THE BEST PARKS AND GREEN SPACES IN SINGAPORE

Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park Singapore
Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park … one of the largest urban parks in Singapore

By LINDA JAMES | Updated MARCH 20, 2022 | SEE & DO

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There’s an extensive network of parks and green spaces in Singapore – in fact, it’s known as “the” garden city. While the skyline may appear to be a jungle of skyscrapers and modern architecture, beneath and around this grows a lush garden of green spaces.

Look closely and you’ll see vertical gardens hugging the sides of buildings, fruit trees and other plants thriving on city terraces and indoor gardens in commercial spaces.

It’s home to some of the most beautiful parks. In fact, Singapore has 400 parks and 4 nature reserves. The largest and most popular of the parks is East Coast Park. This doesn’t include Gardens by the Bay.

Visiting Singapore’s green spaces is one of the key activities on my lists of top 5 things to do.

This year saw the launch of the first phase of the Round Island Route, which means people will eventually be able to cycle/ride around the entire island!

This is part of the Park Connector Network (PCN), which is an island-wide network of green corridors that link all of the major parks and nature areas. There are more than 300km of trails, which also provide access to a wide range of natural habitats.

The greening of Singapore began in 1967 when the then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew outlined a plan to transform it from a polluted city to a green and sustainable model for the rest of the world.

If you’re looking for more detailed information and maps about Singapore’s public green spaces, the National Parks Board has an extremely good website.

Park Connector map Singapore
Singapore’s Park Connector Network … 300km of trails connect all of the parks. Source: National Parks Board, Singapore

Be warned: there are so many public gardens and nature reserves you can explore – some would take days to discover fully. Take along a picnic rug and lunch and breathe in the fresh air while you reconnect with your green-self!

Botanic Gardens

These are impressive but, if you’re short on time, then at least check out the Orchid Garden, which has the most amazing collection of orchids I’ve ever seen. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the gardens are also very easy to get to – a quick bus ride from Orchard Road.

The gardens are based on four concepts: heritage, tourist, education and education and discovery.

Swan Lake is home to a swan sculpture and is also packed to the brim with koi, which bob at the surface for food any time a person is near.

This is a good way to spend a morning before a hectic afternoon of shopping on Orchard Rd. The two are walking distance apart or a quick bus ride.

Botanic Gardens Singapore
The Botanic Gardens … the Orchid Garden is a must-see
Address: 1 Cluny Rd (there are other entrances though)
Open: 5am to midnight; Orchid Garden 8.30am-7pm daily (last entry 6pm)
Cost: Open gardens are free; Orchid Garden for residents is $S5 adults, children below 12 are free; non-residents $S15 for adults and children below 12 are free
Getting there: near Orchard MRT; buses - 7, 105, 123, 174, 174E

Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park

In the middle of housing developments, this park covers 62ha, making it one of the largest urban parks in Singapore. While its far enough away to not be on every tourist’s radar, if you’re interested in seeing what can be achieved.

The park is packed full of amenities with a cycling track, open lawns and restaurants. There’s also a promenade by the 3km river, which was once an old concrete canal. Now its banks are home to wildflowers.

There’s also an inclusive playground in River Plains, which has a wheelchair-accessible merry-go-round and wheelchair swing.

Address: Bishan Road and Ang Mo Kio Ave 1
Open: 24 hours (lighting from 7pm-7am)
Cost: free
Getting there: By bus services (50,53,55,58,71,262) from Ang Mo Kio Bus Interchange or Bishan MRT Station; 5-minute walk from Brighthill MRT Station

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Bukit Timah Hill, at 163m high, is Singapore’s highest hill and is on the western fringes of the 163ha central nature reserve, which was established in 1883 by the then superintendent of the Botanic Gardens Nathaniel Cantley.

The area was once even home to tigers although the last one was shot in the 1930s. However, it is still populated with long-tailed macaques and features a host of flora and fauna.

There’s a visitor centre on site that features historical exhibits as well as information about the forest ecology and plant specimens. If you take the bus, you’ll get an interesting insight into the Singapore outside the city centre.

Address: 177 Hindhede Dr
Open: 7am-7pm daily
Cost: free
Getting there: a 14-minute walk from Beauty World MRT station (DT5), exit A; or a 67, 75, 170, 171, 184, 852 or 961 bus 

Coast to Coast (C2C) Trail

This 36km trail crosses Singapore, linking up nature areas, parks and park connectors from Jurong Lake Gardens in the west to the new Lornie Nature Corridor near the centre and Coney Island Park in the north-east. You can explore the trail on your own using the C2C (Central) online Trail Guide or the C2C Mobile App.

