Interesting Singapore facts

35 Interesting Facts About Singapore, The Lion City

Let’s introduce you to some of the most interesting and unique facts about Singapore. 

Singapore is without a doubt one of the most interesting countries in the world. From its rich cultural history to its stunning skyline, Singapore truly captivates the hearts and minds of those who visit or call it home.

General Singapore Facts

1. Singapore is a sovereign city-state and island country located in Southeast Asia. It’s situated at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. Singapore and Malaysia are connected via the Tuas Second Link Bridge and the Johor-Singapore Causeway.

2. Despite its small size, Singapore is highly urbanized and densely populated. It covers an area of approximately 721.5 square kilometers (278.6 square miles) and has a population of approximately 6 million. It is the 2nd most densely populated country in the world after Monaco. It is 84 times more crowded than California.

A large Chinese temple surrounded by buildings in Singapore
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Singapore

3. Singapore has four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil. The most spoken language in the city-state is Mandarin or different varieties of Chinese. Around half of the population speaks Mandarin at home.

4. The most common religion in Singapore is Buddhism. More than 30% of the population follow this religion. Other religions followed in Singapore include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Taoism. 

5. Singapore has a highly developed and diverse economy. It was once named one of the “Four Asian Tigers” due to its rapid economic growth and development (the others were Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea). The country has a strong presence in finance, trade, and technology sectors.

6. Modern Singapore was only born in 1819 when The Treaty of Singapore was signed. The nation only became fully independent in 1965 after being expelled from Malaysia. From then, the city-state was known as the Republic of Singapore.

7. Singapore is famous for being the Garden City. Despite its vast Marina Bay Skyline, a unique plan was put in place in 1967 that saw the city transformed into a green and sustainable city. One of the highlights of the city’s sustainable efforts is the iconic Supertree Grove.

Interesting Facts About Singaporean History

A row of colorfully painted and connected houses
Heritage houses in Singapore

8. Before its modern development, Singapore was inhabited by indigenous Malay communities. The island was known as Temasek in ancient times, and it served as a trading port.

9. The name “Singapore” is derived from “Singapura,” which means “Lion City” in Malay. However, lions have never been native to the area, so it’s not totally clear why the name was chosen.

10. The Singapore Stone was a large sandstone slab that stood on the island for centuries, with inscriptions suggesting ancient maritime activities. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in the 19th century to make way for a road.

11. Archaeological excavations in Singapore have uncovered artifacts from various cultures and periods. These artifacts provide insights into the island’s trading connections and include Dutch East India Company finds that date back to the 17th century.

12. Parameswara, also believed to be Iskandar Shah, was the last king of Singapore. The founder of Malacca, the king ruled Singapura from 1389 to 1398, before fleeing the island after a naval invasion.

The front of a large colonial hotel at night with lights shining on it
Raffles Hotel, named after the founder of modern Singapore

13. The indigenous people of ancient Singapore held animistic beliefs and practiced rituals to connect with the spiritual world. Groups such as the Orang Laut had a close relationship with the sea and nature.

14. The historical records suggest that Singapore faced periods of abandonment and reclamation over the centuries. Things changed in 1819 when Sir Stamford Raffles established Fort Canning.

15. During the colonial era, opium dens were prevalent in Singapore. These establishments allowed people to consume opium, which was legal at the time. Opium smoking was seen as a leisure activity, and it had a significant impact on society and public health.

16. Singapore experienced several mysterious disease outbreaks in its history. This includes a tuberculosis outbreak. Rumors spread that a vampire was responsible for causing tuberculosis deaths in the city-state.

17. Singaporean folklore is rich with stories of legendary creatures. These include the pontianak (female vampire) and the orang minyak (oily man), which are said to haunt the night and terrify locals.

Close up of the intricate details of a Hindu temple roof
Hindu temple in Singapore

18. The Hindu people who have lived in Singapore for thousands of years consider cows sacred. Killing a cow, even accidentally, could lead to serious punishment. 

