The label "Marina Bay" is a little fuzzy. Technically, it's the body of water created by reclaiming land around the mouth of the Singapore River and blocked off from the sea by the Marina Barrage, but Singaporeans used to associate the name "Marina" with the Marina Square shopping mall and the many hotel developments around it on the north shore of the river. The half to the south of the river, or Marina South, was mostly unused land until the government targeted it as Singapore's new downtown hub. $400,000 was then spent on a public competition to re-name the district, and the winner was — wait for it — Marina Bay. Now its centrepiece, the Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino, dominates the city skyline while sharing the spotlight with the super trees of Gardens by the Bay. When further construction is completed, Marina Bay will truly be a focal point in any visitor's itinerary, mixing business, shopping, entertainment and culture in one accessible district.
The northern half of Marina Bay is best accessed through the Circle Line of the MRT, which has stations at Esplanade (for Suntec City) and Promenade (for Suntec City and Millenia Walk), or you can hike for 15 min through the underground CityLink shopping mall from Raffles City (starting at City Hall MRT station, where the North-South and East-West lines intersect).
Getting to the southern half is a bit more difficult. The Marina Bay Sands complex is directly served by Bayfront MRT station on the Circle & Downtown MRT Lines and buses 97, 106 or 133. The same buses also serve Marina Bay MRT, which (despite the name) isn't particularly convenient for anything else just yet (except the Marina Barrage where you need to take a shuttle bus from the station to the said attraction).
From the airport, Marina Bay Sands Hotel guests can use a shuttle bus for $ 9.
The Marina Bay Cruise Centre is a direct gateway into the heart of Singapore, serving as the docking point for some of the world's largest cruise ships.
Suntec City, Marina Square, Millenia Walk and the Esplanade in the north are all conveniently linked, either by underground malls or covered walkways. If you don't mind a bit of a walk, the Marina Bay Sands can be reached from the northern half by walking south on the Helix Bridge, which has several viewing platforms overlooking the bay.
Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands hosts a slew of attractions. The easiest on your wallet would be to simply sit and enjoy the view of Shenton Way and the Esplanade from the foreshore, which are great in the day, but even more spectacular at night.
- Marina Bay Sands Casino. 24 hours daily. Singapore's second casino, larger and glitzier than its family-oriented competitor on Sentosa, with 600 gaming tables and 1,500 slot machines. Visitors can enter for free, but locals and residents have to pay $100 just to get in. An age limit of 16 applies, and you'll need to bring ID.
- Sands SkyPark, Marina Bay Sands (to get to ticket counter, get down the escalator outside the lobby of tower 3). 10:00-22:00 daily. Singapore's single most dramatic landmark, the SkyPark defies gravity, perched 55 stories above the ground like a surfboard on top of the three hotel towers. Views aside, for time being there's not much bang for your buck though: the pool is open to guests only. The alternative to paying the entry fee is to visit the restaurants (see Eat) for lunch, which will set you back around $50, but you can freely explore the SkyPark afterwards. The SkyPark consists of one very long infinity pool, 3 heated Jacuzzis, a mini chocolate bar and of course the two high-end restaurants. $20/14 adults/children.
- ArtScience Museum, 10 Bayfront Ave. 10:00-22:00 daily. ArtScience Museum is part of the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort and is the world's first ArtScience museum as well as the largest private museum in Singapore. It mainly hosts international traveling exhibitions although it has a small permanent exhibition. Some of the exhibitions it has hosted include Genghis Khan: The Exhibition; Dalí: Mind of a Genius: Van Gogh Alive; and Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds. $30 adult, $27 senior citizen, $17 child.
- Wonder Full, Marina Bay Sands. Daily 20:00 and 21:30, F-Sa extra show at 23:00. A light and water show lasting for 15 minutes every night at designated times. May be dazzling or cheesy depending on your perspective. Can also be seen from across the bay, which holds different vantage views.
Gardens and parks
Marina Bay adds a whole lot of greenery back to the city, all brought in and replanted. Some trees in the Gardens by the Bay are hundreds of years old, and some even date back a millennium.
- Gardens by the Bay, 18 Marina Gardens Dr, ☎ +65 6420 6848. The free outdoor gardens are themed around plants important to Singapore history and culture. Super trees tower over the rest of the gardens, built to mimic real-life trees using technology such as solar cells. The gardens also has a few event venues like the Meadow. Free.
- Cooled Conservatories. 09:00-21:00. The gardens houses two conservatories; the Flower Dome simulating a dry-climate area and the Cloud Forest for more tropical highlands plants. $28/15.
- OCBC Skyway. 09:00-21:00. Two of the larger super trees are linked by a skyway, giving visitors a 50 m view off the ground. $5/3.
- OCBC Garden Rhapsody. 19:45 and 20:45. Light shows at night. Free.
