Behind these Instagrammable buildings lie a treasure trove of stories. Some tell the tale of prisoners of war, while others speak of a husband’s love for his wife. See how Singapore has transformed its cityscape through this visual journey and discover what’s hidden behind all that colour! Up your photo game too with our recommended camera angles as we uncover the significance and rich history of these landmarks!

Old Hill Street Police Station: The ‘Police Skyscraper’ of the 1930s

Old Hill Street Police Station 1

All 927 windows of the neo-classical architecture were only given their rainbow colours in 1999 as part of its reformation process

Home to over 1000 policemen and their families in 1934, this six-storey national monument wasn’t always this colourful. Seized and turned into a prison during the Japanese Occupation, the building was then painted brown as a camouflage from air raids.

Despite its troubled past, the now-vibrant Old Hill Street Police Station is more than a history lesson; it represents the tenacity of a nation, to overcome and keep moving forward against all odds. Today, the building is home to The Ministry of Communications & Information, which oversees the development of the infocomm technology, cyber security, media and design sectors in Singapore.

Old Hill Street Police Station 2

Point your camera upward and capture the grandeur of the building against the vastness of the sky

Nearby places to explore:

Visit Fort Canning Park, an iconic hilltop that has witnessed Singapore’s historical milestones. Go on a Spice Garden Tour or explore the park with do-it-yourself walking trail guides that are available for download.

Haji Lane: History brought to life through art

Haji Lane

The Mural Artwork by Piedra Negra. ‘Haji’ is the Malay word for Muslims who have completed their pilgrimage to Mecca

Vintage boutiques full of trinkets you want but never needed, hipster cafes that sell both coffee and flowers, and bars that come alive after sunset — Haji Lane bustles with life, but it wasn’t always like that.

Before the 2000s, Haji Lane was home to Malay families and provided refuge to pilgrims on their journey to Mecca (a city in Saudi Arabia). It wasn’t until 2013 when these vibrant graffiti began to adorn the walls of the shophouses, immortalising the rich history of the street.

Graffiti at Haji Lane

Go borderless and fill your screens with colour

Nearby places to explore:

Fuel up with authentic Middle-Eastern cuisine at Beirut Grill, and for a dose of laughter, settle down at Blu Jaz after for their comedy shows.

Joo Chiat: A Peranakan tale in pastel shades

A row of pastel-coloured Peranakan Houses along Joo Chiat

Peranakans refer to ethnic Chinese with Malay influences.

Dressed in pastel hues, there’s more to this line of shophouses than its colourful façade.  Take a closer look and you may find yourself enchanted by the intricate details of the ceramic tiles plastered all over its walls.

Although many of them have been adapted with geometric designs over the years, the traditional motifs of flowers and fruits remain few but not lost. Different fruits, for instance, have different significances — from fertility to longevity, health to wealth.

If you can’t wait to head to Joo Chiat to take in this remarkable sight, watch these classic shophouses come alive on immersive screens at the Heritage Zone at Changi Airport Terminal 4 (Transit), as part of The Peranakan Love Story, a six-minute theatrical show.

 

Shophouses in Joo Chiat

Don’t be afraid to go up close but remember to remain courteous towards the residents in the area

Nearby places to explore:

Dive into the rich tea culture at The Intan, a haven for all things Peranakan. Or head to Kim Choo for traditional delicacies and their signature rice dumplings wrapped in fragrant bamboo leaves.

Alkaff Bridge: Singapore’s ‘Bridge of Art’

Alkaff Bridge at Robertson Quay

55 different colours and more than 900 litres of paint were used in this massive masterpiece!

Singapore’s art scene has evolved to offer world-class works of art, and the Alkaff Bridge situated at Robertson Quay is a testament to the nation’s vibrant landscape. While its paintwork was done only in 2003, the bridge represents more than artistic vibes.

Shaped like a tongkang — a light boat commonly used to transport goods across the river in the past — the bridge signifies urban redevelopment. From tongkangs to bridges and mudflats to skyscrapers in less than 50 years; that’s Singapore for you! 

Alkaff Bridge at Robertson Quay

Do away with the typical shots and use leading lines to draw focus to the striking bridge

Nearby places to explore:

Take a stroll down Singapore River and stop by Clarke Quay to experience Singapore’s nightlife. Or take a scenic river cruise through the city centre to see Singapore’s iconic Merlion, a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish.

Tan Teng Niah: A story of love and respect

Tan Teng Niah Building in Little India

The building’s flamboyant exterior is bound to leave you in awe

Are you a romantic? Then you’d love the story of the Tan Teng Niah building. One of the last Chinese villas left in Little India, the brightly painted architecture was built in 1900 by prominent Chinese businessman, Tan Teng Niah, for his wife.

Filled with admiration for her, he inscribed the words ‘Siew Song’ — Mandarin for ‘elegant pine’ — on a gilded name plate at the entrance of the house. Pine symbolises endurance and aspirations to the Chinese, and many believe it was a reference to his virtuous wife. If this isn’t true love, what is?

Tan Teng Niah Building in Little India

Capture the intricate details of the architecture while chasing rainbows

Nearby places to explore:

Husbands, you don’t have to build a house to win your wife’s heart. Simply treat her to an Ayurvedic therapy — an ancient Indian philosophy for health and wellness — at Amrita Ayurveda & Yoga. Only a 3-minute walk away.

It’s one thing to hear a story, it’s another to experience it for yourself. While some of these buildings have seen new coats of paint, the rich history that surrounds them goes beyond appearance. So take some time to discover the stories beneath the vibrant surface and snap a picture or two — you’ll never know what you’ll find.