Before Singapore assumed self-government in 1959 and became a fully independent Republic in 1965, the island was a British colony and traces of its colonial heritage can still be seen today. Indeed, beneath the futuristic skyscrapers which embody modern Singapore, much of the grand colonial charm still remains, about which Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham waxed lyrical. The heart of colonial Singapore straddles the mouth of the Singapore River, where Raffles first landed. A cluster of architectural legacies such as the Parliament House, Victoria Theatre, Singapore Cricket Club, Supreme Court and City Hall surrounds an open expanse of green, named the Padang ("playing field" in Malay). Not too far away, The Fullerton Hotel and the Raffles Hotel on Beach Road are landmark hotels which epitomise this grand old era.
Explore this interesting district on foot with the help of the Civic District Trail walking tour map which is available at the Raffles Hotel Museum, National Museum Shops and Visitor Information Centres.
The distinctive history of Singapore has given rise to a number of landmarks and memorials - each a poignant reminder of a chapter of Singapore's past.
As a national heritage site, CHIJMES (pronounced "chimes") is an attraction offering an exciting dining, shopping, leisure and entertainment experience. CHIJMES Hall, the restored chapel, provides a spectacular backdrop for musicals, recitals and other theatrical performances. Formerly one of the last few cloistered convents in the world, the fine gothic architecture offers great photographic opportunities.
Food and beverage outlets: 11am till late (daily)
Shops and boutiques: 11am - 10pm (daily)
Location: 30 Victoria Street Singapore 187996
Tel: (65) 6336 1818
Fax: (65) 6334 3801
Getting There: Take the MRT to City Hall Station (EW13/NS25). Walk along Stamford Road and turn right at the junction of Stamford Road and Victoria Street. Click here to view MRT route map.
Lau Pa Sat is the largest remaining Victorian filigree cast-iron structure in Southeast Asia. Located in the heart of Singapore's business district, it is a favourite meeting place of the locals. Built in 1894, Lau Pa Sat was a wet market and has now been restored and converted into a food centre offering a wide variety of local food.
Location: Boon Tat Street
Getting There: Take the MRT to Raffles Place Station (EW14/NS26) and walk towards Robinson Road. Click here to view MRT route map.
The Merlion was designed as an emblem for the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in 1964. The designer was Mr Fraser Brunner, a member of the souvenir committee and a curator of the Van Kleef Aquarium.
The Merlion has a lion head and a fish body resting on a crest of waves. The lion head symbolises the legend of the rediscovery of Singapura, as recorded in the "Malay Annals". In ancient times, Singapore was known as Temasek, a Javanese word for sea. In the 11th century A.D, Prince Sang Nila Utama of the Sri Vijaya Empire rediscovered the island. When the Prince first landed on Singapore's shores, he sighted a mystical beast which he later learnt was a lion. The Prince then decided to name the island "Singapura" which in Sanskrit means Lion (Singa) City (Pura). The fish tail of the Merlion symbolises the ancient city of Temasek and represents Singapore's humble beginnings as a fishing village.
The Merlion statue, measuring 8.6 metres high and weighing 70 tonnes, was built by the late Singapore craftsman, Mr Lim Nang Seng. It is made of cement fondue. A smaller Merlion statue, measuring two metres high and weighing three tonnes was also built by Mr Lim. The body is made of cement fondue, the skin from porcelain plates and eyes from small red teacups.
Its First home
The Merlion and the Cub were originally located by the Esplanade Bridge, just 120 metres from their present location. Also called the Merlion Park, the area soon became a popular tourist attraction and took its place among the famous landmarks of great cities of the world. Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the then Prime Minister of Singapore, officiated the installation ceremony of the Merlion on 15 September 1972. A bronze plaque commemorated the auspicious occasion with the inscription, "The Merlion has been erected as a symbol to welcome all visitors to Singapore".
Today, the Merlion attracts more than one million visitors a year who make the trip to the Merlion Park to photograph this world famous icon at her new home, at the adjacent to One Fullerton.
