24 INTERESTING MUSEUMS AND MEMORIALS TO VISIT

Civilian War Memorial
Civilian War Memorial … pays tribute to the victims of war

By LINDA JAMES | Updated MARCH 10, 2022 | SEE & DO

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Singapore may be well known for its shopping and food – and I have to agree they’re both amazing – but the city has 12 museums including 6 national museums that chart its long history – it was a trading settlement in the 14th century – and rich cultural heritage.

The oldest is the National Museum of Singapore, which opened in 1887. Many museums are free for local residents so be careful when booking online to select the right tickets.

Not all of the museums are focused on the past, many consider the present or look to the future.

ArtScience Museum

Known as “The Welcoming Hand of Singapore”, this lotus-shaped museum is one of the most iconic pieces of architecture in Singapore. It aims to explore the point at which art, science, culture and technology, and innovation meet. It has a mix of permanent and temporary exhibitions so there’s always something new to see.

Future World: Where Art meets Science is one of the permanent exhibitions and features a collection of digital interactive installation. Created in collaboration with very well-known art collective teamLab, it takes contains four narratives – City in A Garden, Sanctuary, Park, and Space.

City in A Garden is inspired by Singapore and visitors get to walk through a waterfall and flower fields as well as some familiar urban sights. Sanctuary is literally that – an oasis of calm – while Park is all about the fun of playing and Space focuses on the cosmos.

A new exhibition, called Radical Curiosity: In the Orbit of Buckminster Fuller

Journey” tells the story of inventor and visionary, Buckminster Fuller. He worked across multiple disciplines including art, science, mathematic, architecture and design creating innovations that changed the world.

Address: 6 Bayfront Ave
Open: daily 10am–7pm
Cost: general admission free, selected exhibitions at a cost eg Future World is 
$S16 (adult) and $S12 (child) for residents and $S19 (adult) and $S14 (child) for non-residents
Getting there: near Bayfront MRT (CE1/DT16), 10 min walk; buses – 133,655,77,97,97E
ArtScience Museum Singapore
The ArtScience Museum … one of the most iconic sights of Singapore

Battlebox Museum

Take a 30-minute guided tour and then explore this underground bunker to your heart’s content. The Battlebox, one of the city’s key historical landmarks, was built 9m inside Fort Canning Hill in 1936 as a former World War II British underground command centre in the heart of Singapore.

The Malaya Command, the army that defended Malaya and Singapore in WWII, was headquartered here and it was also the site of the British decision to surrender Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February, 1942.

The restored underground command centre reveals the history behind that decision through a range of exhibits and artefacts.

Address: 2 Cox Tce
Open: Friday to Sunday and public holidays, 9.30am-5.30pm, Monday to Thursday closed
Cost: 30-minute guided tour
Getting there: near Dhoby Ghaut MRT (NS24/NE6/CC1), 7 min walk, Fort Canning MRT (DT20), 10 min walk; buses – 106,143,166

Baba House

Once the ancestral home of a Peranakan Chinese family, National University of Singapore bought the 1895 three-storey townhouse and restored it immaculately.

Visitors step back in time as they tour the interior of this beautiful home.

Address: 157 Neil Rd
Open: Bookings only
Cost: Free for Singaporean residents, others $S10
Getting there: near Outram Park MRT (EW16/NE3), 8 min walk; buses – 143,147,167,400

Changi Museum and Chapel

This museum documents life in Singapore – and especially Changi – during the Japanese occupation in World War II. It features more than 100 artefacts in 8 exhibition zones that show people’s daily lives, struggles and liberation when World War II ended.

The first four zones show the way Changi changed from the 19th century to the 1920s, the fall of Singapore in World War II, and the lives of soldiers and POWs.

The final four zones detail the POWs’ daily lives, the hardships they endured as well as their resilience, and their liberation.

The museum features a range of exhibits to tell the story of this critical time in Singapore’s history. There’s a video that contrasts the pre-war atmosphere with life during Japanese Occupation and a recreated Changi cell that allows visitors to experience what it was like for the POWs.

