Posted: 2/16/2023 | February 16th, 2023
Singapore is one of the world’s smallest countries. But this tiny nation packs a punch.
Home to some 5.7 million people, Singapore is a cosmopolitan city-state that separated from the British in 1963 and gained independence from Malaysia in 1965. In the decades that followed, it evolved from a low-income country to one of the centers of world finance.
It’s a foodie’s dream, bursting with tasty hawker-stall offerings, delicious Indian cuisine, and fresh seafood. In fact, some of the cheapest Michelin-starred eateries in the world can be found here.
For more active visitors, there are hiking trails on which you can stretch your legs, numerous cycling paths, and plenty of kayaking adventures to be had. And when you run out of energy, there are beaches for chilling out and soaking up the sun.
Though a small city-state, each neighborhood in Singapore has its own unique vibe. Here’s my breakdown of them all so you can figure out where to stay in Singapore when you visit.
But, before I get into specifics, here are some common questions I get asked about Singapore neighborhoods:
What’s the best neighborhood in Singapore for budget travelers?
Kampong Glam is one of Singapore’s oldest neighborhoods. It has loads of shops selling textiles, rugs, and Turkish homewares; some delicious Arabic restaurants; the enormous golden-domed Sultan Mosque; and a ton of eye-catching street art.
What’s the best neighborhood in Singapore for families?
While many families gravitate to Sentosa for the beaches and laid-back vibe, Orchard Road is a much more central place to stay. Known more for being the shopping center of Singapore, it is well connected to the rest of the island, is filled with restaurants in the malls and along the street, and has some great family-friendly hotels.
What’s the best neighborhood in Singapore for first-time visitors?
Not far from the modern Central Business District, Chinatown is the best place to get a real sense of Chinese culture in Singapore. The streets are lined with temples, craft shops, stalls, and restaurants, so you can pick up a bargain here and then get some tasty food.
What’s the best neighborhood in Singapore for partying?
If it’s a buzzing nightlife scene that you’re after, any of the Quays (Clarke, Robertson, or Boat) are the place to go. They have loads of bars and restaurants and most of the clubs are in or around this area too.
What is the best neighborhood in Singapore overall?
Chinatown is centrally located and has (or is super close to) many of the island’s main attractions, including its delicious hawker food, beautiful temples, bright street art, and abundant history.
So, with those questions answered, here’s a breakdown of each neighborhood, with suggested accommodations for each, so you know exactly where to stay in Singapore:
Singapore Neighborhood Overview
Where to Stay for Sightseeing: Chinatown
Chinatown is my favorite area: it’s perfect for browsing shops and tasting local dishes. It’s also super central, so it’s easy to get to and from other popular parts of the island, including Gardens by the Bay, Little India, Kampong Glam, and the Botanic Gardens.
If you can, eat at Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle (aka Hawker Chan), the world’s most affordable Michelin-starred restaurant. Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice is another Michelin-starred hawker stall worth a visit. Like Hawker Chan’s, it’s located in the Maxwell Hawker Center.
Best Places to Stay in Chinatown:
- BUDGET: The Bohemian – This is a super fun hostel that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Right in the middle of Chinatown, and aimed solely at backpackers, it offers dorms and capsules, free Wi-Fi, and a shared lounge for hanging out and meeting other travelers.
- MID-RANGE: The Scarlet – This hotel in a preserved prewar shophouse (a building type serving both as a residence and a commercial business) is in a superb location for exploring Chinatown. It has a rooftop restaurant, an outdoor hot tub, a gym, and laundry and dry-cleaning services.
- LUXURY: The Park Royal at Pickering – At the high end of your budget, this property has been featured in a load of international publications thanks to its luxury eco-paradise approach, including living walls on its exterior. It has a fitness floor with an outdoor pool and a gym, as well as a scenic garden skywalk.
Where to Stay for Nightlife: The Quays
The three main Quays (pronounced “keys”) are Clarke, Robertson, and Boat. Packed with vibrant bars, tasty restaurants, cute cafés, and lively clubs, this is the best place to go for a night out (or just some fun people-watching). While the venues on the main drag (by the riverfront) are the most popular for their location, the side streets are where you can find some less touristy venues.
Best Places to Stay in The Quays:
- BUDGET: hipstercity hostel – There aren’t many hostels in and around the Quays, but this one is clean, comfortable, and friendly. It has a shared lounge and kitchen but also offers breakfast and free Wi-Fi.
- MID-RANGE: KINN Capsule Hotel – One of a handful of capsule hotels in the Quays area, KINN has air-conditioned cabins, a shared lounge, free Wi-Fi, a laundry facility, shared bathrooms, and a sun terrace.
- LUXURY: Paradox Singapore Merchant Court at Clarke Quay – With a huge outdoor pool, gym, sauna, and garden, Paradox is a luxe option for those who want to splurge and stay near the action. It also has a restaurant and a terrace with scenic views overlooking the city.
Where to Stay for Street Art: Kampong Glam
Graffiti in Singapore is illegal, but that doesn’t mean there’s not an abundance of street art all over town: the artists just need a license to paint there.
Kampong Glam, also known as the Arab Quarter, has the most street art on the island. Wander around Haji Lane, which is brightly decorated from top to bottom, and walk through Gelam Gallery, a backstreet dedicated to this kind of art. Singapore’s most famous street artist, Yip Yew Chong, has some murals here too.
Little India and Chinatown, both street art hot spots, are just walking distance away as well.
