We have been traveling together to Singapore for the past 20 years to see family and spend time with friends, avoid winter weather, and travel to other places in Asia. During this time, we’ve been everywhere in Singapore (Regina grew up there), and there is a short list of things that we do every time we are in Singapore. The Singapore Botanic Gardens tops the list, closely followed by Gardens by the Bay and the Super Trees at night.
Established in 1859, the Gardens is the country’s first UNESCO Heritage site. It is the only tropical botanic garden on the UNESCO list. Our favorite place is the Orchid Garden. For families and children, we recommend the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden — the first children’s garden in Asia.
Most people only think about going to the Gardens during the day, but it is also open at night. A nighttime stroll will give you a whole different feel for the Gardens.
There is so much to do and see, it is impossible to experience it all in one trip. We recommend multiple visits — different times of the day or year, daytime and evening, or even to take a tour or a group exercise class.
Best Things To Do At The Singapore Botanic Gardens During The Day
Most people spend only a few hours at the Gardens, but you will need most of the day if you want to see more of the park. Here are some of the top stops to make on your journey.
Enjoy The National Orchid Garden (Tyersall Entrance)
If you are a fan of orchids, the National Orchid Garden is top of the list. It’s the largest tropical orchid garden in the world with more than 1,000 orchid species and 2,000 hybrids on display. Most first-time visitors spend most of their time in the Orchid Garden.
In the VIP Orchid Garden, you find hybrid orchids named after dignitaries from around the world. In the Tan Hoon Siang Mist House, you’ll find award-winning hybrids. For an in-depth experience, spend some time in the Tropical Montane Orchidetum.
Sometimes we just wander and enjoy the beautiful orchids in no specific order. Allow at least 2 hours for this garden.
Admire The Clock Tower
Most people walk right past the Clock Tower on the way to the National Orchid Garden. It’s worth stopping for a moment to admire. It was commissioned by Lady McNeice. She donated more than 20,000 bromeliads to the Gardens.
Visit The Swans At Swan Lake (Tanglin Entrance)
When you enter the main gate at Tanglin, a short walk will lead you to Swan Lake. A pair of mute swans live on the lake so keep your eye out. Created in 1866, it is a favorite for young and old. There is a pavilion and places to sit along the perimeter of the lake.
Delight In The Bonsai And Sundial Gardens (Tanglin Entrance)
The Sundial and Bonsai gardens are near Swan Lake. The Sundial Garden is a classical garden and is very tranquil.
Adjacent to the Sundial Garden is the Bonsai Garden, home to about 50 Bonsai specimens. We love viewing these delicately shaped trees.
Explore The Healing And Fragrant Gardens (Nassim Entrance)
With over 400 varieties, the healing garden is a great place to learn about medicinal plants. Themes of the garden include plants that heal the head, the respiratory system, and reproductive systems.
If you love butterflies, you’ll find them in the Fragrant Gardens as they are attracted by the flowers and the scents. It’s a wonderful olfactory experience for all.
Play In The Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden (Bukit Timah Entrance)
The Children’s Garden is large (4 hectares) and chock full of activities for children up to 14 years old. There are forest main parts of the garden: forest, farm, orchard, and trails.
Children will enjoy whizzing on the flying fox, getting lost in the maze, making it across the suspension bridge, and spotting different trees and plants. A family of otters lives in this area — if you’re lucky you’ll catch sight of them. There are also workshops for children. It is closed on Mondays.
Spot Animals At The Eco Gardens And Eco-Lake (Bukit Timah Entrance)
Eco-Lake is just on the other side of the Children’s Garden. It’s a great place for spotting animals. Surrounding the lake is the Ethnobotany Garden where you can learn about the traditional uses of medicinal plants and herbs. Nearby you will also find the bougainvillea and bamboo collections and a foliage garden.
Go On A Sculpture Hunt
There are 40 sculptures throughout the Gardens, including murals, gates, and fountains. Some are harder to find. Do a sculpture hunt as you walk or look them up online and plan your route.
Look Up At The Heritage Trees
As you wander the grounds, you’ll see enormous trees. Called heritage trees, many of these pre-date the establishment of the Gardens in 1859, making them more than 160 years old. There are panels near most of them telling of their history.
Best Things To Do At The Singapore Botanic Gardens At Night
Visiting the Gardens at night can be a magical time. The air is fragrant. The rainforests still, and the only sounds you hear may be the birds settling in for the night. Pathways are lit but it can be helpful to have a flashlight as well.
Take A Romantic Evening Stroll
The Gardens is perfect for a romantic evening stroll. Calm and peaceful. The Gardens are wonderful in the evening. Walk past Swan Lake, sit on a bench, or bring a picnic dinner.
Visit The Fragrant Garden
Beautifully lit at night, many of the plants in the Fragrant Garden emit lovely scents only in the evening. You’ll have a different experience as there are fewer visitors, it’s peaceful, and (hopefully) it’ll be less hot and humid.
Look For Nighttime Creatures
Swans, otters, monitor lizards, roosters, dragonflies, turtles, and more can be found in the park. Many of them are more active (and more easily spotted) in the early evening. Last time we were there, we saw a very large (seven-foot-long) monitor lizard stroll along the path.
View The Christmas Trees
During the Christmas season, companies and organizations pay to decorate trees that are featured throughout the Gardens. Funds raised go to charity. Last year’s theme was conservation, and there were many interesting trees with recycled materials (CD discs, hard hats, and more). You can see the trees during the day, but we prefer nighttime when they are lit. The clock tower area is especially beautiful.
Entering The Gardens
The Botanic Gardens is easily reachable by MRT (Singapore’s subway) or bus. It is located about 5 minutes away from Orchard Road by taxi or public transport. There are five entrances to the Gardens.
Tanglin Gate is the main entrance nearest to Swan Lake and the bonsai garden. It is the oldest part of the Gardens and dates to 1859. Tyersall Gate is closest to the National Orchid Garden and best for those driving as there is a parking lot. The Nassim entrance will bring you to the Healing and Fragrance gardens. If you enter by the Bukit Timah Gate, you will be closest to the Children’s Garden and to the Botanic Gardens MRT station.
The fifth entrance, Gallop (a new addition), is not easily accessible by mass transit.
There are visitor services counters at the Bukit Timah Gate, Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, the National Orchid Garden, and the Green Pavilion at the Tanglin Gate. Pick up a map at these counters — they are helpful to orientate yourself as the park is huge.
While it is free to enter the Gardens, there is a fee to visit the National Orchid Garden. There is a discounted fee for seniors. The National Orchid Garden is only open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The rest of the Gardens is free and open from 5 a.m. to 12 midnight daily.
When To Visit, What To Bring, And Where To Eat
The best time to visit the Gardens is either early in the morning or later in the day or early evening when the temperature is more comfortable.
Bring insect repellent (especially at night), sunscreen, a hat, water, and good walking shoes. Most of the paths are paved. Many people bring picnic lunches.
Bathrooms are located throughout the gardens. There are vending machines with cold drinks, shaded shelters, and benches sprinkled around the gardens.
There are a few dining options within the gardens. Fusion Spoon located at the Tanglin Gate is good for casual dining along with Bees Knees at the Garage near the Cluny Park Gate. Halia Restaurant is located near the National Orchid Garden. Little Spot Café is just outside of the Children’s Garden.