- Marina Barrage, 260 Marina Way (Take Exit A from Marina Bay MRT Station to catch the 400 shuttle bus), ☎ +65 6514 5959. Outdoor areas: 24 hours. Sustainable Singapore Gallery: M, W-F 09:00-18:00, Sa-Su 10:00-20:00. Provides an educational look at the inner workings of a reservoir and the move towards environmental sustainability. The rooftop garden offers stunning views of the Marina Bay skyline, and you'll see some intrepid kite flyers taking advantage of the breeze. Free.
The Marina South Pier offers a few ferry services out of the city to the Southern Islands of Kusu and St. John. The journey is probably more remarkable than the destinations.
- Southern Islands Ferry, Marina South Pier (Marina South Pier MRT station exit A or B), ☎ +65 6534 9339. M-F: 10:00 and 14:00, Sa: 09:00, 12:00, and 15:00, Su/Hols: 09:00, 11:00, 13:00, 15:00 and 17:00. This gives you a few hours on Kusu, depending on which service is taken, which is plenty for seeing the sights. $15/$12 adults/children.
- Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, 1 Esplanade Dr (Esplanade MRT staion), ☎ +65 6828 8377. Singapore's equivalent of Sydney's famous Opera House, except that the two-lobed spiky Singaporean version deliberately bears a striking resemblance to the durian, a tropical fruit related to the jackfruit which is notorious for its sharp odour. Opera, dance, classical concerts and similar entertainment is offered daily. Prices for the main entertainment start from $20-30 for poor seats, up to over a $100 for good ones. For the traveller on a budget, there are usually free productions on the outdoor riverside stage on weekends. Head up to the rooftop for alternate views of the Marina Bay area.
- Singapore Flyer, 30 Raffles Ave, ☎ +65 6333 3311. 08:30-22:30. Singapore's newest tourist trap, this 150 m tall observation wheel modeled on the London Eye is no less than the world's tallest. One rotation takes about 30 minutes, and for an extra $22 you can sip on a cocktail while admiring the views, but expect to share your capsule with as many as 28 people unless you stump up a cool $1,000 for a private ride. Discounts are widely available, grab a brochure from any tourist information counter. $29.50/20.65 adult/child.
- Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix (Formula 1 Singapore Night-time Grand Prix), Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore. September. The Singapore Grand Prix is a motor race, currently on the calendar of the FIA Formula One World Championship. The first race held at the Marina Bay Street Circuit was the 15th round of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship. It was also the first, and thus far only, nighttime event in Formula One history. Night races are held in September, in conjunction with a comprehensive entertainment schedule. Officially known as the Grand Prix Season Singapore, the lead-up to the final race will include parties, race-themed events, music concerts, exhibitions, and dining and shopping .
- i Light Marina Bay. Asia's first sustainable light art festival that places 30 vivid and innovative light art installations around the bay, as well as a host of interactive events and activities throughout a three-week period in Mar-Apr. Free.
- Millenia Walk, 9 Raffles Blvd (Promenade MRT), ☎ +65 6883 1122. Upscale mall known for housing Singapore's best collection of luxury watch retailers.
- Suntec City, 3 Temasek Blvd (Esplanade MRT), ☎ +65 6825 2667. 10:00-22:00 daily. At the northeastern edge of the CBD is Singapore's 2nd largest shopping mall, featuring the Fountain of Wealth, reputedly the world's largest fountain. If connecting to the Circle Line is inconvenient, the other way in is to take the MRT to City Hall and then follow the signs in the underground CityLink mall, a 15 min air conditioned walk. Currently under heavy renovation until 2015, best to avoid.
- The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. The Sands' shopping mall, chock full of expensive brands geared at stripping jackpot winners of their earnings, plus a dinky little canal where you can go for a spin in a sampan boat at $10/person.
As per usual in Singapore, cheap eats may be found in the food courts of the local shopping centres such as Food Republic and Fountain Food Terrace in Suntec City and The Gallerie in Marina Square. However, be warned that the extravagantly-named Rasapura Masters at Marina Bay Sands is the priciest in the entire country.
- Gluttons Bay, Esplanade Mall #01-15, ☎ +65 6336 7025. 18:00-03:00 daily. Run by famous foodies Makansutra, this outdoor eatery puts together 12 of Singapore's most famous hawkers. Breezy location by the river, great views of the city and pretty good grub make this a winner. The food here is a tourist-friendly reproduction of some of Singapore's best, though you can usually find better (and usually cheaper) versions in the heartlands. $5-30.
There are a lot of mid-range eateries in the shopping centres but not many are of note and are mostly part of standard food franchises found elsewhere. The Gardens by the Bay also has some casual dining if you decide to rest in the middle of a walk.
- Supertree Dining, Supertree Grove, Gardens by the Bay. M-F 1100-22:00; Sa/Su 08:30-22:00. A mix of dining options ranging from noodles to fast food to sandwiches. $15.
Marina Bay Sands has brought in a constellation of big names, with Daniel Boulud, Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, Santi Santamaria, Guy Savoy, and Tetsuya Wakuda all opening restaurants in the complex.