Built in 1887, this grand Old Lady of the East is one the world's last great 19th century hotels. The hotel is a favourite retreat of writers and movie stars and home of the Singapore Sling, a celebrated cocktail. Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad and Charlie Chaplin were among its most illustrious guests.
An extensive SGD 160 million face-lift has given the hotel back its old, unique charm and majesty. This all-suite hotel is adjoined by a brand new arcade built in the same colonial style. It includes a museum featuring memorabilia from a bygone era, a Victorian-style playhouse named Jubilee Hall, 70 retail shops featuring famous brands like Tiffany's and Louis Vuitton as well boutiques and specialty stores from the region.
Location: 1 Beach Road, Singapore 189673
Tel: (65) 6337 1886
Fax: (65) 6339 7650
Getting There: Take the MRT to City Hall Station (EW13/NS25) and walk towards Beach Road.
The statue of Singapore's founder, Sir Stamford Raffles, cast in dark bronze by Thomas Woolner stands in front of Victoria Theatre. Its replica, made of pure white polymarble stands at North Boat Quay, at an area colloquially known as Raffles Landing Site, as this is the spot where Raffles is believed to have first stepped ashore.
Location: North Boat Quay
Getting There: Take the MRT to Raffles Place MRT Station (EW14/NS26) and walk across Cavenagh Bridge. Click here to view MRT route map.
A national monument, the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall tells a story of heroism, nationalism and armed struggle of the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance in Southeast Asia.
Formerly known as Wan Qing Yuan (which means 'a haven of peace in the twilight years'), it was the headquarters of the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance which raised support throughout Southeast Asia for the revolution that ended the Qing dynastic rule and heralded the start of modern China.
The garden of this elegant colonial-style villa features a number of sculptures. There is the stone stele measuring 3.5 metres tall and weighing 16,000 kilogrammes, the bronze statue of Dr. Sun Yat Sen and a 25-metre long bronze mural.
Two levels of galleries include:
Hall of Peace
Passage of History
Gallery of Endeavour
Hall of Wisdom
Passage Through the Eras
The Singapore Gallery
The Nanyang Gallery
The Testament Gallery
Open: 9am - 5pm Tuesdays to Sundays. Saturdays 10am - 10pm. Closed on Mondays.
Admission rate (per person): Adults - SGD 3.00, Children - SGD 2.00, Senior citizens - SGD 2.00
Approximate Touring Time: 2 hours
Location: 12 Tai Gin Road (off Ah Hood Road), Singapore 327874
Tel: (65) 6256 7377
Fax: (65) 6256 7677
Getting There: Take the MRT to Toa Payoh (NS19) and board SBS 139 and 145, alight at the 3rd bus stop after the Toa Payoh Bus Interchange. Alternatively, take SBS 21 and 131 from Thomson Road opposite the Novena MRT Station (NS20) and alight at Balestier Road opposite the Moulmein Community Centre.
Designed and built by George Coleman as a colonial mansion in 1827, this is Singapore's oldest government building. It was the former home of Singapore's democratically-elected Parliament. Visitors to the stately building are greeted by a bronze elephant statue, a gift from King Chulalongkorn of Siam in 1871.
Renamed and re-launched The Arts House, the building combines the charm of colonial architecture, the intimacy of a home with cutting edge contemporary visual arts, music, dance, film, comedy and theatre by Singaporean and international artists. Walk down the Corridors of Time, an exhibition reliving the life and times of the House and its many famous personalities. Add the experience of modern Thai fine dining at Restaurant 1827 Thai or alfresco dining at Café Society before a show and chill out at the wine bar upstairs and you are guaranteed days and nights to remember.
Guided Tours are conducted from Mondays to Fridays at 11 am and 3 pm and groups of minimum 20 people by appointment at other times. Each tour lasts 45 minutes and includes a short film screening and a drink. No admission charges apply. Tours at $8 per person. Visit www.theartshouse.com.sg for more information.
Singapore's Parliament has shifted to new premises at 1 Parliament Place, just a short walk away.
Location: Empress Place
Getting There: Take the MRT to Raffles Place Station (EW14/NS26) and walk across Cavenagh Bridge