As well as artefacts such as a 400-page diary and objects hidden by the POWs,

The museum houses a database of over 50,000 POWs and civilian internees. Free guided tours are available.

Address: 1000 Upper Changi Rd North
Open: daily 9.30am-5.30pm, closed Monday
Cost: free
Getting there: near Tampines East MRT (DT33), 33 min walk; buses – 2,29

Chinatown Heritage Centre

Gain an insight to life in Chinatown in times gone by when you visit these three beautifully restored shophouses, which not only document but recreate the lives of the area’s earliest residents. There are six galleries, preserved living spaces and a variety of multisensory experiences such as displays of pungent opium and fragrant spices.

The centre offers visitors the opportunity to join craft workshops and access multimedia guides in English, Mandarin, French and Japanese.

Address: 48 Pagoda St
Open: Daily 9.30am-6pm, temporarily closed
Cost: $S14
Getting there: near Chinatown MRT (NE4/DT19), 4 min walk, Outram Park (EW16/NE3), 9 min walk; buses – 143, 33

Chinese Heritage Centre

Part of Nanyang Technological University, the centre helps visitors learn about overseas Chinese communities and their culture. There are a range of permanent exhibitions such as Chinese More Or Less: An Exhibition on Overseas Chinese Identity, one of the larger displays.

Nanyang University (or “Nantah”) is the first and only Chinese university outside China. The grounds, which feature the historical Yunnan Garden and a lake, are definitely worth taking a look at if you’re out that way.

Address: 12 Nanyang Dr
Open: Weekdays 9.30am–5pm, weekends 10am–5pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: buses – 179,241,99

Civil Defence Heritage Gallery

Gain insight into the fire fighting and civil defence efforts since the late 1800s. The gallery is in the Central Fire Station, which is part of the Civic District Heritage Trail.

Address: 62 Hill St
Open: daily 10am-4pm, closed Monday
Cost: free
Getting there: near Clarke Quay (NE5), 7 min walk, City Hall MRT (EW13/NS25), 7 min walk; buses – 145,147,166,197,51

Civilian War Memorial

Operation Sook Ching was a Japanese military operation designed to eliminate anti-Japanese sentiment from the Chinese community in Singapore. Chinese males aged between 18 and 50 were told to attend mass screening centres from February 21 to March 4, 1942. Those believed to be anti-Japanese were executed.

This memorial was built over a burial chamber that contains the remains discovered in mass graves of civilian war victims found around Singapore in 1962. More than 40 of these mass graves came from Siglap’s Valley of Death.

A service is held in the war memorial every year on February 15 to remember the victims of the war.

The memorial, which contains four 65m pillars, also recognises the unity of Singapore’s four main races: Malay, Chinese, Indian and Eurasian.

Address: Beach Rd, bounded by Nicoll Hwy, Stamford Rd, Bras Basah Rd
Open: 24 hours
Cost: free
Getting there: near City Hall MRT (EW13/NS25) 8 min walk, Esplanade MRT (CC3) 4 min walk; buses - 0,100,106,107M,14,57

Indian Heritage Centre

Learn about the history of the Indian and South Asian communities in the Southeast Asian region by touring this four-storey building, which blends traditional and modern Indian architectural elements. Behind the façade, which is inspired by the baoli (or Indian stepwell), there are five permanent galleries, a museum shop and activity spaces.

The shimmering façade aims to present the centre as a “shining jewel” in the day transforming into a “glowing lantern” of the Indian community at night.

There are guided tours available.

If you’re planning a visit to Little India, check out my itineraries and area guides for other things to do and see while you’re there.

Address: 5 Campbell Ln
Open: Tuesday to Thursday 10am-7pm, Friday and Saturday 10am-8pm, Sundays/Public Holidays 10am-4pm, closed Monday
Cost: Free for Singaporean residents, $S8 adults, $S5 students and under 6yrs free
Getting there: near Rochor MRT (DT13), 4 min walk, Little India MRT (NE7/DT12), 6 min walk, Bugis MRT (EW12/DT14), 11 min walk; buses – 131,139,147

The Intan

Immerse yourself in Peranakan culture at The Intan, a museum in a house. The collection of artefacts includes a wide variety of Peranakan slippers, hundreds of enamel tiffin carriers as well as pots and intricate jewellery and embroidery handmade by the Nyonyas (Peranakan women).