- CÉ LA VI (KU DE TA), Marina Bay Sands SkyPark, ☎ +65 6688 7688, e-mail: email@example.com. 12:00-15:00, 18:00-02:00. A branch of the famous bar/restaurant KU DE TA in Bali, although it had to recently change name over legal issues. The restaurant's tapas-style food is by most accounts overpriced for what you get, but it's still probably a better deal than forking out $50 to enter the bar (one drink included). Lunch $30-85, dinner $100-200.
- Sky @ 57, Marina Bay Sands SkyPark, ☎ +65 6688 8857. 07:00-10:00, 12:00-14:30, 18:00-22:30. Modern Asian food by celebrity chef Justin Quek and some of the best views in town. The three-course $48 lunch, which includes access to the SkyPark, is probably the best-value way of checking out the views from here. Lunch $48, dinner $80+ (minimum charge).
- Guy Savoy, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Atrium 2, L2-01, ☎ +65 6688 8513. Tu-Sa 18:00-22:30. French nouvelle cuisine from Guy Savoy. $300-400.
- Waku Ghin, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Atrium 2, L2-02, ☎ +65 6688 8507. 18:00 and 20:30. Chef Tetsuya's 10-course degustation menu focuses on Japanese cuisine and is created from the best seasonal produce. Rated by Restaurant Magazine as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Also has a bar with premium sake and whiskey. $450.
There are a few interesting places around Marina Square and in the Gardens of the Bay as well.
- Pollen, Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay (Buggy service available from arrival plaza), ☎ +65 6604 9988. 12:00-14:30, 18:00-22:00. Offers innovative, Mediterranean-influenced, modern European cuisine from the ideas of Jason Atherton. The restaurant gets fresh herbs and vegetables straight from the in-house garden.
- Shiraishi, 7 Raffles Ave #03-01 (Ritz-Carlton), ☎ +65 6338 3788. 12:00-14:00, 18:00-22:00. A tiny place in a quiet corner of the hotel, you won't stumble into this intimidatingly Japanese place by accident, but the restaurant's many regulars come here for some of the best and most consistent sushi and sashimi this side of Tokyo. Lunch sets are good value, but ordering à la carte for dinner can be very expensive indeed. For connoisseurs. Lunch $30-85, dinner $100-200.
This is the place to be if you are someone, know somebody or just want to get away from the common masses.
- Avalon, Marina Bay Sands Crystal Pavilion South L1, ☎ +65 6688 7448. W/F-Su: 22:00 till dawn. Another mega club, in a fancy glass pavilion set on the waters of the Marina Bay Reservoir. Regularly brings in headline trance and house DJs. $25 door.
- LeVel33, Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1 #33-01, ☎ +65 6834 3133. Su-Th 12:00-24:00; F-Sa 12:00-02:00. Billed as a craft-brewery in the penthouse of the Marina Bay Financial Centre. Expect lots of corporate types in the outside terrace enjoying the views overlooking the entire Marina Bay area.
- Pangaea, Marina Bay Sands Crystal Pavilion South B2, ☎ +65 8611 7013. W-Sa 22:00 till dawn. More an exclusive lounge than a bar, reserving a table alone will cost you from $1,500 to $15,000. $40 door.
As the glitzy new waterfront of Singapore, Marina Bay accommodation is all made up of high-end hotels, most of which boast expansive city and water views. Cheaper hotels will be found in neighbouring districts. The area is particularly busy during the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix in September, with many booking hotel rooms to be right in the middle of the races. Bayfront Ave will be closed, so traffic to the Marina Bay Sands will be limited through the south end. The Helix Bridge will also be closed during the race weekend (except for those with Zone 1 tickets), making it more difficult to get around.
- Conrad Centennial, 2 Temasek Blvd, ☎ +65 6334 8888. New and impeccably tasteful hotel, next to Suntec City, but a bit far from the MRT. Very good value. $290.
- Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Ave, ☎ +65 6688 8868. The three "card decks" of the Marina Bay Sands will house nearly 2,500 rooms offering some of the best views in the city. The other advantage to staying here, is access to the infinity edge pools atop the SkyPark. From $500.
- Pan Pacific Singapore, 7 Raffles Blvd, Marina Sq, ☎ +65 6336 8111, fax: +65 6339 1861, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. The iconic Pan Pacific Singapore has reopened after a major refurbishment of its rooms. Free in-room wireless and wired internet. Its Cantonese restaurant, Hai Tien Lo is famed for its great service and ambience. Marina Bay Sands entertainment complex is easily accessible via the "Helix Bridge". From $350.
- Ritz-Carlton Millenia, 7 Raffles Ave, ☎ +65 6337 8888. Modern and impeccably stylish, with fantastic full-wall skyline views, even from the bathroom, for rooms on the Marina Bay side. (Don't worry, it's one-way glass.) All rooms are large and equipped with frills like a pillow in the bathtub. Gym, spa, pool and a popular Sunday champagne brunch. Recommended. $400.
- Head eastwards to Riverside for its historic buildings or bigger nightlife, or north to Bugis for street shopping. Both are within walkable distance with frequent breaks, although the MRT may be a more comfortable ride, especially from Marina Bay Sands.