Just a short distance from the island’s main shopping street, the extensive parkland of the Singapore Botanic Gardens provides an oasis of calm. You’ll see local people practising Tai Chi and groups of students taking outdoor exercise classes here. And visitors enjoying the scenery and the plants. A perfect escape from the city crowds.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Singapore Botanic Gardens opened in 1859 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015. This was partly an acknowledgement that it is a world class scientific institution: among other things it has been pre-eminent in research into rubber plantations for more than a hundred years. But it is also because of the plantings and historic features that demonstrate “the evolution of a British tropical colonial botanic garden”. It is the only tropical garden on the World Heritage List.
The gardens cover 183 acres and include a vast range of plants from palms and rainforest to economically important plants and a specialist orchid collection. By night they are lit, and occasional concerts take place by the Symphony Lake.
Exploring The Singapore Botanic Gardens
The Gardens are divided into different areas of interest. Near the main entrance are the Healing Garden (with plants grown for medicinal purposes) and the Evolution Garden which tells the story of plant life on Earth. Walk past the Visitor Centre to the Symphony Lake and the Palm Valley which features over 200 species of palm. Nearby is a small enclosed area of rain forest with easy paths where you can see many of the forest plants that covered the island prior to its colonisation. (If you are inspired to explore more of Singapore’s rain forest, take a trip to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, a few miles away.)
The attractive Ginger Garden, with its waterfall, features many of the 1,500 members of the ginger family. You may be surprised to find that these not only include spices such as turmeric and cardamom but also a number of lilies and even bananas.
Look out for animals and birds as you walk the gardens. Apart from ducks you may see kingfishers, bee-eaters or, if you are lucky, birds of prey. Animals in the park include squirrels, lizards, snakes and frogs.
The National Orchid Garden
The orchid breeding programme began in 1928. Today the National Orchid Garden includes over 1,000 species of orchid and around 2,000 hybrids. Within the garden you will find the Orchidarium, which provides the natural conditions for many tropical orchids, and the Coolhouse which replicates a tropical mountain environment.
The VIP Orchid Garden has a collection of brightly coloured hybrids which have been named after famous visitors including Princess Diana and Nelson Mandela.
Visiting The Singapore Botanic Gardens
- To get to the gardens take the MRT train to Botanic Gardens. The exit is at the northern end of the park and from here you can walk through to the Orchid Garden at the opposite end.
- There is also a Botanic Gardens stop on the Big Bus Open-Top Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Tour (yellow route).
- The Gardens are open from 5 am to midnight, but some areas have separate opening and closing times. The National Orchid Garden is open from 8.30 am to 7 pm.
- Entrance to the Gardens is free but there is an admission charge for the Orchid Garden.
- It is best to visit at the beginning or the end of the day to avoid the heat and the guided tours.
- An umbrella is advisable as sudden torrential downpours are common.
- You can get a drink or a meal at the Visitor Centre.
- There is more information about Singapore in this Singapore Travel Guide.