The area around the small inlet to which the Singapore River flows, not far from the town centre, is fast becoming Singapore's new "City"… Reclaimed land is quickly covered with modern skyscrapers, luxurious hotels and international cultural centres, as part of a long term plan to turn Marina Bay into Southeast Asia's trendiest shopping and entertainment zone.
We will start our day at Esplanade MRT Station and walk through exit D to our first destination : Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay: An imposing architectural project that was inaugurated at 2003 and has become as architecturally significant for Singapore as the Opera House is for Sydney.
The two colossal domes, which can be seen from every spot around Marina Bay resemble Southeast Asia's "king of the fruits" – the notoriously smelly Durian, which can be seen in every wet market around the region and, indeed, the whole complex is better known by its local nickname - "The Durian".
Underneath the durian-shaped domes, there are two grand performing halls : a 1,600 seats concert hall and 2,000 seats theatre. Otherwise, there is a nice shopping mall within the complex, where you can find some unique shops, selling performing arts related goods (movie memorabilia, handmade guitars and more...)
There are also some good restaurants here, including some that allow you to dine alfresco, facing the bay, but the real culinary draw of the complex is the "Makansutra Gluttons Bay", which operates daily, from 5 pm and incorporates some of Singapore's most popular food hawkers (At the open piazza, near the waterfront).
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Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay is open daily, from morning till evening and admission is free… One recommended way to visit the place is with their iTour (a " Personal Digital Assistant device" that allows you to tour the place on your own, while listening to commentaries). The iTour device can be picked at the Concert Hall Information Counter, every day from 10am to 6pm (including weekends and public holidays)
From here, we proceed to CityLink Mall - Singapore's first underground mall and through it we shall continue to one of the city's biggest and most popular shopping centres – Suntec City Mall.
This immense and ultra-modern shopping mall covers an area of almost 100,000 m2 and boasts 400 shops, restaurants and coffee shops, that are scattered on four floors of a long, L shaped building, engulfing the beautiful "Fountain of Wealth".
To make things easier for shoppers, Suntec City Mall is smartly divided to four themed zones: "The Galleria" is located on the ground floor of the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre and comprises mostly of high-end boutiques, where you can find a choice of leading international brand names. Most of the shoppers here are those international business travellers who frequent the centre.
The magnificent "Fountain of Wealth" earned itself a place in the 1998 Guinness book of records as the world's largest fountain.
The second themed zone is called "The Tropics" and offers a more wide-ranging variety of outlets for a wider budget range, with added emphasis on lifestyle merchandise and services.
As its name suggests, "The Entertainment Centre" is where you can find a variation of entertainment options… From a 5-theatre cineplex, to a fitness centre, a gaming arcade, and even Carrefour's first outlet in Singapore, which occupies an area of 13,006 m2 over two floors.
The Fountain Terrace boasts a choice of restaurants, cafés and eateries, facing the internationally famous Fountain of Wealth, which made it to the Guinness Book of Records in 1998, as the world's biggest fountain.
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We leave Suntec City Mall, cross the roundabout that encircles the fountain and start walking down Temasek Boulevard. After two or three minutes you will see the entrance to Millenia Walk on your left hand side. This mall is far smaller than Suntec City but is more characterful… The main draw here is a decent variety of lifestyle shops, targeting cosmopolitan crowd.
At this point, you have two options: You can pass through Millenia Walk and then turn left to Raffles Boulevard and walk along it all the way to the end, or, you can skip Millenia Walk and continue walking down Temasek Boulevard until you reach the corner of Raffles Boulevard, where the entrance to Marina Square can be found.
Marina Square, the area's first shopping mall, has opened back in the 1980s but still manages to keep its fresh look and popularity.
(BTW: You may just as well skip both Millennia Walk and Marina Square, as you are likely to see enough shops today in any case).
Whichever way you decide to go, you will have to walk along Raffles Boulevard till the end, in order to get to our next destination - The Singapore Flyer
Currently the world's largest Observation wheel, The Singapore Flyer snatched the title from the London Eye and China's Star of Nanchang. It comprises a 150 m (492 ft) diameter wheel, built over a three-story terminal building, giving it a total height of 165 m (541 ft). Each of the wheel's 28 air-conditioned bus-sized capsules is capable of carrying 28 passengers, and a complete rotation of the wheel takes approximately 30 minutes.
Thanks to its location, on the southeast tip of the Marina Centre reclaimed land, the wheel provides some amazingly broad views of the city centre and beyond, to about 45 km, including the Indonesian islands of Batam and Bintan, as well as the Malaysian town of Johor and its surroundings.
The Singapore Flyer operates daily, from 8 am to 10 pm, and a basic ticket (One full round of 30 minutes) costs about SG$ 30 for an adult and SG$ 20 for a kid.
For more information, you can either call the Singapore Flyer on 6333 3311 or visit this website, where you can purchase tickets and check if there are any special promos going on.
A small tip from 'Metropolasia-Man':
To really enjoy the Singapore Flyer, you should visit it around sunset or thereafter...
Sunset in Singapore is around 6:30 - 7pm throughout the year, which means that if you board the flyer just before it's getting dark, you will be able to get a fantastic view of the city, as it lights up like a Christmas tree...
