Built in the mid-1800s, the Botanic Gardens covers an impressive 82 hectares of land right in the heart of the city. A stone’s throw from Singapore’s Orchard Road shopping belt, it’s the only tropical garden to be honoured as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Those who have already spent an afternoon picnicking near Swan Lake, wandering through the National Orchid Garden and enjoying a concert at the Shaw Symphony Stage, fear not, there is plenty more to see (and eat).
The Gardens’ have continued to evolve, with some of the latest attractions including the Seedbank and Tropical Montane Orchidetum. The Gallop Extension is the most recent addition and features two conserved buildings that have been revamped from a former colonial bungalow. It’s accessible via a 200m bridge from the Learning Forest. Explore these new additions, along with some of our other long-time favourites in this guide to the Botanic Gardens.
Learn about the importance of seed storage at the Seedbank
Home to 25,000 plant species, the Botanic Gardens Seed Bank is an expansion of the Gardens’ conservation capacity. The adverse effects of climate change have resulted in the need to preserve our natural habitat. This facility has an interpretive gallery that showcases the importance of seed storage for sustaining certain species together with seed dispersal mechanisms. Through varying interactive mediums including infographic panels and laboratory equipment, visitors can get a glimpse of the Seed Bank processes.
Open daily, 9am-6pm. Closed every last Friday of the month.
Admire iconic works at Botanical Art Gallery
Housed in the newly opened Gallop House No. 7, the gallery is an archive of more than 2,000 botanical artworks. Visitors can view the Gardens’ collection which ranges from paintings to sketches and photographs. Iconic pieces include the Gardens’ oldest dated painting (completed in 1890) of Phaius tankervilleae, an orchid which grows in freshwater swamps. There is also an illustration of Durio singaporensis, more commonly known as the Singapore Durian.
Open daily 9am-6pm. Closed every last Thursday of the month.
Explore the Forest Discovery Art Centre @ OCBC Arboretum
The oldest surviving black-and-white bungalow from the colonial era is now a showcase for Singapore’s forest ecosystems. The installations and interactive displays are suitable for both kids and adults, providing the opportunity to explore the depths of the environment and gain a better understanding of its historical significance in Singapore’s biodiversity.
Open daily 9am-6pm. Closed every last Monday of the month.
Climb and play at COMO Adventure Grove
Kids are encouraged to reconnect with nature at the COMO Adventure Grove. The centrepiece is a 10m Banyan tree-like structure made with steel posts that have been hand-painted to resemble bark. Ambitious climbers will be rewarded with great views when they reach the 5.8m tree tower using netted ropes. Also known as “Nangka” in the Malay language, the giant jackfruit is a must-see during your visit here. This play garden recreates the experience of tree-climbing and being together with your friends and family during the “Kampung Days’.
Open daily 7am-7pm.
Hike along Mingxin Rambler’s Ridge
Discover the Gardens’ new hiking trail and explore nature along with trees such as the Spike Oak (Lithocarpus elegans) and Braided Chestnut (Castanopsis inermis). Its design was inspired by the forest habitats of South Asia. The Ridge also features unique plant species that have adapted to the harsh environment, with exposure to poor soil and strong winds. Perfect for a short stroll, the 350m long trail leads to the highest point of the Botanic Gardens.
Open daily 7am-7pm.
Tropical Montane Orchidetum
The Tropical Montane Orchidetum stimulates the experiences of moving up a tropical mountain forest. It features more than 1,000 species of orchids and hybrids including bromeliads, gingers, tropical rhododendrons and gesneriads. This spectacular glasshouse attraction contains three display houses: The Sembcorp Cool House, Yuen Peng McNeice Bromeliad Collection and Tan Hoon Siang Mist House. All three have been replicated from forest environments and you can experience the varying altitudes and temperatures in each house.
Open daily 8.30am-7pm (last ticket sales and entry at 6pm).
Soak in the views during lunch at The Halia
Named after the Malay term for ginger, The Halia was one of the first restaurants in Singapore to serve European dishes with Asian influence when it opened 20 years back. Surrounded by tranquil views and lush greenery, diners can also enjoy an unobstructed view of the Ginger Garden. This is a perfect spot for get-togethers with families and friends, as well as couples who are looking for a romantic ambiance.
Open Mon to Fri 11am-9pm. Sat, Sun & Public Holidays 10am-9pm.
Enjoy omakase-style dining at Corner House
The restaurant is named after E J Corner, a British botanist who resided in the house for 13 years while serving as assistant director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The black-and-white bungalow is filled with charming places to dine, including a wide porch overlooking the Gardens, a private verandah on the second floor or the wine cellar. In 2020, executive chef David Thien, who comes from a small village near Bordeaux, took over the kitchen. Many of the dishes featured on the omakase-style menu — such as beef rendang and crab poppadum — are named after Asian classics, although rooted in French techniques.
Open Tue to Sun, Lunch: noon-3pm (Last order 1.30pm). Dinner: 6.30pm-11pm (Last order 8.30pm).
Please check the establishment’s website for actual opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
This story was originally published in October 2021.