19. Anderson Bridge is one of the most famous historical bridges in Singapore but it has a morbid past. During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, the severed heads of criminals and spies would be hung from the bridge.

20. Sentosa Island, now known for its resorts and attractions, was once called the “Island of Death”. The Japanese killed thousands of Chinese prisoners on the island’s beaches.

21. Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew was criticized for using his power to bankrupt and imprison political opponents. His methods were very strict but he transformed Singapore into a developed metropolis. 

22. Afraid of the growing hippie culture across the globe, the government imposed a ban on long hair for males in the 1970s. Incredibly, the likes of Led Zeppelin couldn’t perform in Singapore because they had long hair. Luckily, the ban was lifted in the 1990s.

Unusual Facts About Modern Singapore

A garden of towers that look like trees
Supertree Grove, artificial trees that are lit up at night

23. Singapore is one of only three modern city-states in the world. The other two are Vatican City and Monaco.

24. Singapore is the twentieth smallest country in the world. It’s also the second smallest country in Asia, after Maldives.

25. Singapore has changed its time zones 6 times. Today, its time zone is GMT+8, which is still wrong. The correct time zone for Singapore would be the GMT +7.5 time zone.

26. It is illegal to chew gum in Singapore. Only pedestrians with a medical prescription can chew it. Those caught chewing gum illegally can face fines up to $100,000 and two years imprisonment.

27. There is even a law against not flushing toilets when using a public bathroom. If you’re caught not flushing a public toilet in Singapore, you’ll be fined at least $150.

A funnel of water dropping down from the ceiling inside an airport
The Rain Vortex in Changi Airport

28. Singapore has a building height limit of 280 meters (918 feet). Buildings can’t exceed this height due to aviation safety and security regulations. The only building exempt from this law is Guoco Tower, which stands 283.7 meters (930 feet) tall.

29. Singapore is the fifth least corrupt city in the world and the least corrupt city in the whole of Asia. Singapore keeps its crime rate low by enforcing strict laws. The city-state still enforces the death penalty.

30. The Singapore Grand Prix is the only Formula 1 race held at night. The city’s streets are transformed into a racetrack illuminated by thousands of lights.

31. The Jewel Changi Airport is famous for its Rain Vortex, which holds the title of the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. Changi Airport is also famous for being the number one airport in the world. It features large shopping complexes, a cinema, slides, and lush gardens.

32. Singapore is home to the world’s first nocturnal zoo, the Night Safari, which opened in 1994. Visitors can observe animals in their natural nighttime habitats, in what is a unique and immersive experience.

A Merlion statue shoots out water, with the three towers of the Marina Bay Sands casino complex topped with a ship-like structure that connects them
Marina Bay Sands and the Merlion

33. The iconic Merlion Statue is meant to personify Singapore. It has the head of a lion and the body of a fish. The 8.6 meter statue shoots water from its mouth. Nearby, there is a 2 meter merlion cub.

34. Marina Bay Sands is the world’s most expensive casino resort. It consists of three buildings connected by a ship-like skyway called Sands Skypark. The Skypark has the world’s largest infinity pool.

33. The city-state is famous for its inventions. These include the ARCTT-021 COVID-19 vaccine, virtual museums, and mini-DNA sequencing machines.

34. The Singapore Sling cocktail was invented at Raffles Hotel in Singapore in 1915. Today, Singapore Airlines premium passengers can order Singapore Slings for free.

A Singapore Sling cocktail with pineapple slice on a wooden bar
A Singapore Sling at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel

35. Singapore has a unique tradition of naming orchid hybrids after visiting dignitaries and celebrities. The National Orchid Garden in the Singapore Botanic Gardens showcases these orchids, including varieties named after Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher, and Nelson Mandela.

36. Singapore has been featured in a huge range of popular movies. These include “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” (2001), “Independence Day: Resurgence” (2016), and “Crazy Rich Asians” (2018). 

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