Address: Start at Jurong Lake Gardens, Yuan Ching Rd
Open: 24 hours
Cost: free
Getting there: near Chinese Garden MRT (EW25), 14 min walk; buses – 154,154B,49

East Coast Park

At 185ha, East Coast Park is the biggest park in Singapore, attracting a whopping 7 million visitors a year. Not only that, it has 15km of coastline (all reclaimed) packed full of cycle and walking paths, bicycle and rollerblade hire stalls, play towers, a water play area and a skate park – especially perfect if you’re looking for things to do with children.

It also has barbecue and picnic areas and restaurants, bars and cafes as well as a hawker centre – the only one in Singapore that offers ocean views! Specialties at East Coast Food Lagoon include the satay and, of course, seafood.

As well as all this, East Coast Park is the prime spot for watching the A380s land at Changi.

The park is part of the first phase of the Round Island Route launched earlier this year, which stretches across 75km of the eastern half of Singapore, and will eventually go around the entire island.

Address: East Coast Parkway, East Coast Park Service Rd
Open: 24hrs a day
Cost: Free (individual activities may have a fee)
Getting there: Buses are the best for this one – the 14 and the 36
East Coast Park Singapore
East Coast Park … the biggest and most popular in Singapore

Fort Canning Park

This iconic landmark has seen a lot of history in its time, most notably it was the place where the decision to surrender Singapore to the Japanese was made in an underground bunker known as the Battle Box. It was the headquarters of the Far East Command Centre and British Army Barracks and centuries earlier home to 14th-century kings. Now it has 9 historical gardens complete with trail guides so you can explore as little or as much as you like. It’s a popular local attraction and hosts a wide variety of festivals, theatre and dance productions.

Address: 170 River Valley Rd
Cost: free
Open: daily
Getting there: Near Fort Canning MRT (take Exit B, turn left to Jubilee Park. You can also take the covered escalators); Clarke Quay MRT (take Exit E, turn left and walk along Coleman Bridge. Turn left again at the end of Coleman Bridge and head towards the pedestrian overhead bridge on River Valley Rd. Cross the overhead bridge); near Dhoby Ghaut MRT (take Exit B, cross Penang Rd, turn left and take the tunnel to Fort Canning Park)

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay is probably the most famous of all the gardens in Singapore and the Supertrees here have become one of the most iconic representations of the city. No visit would be complete if you missed them.

What I particularly like about Gardens by the Bay is that there are a host of free activities as well as paid so if you don’t have a lot of money, you don’t have to miss out.

The main free attractions are Supertree Grove – and the Garden Rhapsody light and sound show – the outdoor gardens and the Far East Organisation Children’s Garden. The key ticketed ones are the Floral Fantasy, Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest as well as the OCBC Skyway, which gives you a fantastic view of the Supertrees.

Covering a massive 101ha, you could spend many days here and still not see everything.

Address: 18 Marina Gardens Dr
Open: daily 5am-2am but individual attractions have specific times
Cost: See individual attractions above 
Getting there: Near Bayfront MRT (CE1/DT16), take Exit B and follow the underground linkway, then exit and cross the Dragonfly Bridge or Meadow Bridge into Gardens by the Bay; buses – from Tanjong Pagar MRT (EW15), take Exit C and head to International Plaza Anson Road to bus stop 03223. Take bus 400 and alight at bus stop 03371 along Marina Gardens Drive; on foot from Marina Bay Sands Hotel, cross the overhead bridge (Lions Bridge) open daily from 8am-11pm or walk through underground linkway via Bayfront MRT

Jurong Bird Park

This park has an amazing variety of species from flamingoes to the Philippines eagle, which preys on monkeys – that’s how strong it is! You can even get up close to them in the Wings of Asia section and there are two 20-minute shows a day – the Kings of the Skies and High Flyers.

There’s an unlimited hop-on, hop-off tram as well as dry and wet play areas for children so don’t forget to take along swimwear.

