6 things to do in Singapore this Christmas

By Eytan Uliel

Who cares if Singapore is hot and tropical? So what if there hasn’t been snow in Singapore since the last ice age? This tiny island state has embraced the festive season and turned it into an art form.

Here’s the inside scoop on 6 Christmas things to do if you find yourself in Singapore at holiday time.

Walk the Trees of the World (2 hours, free). Singapore’s Botanic Gardens is fabulous all year round. At this time of the year it is even more fabulous.

Spend your morning on a leisurely stroll through the gardens; only at Christmas time the path from the Tanglin Core to the Bandstand is lined with 200 tropical “Christmas” trees, each uniquely decorated to represent a different country or culture.

While at the Botanic Gardens make sure to walk through the National Orchard Garden ($5 admission). The orchid is Singapore’s national flower and emblem, and this is the world’s largest collection, with over 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids on show. It is simply beautiful.

Feast Like a King at a Christmas Buffet (1.5 hours, $70 - $150). Singaporeans absolutely adore all-you-can-eat buffet-style meals - any good hotel will have one.

At Christmas, buffets go into festive season overdrive, with an endless assortment of glazed ham and turkey and scrumptious Christmas delicacies and cakes.

Top picks for Christmas buffet cheer: Goodwood Park Hotel, Raffles Hotel, and the Ritz Carlton. Special mention for Marina Mandarin Hotel and its “fusion” Christmas buffet (think dishes like Peranakan Spiced Turkey with Sticky Rice Stuffing). Singaporeans eat lunch early, so get to your chosen buffet before 12.30.

Christmas Shopping Madness (2 hours, the sky’s the limit). Singapore’s shopping malls compete ferociously at Christmas for the annual Best Dressed Building award.

Expect stunning trees, festive decorations, carollers, fake snow and reindeer. Not to mention extended shopping hours and Christmas sales offering truly massive discounts.

If you don’t mind the frenzy, there is no better way to shop. The stretch of Orchard Road encompassing Ion, Wisma Atria, Ngee Ann City and Paragon malls is great; further down Orchard Road are some of the newer, funkier malls: Orchard Central, Mandarin Gallery and 313@Somerset.

Visit a Church (1 hour, free). Christmas is not all about eating and shopping. Singapore has some lovely historic old churches. Visit one and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

All architecturally interesting and all within a few minutes of Orchard Road area are St Andrew’s Cathedral (Singapore’s largest), St Joseph’s Church (amazing stained glass windows), and the Armenian Church (Singapore’s oldest church, lovely gardens surround it). On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day they all conduct religious services.

Get Caught in a “Snow” Storm (1 hour, free). Every evening in December, the Christmas display outside the Tanglin Mall comes to life with a giant fake “snowstorm” – actually foamy soap bubbles.

Cheesy but a huge hit with the kids, and truth be told, it is pretty fun for adults too. 7.30pm – 8pm every day.

See the Lights (1.5 hours; free). After dark, join the masses and stroll down Orchard Road, Singapore’s main shopping thoroughfare: mile after mile of some of the most spectacular Christmas light displays you are ever likely to see.

Orchard Road can get really crowded on the evenings leading up to Christmas – be prepared for the crush.

If you’ve had enough of Orchard Road from earlier in the day, you can stroll around the equally impressive Christmas light-up at the Marina Bay precinct.

And, if you prefer seeing it all with no walking involved, a great alternative is any one of the night-time open top bus tours, which will take you past the Marina Bay area and then down the whole length of Orchard Road.

Buses are hop-on hop-off, so also a good way to get around (approx $30; FunVee Hopper Bus departures every half hour from Singapore Flyer; Hippo Open-Top Bus departures every half hour from Suntec and various other points along the route).

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