Singapore is constantly evolving itself as a world class cosmopolitan city. Every year throngs of tourists come here to experience this country with all its majestic skyline and futuristic architecture. But, there is also a different side of it that lies in its history. Singapore boasts of a number of monuments of historical significance that tells the tale of its tumultuous past and its glorious journey to where it stands today. Founded by the British as a trading colony in 1819, Singapore has also been occupied by the Japanese and has been a part of Malaysia before gaining independence in 1965. In the subsequent years, Singapore made rapid strides in all-round progress to become one of the most prosperous countries in Asia.
You cannot experience Singapore in all its hues unless you have delved into its history. In this article, we are sharing our top picks for the historical monuments of Singapore. It includes war memorials, museums, and places of religious significance that needs to be visited to get an insight into its rich past.
Here are the best Historical Places in Singapore:
With its history dating back to 1887, the National Museum of Singapore is the oldest museum in the country. A perfect amalgamation of Neo-Palladian and Renaissance Style, this museum is one of the architectural icons of Singapore. It underwent a massive restoration over a period of three and a half years and was re-opened to the public in Dec 2006.
It is the place where you should go if you want to know about the ancient history of Singapore in a way that is interesting and rewarding. It is home to eleven precious artifacts which includes the Singapore Stone and the Gold Ornaments of the sacred Hill. With guided tours, video montages and interactive exhibitions, it guides the visitors through Singapore’s past to its present.
The National Museum of Singapore is a dynamic place today with a host of events lined up each year – from an art exhibition, live performances, film screening and more, making it one of the important historically and culturally vibrant places in Singapore.
Standing tall for over a century now, the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall was known as the Town Hall and Victoria Memorial Hall in the past. This colonial building with a huge clock tower has seen so much and has soaked so much of the past, including the harrowing days the war.
Steeped in architectural beauty, today it is a center for performing arts. During the World War II, it was used as a hospital. You can watch a performance here or just meander through it and marvel at its intricate architecture.
Kranji War Memorial commemorates all the brave hearts that died in the line of duty defending Singapore from the invading Japanese force during the World War II. Comprising of 4 parts namely the War Graves, the Military Graves, the Memorial walls and the State Cemetery, the memorial represents all the three branches of the military.
There are 24,000 names inscribed on the Memorial walls – of soldiers whose bodies were never found. Every year, on Sunday closest to November 11, a remembrance prayer is held here. Visit this site to pay homage to the brave men and women who lost their lives in war. This memorial stands as a memory of the difficult phase Singapore had been through and a testament of how it has survived the tests of time.
Want to know about Singapore’s history dating the World War II, Changi Museum will tell it all to you. Home to a huge collection of photographs, drawings, paintings, letters, and personal effects donated by the former prisoners of war who were put behind the bars in Changi prison.
They provide insightful details of their lives during the dark days of World War II. The museum stands to inspire the future generations and to honor the spirit of the brave men and women who would not bend under the Japanese force. Visitors can opt for a guided tour to understand the significance of this place in a better way.
A heritage landmark, the Civilian War Landmark stands in remembrance of the civilians who lost their lives during the Japanese occupation. It was inaugurated on 15th February 1967 – a day that marked the 25th year of the capture of Singapore by Japan – by Lee Kuan Yew who was the Prime Minister at that time.
Consisting of four identical pillars, each representing the four main races of Singapore – Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian, the memorial is built over the area where the civilian war victims were buried. A symbol of Singapore’s multiracial culture, it is one of the important historical landmarks in the city.
One of the important landmarks of the city, the history Fort Canning – a small hill in the Southeast of Singapore history dates back to the ancient times. The Malays called it the ‘Forbidden Hill’ as it was believed to be the burial ground for kings and supposedly haunted. Sir Stamford Raffle built his residence here and it came to be known as Government Hill.
In 1861, it was renamed Fort Canning when a fort was built here. This place was significant from the military point of view also during the British rule. Today, Fort Canning Park stands here which is a haven for history buffs with an amazing collection of ancient artifacts; it is also a venue for music concerts. Fort Canning recounts the evolution of Singapore from a trading port to a world class International maritime hub.
The Battle Box, now a historical tourist hotspot was once a bomb proof underground command center. Built 30 feet below the Fort Canning Hill in Singapore, the walls of the bunker were constructed with one-meter wide concrete to withstand direct bomb and shell attacks.
It housed as many as 500 men and soldiers during the later stages of the war. It is said it was here that the British decided to surrender Singapore to the Japanese thus marking the beginning of the end of British rule. It also marked the beginning of the darkest days in Singapore’s modern history.
