Singapore may be a relatively young nation, having only earned independence in 1965, but its history goes way back before this date. To learn about Singapore’s entire history and culture in one sitting, then look no further than the excellent National Museum of Singapore.
The modern, high-tech exhibition begins its story in the 14th century, when Singapore emerged as an important trading port, and continues right through to the building of modern Singapore. The brilliant Audio Companion supplements the visual displays with interviews, dramatized scenarios and personal accounts. There is a huge amount of information to take in here, so plan to be here for at least half a day.
The National Museum of Singapore is Singapore's oldest and largest museum — Photo courtesy of Marianne Rogerson
Other museums worth checking out to discover more about Singapore's history include the Chinatown Heritage Centre, which explores the lives of the early Chinatown residents. The waxwork-heavy Images of Singapore will appeal to families.
Singapore’s modern history began with the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819. Evidence of the colonial period can be seen in the stunning architecture that lines the Singapore River and continues throughout the Colonial District.
Keep a look out for the Raffles Landing Site (next to the Asian Civilisations Museum and marked by a statue of Sir Stamford Raffles), the Fullerton Hotel built in 1928, the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall originally built as the Town Hall in 1862, the City Hall building on the Padang (built between 1926 and 1929) and undergoing renovation to become the National Art Gallery, and the world famous Raffles Hotel, which began life in 1887 and is famous for its Long Bar and Singapore Slings.
Stunning colonial architecture can be seen throughout the Colonial District — Photo courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board
Singapore played an important role in WWII, being the focus of the greatest and most humiliating defeat in British history, and consequently the high point of the Japanese expansion in Southeast Asia. The Japanese occupation from 1942-1945 is one of the darkest periods in Singapore’s history, so there are several museums dedicated to this time.
The Changi Museum is undoubtedly the most poignant of all Singapore’s WWII museums. Dedicated to the Prisoners Of War who suffered incarceration during the Japanese occupation, the exhibition is compiled from interviews with former inmates and their families, making for a memorable and humbling experience.
The Changi Museum is one of Singapore's best WWII museums — Photo courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board
Fort Siloso takes a more lighthearted and family-friendly approach to the war years, complete with waxwork models and the firing of a 7-inch gun, while Battle Box at Fort Canning allows visitors to relive the final hours within Britain's HQ Malaya Command, prior to the British surrender to the Japanese.