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Singapore may play the high stakes economically, but there are still a lot of free activities you can do for fun in this burgeoning city, especially when it comes to the great outdoors and the arts. Here are our picks for the five best free things to do in Singapore:
1. Bridge up with nature. Past the rubber trees and pitcher plants at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park — open since 1868, it’s Singapore’s oldest reservoir — is an 820-foot suspension bridge that is part of the HSBC TreeTop Walk. All along this hanging link are vantage points to look out onto the park’s mature secondary forest. Those not quite willing to leave the city behind should head up to the Henderson Waves, a modern wave-like pedestrian bridge that gazes onto the city’s skyline.
2. Visit the places of worship. Get to know the melting pot of cultures in Singapore by visiting the various religious places of worship. The Sri Thandayuthapani Temple (Chettiar Hindu Temple) at Tank Road is where the steel-spiked Kavadi carriers end their walks every Thaipusam, the yearly wintertime Hindu festival. Daily ceremonies can be observed here as early as 8 a.m. For a similarly welcoming experience of a different belief, visit the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho temple in Bugis. Grandmothers come daily to offer lotus flowers, incense and prayers to the benevolent Goddess of Mercy.
3. See the art galleries. Stop in at the dozens of art galleries and spaces in Singapore to admire contemporary work. The Substation Gallery is known for supporting quirky local artists, who do everything from poetry to installations; Gallery Krisstel Martin showcases regional talents like Japan’s Taiji Hayama; and while 2902 Gallery focuses solely on photographs, it brings in artists from all over the globe. John Clang, Marc Chagall, Joan Miró and Balthasar Lobo have all been here.
4. Head to Marina Barrage. On top of Marina Barrage is an expansive windy green field conducive for kite-flying and picnicking. This space sits across the mouth of Marina Bay, creating the country’s 15th reservoir and the only one in the city. This seamless feat of architecture that has won international awards for its environmental engineering is a Zen space from which to look upon the business district skyline.
5. See a performance at the Esplanade. Duck into one of the city’s most iconic buildings, the Esplanade, for free performances by local and visiting artists like the Klunchun Dance Company from Thailand. At the concourse, dances and mini classical concerts featuring instruments like the gu zheng (Chinese plucked zither) take place to the backdrop of extensive rotating art installations. Rock bands perform at the On the Waterfront stage with the Fullerton Hotel lighting up background.