The back of every Singapore dollar bill offers a glimpse into the country. The man behind the design of each bill — local artist Eng Siak Loy, drew over 530 versions over a five-year period to fulfill his brief, which was to create dignified designs that promoted national identity and aspirations. Given Singapore’s cultural diversity, he knew he had a challenging task. But with determination, he rose to the occasion and presented the nation’s multi-faceted features on its bills through his artistic hand. Drawing inspiration from these works of art, we sought out the landmarks to visit in order to create our own note(worthy) experiences!
Peek into Singapore’s picturesque political district with the S$1000 note
(Left to right) The Parliament House, Istana and Old Supreme Court Building represent the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary arms of the Singapore government respectively
Did you know the prism-shaped dome capping Parliament house was designed by the late Mr Ong Teng Cheong, former President of Singapore (who was an architect by training)
The Parliament House, featured on the back of the thousand-dollar note is a structure exuding stateliness and authority. As one of Singapore’s iconic buildings, its grey façade and majestic columns make for a stunning photograph not to be missed. Inside, parliament sittings are conducted for Members of Parliament to propose and discuss policies and bills. Within its chambers, the nation’s leaders engage in vigorous debates on matters of national importance.
If you're there on weekdays and curious about Singapore politics, drop by Parlconnect situated within the Parliament House. This free permanent exhibition is situated by the public entrance of the building and offers visitors a glimpse into Singapore’s political and legislative history.
Built in 1827, The Arts House at the Old Parliament is the oldest building in Singapore
Situated right next to the modern Parliament House is The Arts House, which served as a courthouse and the Singapore government’s former residence. In 2004, it was converted into a multidisciplinary arts space.
You can buy tickets for multiple events held here through the year in the form of workshops, performances and showcases for visual arts. If you find yourself there in the evening, swing by TimbreX@TheArtsHouse, for good food, live music and to marvel at the Singapore River, which was used for trade and commerce for the British in the past — a perfect way to complete your glimpse into old Singapore brought into the modern age.
After a major clean-up campaign in 1977, symbolic of Singapore’s move into modernity, the Singapore River is now in pristine condition
Address: 1 Parliament Place, Singapore 178880
Operating hours (Parlconnect):
Mon- Fri: 9.00am – 5.00pm
Soldier on with the $100 note
The triangular tower in the S$100-dollar note represents the three military services in the Singapore Armed Forces: The Army, Navy and Air Force
Standing proud on the back of the hundred-dollar note is a young soldier wielding his ceremonial sabre - an officer from the Singapore Armed Forces. All young men in Singapore are conscripted as part of a statutory requirement known as National Service for two years, and some would eventually choose to pursue a career in the military, taking an active role in the defence of Singapore.
National defence became a priority after World War Two, after Singapore (then a British colony) was invaded and occupied by the Japanese.
If you’re keen to find out more about this period of Singapore’s history, check out the Battlebox, a unique, immersive museum located at Fort Canning Park which was the former WWII British underground command centre for the straits settlements (the collective name for the former British colonies located at the Malay Peninsula). For a travel experience like no other, join the guided tours that chronicle the Battle of Singapore in a pivotal locale during the conflict.
Used as a bomb-proof underground bunker during the war, the Battle Box reopened in 1992 for public viewing
Don’t miss the picturesque spiral staircase at Fort Canning Park, located at the end of an underpass and accessible from Exit B of Dhoby Ghaut MRT
While you’re there, grab a bite or go for a leisurely stroll at Fort Canning. Located at the foot of Fort Canning Park, The Fabulous Baker Boy café offers decadent cakes and rustic sourdoughs all day. The walk around the park takes about 40 minutes at a comfortable pace and offers stunning vistas of central Singapore, so have your cameras handy!
Address: River Valley Rd, Singapore 179037
Admission Fee (The Battlebox):
Standard rate: $18
Concession rate: $9 (Children aged 7 – 12)
Tour Timings (The Battlebox):
Mon: 1.30pm, 2.45pm, 4.00pm
Tue - Sun: 9.45am, 11.00am,1.30pm, 2.45pm, 4.00pm
Appreciate art with the S$50 note
Apart from paintings, the S$50-dollar note features the pipa, kompang, veena and violin, denoting the instruments used by different cultural groups in Singapore
Art comes alive on the back of the fifty-dollar note. Gibbons Fetching the Moon from the Water and Drying Salted Fish were painted by Chen Wen Hsi and Cheong Soo Pieng respectively. The two were pioneer artists in Singapore who shaped the Singaporean Nanyang style of art. Translated as the “South Seas” Nanyang denotes the region Singapore is set in - Southeast Asia. In this vein, both painters sought to produce works that were uniquely regional.
Traverse through centuries of Southeast Asian art history at the National Gallery
Exquisite artwork is complemented by impressive architecture in the compound
In 1952, Chen and Cheong undertook a journey to Bali, Indonesia, to seek inspiration and came back awestruck. They then produced art that formed the basis of the Nanyang style, using a combination of Chinese ink and western oil paints in their works. Several of their works along with many other influential Singaporean artists are on display at the National Gallery of Singapore, which houses the world’s largest collection of Southeast Asian art with more than 8000 art pieces.
Be sure to head to the DBS Singapore Gallery and the UOB Southeast Asian Gallery as it houses many masterpieces from the region as well.
Address: 1 St Andrew's Rd, Singapore 178957
Standard rate: $20 (For non-Singaporeans)
Concession rate: $15 (Children aged 7–12, students and Seniors aged 60 and above)
Operating hours (National Gallery):
Sat to Thurs: 10.00am – 7.00pm
Fri: 10.00am – 9.00pm
Step into a UNESCO site with the S$5 note
Tembusu trees are native to Singapore and grow in irregular shapes up to 25 metres high
Catch the flowers of tembusu trees in bloom from May to June and October to November
Flip to the back of the S$5 note and you will see a Tembusu tree, one of Singapore’s most distinctive trees. The heritage tree – estimated to be more than 250 years old – still stands and can be seen at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a treasure trove for plant lovers, or those who simply enjoy being outdoors.
Enjoy a leisurely stroll at the National Orchid Gardens and take home orchid plantlets as souvenirs!
Established in 1822 and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, Singapore Botanic Gardens is home to more than 10,000 species of flora from the region and beyond. Another sight to behold is the exhibit of Singapore’s national flower found at the National Orchid Gardens (also within the Botanic Gardens). With over 1,000 distinct species and 2,000 hybrids on display, it has the largest collection of orchids in the world!
Rest your feet and grab a bite at The Halia (Halia means Ginger in the Malay language) This open-concept restaurant is located in the Ginger Gardens which has over 250 distinct species of this popular spice.
Address: 1 Cluny Rd, Singapore 259569
Admissions (National Orchid Gardens):
Standard rate: $5
Concession rate: $1 (Students and Seniors aged 60 and above)
Free for children below 12
Operating hours (National Orchid Gardens):
8.30am - 7.00pm daily
In Eng Siak Loy’s words, “A new series requires a lot of time and effort but when it is good there’s no need to change it.” The series of dollar bills you see in Singapore today truly stands for posterity as it has been in circulation for several years. As each note represents an iconic aspect of the country, do embark on a journey around the island to discover these noteworthy spots and soak up the alluring sights and sounds of Singapore.