The Battle Box was also used by the Japanese during the Japanese occupation of Singapore. There are 26 rooms in the Battle Box open for visitors and it exhibits the various stages of wartime scenarios of that time.
Boasting of an enviable private collection of vintage toys, the Mint Museum of Toys located in Arts and Heritage district in Singapore will make you take a trip down the memory lane. The collection of these toys is owned by Singaporean Chang Yang Fa and it said to be the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia.
Founded in the year 2007, the museum is one its kind in the world. Today it has over 50,000 vintage toys from over 40 countries dating to the period of the 1840s to 1970 showcased in the museum. About 8000 are put on display in the multi-storeyed contemporary building on 26 Seah Street.
From Batman, Astroboy, Dan Dare, Bonzo the Dog, vintage comics, teddy bears, to various pre-war Japanese toys, the collection here is simply mind boggling. Kids, as well as adults, will find the experience at this place to be truly rewarding. The acronym MINT stands for Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia with Toys.
Located on the Sentosa Island (former Pulau Blakang Mati) off south of Mainland Singapore, Fort Siloso is the only restored gun battery of the 12 that existed at the time of World War II. The Fort was built to defend Singapore in the case of a sea invasion.
The Japanese also used it as a prisoner of war camp. It now houses a military museum and has a rich collection of arms from the times of WWII, military tunnels, and various wartime artifacts.Also known as the Surrender Chambers, there is also some actual footage of war preserved here which visitors can watch in an interactive tour.
St. Andrew’s Cathedral is an Anglican Church and the largest cathedral in Singapore. Designed in Neo-Gothic architectural style, it is a treasured national monument. During the World War II, it was used as a temporary hospital. With white exterior and pinnacles reaching the sky, it makes for a sight to behold.
The land where the Church stands was commissioned by Sir Stamford Raffles and a church was constructed here by 1936. However, it had to be demolished in 1855 due to safety concerns. The church that stands here today was completed in the year 1861 and has been standing tall for over 150 years.
Situated in close proximity of the City Hall MRT, this church is easily accessible via public transport. It is open on all days and welcomes visitors from all walks of life. It gets quite busy on weekends so, if you want to have a quiet time here, time your visit accordingly.
Dedicated to Mazu – the Chinese Goddess of the Sea, Thian Hock Keng Temple is the oldest Hokkien Temple in Singapore. It is said that the early Chinese sea farmers use to come here to pay homage to the deity for a safe passage through the turbulent South China Sea.
Thian Hock Keng literally means the Palace of Heavenly happiness. There are two shrines in the temple – one of Goddess Mazu and the second one situated at the back serves the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin. The temple in all its grandeur is an architectural masterpiece. Built in the southern Chinese style, the whole structure is assembled with using any nails.
Intricate carvings of dragons, lions, phoenixes and various motifs adorn the complex. The temple underwent a major renovation that started in 1998 and completed by 2000 at a cost of US $2.2 million. The temple is a national monument and is quite popular among visitors.
Sultan Mosque, also known as Masjid Sultan is the biggest mosque in Singapore and is an important historical landmark. Gazetted as a National Monument, Sultan Mosque has a history that dates back to 1824. It was built by Sultan Hussein Shah, the first Sultan of Singapore and after a century of its construction, it was in need of dire reconstruction.
The new magnificent mosque that stands today was built in 1928 and it replaced the old mosque. Boasting of grand golden domes, huge prayer hall that can accommodate 5000 people during mass prayers, and piercing minarets, it is an architectural masterpiece. When you pay a visit here to make a point to check out the onion domes.
The base of these domes is made up of glass bottle ends donated by the poor Muslims. This ensured rich and poor both could contribute to the construction of the mosque. At night, the mosque is wonderfully lit and its grandeur can be spotted from a distance.
Located in the heart of Little India in Singapore, Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is dedicated to the goddess Kali, the destroyer of evil and a fierce embodiment of Shakti. It is said to be built by the Indian pioneers who came to Singapore to make a living. They prayed to goddess Kali for safety in a foreign land.
During the World War II, many are said to have taken refuge here and it is almost a miracle that this temple and its idols remained unscathed even during the war. It is more than a century old, but due to its renovation in the recent years, it looks fresh as ever. Adorned with multi-hued statues and intricate sculptures, it is one of the must visit historical monuments in Singapore.
Planning to take a trip to Singapore but do not want to miss out on the various historical landmarks it has to offer? Ask the travel experts at Visiit to design a customized Singapore trip itinerary tailored to your needs.