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Beyond the picture-perfect skyline and the bustling city centre, there’s still so much more to Singapore for visitors to explore. Read on, for curious facts you never knew about this green and cosmopolitan city.

1. It’s a city of not just one island, but 63

Photo by Afur Wong

You might not know it but Singapore’s land area includes as many as 63 offshore islands that surround the main island. These include Sentosa (the largest of the 63 islands), Pulau Ubin, St John’s Island and Sisters’ Islands. What that means for visitors: more fun in the sun!

2. It’s home to the world’s first night zoo

Singapore’s Night Safari provides a nocturnal experience like no other in the city; it’s also the world’s very first night zoo. First opened in 1994, the 35-hectare park features over 2,500 nocturnal animals of over 130 species.

Hop onto the 40-minute tram ride for an overview of the park’s main attractions. Be sure to amble along the four interlinked walking trails within the park, for a zoo trip like no other.

3. It’s a city of (man-made) waterfalls

According to the Wildlife Reserves Singapore, the first man-made waterfall was built at Jurong Bird Park in 1970. Dropping from a height of 30 metres, it is said to be the tallest waterfall in an aviary to date.

That’s not all. You’ll also find the world’s tallest indoor waterfall (35 metres) in Singapore at the Cloud Forest, Gardens by the Bay. This huge waterfall is the centrepiece of the misty conservatory, designed to house plant life from the tropical highlands.

Come 2018, there will be an even taller indoor waterfall, to be built at Jewel at Changi Airport. This new retail and lifestyle complex will feature the Water Vortex, a 40 metre high man-made waterfall that will be surrounded by a lush indoor garden.

4. The locals speak Singlish, not just English

Photo by Afur Wong

Don’t be too surprised to hear Singaporeans adding the occasional lah and leh to their sentences, which have become an integral part of everyday conversation. These are just bits of what make the local Singlish vocabulary so unique.

Singlish is a collection of colloquial catch phrases and lingo influenced by Singapore’s multiculturalism. Other examples include the Singlish term chope, which means to reserve a seat. Locals often chope seats at a hawker centre using packets of tissue paper!

Singaporeans also tend to refer to strangers such as cab drivers and hawker centre stall owners as Aunties and Uncles. This is an endearing way of addressing older gentlemen and ladies. Do use the terms wisely though, as it can connote the addressee’s elderly age; you would not want to offend a stranger by accident!

5. Singapore pioneered the first F1 night race

Photo by Zexsen

Held annually since 2008, Grand Prix Season Singapore features a gamut of concerts, racing and entertainment activities, for Formula One fans and visitors of all ages.

The star event — the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix — also made racing history as the world’s first ever Formula One night race. The twisty Marina Bay street circuit has largely remained unchanged in the years since; the track’s brightly lit floodlights also add to the spectacular night views of Singapore. According to Formula One, the Marina Bay Street Circuit also boasts more corners (23 in all) than any other circuits on the Formula One race calendar.

6. It’s one of the world’s greenest cities

Photo by Afur Wong

This city of skyscrapers is also one that is filled with lush greenery. Nearly half of Singapore’s land area (approximately 700 square kilometres) is under green cover. Beyond numerous parks and gardens, there are pockets of undiscovered plant life housed in the most unusual of places. For example, the PARKROYAL on Pickering is known for its hotel-in-a-garden concept and its four-storey cascading vertical garden.

That’s not all. There’s rich biodiversity in nature reserves too — Singapore is home to over 2,000 native vascular plant species. The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in particular, is said to contain more tree species in a single hectare than the total number of tree species found in North America.

7. It’s home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and some unique ‘VIPs’

Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, the Singapore Botanic Gardens has a history of over 150 years since its creation in 1859; that’s more than a century older than modern Singapore itself!

Its most popular attraction is the National Orchid Garden, which houses thousands of orchid species; Very Important Plants (VIPs), in more ways than one. Over 200 hybrid orchids in this garden have been affectionately named after visiting foreign dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as well as celebrities like actors Jackie Chan, Zhou Xun and Bae Yong Jun.

Another fun fact: Singapore’s first botanic garden opened in 1822, on the slopes of the area now known as Fort Canning Hill. Measuring just 19 hectares, the garden closed in 1829 due to rising costs and was later rebuilt as a fort equipped with armoury, barracks and a hospital.

8. There are tons of off-the-beaten track neighbourhoods to explore

Photo by Danny Santos

Besides the history-rich Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India cultural districts, there are more colourful enclaves for visitors to explore in Singapore.

You’ll find rows of hip eateries and stores along the Art Deco-style buildings of Tiong Bahru, as well as colourful Peranakan-style shophouses and traditional food stalls at Joo Chiat-Katong.

More up-and-coming neighbourhoods include Everton Park, which is home to coffee joints, cafes, ice-cream parlours and other must-try foodie hotspots.

9. There’s always something to celebrate in Singapore

Fret not about finding fun new things to do. There are cultural festivals, major sports, lifestyle and arts events held all year-round in the city to keep you entertained.

The annual HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens (April) and WTA Finals Singapore (held by the Women’s Tennis Association in October) are hosted at the S$1.3 billion dollar Singapore Sports Hub.

Come May, fashionistas will flock to the city for Singapore Fashion Week. As the region’s most anticipated fashion event, past runways have showcased international designers such as Victoria Beckham, Carolina Herrera, as well as local fashion labels like Ong Shunmugam and Dzojchen. Then get set for a shopping spree during the Great Singapore Sale, which kicks off annually in June.

In July, foodies are in for a treat with the Singapore Food Festival, where they will get to savour uniquely Singaporean dishes as well as the best of Mod-Sin (Modern Singaporean) cuisine, which gives a modern twist to traditional flavours.

10. The lion city may actually have been inspired by a tiger

Photo by Andrew Tan

You may have heard about the Merlion, Singapore’s iconic emblem. The Merlion is a mythical creature with a lion’s head and a fish’s tail.

What you might not know: the Merlion was partly inspired by the city’s Sanskrit name, Singapura, which means ‘lion city’. This Sanskrit name is thought to have been given by a Sumatran prince Sang Nila Utama, who ruled Temasik, a settlement on the Singapura island during the early 14th century. While hunting for animals, the prince spotted a strange creature moving quickly, which was identified as a lion by his advisors. However, there were no records of lions native to Singapore. It might have been a tiger that he saw, for tigers used to be found in the wild in Singapore, up to the 1930s.