3 Singaporean Museums You Can Visit Within a Day
Singapore doesn’t have a renowned museum quarter. That said, it hardly means the island nation is bereft of well-conceptualised and intriguing museums. Here are three Singaporean museums that could be easily enjoyed within one day. All three are within walking distance from each other and conveniently located at the heart of Singaporean downtown.
Three Singaporean Museums in a Day: The Itinerary
- National Museum of Singapore (Approximately 120 minutes required. Add another hour if a temporary exhibition is ongoing)
- Peranakan Museum (Approximately 60 minutes required)
- Singapore Philatelic Museum (Approximately 45 minutes required)
1. National Museum of Singapore
The oldest and most famous of all Singaporean museums, the National Museum of Singapore was originally the Raffles Library and Museum. Established in 1849, a mere 30 years after the founding of modern Singapore by British colonists, the museum shifted several times before reaching its current stately home at Stamford Road in 1882. During the Japanese occupation, the museum was also largely undamaged, thanks to the fame of its collections and the integrity of its research. Today, the Neo-Palladian, Renaissance façade of the museum is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Singapore. Permanent exhibits focus on telling the story of the city state’s transformation from a fishing village to a British crown colony, and eventually to an independent country. Regularly, there are also temporary exhibitions. These typically being showcases of prized collections from other world-renowned museums.
The Japanese Occupation between 1942 and 1945 was not only the most tumultuous event in the modern history of Singapore, it began the road to independence for the country. Thus, many exhibits are devoted to these tragic years. Including an entire gallery aptly named Surviving Syonan. (Syonan was the name of Japanese occupied Singapore) Naturally, there are also plenty of exhibits about life in Singapore immediately before and after the Japanese Occupation.
Last but not least, a Glass Rotunda was added to the museum during restoration works in the early 2000s. Intended as a modern interpretation of the original rotunda, the structure currently houses two immersive art installations titled Story of the Forest and Singapore, Very Old Tree.
Story of the Forest
The National Museum of Singapore is conveniently located within walking distance from three MRT (subway) stations, the nearest of which being Bras Basah Station. Every August, the museum is also the heart of the Singapore Night Festival. During this, spectacular light and laser shows are conducted at the museum’s façade.
2. Peranakan Museum
Housed in the historical Old Tao Nan School building, and a mere five minutes’ walk from the National Museum of Singapore, the Peranakan Museum is an intimate showcase of Straits Settlement culture, alternative known in Southeast Asia as Baba and Nyonya culture. During colonial days, Han Chinese migrants from China established large families in the South-east Asia, and over time, incorporated many aspects of Malay (Nusantara) culture into their lifestyles. The Peranakan Museum introduces this fascinating hybrid culture through compact and atmospheric displays. Of note, the word Peranakan itself is yet another term referring to this “Straits Settlement” culture. One of the smaller Singaporean museums, all exhibits here could be easily enjoyed within an hour.
The Peranakan Museum is located at Armenian Street, which branches off from Stamford Road where the National Museum of Singapore is. The short, L-shaped route between the two museums is an easy five minutes’ walk.
3. Singapore Philatelic Museum
The smallest Singaporean museum on this list, the Singapore Philatelic Museum is located at Coleman Street, a mere minute’s walk from the Peranakan Museum. Opened in 1995 to showcase Singaporean Philately and promote appreciation of Singaporean history, the museum’s collections include stamps and philatelic materials of Singapore from colonial days till now. Its compact size and colourful temporary exhibitions make it a favourite destination for school excursions too.
The Singapore Philatelic Museum is at 23-B Coleman Street, a stone's throw away from the Peranakan Museum.