The best way to experience Singapore’s diverse multi-racial cultures and unique heritage is to step off the well-trodden visitors’ path, and see Singapore the way locals do by participating in its distinctive cultural events!
Cherished by residents and visitors alike, these unique festivals in Singapore present a celebratory side of the city that you are unlikely to encounter on an average day. Infusing the Lion City with a carnival atmosphere, they are resplendent with eye-popping colours, energetic processions, and visually spectacular performances.
Do note that dates of events based on lunar or religious calendars may vary by year, so it is best to look them up beforehand. Pick from these lesser-known cultural events in Singapore to kick off your Singaporean jaunt, day or night.
1. Mind Over Body: Watch Devotion In Action
Admire the dedication of local Hindu devotees to their faith at the annual Thaipusam festival. Commemorating the full moon day in the Tamil month of Thai, the name Thaipusam also contains the name of a star, Pusam. The festival typically falls in January or February in the Gregorian calendar.
In the days leading up to the festival, Hindus devote themselves to spiritual practice and practise self-control over their senses. They fulfill their vows to Lord Muruga by carrying milk jars or pulling kavadis, which are steel or wooden frames decorated with flowers and feathers, connected to their bodies with chains and hooks. A rite of passage for devoted Hindus, these practices of physical austerity are a sight to behold.
The best place to catch the action is along Serangoon Road going southwest towards Dhoby Ghaut, between Farrer Park and Dhoby Ghaut MRT stations on the North-East Line. Here, you may watch devotees, their families, and friends go through a four-kilometre walk from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.
2. Paint The Town Red… And Yellow And Blue And Purple…
Like Thaipusam, the Holi festival is unique to the Hindu community. However, its nature is completely different.
Usually falling in March, Holi, or the festival of love, is one of the rare occasions where participants can get colourful and wild in Singapore. This festival of colours heralds the beginning of spring in the Hindu calendar.
To enjoy the fun, dress in garments that you don’t mind getting stained like a rainbow in, preferably white ones. Dance to Bollywood beats while flinging colourful pigments at strangers. While doing so, remember that you’re doing this to show the victory of love over hatred, and good over evil!
3. Take A Walk Down Singapore’s Memory Lane
Wonder what lies behind the doors of Chinese clan associations? Curious to rediscover disappearing places and trades in Singapore?
Indulge your inner culture buff at the Singapore Heritage Festival, a two-week long islandwide celebration of Singapore’s unique heritage and art.
Depending on its calendar, you may enter the doors of community and clan associations to soak up their history, participate in a trail which brings you on an off-the-beaten-track neighbourhood, or indulge in local delicacies while exploring Singapore’s streets. Occasionally, you may even get to visit historic buildings or participate in an art walk in the heart of Singapore’s civic district.
4. Delight Your Taste Buds With A Delicious Smorgasbord
Singaporeans love their food. In fact, eating is often regarded as the number one national pastime on the tiny tropical island.
Started in 1994 and organised by the Singapore Tourism Board, the two-week Singapore Food Festival offers you the newest degustation experiences in town.
This highly popular food event sees Singapore chefs, hawkers, and Michelin-starred dining venues showcase their newest culinary creations. Often, you will see snaking queues of locals keen to try their latest gastronomic delights.
New to Singapore? Check off this list of foods to sample:
- Mod-Sin cuisine (modernised local Singaporean favourites fused with cooking methods from other continents) at Candlenut and Wild Rocket restaurants
- Peranakan sweets at Peranakan Khek
- Craft beer at Timbre+
- Hawker food at Chinatown Food Street.
5. Party in Neon Amidst Colonial Architectural Splendour
Nocturnal photo hunters should not miss this outdoor technicolour extravaganza.
This August marks the 10th anniversary of the much-loved Singapore Night Festival in Singapore’s Bras Basah and Bugis precinct. Happening each year during the mid August period, admission to most installations and performances is free.
Watch fantastic night acrobatics, roving street acts, international groups’ performances, and light art installations. You may also visit the museum exhibitions and art venues located around the precinct. Open till late, they often include special live events during the night festival.
Also known as #SGNightFest, the Night Festival is Singapore’s biggest outdoor performing arts festival. Popular with young Singaporeans, it allows you to rub shoulders with the locals while catching Singaporean and international site-specific artworks around Singapore’s arts and heritage hub.
6. Sample A South-East Asian Take On A Chinese Delicacy
Besides the touching Chinese story of a mythical maiden who flew to the moon to prevent her husband’s immortality pills from getting stolen, the Mid-Autumn Festival around September or October yearly is a great reason to eat.
Looking for mooncakes in Singapore with unique local flavours? Singapore’s pastry chefs are ready to regale you.
Choose from a mix of flavours such as purple sweet potato, mixed nuts with chicken ham, pandan paste with single yolk, Mao Shan Wang durian and many others. Flavours change annually to suit the discerning taste buds of locals, while tropical-themed mooncakes remain perennial favourites.
Mooncakes are often exquisitely decorated in metal boxes, making them ideal gifts for your family, coworkers, or business partners when you return home. Order your sweet treats directly from Hai Tien Lo restaurant once the festival comes around.
7. Catch Cutting-Edge Art Performances Fresh From The Drawing Board
“Enchantment in this age of disenchantment is to stay connected to issues, to still believe, to still engage because it is important,” write the organisers of the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA).
This two-part yearly festival promises to provoke your heart and mind, beginning with The O.P.E.N., a five-week series of curated events, followed by the main festival with international dance, music, and theatre experiences.
Beginning in 1977, the Singapore International Festival of Arts runs around June to September yearly. The festival’s promises intimate performances in small spaces real HDB public housing estate homes, and live stage blockbuster performances on topics such as international relationships and connections, reworked myths, and multimedia dance.
Who says Singapore is a cultural desert?
8. Spot Silver Screen Glamour And Unleash Your Inner Film Critic
Credit: Singapore International Film Festival
Brush shoulders with Asian and international movie stars!
The annual Singapore International Film Festival is held in November or December annually, with tickets sold on SISTIC.
Bring your film buff friends to catch the latest masterpieces from emerging Singapore, Southeast Asian, and international filmmakers at Singapore’s longest-running film festival since 1987. Besides film screenings, you can also check out masterclasses and fringe events, or even marvel at the Silver Screen Awards ceremonies when the red carpet is rolled out for feature film and short film stars.
Welcome to Singapore’s Festivities!
Top off your celebrations with a staycation with a Pan Pacific touch. Speak to our team at Pan Pacific Singapore or Pan Pacific Orchard to enquire about our latest offers for rooms and suites, and taste this year’s Pan Pacific mooncakes to sweeten your Singapore stay.