The tiny island of Singapore, with its limited space, tends to build upward and often.
Singapore’s cityscape presents plenty of fascinating architectural juxtapositions, from the grandiose Palladian and Victorian buildings of the Civic District to the beautiful and historic shophouses of Chinatown to the bustling markets and temples of Little India. This guide will help camera enthusiasts discover my favorite photogenic landmarks that capture Singapore’s unique spirit.
But, before we explore these locations, let’s talk about gear. Fisheye and wide angle lenses work great downtown and in the Central Business District around the Marina Bay area. A tripod is a must-have for long exposures during sunrise and sunset, as well for blue-hour shots. Also consider bringing some Neutral-Density filters in your camera bag. Your lens choice depends on your personal shooting preferences, but since this article deals with the wider urban views around Singapore, I recommend a wide-angle lens, though street and portrait photographers might choose differently.
One of the best views in the city can be enjoyed from the rooftop of the Marina Bay Sands resort. I recommend arriving one or two hours before sunset so you can stay to capture shots during daytime, sunset, and nighttime.
CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT
Located between the Singapore River, Marina Bay, and Chinatown, the Central Business District, commonly referred to as “the city” or CBD, is the center of all commercial and financial activity. Some of the most prestigious companies, both local and international, have offices in this densely built area. Here, you will find the impressive skyscrapers that make up Singapore’s beautiful skyline. The scenery grows especially dramatic during the evening hours when the sun sets directly behind the CBD.
LeVeL33 is the world’s highest urban craft-brewery. Located in a skyscraper at the heart of Singapore’s business district, the bar offers a spectacular view of the Asian city-state available from a 1,600 square foot outdoor terrace that wraps around the side of the building.
ESPLANADE – THEATERS ON THE BAY: ROOFTOP TERRACE
Providing a magnificent view of the city and Marina Bay, the Rooftop Terrace is a popular space for snapping the perfect photo of Singapore’s modern skyline — or to just relax. Dimly lit, this is a popular spot for local couples seeking a romantic outing. Make your way there and you will be rewarded with a nice view of the bay and the towering Marina Bay Sands.
One of the major tourist attractions in Singapore, Merlion Park is home to Singapore’s mythical beast, the Merlion, which has the body of a fish and the head of a lion. Located in the business district of the city, the park covers almost 2,500 square meters. Visitors are privy to a fantastic view of Marina Bay Sands across the water.
GARDENS BY THE BAY AT NIGHT
Gardens by the Bay is a huge, colourful, futuristic park in Singapore’s bay area. The famous supertree structures line the impressive skywalk, over-sized seashell-shaped greenhouses recreate chilly mountain climates, and hundreds of trees and plants are yours to discover. Even if you typically wouldn’t find yourself exploring a garden, this is a must-see. The garden is only a short walk from the Marina Bay Sands, so you can visit both in the same day. Definitely go at night for the best possible experience as these iconic tree-like steel structures are bejeweled from top to bottom with colourful dotted lights.
BUDDHA TOOTH RELIC TEMPLE AND MUSEUM
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown features beautiful architectural carvings and decorations. The chamber that houses the relic is a peaceful space for meditation. The main temple impresses with its hundreds of individually crafted Buddha statues. The colors are amazing, the smell is intoxicating, and the cultural ambience is superb.
Singapore’s 165-meter-high Flyer offers a 30-minute ride with a bird’s-eye view of the city. It’s difficult to snap a good photo through the glass, but with some luck, you can capture great images at blue-hour and nighttime.
TELOK AYER MARKET / LAU PA SAT
One of my favorite hawker centers in Singapore is the Telok Ayer Market. This food court — also known as Lau Pa Sat — is located in a heritage building worth a visit in its own right. On the opposite side of the market you will find a car park, from where you’ll enjoy a spectacular view of the skyscrapers and the food court.
THE ARAB QUARTER
The Arab Quarter (Kampong Glam) was originally home to Singapore’s Malay royalty in the 1800s. Although the sultan’s rule is over and his palace has been refashioned as the Malay Heritage Center, the area still serves as a gathering place for Malay-Muslims to eat, pray, and shop. Kampong Glam is a relatively easy walk from Bugis MRT station. Like most places in Singapore, the Arab Quarter is best captured at night, so if you’re after color, life, and a little bit of action in your photographs, this is the place to be. The best-dressed award in the Arab Quarter area definitely goes to the Sultan Mosque (or Masjid Sultan), a truly impressive architectural feat with golden domes and huge prayer hall.
RESIDENTIAL BUILDING NEAR PASSION WAVE @ MARINA BAY>
Sometimes, the best images are found in the least expected locations. At the shore near Singapore Grand Prix Site Office you’ll find a great view of a residential building on the other riverside near the Passion Wave @ Marina Bay. This spot is perfect for capturing a sunrise behind the apartment complex.
One final note about photography in Singapore. Around August to November, there is a country-wide burning session that takes place in the rice fields of Indonesia. Due to the trade winds pushing west-to-east from Indonesia, the haze makes its way over Singapore and creates foggy skies.
Weather can be a bit tricky from September to January, as the rainy season throughout the region is in full effect during this time. So, if your travel plans have you traveling there in these months, be sure to bring a zippered raincoat to quickly stow a camera when the rain decides to fall.
Other Notable Points of Interest
- The Pinnacle @ Duxton Skybridge
- Explore the residential areas
- Chinese Gardens
- Chinese Quarter
- Little India
- Orchard Garden