The Tea Experience includes a guided tour with Alvin Yapp, the owner and curator who will explain the traditional Peranakan wedding ceremony, and other cultural practices. 

Address: 69 Joo Chiat Tce
Open: Friday and Saturday, 10am and 4pm; Sunday 4pm
Cost: Adult $S64.20, child under 12yrs $S32.10 includes a guided tour and light refreshment
Getting there: near Eunos MRT (EW7), 11 min walk, Paya Lebar MRT (CC9/EW8), 17 min walk; buses – 28,30,33,51,60,7,966
Kranji War Memorial Singapore
Kranji War Memorial … remembering those who fought in WWII

Kranji War Memorial

This hillside cemetery honours the men and women from the Commonwealth who died in the line of duty during World War II.

There are more than 4400 white gravestones lined up in rows on the slopes o the cemetery and four memorials.

The first and largest is the 24m-high Singapore Memorial, which has a star-topped central pylon and bears the names of more than 24,346 Allied soldiers and airmen killed in Southeast Asia who have no known grave. The register is at the entrance.

A memorial is held every year near Remembrance Day on 11 November to pay tribute to those who gave their lives.

Kranji Military Cemetery, a non-world war site of more than 1,400 burials, and Singapore State Cemetery, where the country’s first and second presidents are buried.

Address: 9 Woodlands Rd
Open: Daily 8am-6.30pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Kranji MRT (NS7), 15 min walk; buses – 160,170,960,961

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

With 8500sqm of space over seven storeys, this museum is home to more than 560,000 catalogued lots and a million specimens. Outside this green building, there are landscaped areas simulating natural habitats of native plants and a phylogenetic garden.

The biodiversity gallery, over 2500sqm, contains 15 zones that trace the history of life on Earth, focusing on the origin of life and scientific knowledge. It also houses three diplodocid sauropod skeletons, each 80% complete.

On the mezzanine floor is the heritage gallery, which documents the natural history of Singapore and includes a zone titled “Singapore Today” highlighting the island’s geology and important conservation work.

The museum features two floors of bottled specimens and one for dried specimens with the collections in two parts, the herbarium and the zoological collection.

The NUS Herbarium (SINU) was founded in 1955 and documents the plant resources in Singapore and Southeast Asia with more 33,000 catalogued specimens. The Zoological Reference Collection (ZRC) is one of the largest collections of Southeast Asian animals with more than 560,000 catalogued lots and over a million specimens.

Address: 2 Conservatory Dr
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 10am-4.30pm
Cost: Singaporean residents – adults $S16, child/student $S9; others – adults $S21, child/student $S13

Lim Bo Seng Memorial

This 3.6m-high octagonal pagoda, made of bronze, concrete and marble in the Chinese National Style, is a tribute to Major-General Lim Bo Seng, one of Singapore’s many war heroes during World War II, who led many anti-Japanese activities and raised funds to support the war effort in China and the creation of an intelligence network in Malaya.

He was captured by the Japanese secret police and tortured before dying in Batu Gajah Jail on June 29, 1944. The British reburied Lim with full military honours at MacRitchie Reservoir, where his grave is still today.

The Chinese Nationalist Government awarded him the rank of Major-General

posthumously.

The pagoda, which has a three-tiered bronze roof, with four bronze lions at the base, features four bronze plaques that chronicle Lim’s life in English, Chinese, Tamil and Malay.

Address: Esplanade Park, Connaught Drive
Open: 24 hours
Cost: free
Getting there: near Fullerton Jetty, 5 min walk, Raffles Place Jetty, 6 min walk; buses: 10,100,131,75
Malay Heritage Centre Singapore
Malay Heritage Centre … once the home of royalty

Malay Heritage Centre

Learn about the heritage of the Malay community in Singapore through the exhibitions and activities on offer at this centre in Istana Kampong Gelam, Gedung Kuning and the surrounding Kampong Gelam precinct.

