Singapore sightseeing can be pricey — sometimes it feels like the whole country has been monetized. That’s why Kelly and I are starting this series to help you understand which sights are worth seeing and which you can skip.
The first national botanic garden in Singapore was founded in the 1820s, but the idea didn’t really take off until the 1860s. The 74-hectare garden is now home to over 10,000 species of plants, as well as the National Orchid Garden. In the 1920s, the Gardens began experimenting with orchid breeding, and has invented numerous species over the years — including some they’ve even named after celebrities. So, is it worth a visit?
The National Orchid Garden, being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a steal at S$5 per person ($3.50 USD) to see some pretty amazing flowers and botanic displays. However, if you really want a completely free experience, you can check out the other 75 percent of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which features segmented garden sections for every type of interest. There are plenty of places to stop and take in the beauty, as well as restaurants to recharge and water fountains to stay hydrated.
I’ve seen plenty of botanical gardens in my life, and all are very beautiful, but this one had more organization and detail, as well as a crazy array of exotic (or local, depending on your perspective) flora. It felt like walking around Pandora, the planet from Avatar.
Yes it comes at a great price, and yes it is extremely unique, but I have to admit that gardens are rather dull to me. Maybe it’s just me, but there are only so many times I can have my breath taken away before I get desensitized. Part of that could also have been the jet lag/lack of sleep because by 3 p.m. local time, I found myself staring at my watch every five minutes, counting the hours until I could reasonably crash into bed. That said, some of the plants here are just plain weird looking and force you to do a double take, so it’s hard to stay bored.
Compared to other attractions in Singapore, I think the Botanic Garden offers huge value. The National Orchid Garden is only SGD $5, compared to over SGD $20 for the two greenhouses at the Gardens by the Bay, and the rest of the garden is free. It’s extremely well-tended, convenient, and offers excellent amenities (tons of toilets and water fountains, gift shops, restaurants, etc.).
While the garden as a whole reminds me a bit of an amusement park in South Florida, the orchid garden is really unique. I’ve never seen anything like it, and Singapore really is one of the biggest orchid breeding locations in the world.
Despite the fact that I’m really not much of a garden person, the themed gardens make botany interesting to people of all backgrounds. For example, I loved the Botanic Gardens’ healing garden, evolution garden, and foliage garden. Likewise, inside the National Orchid Gardens, the exhibits on bromeliads and cool rain forests were really interesting.
Need to know:
The National Orchid Garden is located inside the Singapore Botanic Garden. While the MTR drops you directly at the gates of the Botanic Garden, the Orchid Garden is a good 1.5km walk through the park from the MTR stop. You should definitely be prepared for a good deal of walking in very warm temps. Different parts of the park have differing amounts of shade and breeze. Fortunately, there are tons of benches, gazebos, and places to refill a water bottle.
Getting there: From central Singapore, take the Downtown Line toward Bukit Panjang and get off at the Botanic Gardens stop.
Hours: The Botanic Gardens are open 5am to midnight daily; the National Orchid Garden is open 8:30am to 7pm daily.
Cost: $5 for adults, $1 for students (We’re not sure what type of students this price applies to. We paid full price.)
Time to spend: 2-3 hours if you’re not a huge flower person (like us). Though, if you love gardens, you could easily bring a picnic lunch and spend the whole day.