Top 7 festivals in Singapore

Singapore is known the world-over for its dazzling skylines and smart ordiliness. But Singaporeans also know how to throw a great party, festival or event. Here are seven in the annual calendar worth travelling the world for
Chinese New Year Dragon Decoration in the New Bridge Road, Singapore. Photo: Shutterstock
Chinese New Year Dragon Decoration in the New Bridge Road, Singapore. Photo: Shutterstock

Almost every month of the year, the island’s streets, temples and ethnic enclaves come alive with a motley assortment of religious and cultural celebrations. Here are the best festivals, parties and events to experience in Singapore

1. Chinese New Year

The most widely celebrated festival in Singapore among the Chinese, it falls on the first day of the lunar calendar, usually between mid-January and mid-February. Chinese custom decrees that the previous year’s debts be paid, the home cleaned and new clothing purchased. It is also a time for reaffirming ties at the family reunion dinner that takes place on the eve. The 15-day festival, beginning with a two-day holiday, is commemorated by feasting and the giving of hong bao, red packets of “lucky money”.

Catch the festive spirit in Chinatown, where the streets are all lit up and chock-a-block with people jostling for festive goods. Insight Guides' local experts can ensure you time your trip just right to coincide with the best of the festivities. Our Uniquely Singapore trip itinerary even includes a food tour around the area. 

Dragon and lion dancers throng the streets, making plenty of noise to keep the mythical monsters traditionally associated with Chinese New Year at bay. The celebrations end on a high note with the Chingay Parade – an exuberant procession which is held on the Sunday following the New Year. Lavish floats, stilt-walkers, martial arts troupes and mini-dramas illustrating classical Chinese myths are some of the parade’s best-loved features.

2. Thaipusam

This Hindu festival is observed between January and February, in the Tamil month of Thai. Devotees honour Lord Muruga, god of bravery, power and virtue, by performing feats of mind over spirit. The festival begins at dawn at the Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road. Here, devotees who have entered a trance have their bodies pierced with metal hooks or spikes attached to a kavadi, a cage-like steel contraption which is carried on their shoulders. The procession makes its way to the Sri Thandayuthapani Temple at Tank Road, accompanied by chanting supporters.

3. Singapore Food Festival

The island celebrates a favourite pastime – eating – with a month-long food fiesta in July. Various food-tasting events and unique dining experiences that cover a gamut of cuisines are held. The Singapore Food Festival showcases the destination's diverse range of tastes, flavours and local specialities both past and present. 

An elder Hindu devotee carries a golden kavadi at Thaipusam in Singapore.An elder Hindu devotee carries a golden kavadi at Thaipusam in Singapore. Photo: Shutterstock

4. Singapore Night Festival

For two weekends in August, the Bras Basah and Bugis precinct comes alive at night with stunning outdoor light installations. There are music, dance, art and aerial performances to look forward to. Special events with late night openings take place at the National Museum, Peranakan Museum, Singapore Art Museum and The Substation. Time your trip to Singapore with the help of Insight Guides' local experts; to experience this enlightening event for yourself submit a trip request today

5. Singapore Inter­national Festival of Arts (SIFA)

This annual event in Aug–Sept showcases a bonanza of Asian and Western performing arts from dance and theatre to music. Past performers have included the Washington Ballet and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and also less commercial ventures, such as a Lithuanian adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello. The festival also features an eclectic fringe segment and workshops by visiting companies. Coincide your trip with Singapore's International Festival of Arts while on Insight Guides' Indulgent Singapore holiday

6. Thimithi

This breathtaking fire-walking ceremony occurs in October at the Sri Mariamman Temple on South Bridge Road. Male devotees sprint barefoot across glowing coals, without any apparent injury to their feet, in honour of Draupathi, a legendary heroine deified by South Indian Tamils. On the eve of the festival a magnificent silver chariot honouring Draupathi makes its way from this temple to the Srinavasa Temple in Little India.

7. Dragon Boat Festival

Every June, colourful long boats with prows carved to represent dragons and birds crest the waves of Marina Bay, propelled by dozens of pairs of strong arms. The Dragon Boat Race is an international-class event that draws teams from Australia, Europe and the US, among others. Make this a family event, while on Insight Guides' Singapore Family Fun holiday; our local experts can time your trip just right and advise you on where to find the best viewing spots. 

The festival honours a Chinese patriot, Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in 278 BC to protest against the corruption of the imperial court. Fishermen tried to rescue him but failed. Small packages of rice were thrown into the water to distract fishes from his body, and villagers decorated their boats with dragon heads and tails with the same purpose in mind. Today, several varieties of these rice dumplings are available throughout the year.

Ready to take your trip to see Singapore's best festivals?

Browse Insight Guides' ready-made trip itineraries (which can add time to experience any of the festivals in full) or talk to a local expert today to plan your trip from scratch