There are 6 permanent galleries over the 2 levels and there’s a dedicated space for children aged 3 to 6, special exhibitions and interactive workshops.

Address: 85 Sultan Gate
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 10am–6pm, closed Monday
Cost: Singaporean residents free; others – adults $S8, students $S5 and children under 6yrs free
Getting there: near Bugis MRT (EW12|DT14), 9 min walk, Nicoll Highway MRT (CC5)	, 11 min walk; buses – 10,100,107,133,57,80,961

Mint Museum of Toys

One of the more unusual things to do with kids in Singapore is this museum full of vintage and collectable toys – 5 storeys of them! While the complete collection includes more than 50,000 toys from the 1840s to the 1970s, only 8000 are on display at any one time.

Address: 26 Seah St
Open: Daily 9.30am-6.30pm
Cost: Adults $S25; children 7-12 $S15 – includes guided tour
Getting there: Near City Hall MRT (EW13/NS25), take Exit A, Bugis MRT (EW12/DT14), take exit C, Esplanade MRT (CC3), take Exit F; buses – 7,32,51,61,63,80,145,175,197,851 stop 01029; 56,57,100,107,961 stop 01611

Musical Box Museum

Musical boxes were a symbol of European culture in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The museum itself is housed within Thian Hock Keng temple and has more than 40 antique musical boxes on display.

Bookings are compulsory as the museum only operates guided tours.

Address: 168 Telok Ayer St
Open: 10am-5pm
Cost: Adult $S12, student $S6, child 6yrs and under free (includes 45-minute guided tour)
Getting there: near Telok Ayer MRT (DT18), 3 min walk, Chinatown MRT (NE4/DT19), 9 min walk, Tanjong Pagar MRT (EW15) 10 min walk, Raffles Place MRT (EW14/NS26), 10 min walk; buses – 10,655,97,97E

National Library

There are two libraries in this building – the Central Public Library in Basement 1 and the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library from Levels 7 to 13, both of which are open to the public. The building features two 16-storey blocks, with three basements, that are linked by skybridges on every floor. The Drama Centre is also here on Levels 3 to 5.

On the 16th-floor roof is a large closed area called The Pod, which is not available to the public but is used for functions and events. Two of the gardens are open to the public – the Courtyard on Level 5 and the Retreat on Level 10.

Address: 100 Victoria St
Open: daily 10am-9pm
Cost: free
Getting there: near Bugis MRT (EW12/DT14), 6 min walk, Bras Basah MRT (CC2), 9 min walk, City Hall (EW13/NS25), 9 min walk; buses – 100,145,197,51,591,61,980

National Museum of Singapore

This is one of the best places to learn about Singapore’s culture and history through the permanent exhibitions – Singapore Gallery and Life in Singapore: The Past 100 Years.

The museum features a range of exhibits from immersive video and sound shows to art installations and festivals, film screenings and performances.

It’s one of the oldest buildings in Singapore, dating back to 1887, but has been updated with glass and metal extensions that take it firmly into the 21st century.

There are cafes and restaurants, and a shop to pick up souvenirs of your visit.

Address: 93 Stamford Rd
Open: Daily 10am-7pm
Cost: Free for Singaporean residents and children 6yrs and under; others $S15 adults and $S10 students
Getting there: near Bencoolen MRT (DT21), walk 350m, Bras Basah MRT (CC2), walk 250m, Dhoby Ghaut Station MRT (CC1/NE06/NS24), walk 450m, City Hall MRT (EW13/NS25), walk 600m; buses – 106,124,162,166,175,502

NUS Museum

This university museum focuses on Asia, its culture and heritage. It contains nine galleries and other spaces for exhibitions and programs and has an excellent collection of Asian art and artefacts with more than 8000 items in four collections.