Address: 2 Jurong Hill
Open: 8.30am-6pm
Cost: Online tickets $S28.80 for adults (13 and over) and $S18.90 for 3-12s. Residents $S25.60 and $S16.80.
Getting there: Take the East-West MRT line bound for Tuas Link, and alight at Boon Lay (EW27). From the Boon Lay bus interchange, take bus 194, which will take you straight to Jurong Bird Park 

Jurong Lake Gardens

Singapore is noted for prioritising its green spaces and these gardens are the third and newest of the national gardens. The 90-hectare gardens include Lakeside Garden, the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, and Garden Promenade.

Lakeside Garden is open and the Chinese and Japanese Gardens are expected to be soon.

The reserve is home to aquatic plants and dragonflies as well as squirrels, long-tail macaques and smooth-coated otters. There’s also a wide variety of butterfly species, from Plain Tiger butterflies to Chestnut Bobs.

The gardens are divided into areas such as the 2.3-hectare Forest Ramble, a huge nature-themed play space with 13 different installations for children from zip lines, slides and swings to suspended bridges, obstacle courses and miniature trampolines in the shape of lily pads.

There’s also Clusia Cove—a play area that resembles a coastal shore, with low sandy dunes and shallow water for the kids to play in.

The sensory zones of the Therapeutic Garden are designed particularly for the elderly with dementia and children with disabilities, who can also visit the Butterfly Maze.

There’s a boardwalk over the lake and you can hire kayaks as well.

Address: Yuan Ching Rd
Open: 24 hours
Cost: free
Getting there: near Chinese Garden MRT (EW25), 14 min walk; buses – 154,154B,49
Jurong Lake Gardens
Jurong Lake Gardens … 90ha of gardens divided into different zones

Lower Seletar Reservoir Park

The boardwalks here make it a popular place with joggers and walkers along with those who enjoy water sports with kayaks and dragon boats available to hire. There’s a family bay with a performance stage, a water play area and rain garden, as well as a Heritage Bridge and a fishing jetty.

Address: Yishun Ave 1 and Lentor Avenue
Open: 24 hours
Cost: free
Getting there: Nearest bus stop (Bus 1N, 39, 85, 85, 851, 852, 853, 853, 854, 855, 857, 858, 965); nearest MRT station (Khatib MRT); Rower's Bay: nearest stop (103, 117)

MacRitchie Reservoir Park

This is one of the oldest of Singapore’s reservoirs and is in the south-eastern corner of the central reserve. Created in the 1860s, it contains 20km of trails that take hikers deep into the rainforest. It’s also popular for kayaking and tai chi.

There’s a treetop walk, a 150m circular trail suspended above ground that give you a monkey’s-eye view of the forest, a learning trail that explains the history, biodiversity and fauna at the reservoir, and a submerged boardwalk.

Amenities include a multi-storey carpark, a floating pontoon for kayakers and hilltop cafés.

Maps of the trails are available from Singapore National Parks.

Address: 601 Island Club Rd (close to Singapore Island Country Club, Venus Dr)
Cost: free
Open: 7am-7pm daily; treetop walk – 9am-5pm (weekdays), 8.30am-5pm, closed on Mondays
Getting there: Marymont MRT station; buses – 52, 74, 93, 130,132, 156, 157, 162, 162M, 165, 166, 167, 852, 855, 980

Mt Faber

While you can drive to the dining and entertainment complex at the top of Mt Faber, taking the cable car is half the fun and gives you an incredible bird’s eye view of Singapore. This is the same cable car system that links to Sentosa Island so you can check off two sites in one visit.

This is certainly one of the best outlooks in Singapore and there are a number of restaurants and bars to help you take advantage of it. You can even book a dining “experience” in a cable car.

The complex is at the top of Mount Faber Park, one of the oldest in Singapore.

At an elevation of 105m, Mount Faber is home to exotic flora and fauna that thrive in the rainforest that covers its slopes.

Mount Walk is a 0.8km trail that provides amazing views of the Southern Islands. As part of the Southern Ridges, it includes the Kent Ridge Park, Hort Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park and Labrador Nature Reserve.

Mt Faber is the perfect place for a family picnic. There are also guided tours of the park.

Must-dos include checking out the baby Merlion, the “Rainbow Steps” (a very grammable spot) and ringing the Bell of Happiness, a bell that came from the Polish tall sailing ship Dar Pomoza. It’s a popular thing to do for visitors and newlyweds, who believe ringing it together will bring them eternal happiness, peace, and harmony. You can even buy a “wishing bell” from the cable car shop, write down your wishes, and hang it on the fence.

I’ve never had problems getting tickets for the cable car but if you decide to go in peak times – or want to book one of the dining options – I suggest you book in advance to make sure you get what you want.

