A Blast from the Past: Singapore for History Lovers

In the 200 years since Sir Stamford Raffles founded modern Singapore as a trading post for the East India Company, the tiny island-state has transformed from a sleepy fishing village to a world-class metropolis. The historical sites, left mainly by British colonials and early migrants, showcase incredible architecture. Here’s our list of Singapore’s best attractions for history lovers.

Istana

Istana

Malay for ‘palace’, Istana is the official residence and office of the President of Singapore as well as the offices of the Prime Minister. It is a sprawling Palladian mansion built between 1867 and 1869 and designed by British-born Indian colonial official and architect Major John Frederick Adolphus McNair.

Once part of the Mount Sophia nutmeg plantation, the house was built as the official home of the British governor until self-rule was imposed 1959 when it became home to the head of state. Istana is open only on five days of the year but a Changing of the Guards ceremony takes place on the first Sunday of every month.

Kranji War Memorial & Cemetery

Kranji War Memorial & Cemetery

The Kranji War Memorial & Cemetery is located on a tranquil hillside around 15 miles north of the city centre. It honours the allied men and women who defended Singapore from the Japanese during World War II including British, Australian, Canadian, Sri Lankan, Indian, Malay and Dutch soldiers.

4,400 gravestones are perfectly lined up on the cemetery’s slope and the four memorials at the top of the hill are also in honour of the war dead. The biggest is the Singapore Memorial inscribed with the names of 24,346allied soldiers whose bodies were never found and the words ‘they died for all free men.’

Thian Hock Keng Temple

Thian Hock Keng Temple

Thian Hock Keng is the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore and stands out as a quiet oasis among the hustle and bustle of the city’s business district. Built in 1839, the temple was built in the traditional southern Chinese style – including being assembled entirely without nails. The temple’s fascinating artistic features include depictions of lions, dragons and phoenixes along with amazing carvings, intricate sculptures and imposing columns. Lovingly restored over recent decades, the temple is one of the most interesting historical locations in the Garden City.

The Merlion Statue

The Merlion Statue

Singapore’s national icon, the mythical Merlion has the head of a lion and the body of a fish and is a hybrid of one of Singapore’s original names, Temasek, meaning ‘sea town’ and Singapura, meaning ‘lion city’ in Malay.

Standing gloriously in front of the Fullerton Hotel overlooking the iconic Marina Bay, the 8.6m high, 70 tonne statue was designed and built by local craftsman Lim Nang Seng and unveiled in 1972.

Old Parliament House

Old Parliament House

Now known as the Arts House and home to a multi-disciplinary creative hub, the Old Parliament House is the oldest existing government building in Singapore. It was home to the Parliament from 1965 to 1999 and was completed as a Neo-Palladian private house in 1827 for a well-known merchant.

The building, while spectacular and one of the most impressive in Singapore is highlighted by a statue of a bronze elephant which was a gift from King Chulalongkorn (known as King Rama V) of Siam (now Thailand) as a token of his gratitude after his stay in 1871.

Maghain Aboth Synagogue

Maghain Aboth Synagogue

Constructed in 1878, the Maghain Aboth Synagogue is is the oldest surviving synagogue in Southeast Asia. Architecturally, the building is comprised of a neoclassical façade along with traditional columns and marble floors – bringing an overall style of quiet simplicity. The Jewish community in Singapore stretches back to the mid-19th century, when many Jewish traders established themselves among the multi-cultural melting pot which became the Garden City. Today the community continues to thrive and the Maghain Aboth Synagogue remains the central place of worship for Singapore’s Jewish community. It is possible to visit the synagogue, but visits are available only by prior appointment.

Changi Museum

Changi Museum

The Changi Museum is an emotional experience dedicated to the POWs and civilians interned at the infamous Changi Prison during World War II. The museum is committed to educating young people about this dark period in Singapore’s history and visitors can see images, drawings, artwork, personal possessions and letters written by prisoners as well as the famous Changi Murals painted by British POW Stanley Warren during his time here.

Changi Museum in the east of the island near the airport is a moving insight into the horrendous conditions as well as stories of bravery, heroism and survival and is a place both of education and remembrance.

Editorial from Historvius.com

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