Need more things to do in your free time? There are plenty of cultural attractions in Singapore to discover. You’ll find museums and galleries filled with world-class artworks and exhibitions, historical landmarks and countless centres of worship (from tiny shrines to towering temples). Here’s a list of twenty to visit.
#1 National Gallery Singapore
The National Gallery opened its doors to the public on 24 November 2015. Home to the National Collection, as well as other South-east Asian works from the 19th century to the present day. Located in the Civic District, it occupies the former City Hall and Supreme Court heritage buildings, making it the largest visual arts venue in Singapore, and in the region – matching established museums like the Musée d’Orsay (France) and Tate Modern (UK) in size. nationalgallery.sg
Psst! If you happen to be more “foodie” than “arty”, a visit to the National Gallery is still a must. At last count, there were 10 places to wine and dine in the complex, from modern French at Odette to spectacular skyline views from Smoke & Mirrors.
#2 Masjid Sultan
Malay for “Sultan Mosque”, this remarkable structure is located in Kampong Glam, or the Arab Quarter. Masjid Sultan was built in 1928 . The mosque offers services as well as classes, and religious and legal counselling. sultanmosque.sg
#3 Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
The Esplanade sits on prime waterfront land by Marina Bay, and offers a complete lifestyle experience – dining, shopping, and the performing arts. It houses multiple venues including a concert hall, theatre and several more intimate recital studios and performance spaces. One of the most iconic cultural attractions in Singapore – its unique architectural design is thought to resemble a durian, the region’s beloved tropical fruit. esplanade.com
Editor’s tip: Most events have been adapted to live and recorded screenings in light of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) restrictions
#4 Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
Opened in April 2015, this is Singapore’s only museum dedicated to showcasing Southeast Asian biodiversity. Be amazed at the extensive variety of plants and animals in 15 different thematic zones. Don’t forget to visit the museum’s three famous dinosaurs, Prince, Apollonia and Twinky. lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg
#5 Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
This Tang Dynasty-style temple was constructed in 2002 to house the tooth relic of the historical Buddha and serve as a Chinese Buddhist cultural centre. It holds regular services and provides educational opportunities and welfare services. The complex also includes a museum with ancient artefacts. btrts.org.sg
#6 Asian Civilisations Museum
Situated directly across the river from Boat Quay and the Fullerton Hotel, the Asian Civilisations Museum has 10 galleries, showcasing over 1,300 artefacts from China, Southeast Asia and West Asia. The museum has an action-packed event schedule to suit all ages, cultures and tastes. acm.org.sg
#7 Black-and-white Houses
Another collection of historical buildings in Singapore is the Colonial-style bungalows, also known as black-and-white houses. These monochromatic houses were built by the British in the early 1900s and were home to the Colonial government’s high-ranking officials. Today, around 500 of them remain, hidden away in neighbourhoods like Goodwood Hill, Seletar Camp and Gillman Barracks. Click here for gorgeous pictures and a guide to their locations.
#8 Thian Hock Keng
The “Temple of Heavenly Happiness” on Telok Ayer Street is the oldest Hokkien temple in Singapore. This historical landmark was built between 1839 and 1842 to serve as a temple, school and community centre. Truly impressive, is the fact that the entire structure was assembled without nails – a masterpiece of stone, tiles and wood, dragons, phoenixes, carvings and columns. thianhockkeng.com.sg
#9 ArtScience Museum
Featuring 21 galleries, this lotus-inspired building is another iconic cultural attraction in Singapore. It is a popular venue for major international touring exhibitions, hosting exhibits about everything from dinosaurs to photographer Annie Leibovitz. At the time of this post being published, the current exhibition is Future World: Where Art Meets Science. The museum sits in front of The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, near the Double Helix Bridge. marinabaysands.com/artsciencemuseum
#10 Armenian Church
While it isn’t the largest Christian church in Singapore, the Armenian Church was completed in 1835, making it one of the oldest historical buildings in Singapore. It’s in a charming and peaceful setting near Fort Canning Park. Services are rarely held. armeniansinasia.org
Editors’ tip: Evening performances at outdoor venues such as Fort Canning and the Botanic Gardens can be particularly pleasant, and they’re often free. Bring a picnic blanket, a bottle of wine and a can of mozzie spray, and you’re all set!