Address: 109 Mount Faber Rd
Open: 24 hours
Cost: free
Getting there: near Harbourfront MRT (NE1/CC29) 5 min walk to the Marang trail at the base of mountain; buses - 143,145,188E,65,97E; cable car from Harbourfront

Pulau Hantu Islands

This is one of the best islands in Singapore for snorkelling and is only 30 minutes from the city. “Hantu” is the Malay word for ghost and Pulau Hantu is the “island of ghosts” recalling a time when ancient Malay warriors once duelled to the death and their ghosts wandered the island.

In actual fact, Pulau Hantu is two islands: Hantu Besar (Big Ghost) and Hantu Kecil (Small Ghost) that you can even walk between at low tide or go to and from on bumboats. They’re famous for amazing coral reefs, morale eels, clownfish, nudibranchs and seahorses.

Both islands feature white sand and palm trees. Hantu Besar has two swimming lagoons, fresh water and a public toilet. Both picnic areas and shelters.

Open: 24 hours
Cost: free
Getting there: there is no public transport, you would need to hire a bumboat yourself or join a diving trip

Pulau Ubin Islands

On the other side of Singapore, near Changi Airport, is the island known simply as Ubin. The island, which is managed by the National Parks Board, is part of the Ubin–Khatib Important Bird Area (IBA) because it supports significant numbers of visiting and resident birds.

The name means “Granite Island” in Malay, reflecting the number of now-abandoned granite quarries, which once supplied Singapore’s construction industry with floor tiles.

The granite was also used to build Horsburgh Lighthouse with huge rock blocks (30 feet by 20 feet) ferried from the island to Pedra Branca in 1850 and 1851.

Later, it was also used to build the Singapore-Johor Causeway.

Pulau Ubin Recreation Area, which includes Chek Jawa, was created to cater to local tourism. The site is about 700ha within the 1020ha Pulau Ubin.

Chek Jawa wetlands contain six major habitats and support a whole host of marine wildlife such as sea hares, sea squirts, octopuses, starfishes, sand dollars, fishes, sponges, cuttlefishes and nudibranches.

Chek Jawa Wetlands is at the eastern end of Pulau Ubin, about 3km from the public jetty. You can get a taxi or rent a bike or, if you’re really keen, hike for 40 minutes.

There is a visitor centre with a viewing jetty. Visitors can use the 1km boardwalk, which has mangrove and coastal loops) to check out the various plant and marine life in the mangroves and there is even an opportunity for some people to walk on the tidal flats. There’s also a 21m viewing tower called the Jejawi Tower.

Given your viewing is subject to the tides, it’s a good idea to check them out to make sure you can see as much as possible.

You can do a guided tour, which costs $S60 for a group of 5. However, there are very limited days and times so get in early if it’s something you really want to do.

The island is also popular for mountain biking and houses one of Singapore’s mountain bike trails, Ketam Mountain Bike Park. It’s about 8km with a variety of terrain and elevation. Visitors can rent bikes from local vendors.

Address: near Changi Point Ferry Terminal
Open: Seven days, 9am to 5pm.
Cost: $S4
Getting there: 10-minute bumboat ride from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Each boat carries 12 passengers and the captain waits until it’s full. If you don’t want to wait, you can pay $S40 for the whole boat.
Getting around: Bike rental ranges from $S5 to $S20 (whole day). There are also taxis available.

Southern Ridges

These are made up of 10km of green spaces that connect Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, HortPark, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Nature Reserve. Popular with hikers, nature lovers and families, there are some great views to be had of the city and the southern islands as well as a host of flora and fauna.

Some of the things to see include Henderson Waves, which is 284m long and 36m above Henderson Rd, connects Mount Faber Park to Telok Blangah Hill Park and is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore; the Forest Walk and Canopy Walk; and Berlayer Creek at the Labrador Nature and Coastal Walk.

Address: Henderson Rd
Open: 7am-7pm daily
Cost: free
Getting there: bus 145 takes you right to the bridge and there’s a staircase; 20-minute walk from Mt Faber cable car station

Conclusion

Singapore is almost one giant garden interspersed with some high rises, which themselves are often “greened” with vertical and rooftop gardens. These are just 15 of the amazing parks and green spaces in Singapore, which will eventually all be connected around this beautiful island state. When you’re visiting the parks, keep you eyes open for public artworks and historical monuments.

Want more of Singapore?

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