If your time in Singapore is limited, I recommend that you bypass the museums and head straight for the streets, where you'll find a living museum of sorts, with local people, food, shops, and places of worship, plus a couple of interesting cultural displays. Stop first at a Singapore Tourism Board (STB) Visitors' Centre to pick up copies of their walking tour pamphlets, one for each of Singapore's ethnic neighborhoods. Start in Kampong Glam, Singapore's historical home base for Malay heritage, then take an afternoon stroll in Chinatown, and in the evening, the night safari in Singapore Zoological Gardens is always a good time. Start: Taxi to Arab Street.
1. Arab Street
This short street is lined with shops that sell Malaysian and Indonesian batik cloth and home decor items, baskets, carved wood, objets d'art, and other gifts. Most places will be open by 10am, but if it's a Sunday, they'll be closed; in that case, head straight to the Sultan Mosque instead.
2. Sultan Mosque
Just off Arab Street, you can't miss the towering onion dome of this mosque. The most historic in Singapore, its grounds are open, so feel free to explore within its walls, including the ablutions area, where worshipers wash up before prayers according to Muslim tradition, and a small grave site with unmarked stones. Inside the front entrance, they have robes if you're wearing shorts or a sleeveless top. Come before the noontime prayers, especially on Fridays; otherwise, you may be asked to wait until they're finished.
3. Malay Heritage Centre
Just a 2-minute stroll from the mosque, the Malay Heritage Centre is inside the restored palace of the original sultanate. The staff here is really nice and can also chat about the local Malay culture from their personal experiences.
Take a taxi from Arab Street to the Chinatown Heritage Centre.
4. Chinatown Heritage Centre
Say goodbye to Malay culture and hello to Chinese and a welcome respite from the midday heat (it's air-conditioned!). The streets surrounding the center are packed with souvenir shops with tons of curious finds, plus some beautiful art and antiques galleries, so be sure to wander around a bit.
5. Yue Hwa
This Chinese emporium is practically a museum of Chinese handicrafts, filled with floor after floor of fabulous shopping. Excellent buys here include ready-made silk clothing, embroidered handbags, carved jade, pottery, and cloisonné. Unusual buys include musical instruments, men's coolie outfits, and plenty of strange Chinese interpretations of Western goods.
Take a taxi from Yue Hwa to Thian Hock Keng Temple.
6. Thian Hock Keng Temple
If you see any one Chinese temple in Singapore, this is it. One of the earliest built, it is a meaningful tribute to the Taoist gods and goddesses that have guided the Chinese community here. Try to get here before 5pm so you have time for relaxed exploration.
7. Night Safari
If you come from temperate climes, this is a rare chance to see nocturnal animals. This is the one place where all Singaporeans bring their foreign visitors, and I have yet to see anyone walk away unimpressed. Also, an easy dinner can be had from local- and fast-food stalls at the park entrance.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.