At 50 years of age, the nation of Singapore may be relatively young, but it certainly isn’t short on cultural landmarks or heritage sites, some dating back more than 100 years, where you can trace the country’s rich history. From the island’s oldest Buddhist temple, which is now a public museum, to the lush Singapore Botanic Gardens, recently named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, these places are not only stellar examples of how history is creatively preserved in Singapore, they are all great ways to spend your day.
Copyright: The Changi Museum
The Changi Museum
A must for history enthusiasts, The Changi Museum is dedicated to the prisoners of war (POWs) held captive at Changi Prison during the Japanese occupation of Singapore from 1942-1945. It features artwork, photographs, and personal artifacts donated by former prisoners. The highlight is a chapel located in the museum’s courtyard that is a replica of the makeshift chapels used by the POWs. Also keep an eye out for the Changi Murals, which were recreated from the originals painted by war veteran Bombardier Stanley Warren.
1000 Upper Changi Road North, +65 6214-2451
Copyright: Dempsey Hill
It’s hard to imagine—given the bars, restaurants, art galleries, antique furniture stores, nail salons and weekend farmers’ markets that now call the area home—but the forested mini-precinct of Dempsey Hill used to be a military stronghold and site of British army barracks from 1896-1969. Today, a majority of the conserved buildings house some of the city’s best and most well-known establishments including sun-drenched restaurant The White Rabbit, which was a former Ebenezer chapel, and House, a mammoth three-level space housing a spa, a retail space and a restaurant-bar.
Copyright: National Parks Board
Fort Canning Park
One of Singapore’s most historic landmarks, this was where Malay kings once ruled the island and where the decision to surrender Singapore to the Japanese was made by the British. Today Fort Canning Park’s lush lawns host picnics, theatre productions and large-scale concerts such as the annual Shakespeare in the Park and Ballet Under the Stars. In the daytime, it is a peaceful spot for sightseeing, thanks to its beautiful flora and fauna and The Battle Box, which was used as an underground bunker during the war. It is also now home to the new Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris, an international art museum which showcases works by legends including Amadeo Modigliani, Oscar-Claude Monet and Jackson Pollock.
Cox Terrace, +65 6332-1200
Copyright: Fuk Tak Chi Museum
Fuk Tak Chi Museum
Singapore’s oldest temple is also a public museum where you can view various artifacts, photographs and documentations which cover the history of Singapore’s early Hakka and Cantonese immigrants. The structures in this 184 year-old Fuk Tak Chi Museum have been retained to preserve their authenticity, lovingly restored by experienced craftsmen from China and Malaysia. Highlights here include rare objects like Japanese Occupation lottery tickets and portraits of old, high-profile families, as well as everyday finds like hawker licences and Chinese storybooks that provide insight into the daily lives of their owners.
#01-01, 76-78 Telok Ayer St., +65 6532-7868
Copyright: Singapore Economic Development Board
Currently home to 10 international galleries presenting cutting-edge exhibitions against lush greenery and colonial buildings from the 1930s, Gillman Barracks was named after General Webb Gillman and was the site of a fierce battle between the British army and Japanese soldiers in 1942. The barracks was redeveloped and launched in September 2012 as a centre for the creation, exhibition and discussion of contemporary art in Asia. Plus, with its monthly tours covering both the galleries and the barracks’ rich past, this is a treasure trove of both art and history.
9 Lock Rd.
Copyright: Malay Heritage Centre
Malay Heritage Centre
Situated in the historic Kampong Glam precinct, which was home to the Malay aristocracy in 1819, this former palace now serves as a heritage institution for Singapore’s Malay community. The Malay Heritage Centre is bustling with various cultural activities such as traditional musical performances, pottery classes and batik workshops, as well as occasional film screenings. Walk through the interactive Archaeology Station and the eight galleries in the Malay Heritage Museum which traces the various milestones of prominent local Malay figures in Singapore.
85 Sultan Gate, +65 6391-0450
Copyright: National Parks Board
Singapore Botanic Gardens
The Singapore Botanic Gardens has officially been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO committee, making it Singapore’s first. The 156 year-old, 63.7-hectare garden is a leading tropical and horticultural institution, with themed gardens such as the ginger garden and the medicinal plants gardens, as well as over 10,000 types of orchids cultivated in the National Orchid Garden. Plus, the vast space as a range of restaurants and cafes, from the relaxed Casa Verde to the fine dining establishment, Corner House. There are also frequent outdoor concerts, picnics and other events throughout the year.
1 Cluny Rd., +65 6471-7138