#11 MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands
The theatres are located in The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. The MasterCard Theatres are made up of the Grand Theatre and Sands Theatre. Both stage numerous concerts, musicals and other performances year-round. The Theatres have hosted Broadway productions including The Phantom of the Opera, Grease, Wicked and The Lion King. marinabaysands.com/entertainment
#12 Peranakan Museum (temporarily closed)
Peranakans are part Chinese, part Malay, and part descendants of the original, non-Malay inhabitants of Singapore. This museum, located around the corner from the National Museum, consists of 10 permanent galleries, each of which explores various aspects of Peranakan life including the elaborate 12-day Peranakan wedding, the role of Nyonyas (Peranakan women) and traditional foods. nhb.gov.sg/peranakanmuseum
#13 Joo Chiat Peranakan Shophouses
A stark contrast to the black-and-white houses, Joo Chiat’s shophouses are some of the most colourful historical buildings in Singapore. Dressed in vibrant shades, these pre-war Peranakan shophouses are now home to traditional bakeries, tailors and even hip record stores. Click here to take a peek into a Joo Chiat shophouse home.
#14 National Museum of Singapore
Currently the country’s largest museum, the National Museum of Singapore is housed in a stunning 130-year-old neoclassical building on Stamford Road near Fort Canning Park. The museum features a 2,800-square-metre Singapore History Gallery and four galleries known collectively as Life in Singapore: The Past 100 Years, which explore personal stories of Singaporeans over different phases of Singapore’s history. They are titled Modern Colony Gallery, Surviving Syonan Gallery, Growing Up Gallery and the Voices of Singapore Gallery. nationalmuseum.sg
Editors’ tip: Visual and performing art groups offer an array of entertaining performances by local and international arts groups such as orchestras, dance troupes and theatre companies. These include the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Singapore Chinese Orchestra, Singapore Dance Theatre, Singapore Lyric Opera, Singapore Repertory Theatre, Wild Rice and Pangdemonium.
#15 Sri Mariamman Temple
Built in 1827 for worship by immigrants from South India, this is the island’s oldest Hindu temple. Located in the heart of Chinatown, the temple boasts an ornamental tower entrance that’s a true Singapore landmark. Services and major festivals are regularly held at the temple. smt.org.sg
#16 The National Stadium
Opened in 2014 as part of the newly revamped Sports Hub centre, the National Stadium has already become one of Singapore’s most exciting venues for large-scale sports and entertainment events. The arena boasts a massive, retractable domed roof, along with an innovative air-cooling system across all 55,000 seats to ensure spectator comfort. sportshub.com.sg
#17 Singapore Art Museum (SAM)
SAM is home to the national art collection of Singapore and boasts the largest collection of 20th-century Southeast Asian art. Due to space limitations, only 200 of the 8,000 works can be exhibited at any one time. In addition, SAM’s fantastic Art Garden is an interactive contemporary exhibition for children, held annually. singaporeartmuseum.sg
#18 Reflections at Bukit Chandu
The newly revamped Reflections at Bukit Chandu is a museum that tells the story of the Battle of Pasir Panjang and the heroics of the Lieutenant Adnan Bin Saidi and the Malay Regiment. Housed in a restored black-and-white colonial bungalow, the museum’s exhibits feature a collection of World War II artefacts as well as mixed-media displays that tell the story of the battle. nhb.gov.sg
#19 The Meadow
With a standing capacity of up to 30,000 people, The Meadow, located at Gardens by the Bay, is one of Singapore’s largest outdoor event spaces. With a panoramic view of the Garden’s iconic conservatory domes and super-trees, and the city’s downtown cityscape, it’s a fantastic setting to experience all sorts of performances. gardensbythebay.com.sg
#20 National Library
The main campus of the National Library at 100 Victoria Street houses an impressive collection of books, DVDs, magazines and newspapers, and a seven-storey reference section. Libraries in Singapore regularly offer fun and educational activities for children including storytelling, movie screenings and live performances.
Psst! There are 26 libraries across the island, and joining is simple. For expats, there’s an annual fee of $42.80 and a one-off registration fee of $10.50. Membership is free for PRs (permanent residents) and those studying in MOE schools. The online catalogue is an easy way to search for a book, reserve and even extend a loan. Also, if you sign up for an email reminder, they’ll let you know that your books are due five days beforehand! nlb.gov.sg
Looking for more fun weekend plans? Here’s our guide to exciting things to do in Singapore.