All roads lead not to Rome, not in Singapore anyway. No, they used to lead to the General Post Office in Singapore, which demarcated the heart of the town.
Although Singapore is small, it has 90 rivers, with the Singapore river being the most storied. A 3.2km stretch that begins at Kim Seng Bridge, the Singapore River goes through the Marina Channel and ends at the Singapore strait.
Taking Singapore River Cruise and Duck Tour
There are many landmarks that easily accessible by road, but some of the most historic ones can be viewed upon the river itself. To see Singapore from a different perspective, you’ll need to take the Singapore River Cruise.
During the cruise, there is a running commentary that informs you about the backstory of each landmark that you pass by. The river cruise also provides the perfect opportunity for taking picturesque photos with famous landmarks.
Standard Price Guides to taking Singapore River Cruise
Singapore River Cruises and its Boarding Points
There are several ways to see all these sights, but a riverboat cruise completes the experience. The bumboats were traditionally used to transport cargo, supplies and goods from ship to the port but now, they have been repurposed as tour boats by Singapore River Cruises, to give people an authentic feel of the olden days (with a little more comfort!). They are usually painted green and red, and with a pair of “eyes” to let them see danger ahead. Singapore River Cruises tour the three quays of the Singapore River, Boat, Clarke and Robertson Quay.
Singapore River Cruise Boarding Points
The jetties can be located at River Valley, Robertson Quay, Clemenceau, Read Bridge, Clarke Quay, South Bridge, Boat Quay, Fullerton, Esplanade, Merlion Park, Bayfront South, Promenade and Marina Barrage. This is perfect because at night, the riverside comes alive, with bars, clubs and eateries all along Clarke and Boat Quay open till late. The sheltered open mall concept allows visitors to explore in rain or shine, day or night and this makes it a comfortable space to visit on the hop on hop off options of several of the river cruises.
Taking Duck Tours Singapore
Duck tours offer a contemporary twist, with your journey beginning on land to see the sights of the Civic District before transitioning straight into the Singapore River on board a refurbished WW2 amphibious vehicle. The tours are conducted in English or Mandarin and tickets can be purchased at online and the receipt needs to be presented during boarding at Suntec City Mall.
Cruises on the Singapore River in general are safe, aside from a malfunction that happened several years ago, so it is always important to pay attention to the safety briefings the boat operators might have to share. Most of these tickets can go as low as $23 so be sure to look out for discounts, though cruises like Duck tours could cost a little more.
Let’s delve deeper into what you should know while taking the River Cruise and Duck Boat
History of Singapore River
The Singapore River has been the lifeblood of the island since its humble beginnings. At the start of the river was an ancient port settlement established on the northern banks in the 13th Century by Seri Teri Buana, a prince from Pelambang, which declined in the 14th Century before Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in 1819.
A Trading post for the East India Company
Raffles had been tasked by the British East India Company to establish a trading post and upon recognising the island’s deep natural harbour, he established Singapore as a free port for entrepôt trade, making the Singapore strait the mains shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. In fact, you might be able to glimpse a statue of Sir Stamford Raffles proudly standing by the riverside, at the purported site of his first landing in Singapore.
Raffles Landing Site
(Note: The original statue stands in front of the Victoria Concert Hall at Empress Place)
Central Business District and Singapore River
The shophouses still lining the Singapore River used to serve as warehouses and shopfronts for goods being brought in from India, China and the region. This design was opulently replicated in neighbourhoods such as Katong, Chinatown, Tanjong Pagar and Emerald Hill, adorned with Peranakan style tiles and small courtyards. As Singapore flourished over the years, the city expanded itself outwards whilst trade continued to boom along the river.
Till this day, the area is called the Central Business District, where most of Singapore’s financial, commercial and administrative activities still takes place, and while our distinctive Singapore skyline now towers over us, the remaining shophouses along the river as well as those of later design have been marked as preservation sites by the National Heritage Board for their historic, cultural, and architectural importance.
Sights along Singapore River while cruising
Before you board the cruise, there’s much you can do along the Singapore River itself!
1. Look out for the statues along Singapore River
Spaced out along the river banks you can find The People of The River, a series of statutes that capture the life of the Singapore River in the early founding days of the country.
These statues can be found at these locations along the river:
– The First Generation: By the Fullerton Hotel riverside
– The River Merchants: Singapore River (Maybank Tower)
– A Great Emporium: Asian Civilisations Museum
– From Chettiars To Financiers: Asian Civilisation Museum
2. Look out for the Singapore Cat!
If you look carefully, you might even see small bronze statuettes of a cat: these are the Kucinta, Singapore’s very own breed of cat! Its name is a portmanteau of the Malay words for cat and love. Incidentally, the word Kucinta also means “The one I love” in Malay.
3. Find Botero’s Big Bird
Famed Colombian sculptor Fernando Botero was commissioned to sculpt “Bird”. Cast in bronze and perching happily by UOB Plaza, “Bird” represents the joy of living and power of optimism.
4. Have a closer look at Singapore’s rich heritage – The Shophouses along Singapore River
To facilitate trade, traditional shophouses were built along the southern end of the Singapore River, an architectural design hailing from China’s Guangdong and Fujian provinces. Built between 1840s to the 1900s, these particular shophouses, stylistically known as the Early Shophouse Style, had minimal decor, serving as warehouses for ships which unloaded their goods from the back of the house, whilst the front was sometimes used as a shopfront to sell these wares to Singaporeans; the upper floor was used either as a providing a rest house for the coolies and samsui women or as homes for shop owners and their families.
Read about our Singapore Museum Trail:
5. Check out the bustling River and activities
In recent years, the Singapore River has been cleaned up and dammed off, to reduce flooding in the surrounding regions and to create a freshwater reservoir for the country. While the Marina Barrage itself has become a tourist attraction, the revamped Marina Bay has also become a site for water activities such as boating and sailing. In fact, DBS Bank holds an annual regatta in Marina Bay, with Laser sailing boat rides available for people who sign up, which promises an unique experience for visitors and Singaporeans alike.
Just a note to all: swimming is not allowed in Marina Bay!
6. Head over to Marina Bay for more!
Around Marina Bay are sights that have become synonymous with Singapore: the Esplanade, Marina Bay Sands hotel, Singapore Art Science Museum, the Fullerton Hotel, and Singapore’s distinctive skyscraper skyline.
However, easily the most famous attraction of the Singapore River has to be the Merlion statue. Merging a lion with the tale of a fish, the Merlion was developed by Fraser Brunner in 1963. The creation alluded to Singapore’s origin as a fishing village and the lion that Sang Nila Utama, a prince from Palembang, was said to have spotted on Temasek (the old name for Singapore) when he landed on the island and thus renamed it Singapura (Sanskrit for “lion city”).
Taking the Singapore Night River Cruise
As a thriving metropolis, the buildings of the Central Business District are lit well into the night, making the Night River Cruise one of the most popular cruises. The cruise passes by popular sights like the Marina Bay Sands, The Fullerton Hotel, The Merlion and more. A laser light show beside the Marina Bay Sands enthralls the crowd for an hour, with fountains to keep them company. While it might seem touristy, it is one of the memories that will linger on.
Price Guide for Laser Cruise
You can take a self-guided tour around Singapore River with the LocoMole App!
Download the Locomole app to learn more about other interesting things to do in Singapore!