The Lee Kong Chian Collection contains ancient and contemporary Chinese art such as paintings, pottery and ornaments. The South and Southeast Asian Collection features Indian classical sculptures, modern paintings and mixed-media pieces. The Ng Eng Teng Collection highlights the work of this celebrated Singporean sculptor with more than 1000 artworks. NUS Baba House, at 157 Neil Rd, contains the fourth collection.

Address: 50 Kent Ridge Cres
Open: Tuesday to Saturday 10am-6pm, closed Sunday
Cost: free
Getting there: go to Clementi MRT, take bus 96, 183 or 188, Kent Ridge MRT, take NUS Shuttle Bus D2, K or BTC; buses – 151,183,188,33,95,96,96A

Parkview Museum

This private museum in Parkview Square is designed to host exhibitions over 1500sqm. Focusing on contemporary art, it features solo shows and thematic exhibitions by local and international artists.

Parkview Group’s art collection includes imperial Chinese stone Buddhist carvings, ancient bronze ware, the largest Salvador Dali collection outside of Spain, art works by western masters, and a significant collection of contemporary Chinese art.

Many of the art galleries in Singapore are free so try to fit a couple into your itinerary.

Address: Level 3, 600 North Bridge Rd 
Open: Currently closed
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Bugis MRT (EW12/DT14), take Exit E, turn left and cross the road into Parkview Square; buses – 7,32,51,61,63,80,145,175,197,851 to stop B01139

Peranakan Museum

This museum features 10 permanent galleries over three levels that explore Peranakan culture and life. The collection includes furniture, jewellery and traditional textiles. The Peranakan community are descendants of people of Chinese, Malay and Indonesia heritage that were born in the Straits.

Address: 39 Armenian St
Open: Daily 10am-7pm, Fridays 10am-9pm
Cost: No entry fee for locals; adults $S6, children free
Getting there: nearest MRTs Bras Basah (CC2), 6-min walk, City Hall (EW13/NS25), 7-min walk, Bencoolen (DT21), 9-min walk; buses – 106,147,197,33,51,61

Red Dot Design Museum

This houses more than 200 design works that have won awards in the international Red Dot Design competition. The geometrical glass building alone is worth visiting with its structural steel elements and large overhanging roofs.

You can purchase many of the designs at the shop and there’s also a café.

Address: 11 Marina Blvd
Open: Wednesday to Friday noon-8pm; weekends 10am-8pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Bayfront MRT (CE1/DT16), take Exit E, walk 4 min, Downtown MRT (DT17), take Exit B, walk 4 mins, Marina Bay MRT (CE2/NS27), take Exit B, walk 4 min

Reflections at Bukit Chandu

The Battle of Pasir Panjang was one of the biggest battles fought against the Japanese in Singapore during World War II and this memorial highlights the heroic actions of those involved.

The restored black-and-white colonial bungalow is near the Battle of Pasir Panjang site, where 1400 brave soldiers from the Malay Regiment tried bravely to hold off the 13,000-strong Japanese army ultimately fighting to their deaths.

Bukit Chandu (Malay for Opium Hill) was the scene of intense fighting on 14 February 1942 during the Battle of Singapore.

The museum houses a large range of artefacts that tell the story of the heroic men who fought at Bukit Chandu.

Address: 31-K Pepys Rd
Open: Daily 9.30am-5pm, closed on Monday
Cost: Singaporeans free; others $S5
Getting there: near Pasir Panjang MRT (CC26), 14 min walk; buses – 143,175,188,30,51

Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall

This national monument and heritage institution traces Dr Sun’s activities in Southeast Asia, how the Singapore Chinese contributed to the 1911 Revolution and the impact of the revolution on Singapore and the Chinese community.

Address: 12 Tai Gin Rd
Open: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am–5pm, closed Monday
Cost: Free for Singaporean residents; 
Getting there: near Novena MRT (NS20), 16 min walk; buses - 130,131,139,145,151,153,167,186,506

Conclusion

These 24 interesting museums and memorials in Singapore highlight not only important historical events but chronicle the lives of the people since the city state was a fishing village. When you’re planning your trip, you should definitely try to see some of them.

Want more of Singapore?

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