Singapore’s nickname of Garden City tells of how important greenery is to this small island. Newly listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, the Singapore Botanic Gardens actually dates back much further than that. Not many know that the gardens is almost 160 years old, much older than the country itself!
Located at 1 Cluny Road (coordinates here), the Botanic Gardens sits on the fringe of Singapore’s main shopping area. The closest train or MRT station (also named Botanic Gardens) sits on both the Circle Line and Downtown Line. The Botanic Gardens operates 365 days a year from 5 am to 12 am. And the best part? There is no admission charge, with the exception of the National Orchid Garden which sits within the main gardens. Set aside at least half a day to explore the grounds. The sun can also get quite strong on top of the humid climate. Make sure to bring along plenty of water and sunscreen!
National Orchid Garden
With over 1,000 species and 2,000 orchid hybrids, the National Orchid Garden is a pioneer of orchid studies and breeding programs. Here, visitors can get up close and personal with the VIPs of Singapore – Very Important Plants. It is a longstanding tradition of Singapore’s to name orchid hybrids after important visiting figures, such as heads of states and celebrities. You’ll find one-of-a-kind species such as Dendrobium Memoria Princess Diana, Vandaenopsis Nelson Mandela and Renantanda Akihito. With over 200 VIP species, how many names will you be able to recognise?
The National Orchid Garden operates from 8.30 am to 7 pm with last entry at 6 pm. Admission fee is priced at S$5 for adults, S$1 for students and senior citizens. Children under 12 enter for free.
The Botanic Garden also houses a 6-hectare tropical forest, an ecosystem of ferns and shrubs, climbers and trees. Some trees tower at more than 50 m tall! The rainforest was part the original tangle of plantations handed over to the landscape designer of the Botanic Gardens. The rainforest is much older than the gardens itself, with it being here even before the founding of Singapore.
Palm Valley and Symphony Lake
With its sprawling grounds of lush green grass surrounded by various species of palm trees, Palm Valley is an incredibly popular spot on weekends. You’ll find plenty of people having picnics, throwing frisbees or kicking around soccer balls with their friends, families and pet pooches. On the grounds of Palm Valley is also Symphony Lake, one of three lakes in the Singapore Botanic Gardens and the Symphony Stage. Notable performers such as the Singapore Symphony Orchestra performs free outdoor concerts here on weekends from time to time.
Although the Botanic Gardens may seem like a congregation of mostly tropical plants, you can also find drought-tolerant plants such as cactus, yuccas and agaves at the Sun Garden.
One of the 47 heritage trees in the Botanic Garden, the Burmese Banyan is a strangling fig tree that towers at up to 30 m tall. For all its splendour, there is also a superstition that surrounds it. According to Malay and Indonesian folklore, it is believed that the shadiness of the Banyan Tree houses spirits of women who died during pregnancy – specifically known as Pontianaks. Why don’t you try to locate this tree for yourself? Standing underneath the hanging aerial roots, the superstitious tale always makes for an interesting story to tell.
Other Useful Information
Guided tours are available for free at the Singapore Botanic Gardens every weekend, with the exception of the fifth Saturday of the month. You can read more about it here. Personally I would suggest to follow one (or all) of the trail guides here and go on a walking trail by yourself. The trails range from 40 to 90 minutes long.
Along with the plucking of plants, activities like barbecues, kite flying, cycling, skateboarding and skating are all prohibited. Take nothing with you and leave nothing behind.
You can find food and drinks at the restaurants housed within the grounds – Food Canopy outside of Raffles Building, Food for Thought at the Botany Centre and Halia Restaurant in the Ginger Garden. You can find the full list of shops and restaurants here.
Check out our Top Ten for Singapore HERE