If Singapore is on your radar to visit, it’s probably because of the futuristic landscape you’ve seen in pictures. The city-state got serious about creating more green space for its residents, with the stated goal to be a model for other cities and transform the urban space into a “City in a Garden.” In other words, less concrete jungle and more jungle jungle.
The centerpiece for this initiative is the Gardens by the Bay, a public park near the downtown financial district that serves as a showcase for how modern cities can incorporate green spaces into their city planning beyond simple parks.
Gardens by the BayWhere: Central Singapore by the Marina Reservoir
Hours: Open seven days a week, park from 5am–2am, conservatories from 9am–9pm
Entrance fee: Free for the park; S$28 for conservatories admission, S$8 for skybridge
Time: 1-3 hours
The Gardens by the Bay actually consist of three separate areas: Bay Central Garden, Bay East Garden, and Bay South Garden. The Bay South Garden is the largest and most iconic of the three, being home to the Supertree Grove and Conservatories.
Getting there via public transportation can be mildly confusing, but the Marina Bay Sands bus stops as well as the Bayfront metro stop will get you in the general vicinity.
A promenade follows along the bay coast line and leads into the heart of the park, where you’ll encounter the Supertree Grove. There are 18 Supertrees, with the tallest measuring 50 meters (160 feet) in height. They act as a kind of environmental super engine, providing shade, collecting rainwater, and generating solar power for the park, while also acting as a vertical garden for a variety of plant species. The OCBC Skybridge connects two of the larger Supertrees, giving visitors a chance for some amazing panoramas. Entrance to the skybridge costs S$8 ($5.75 USD).
At nightfall the Supertrees perform a sound and light show called Garden Rhapsody, with the trees changing colors and flashing lights choreographed with music.
If you have the time, it’s worth visiting the Gardens once in the day and once in the evening, but if your schedule doesn’t allow it, then a night time visit to see the Supertrees lit up is recommended. Bonus: it’s also a bit cooler than the sweltering midday.
Throughout the park are mini-garden installations with various types of flora from Singapore and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Two domed conservatories create microclimates showcasing diverse flora from around the world. Admission to the conservatories costs S$28 ($20 USD) for non-residents.
For any lover of outdoor spaces, the Gardens by the Bay are an essential visit and fascinating look at the future of green space within our urban centers.
Marina Bay Sands Resort
Where: Central Singapore directly adjacent to the Bay South Garden
Entrance fee: Free to enter; S$20 to access observation level
Hotel rate: S$410 and up
Complementing the futuristic Supertrees is the Marina Bay Sands Resort, dominated by the oddly-shaped building that towers over the Gardens. The entire complex comprises a 2,500-plus room hotel, a casino, shopping mall, theaters, and multiple celebrity-chef restaurants. Luxury seekers will find plenty in the resort compound to keep them occupied, but budget-minded travelers are also able to experience some of what the resort has to offer.
The hotel building is comprised of three towers topped by a Skypark. Atop this structure is an observation deck, a lounge bar, and the world’s highest infinity pool with views of the Singapore skyline. Only hotel guests get access to the pool, which gives me motivation to figure out how to budget a stay here on our next pass through Singapore (the Capital One Venture Card springs to mind as option to get a night or two free).
The ground floor is accessible to visitors and has multiple shops and restaurants. The observation deck costs S$24 ($17.25 USD) for visitors, but a better option might be the Cé La Vi bar and lounge. Access to the lounge requires you to purchase a S$20 voucher which can be used on drinks and food making it a better value than the observation deck, although you won’t get quite the same unobstructed views as you would on the observation deck. We opted to purchase the voucher and had some really great drinks, while sneaking around to the observation level for great views of the Gardens by the Bay.
If you’re in the mood for some shopping you can access the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands which has just about every high-end retailer you could think of.
Singapore has quickly emerged as a leader in showing how green spaces can be beautifully integrated into our urban fabric. The United States’ best example of such a space is New York City ’s Central Park which is now more than 150 years old. Hopefully our other cities will follow the lead of the Asian city-state and place an emphasis on creating our own “Cities in a Garden.” Meanwhile, a trip to Singapore will help you think about how we coexist with our natural surrounding and appreciate the importance of stewarding our resources.