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I confess that the last time I visited any historical site was probably during a learning journey excursion during my primary school days. Rather than hang out at historical sites and buildings during the weekends, most of us preferred to spend our time cafe-hopping and watching movies.
Well, times change and people change. Nowadays, taking a trip down our country’s memory lane has become a pretty popular weekend itinerary. From the Central Defence Heritage Gallery to the Former Ford Factory, there are plenty of historical places to explore in Singapore.
Military Historical Sites
1. Former Ford Factory
Apart from cementing Ford Motor Company’s expansion into Southeast Asia, the former Ford Factory in Singapore was also the place where British forces surrendered to the Imperial Japanese Army on 15 February 1942.
If you head on over to the landmark today though, it’s made into a permanent exhibition gallery and an archive that chronicles the events and memories surrounding the Japanese Occupation and other wartime stories.
Among the relics on display include personal items belonging to the soldiers of that era, as well as audio recordings surrounding the British Surrender. In addition to the main exhibition, families can also download an activity guide or a worksheet challenge for their children to tackle during the visit.
Admission to the Former Ford Factory is free for Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and children below the age of 6.
Address: 351 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 588192
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday — 9:00am to 5:30pm
2. The Battle Box
Once a bomb-proof head command operations bunker for the Malaya Command during the war, The Battle Box has since been preserved and repurposed into an educational underground museum.
Just when you think you already know all there is to know about Singapore during the war, this tour flips the script on the head. Beneath the surface of the museum lies a labyrinth of rooms and corridors waiting to be explored. The half-hour tour (S$20 for adults, S$10 for kids) brings you straight to the Surrender Conference Room, where you’ll get to learn about what went on within those four walls on that day in history when the British made the decision to surrender Singapore to Japan.
After the tour, visitors are free to roam around the vicinity without any time limit — a great way to spend the afternoon!
Address: 2 Cox Terrace, Singapore 179622
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday — 9:30am to 6:30pm
3. Fort Siloso
Think Sentosa’s just about the beaches, Universal Studios Singapore and joy rides? Think again. Sentosa’s also home to Singapore’s only remaining coastal fort, aptly named Fort Siloso.
Now a free-to-visit military museum, Fort Siloso is where you’ll find a treasure trove of wartime memorabilia — including real-life coastal guns.
While visiting a historic fort like this might not immediately appeal to non-history buffs, there are more than just tunnels and historical scenes here. The journey leading to Fort Siloso is a scenic one, along a treetop walk which offers a vantage view of Sentosa’s many beaches. Murals depicting what Sentosa’s beachfront used to look like during Singapore’s fishing village days dot the walls (and even the rocks!) along the exit. See if you can find them all!
Address: Siloso Rd, Singapore 099981
Opening Hours: 9:00am to 6:00pm
Arts and Culture Historical Sites
4. Asian Civilisations Museum
The Asian Civilisations Museum, where China’s most renowned couturier Guo Pei held her Chinese Art and Couture exhibition, is the only museum in the region dedicated to the artistic heritage of Asia, with a focus on Singapore.
You’d want to allocate a couple of hours just to cover all the ground. The museum consists of 7 galleries filled with over 2,000 historical artefacts from all over Asia, the newest of which are dedicated to fashion, textiles and jewellery.
Do check their website regularly for seasonal exhibitions, such as the current Batik Kita: Dressing in Port Cities exhibit that runs till 2 October 2022. Entry to all galleries and special exhibitions is free for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents.
Address: 1 Empress Pl, Singapore 179555
Opening Hours: Saturday to Thursday — 10:00am to 7:00pm, Friday — 10:00am to 9:00pm
5. Old Parliament House/The Arts House
If not for its architecture, you might not realise The Arts House was actually built 200 years ago and was once home to Singapore’s first parliamentary assembly. It’s also the oldest standing building in Singapore today!
Since then, this historical landmark has been converted into a home for performing and visual arts that’s free to enter. The entertainment space now includes a 75-seat film theatrette, though the crown jewel of The Arts House has to be the 150-seat concert chamber known as, well, The Chamber.
One of the main highlights of visiting The Arts House has to be its Civil District Art Tour. Once you’ve explored the inside of the building, you can hop on a vintage Vespa scooter sidecar and ride around the entire civic district — including Capitol Singapore and Victoria Theatre — to admire the Victorian buildings in their full glory.
Address: 1 Old Parliament Ln, Singapore 179429
Opening Hours: 10:00am to 10:00pm
6. Civil Defence Heritage Gallery
You’ve seen this iconic red and white building opposite the Funan shopping mall plenty of times, but have you ever stepped inside? If you’ve ever dreamed of being a firefighter, step inside the operationally-ready Central Fire Station to find The Civil Defence Heritage Gallery!
With vintage fire trucks and firefighting equipment on display — as well as customised interactive stations offering a glimpse into the life of a firefighter during ye olde days — the museum is pretty much every kid’s playground. The best part: entry is free for all to explore this essential part of Singapore’s history.
Address: 62 Hill St, Singapore 179367
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday — 10:00am to 4:00pm
7. National Museum
Of course, walking down memory lane isn’t complete without a trip to the National Museum. Developed in the 20th century, the National Museum is Singapore’s oldest museum. It even survived the war!
If you only have time to visit one place on this list, make the National Museum your prime choice. Here, you’ll get to learn pretty much every aspect of Singapore’s history and culture in a way that’s both fun and engaging. Video montages and immersive background music are just tips of the iceberg of what the museum offers. The beloved Singapore Night Festival is also held here every year!
The museum hosts several events throughout the year, including art installations, festivals and even film screenings. Do check their website regularly for updates! All Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and children below the age of 6 can enjoy free admission to all galleries.
Address: 93 Stamford Road, Singapore 178897
Opening Hours: 10:00am to 7:00pm
If, like me, you haven’t gotten in touch with the nation’s roots since your school days, now’s a great time to grab a friend and check out these historical sites together. For even more historical places to explore, don’t forget to check out our list of historical monuments within the Changi Precinct!
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