Another important thing to remember is that if visibility is poor, there's no point for you to waste your time and money... Just wait for another time, and opt for a city-view dinner at the Equinox, or an evening drink at New Asia Bar instead.
As expected, the Singapore Flyer's main terminal building is buzzing with activities... From the "indoors rainforest" which occupies the entire central atrium with its tropical plants and water displays, to shops, restaurants, cafés and unique attractions, like the Flight experience flight simulator, where you can experience how it feels to be a commercial airliner pilot. The simulator, one of the best of its kind, is truly amazing and brings you as close as you can get to fly a real airplane without actually being a pilot... But the prices are also sky-high... around SG$ 150 for a 30 minutes "basic flight" or SG$ 250 for one hour... (at the time of writing).
The Flight experience simulator operates daily, 10:30 am - 10:30 pm. It's located at the 2nd level and for more details you can call them on 6339 2737 or visit their website, where it's also possible to buy tickets.
A small tip from 'Metropolasia-Man':
To go directly to the Singapore Flyer, simply take the MRT to Promenade Station. The recently opened station is just a few minutes' walk away from the "flyer"
The grandiose tourism and entertainment complex of Marina Bay Sands was inaugurated on June 2010 and almost overnight became one of Singapore's, if not Southeast Asia's hippest attractions.
This gigantic complex, possibly the world's most expensive standalone casino property, is owned by Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. and comprises a huge luxury hotel, with 2,500 guestrooms and suites, spanning over three skyscrapers… Besides the flamboyant hotel, the resort offers a whole range of uber-stylish entertainment options, starting from a large and glitzy casino (Singapore's first), where you can choose from a thousand tables and almost 1500 slot machines, through an elegant and posh shopping mall, where you can find the crème de la crème of international brand names, including Cartier, Gucci and Ralph Lauren, to the unique ArtScience Museum which emphasizes, as its name denotes, on modern art that combines unique scientific elements and, quite expectedly, a more than decent choice of excellent restaurants and cafés.
Nonetheless, the real "Jewel in the crown" of the complex is, doubtlessly, the 340-m long Sands SkyPark: An enormous terrace that is perched at a height of more than 200 mtrs., across the three skyscrapers…
Billed the world's largest public cantilevered platform, the Sands SkyPark occupies an area of approximately 13,000 m2 and boasts a 150 m infinity edge pool, surrounded by endless sundecks (currently open only to hotel guests). As you can imagine, there are more than a few observation points around the terrace, from which you can enjoy breathtaking views of Singapore and its environs.
A glimpse of Wonder Full: South East Asia's largest water and light show... Worth watching till the end.
Marina Bay Sands come alive every night, at 8pm and 9:30pm (as well as at 11pm on weekends), when the amazing "Wonder Full" show takes place... This 15 minutes spectacle is one of Singapore's 'must sees' and can be watched from the Merlion, as well as from the area of Marina Bay Sands itself.
The world's first ArtScience museum is one of Marina Bay Sand's main attractions.
Occupying an architecturally inspiring lotus-shaped building along the Marina Bay waterfront, this unique museum boasts over 50,000 square feet of galleries, where the visitor is supposedly introduced to the meeting points between art and science…
The museum's only permanent exhibition, ArtScience, spreads across three galleries and is meant to take the visitor to a "Journey Through Creativity" where he can explore the connections between the arts and the sciences, but although it is quite interesting and enchanting, it is actually the temporary exhibitions that make this museum so popular, including some world-class displays, like Genghis Khan, Van Gogh Alive and Dalí: Mind of a Genius, which were all highly praised by visitors and critics alike.
The ArtScience Museum is opened daily, including public holidays, from 10am to 10pm (Last admission is at 9pm), but might be closed to visitors, from time to time, due to a private function (take a look at their website before coming, just to be on the safe side).
Tickets are quite expensive for a museum, but then you have to remember it is a privately owned museum that relies mainly on temporary exhibitions (the best of which, to be more precise). What's more, you are allowed to pay only for those exhibitions you intend to see.
The ticket also allows you to walk out of the museum and come back later (on the same day), and if you happen to come over the weekend, you can join one of their free guided tours in English (first come first served). If you can't make it to the free guided tours, you can take an interactive audio-visual guide from the Museum Box Office.
. . How to get here ? It is right next to Bayfront MRT Station.
If coming from the Singapore Flyer: Walk through Temasek Avenue and Helix Bridge, strait to the complex (Approx. 10 munutes walk).
Helix Bridge, the sci-fi looking bridge that connects Marina Bay Sands with the Singapore Flyer, Temasek Avenue and the shopping malls, is an attraction in its own right… Spanning along 280 m across Marina Bay, the bridge boasts five observation points from which you can enjoy panoramic views of the area.
At night, the bridge is illuminated by a series of lights that highlight its double-helix structure and create a special visual experience for the visitors.
One of the most interesting places you can see from the bridge is the "floating stadium", a massive stadium with an officially-seized football pitch that actually floats on the bay... (Scarce of land in Singapore surely results in some seriously creative ideas...).