It's possible to savour some of Singapore's top offerings, from evocative artefacts to million-dollar light shows, without reaching for your wallet. And then there's always the simple pleasure of hitting the city's diverse neighbourhoods, where daily life is the best show in town.

Museums & Galleries

  • Gillman Barracks

This rambling art outpost with 11 commercial galleries is a civilised way to spend a late afternoon, browsing free temporary exhibitions of works produced by some of the world's most coveted creatives. You'll find great nosh here to.

  • Parkview Museum

This cavernous 15,000 sq ft contemporary art museum is most definitely worth a gawk, as is the grand art deco lobby of the building in which it is housed. There's no cover charge as the owners, the Parkview Group, aim is to enrich the local art scene and encourage the integration and appreciation of art in everyday life. Stop for a gin at Atlas on your way out.

  • SAM at 8Q

Regular admission charges are waived every Friday night from 6pm at this contemporary art hang-out. Spend a few hours wandering the four floors, taking in quirky installations, mixed-media statements and, on occasion, performance art. Last entry is 8.15pm.

Natural Highs

Exploring Singapore's swath of nature reserves and parks is both free and invigorating. Singapore's Botanic Gardens is one of the country's greatest attractions and not only is it free, it also hosts free tours and seasonal opera performances. The Southern Ridges is another winner, with forest canopy strolling, striking architectural features and breathtaking views. If you like monkeys, you'll spot plenty on a wander along the shady forest pathway around MacRitchie Reservoir – don't miss the 250m-long Treetop Walk.

Street Life

  • Chinatown

Chinatown is a visceral jungle of heady temples, medicinal curiosities, heritage shophouses and still-wriggling market produce. It costs nothing to explore the architecture of places such as the Sri Mariamman Temple and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, the gut-rumbling Chinatown Complex market, or the contemporary exhibitions at pocket-sized Utterly Art.

  • Little India

Singapore's most refreshingly unruly inner neighbourhood offers an intense dose of colours, sounds and scents. Soak up the hypnotic energy of Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, the fairy-tale architecture of Abdul Gafoor Mosque, and the riotously colourful shops and stalls of Dunlop and Buffalo Sts.

Entertainment

  • Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

Singapore's iconic arts centre has no shortage of free events, from live-music gigs to art exhibitions and film screenings. Don't miss the million-dollar view from the rooftop garden.

  • Gardens by the Bay

While the domed conservatories and OCBC Skyway come at a cost, the rest of Singapore's showpiece city-centre gardens are free, from the Heritage Gardens to Marc Quinn's 'floating' sculpture, Planet. Topping it off is the twice-nightly Garden Rhapsody sound-and-light show.

  • Marina Bay Sands

Like Gardens by the Bay, MBS razzle-dazzles with Spectra, its own twice-nightly, spectacular light, laser and water show choreographed to a stirring score. The best view is from the CBD side of Marina Bay.