At its colonial core is Padang, a cricket field since the 1830s now flanked by the 18 Corinthian columns of City Hall. In Chinatown stands the oddly named but beautiful Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.
The first settlement known as Singapore was formed in the late 13th century on the banks of the Singapore River. This served as the only port at the southern end of the Strait of Malacca, thriving in its infancy before its role as an international trading port declined by the 15th century. Singapore’s main settlement and port were later destroyed in the early 17th century, with no significant settlement or functionality present here until Sir Stamford Raffles landed on the island in 1819.
Raffles established a new settlement and international port for Britain, keen to draw in traders from Asia and Europe. The Chinese began to set up trading houses on the river’s south bank and lower reaches, while the British resided on the upper reaches of the river. Singapore thrived and continued to do so when it ceased to be part of the British Empire in 1963, despite small setbacks in trade up until the 1990s, when the port once again became a key player.
A remarkable combination of history, culture, modernised ideals and tropical climate contribute to Singapore’s diverse and prosperous character. Business is booming, with the towering skyscrapers and big brands residing in the Central Business District proving a powerful nod to this. This is the area most visitors should start exploring during their Port of Singapore cruise given that the river forms the central artery of Singapore.
Beyond the business are several intriguing attractions centred round where Raffles founded his colony. Do not miss Cavenagh Bridge, the city’s oldest bridge, constructed in 1869. Take a look at the grand Fullerton Hotel, once the General Post Office building. Along the front of the river are a number of traditional shop houses in which today restaurants and bars are located. You cannot leave Singapore without tasting its famous chilli crab or sipping on a Singapore sling, and this is the best area to do so.
Marina Bay continues the theme of flamboyance and fortune, crowned by the incredible architecture of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. From here you will enjoy the best view of the Central Business District, further enhanced by a nightly fountain and light show along the river itself. Do not miss the Gardens by the Bay behind the hotel, especially if you fancy some serenity amid the busy city.
Chinatown and Little India bring another example of Singapore’s diversity to the table, home to wonderful authentic eateries and some stunning temples. In Chinatown, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is the star of the show. While in Little India, a visit to the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple will allow you to discover the district’s oldest and busiest temple.