re looking for a unique viewpoint over the city.

  • Rating: 7/10 – If you like hiking, 10/10
  • Cost: $
  • Personal Opinion: Well worth the detour for a unique experience.
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12. Fuel Up at the Boh Geh Uncle Canteen

Another hidden gem café in Singapore, Boh Geh Uncle Canteen that’ll make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time!

Located in Seletar, this makeshift canteen lies by the side of the road and is a popular spot for joggers and cyclists. I’ll admit that the interior is quite unimpressive: after all, the cafe was once part of the former Seletar Camp that dates back to the 60s. Think mismatched benches and stools pushed haphazardly against rickety tables set under makeshift tarp covers.

As far as the food is concerned, the canteen features a drinks stall, a Halal food stand, and a Cai Png Shop which basically refers to a hearty portion of rice served alongside meats and vegetables of your choice. Nothing fancy, but everything’s super authentic and affordable!

  • Rating: 8/10 – Genuine Delight
  • Cost: $
  • Personal Opinion: Happy bellies for all.

13. Paste a Sticker on the Tuas Lamp Post 1

Okay, before you come at me, I know that it’s illegal to paste stickers on public property in Singapore. There is one exception to the rule though: the Tuas Lamp Post 1.

Located on the far end of Tuas, this lamp post is quite special to the local cycling community. It all started in 2014 when the lamppost was the destination for a 31-mile ride from the West Coast Park to Tuas. As soon as they reached their destination, the co-founder of the group pasted a sticker on the lamppost.

While the first stickers were initially removed, adding their own decorations to the lamppost soon became a tradition among local cyclists. In 2021, the transport minister legally authorized stickers on this lamppost in order to ‘brighten up life in Singapore’.

So, feel free to add your own mark to the lamppost if you feel so inclined. After all, this is practically the only place in Singapore where vandalism is not only legal but encouraged!

  • Rating: 6/10 – Worth passing by.
  • Cost: $
  • Personal Opinion: I wish I brought a sticker.

14. Explore The Mill

One of my favorite hidden gems in Singapore, The Mill is concealed in Bukit Merah’s industrial zone. It’s impossible to miss the building since it stands out from the others with its blackish hue façade and Art Deco architecture.

Even though it looks like an ancient castle, The Mill is a pretty modern establishment that houses a café, art galleries, and offices. If this building looks familiar to you, that’s because it was designed by the same people behind the local ‘Gotham building’- also known as Parkview Square.

If you’d like to check out the interior, rest assured that, unlike other industrial buildings, this one is open to the public and you don’t need a pass to get in. The Mill holds great events and it’s worth keeping an eye on their happenings page to see if there’s anything you’d like to catch while you’re in Singapore.

  • Rating: 10/10 – Without a doubt.
  • Cost: $
  • Personal Opinion: I’d come back to Singapore for it.

15. Mosey in a WWII Tunnel

Okay, let’s end our list of secret spots with a truly fascinating place!

Another great spot for history buffs, the Marsiling WWII Tunnel and Naval Base offers a fascinating glimpse in Singapore’s past. Located deep in the jungle, this military tunnel was originally built by the British to supply oil for the Royal Air Force. The naval base was abandoned after Singapore became an independent nation.

singapore marsiling WWII tunnel
Photo: sunriseOdyssey (Flickr)

While it’s one of the most underrated places on the island, the tunnel can be complicated to explore. I’m talking pitch-black bunkers, a barely discernable rope to mark the entrance, rusty pipes, thigh-high sludge…basically something that looks like it’s been plucked out of an Indian Jones movie!

For your safety, it’s important that you hire the services of an experienced guide who will guide you through the tunnel.

  • Rating: 8.5/10 – You don’t forget this one.
  • Cost: $30
  • Personal Opinion: Another for the history buffs.

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By now, I’m sure you’ve realized there’s no dearth of magical places in Singapore! But before you zip up your suitcase, check out the most commonly asked questions about this lively metropolis!

Final Thoughts

As you’ve probably realized by now, Singapore is all set to deliver one heck of a memorable trip! The island was quite unlike anything I experienced before and believe me when I say you’ll be counting down the days until your next visit.

If you’ve got some time to spare after exploring the hidden gems in Singapore, why not just carry on backpacking around Southeast Asia? I mean, that’s what I would do…

Looking for more info on visiting Singapore?
the singapore changi airport jewel waterfall
Not hidden – still a gem.
Photo: @joemiddlehurst

And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!