Best Places to Stay in Kampong Glam:
- BUDGET: Beary Best! – In the heart of Kampong Glam in a restored heritage building, Beary Best! is a capsule hotel with a laid-back vibe. It’s a self-check-in, self-service concept, with shared bathrooms and free Wi-Fi. The AC only comes on between 3pm and 9pm, but the payback is the roof terrace, which has great views of Sultan Mosque and surrounding neighborhood.
- MID-RANGE: Cube – Boutique Capsule Hotel – Another capsule hotel, this one is a short walk from the center of Kampong Glam. As well as en suite rooms, it offers free Wi-Fi, complimentary self-service laundry, free breakfast, and work spaces with business services should you need them.
- LUXURY: Village Hotel Bugis by Far East Hospitality – Village Hotel Bugis is at the intersection of Kampong Glam, Chinatown, and Little India, providing easy access to some of the best sights in town. It has a gym, an outdoor pool, and a couple of restaurants where you can feast on tasty local cuisine.
Where to Stay for Relaxation: Sentosa
If you’re in need of some R&R, look no further than Sentosa. One of Singapore’s 64 islands, it’s linked to the main one by a causeway. It is full of nice beaches, luxe resorts, and a load of attractions, including Universal Studios, an aquarium, bungee jumping, and much more.
It was also a strategic military point during World War II and Siloso Fort is an interesting place to explore if you want a break from the resorts and expensive activities.
Sentosa is not the cheapest area of Singapore, as there are only resorts to stay at, but if you’re in the mood to break the budget, this is the best place to do it!
Best Places to Stay in Sentosa:
- BUDGET: Siloso Beach Resort – There’s no such thing as a cheap place to stay on Sentosa (budget travelers are better off visiting for the day), but if you really want to find lodging on the island, Siloso Beach Resort is probably your cheapest option. It’s an award-winning eco-resort with a spring-water pool (the longest landscaped pool in the country), a gym, and spa.
- MID-RANGE: Oasia Resort Sentosa – A decent-sized resort, the Oasia has an in-house spa and recreational activities for guests, as well as a pool if you need to beat the heat. There are also yoga and wellness classes, as well as delicious eats at the bar and grill. It’s also in a great location, not far from Siloso Beach.
- LUXURY: Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa – The Shangri-La is one of the only resorts in Singapore to have its own private beach. Add to that the outdoor pool (including water slides), kids’ club, spa, and several restaurants, and you’ve got pretty much all you need. It’s more secluded than the rest of the resorts, but all the fun things to do are still within walking distance. Don’t confuse this hotel with its sister near Orchard Road (see below).
Where to Stay for Families: Orchard Road
Famous for its many stores and shopping malls that line the street almost from beginning to end, Orchard Road is one of the most central places to stay in Singapore, making it a great choice for families. Lots of the hotels here are family-friendly (although they can also carry a bit of a price tag), and there are many dining options around here too.
Best places to stay on Orchard Road:
- BUDGET: YMCA @ One Orchard – This won’t be the cheapest hostel you’ll ever stay in, and it only has private rooms, but you can’t argue with its location near the National Museum and the Istana (the impressive office building for Singapore’s president that’s used to receive and entertain state guests and only opens on select days of the year). (For more budget-friendly options, the Quays, Little India, and Kampong Glam are all close by.)
- MID-RANGE: York Hotel – Located just off Orchard Road, this hotel has a pool, a fitness center, and a restaurant that serves breakfast every day, as well as free Wi-Fi.
- LUXURY: Shangri-La Orange Grove – Considerably cheaper than the Shangri-La on Sentosa, this hotel has a huge pool, a splash area with slides, a kids’ club, and big gardens to explore. There are several restaurants, including one offering all sorts of Western and Asian food, as well as an Italian restaurant and a bar with snacks right by the pool.
Where to Stay Off the Beaten Track: East Coast
If you’re looking to get away from the main tourist trail, head to the East Coast. Around the Joo Chiat area is where some of Singapore’s most famous shophouses can be found; there is all manner of independent stores, restaurants, bars, and cafés to browse and hang out in. There are a few walking trails, some cool street art, several temples, and a decent beach with a long bike track that leads all the way into Gardens by the Bay and beyond.
Best Places to Stay on East Coast:
- BUDGET: Hotel Classic by Venue – This is budget-friendly hotel is located right on Joo Chiat, conveniently located very close to several markets with great hawker stalls. The clean and modern rooms all have AC and free Wi-Fi.
- MID-RANGE: Champion Hotel – Also on Joo Chiat, this hotel is in a Peranakan (Malay-Chinese) shophouse, making it a super cute place to spend the night. The rooms all come with complimentary beverages and toiletries, a TV, and free Wi-Fi, while the hotel has 24-hour security, internet kiosks, and laundry.
- LUXURY: Santa Grand Hotel – The Santa Grand is another hotel that’s in a historic shophouse. It’s not far from Joo Chiat, on East Coast Road, and it has its own restaurant and bar (although there are plenty of places nearby to check out too) and a laundry service. There’s also a beautiful pool and rooftop terrace for taking in the views.
Singapore is small, but there really is a lot to do here. The good news is that most of the attractions are between the center and the south of the island so you’re unlikely to have to travel too far to get anywhere, meaning you can find somewhere to suit your budget and plan accordingly.
Book Your Trip to Singapore: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- Safety Wing (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on Singapore?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Singapore for even more planning tips!
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