3 Singaporean Museums You Can Visit Within a Day

Updated on September 25, 2017
CYong74 profile image

Yong earned a bachelor's degree in communication studies in 1999. His interests include history, traveling, mythology, and video gaming.

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

  1. National Museum of Singapore (Approximately 120 minutes required. Add another hour if a temporary exhibition is ongoing)
  2. Peranakan Museum (Approximately 60 minutes required)
  3. Singapore Philatelic Museum (Approximately 45 minutes required)

1. National Museum of Singapore

The National Museum of Singapore is the island nation's oldest museum.
The National Museum of Singapore is the island nation's oldest museum.

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Interior of the original rotunda dome.Entrance of the Singapore History Gallery, one of the permanent exhibits.Rickshaws were once common all over Singapore.Reconstruction of a shophouse alley. Known locally in Singapore as a "five-foot-way."
Interior of the original rotunda dome.
Interior of the original rotunda dome.
Entrance of the Singapore History Gallery, one of the permanent exhibits.
Entrance of the Singapore History Gallery, one of the permanent exhibits.
Rickshaws were once common all over Singapore.
Rickshaws were once common all over Singapore.
Reconstruction of a shophouse alley. Known locally in Singapore as a "five-foot-way."
Reconstruction of a shophouse alley. Known locally in Singapore as a "five-foot-way."

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Less than a century ago, these tanks stormed down the Malaya Peninsula to conquer British Singapore.The Surviving Syonan GalleryHigh society fashion during the jazzy years of the twenties and thirties.Singapore's road to independence.One of the newer galleries depicting entertainment and sports in Singapore during the 50s and 60s.For several years, the museum was renamed as the Singapore History Museum. The emphasis remains on Singapore's development as a nation.
Less than a century ago, these tanks stormed down the Malaya Peninsula to conquer British Singapore.
Less than a century ago, these tanks stormed down the Malaya Peninsula to conquer British Singapore.
The Surviving Syonan Gallery
The Surviving Syonan Gallery
High society fashion during the jazzy years of the twenties and thirties.
High society fashion during the jazzy years of the twenties and thirties.
Singapore's road to independence.
Singapore's road to independence.
One of the newer galleries depicting entertainment and sports in Singapore during the 50s and 60s.
One of the newer galleries depicting entertainment and sports in Singapore during the 50s and 60s.
For several years, the museum was renamed as the Singapore History Museum. The emphasis remains on Singapore's development as a nation.
For several years, the museum was renamed as the Singapore History Museum. The emphasis remains on Singapore's development as a nation.

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

Access Information

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

The Peranakan Museum showcases the lives of the Straits Settlement Chinese.
The Peranakan Museum showcases the lives of the Straits Settlement Chinese. | Source

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sculpture at the entrance.Modern Peranakan portraits.A typical Straits Settlement Chinese home.Wedding Chamber. As is obvious, despite adopting various aspects of Southeast Asian culture, the Peranakans remained distinctively Chinese.A wedding parade.Vanity and ceramic dolls.Like the National Museum of Singapore, the Peranakan Museum is also a key venue during the annual Singapore Night Festival light-up.Another view of the lit facade.
Sculpture at the entrance.
Sculpture at the entrance.
Modern Peranakan portraits.
Modern Peranakan portraits.
A typical Straits Settlement Chinese home.
A typical Straits Settlement Chinese home.
Wedding Chamber. As is obvious, despite adopting various aspects of Southeast Asian culture, the Peranakans remained distinctively Chinese.
Wedding Chamber. As is obvious, despite adopting various aspects of Southeast Asian culture, the Peranakans remained distinctively Chinese.
A wedding parade.
A wedding parade.
Vanity and ceramic dolls.
Vanity and ceramic dolls.
Like the National Museum of Singapore, the Peranakan Museum is also a key venue during the annual Singapore Night Festival light-up.
Like the National Museum of Singapore, the Peranakan Museum is also a key venue during the annual Singapore Night Festival light-up.
Another view of the lit facade.
Another view of the lit facade.

Access Information

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 Singapore Philatelic Museum is the country's only museum on philately.
The Singapore Philatelic Museum is the country's only museum on philately. | Source

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A Singaporean postal delivery scooter from the 80s.The prized collection of the museum.Philately and the development of Singapore from colony to nation..It's not all about stamps. The museum also has galleries featuring Southeast Asian cultures.Exhibition celebrating Singapore's ties with the Brunei Sultanate.The rare collection includes vintage stamps dating all the way back to the founding of modern Singapore.Prisoner of War post from WWII days.British Malayan stamps from 1955.Commemorative issue celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of modern Singapore.No surprises over what's sold at the souvenir shop. I used to be crazy for such packs.Precious eggs on display during the Precious Eggs: Of Art, Beauty and Culture temporary exhibition.The Shaking It With Shakespeare exhibition which lasted from May 2016 to March 2017.
A Singaporean postal delivery scooter from the 80s.
A Singaporean postal delivery scooter from the 80s.
The prized collection of the museum.
The prized collection of the museum.
Philately and the development of Singapore from colony to nation..
Philately and the development of Singapore from colony to nation..
It's not all about stamps. The museum also has galleries featuring Southeast Asian cultures.
It's not all about stamps. The museum also has galleries featuring Southeast Asian cultures.
Exhibition celebrating Singapore's ties with the Brunei Sultanate.
Exhibition celebrating Singapore's ties with the Brunei Sultanate.
The rare collection includes vintage stamps dating all the way back to the founding of modern Singapore.
The rare collection includes vintage stamps dating all the way back to the founding of modern Singapore.
Prisoner of War post from WWII days.
Prisoner of War post from WWII days.
British Malayan stamps from 1955.
British Malayan stamps from 1955.
Commemorative issue celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of modern Singapore.
Commemorative issue celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of modern Singapore.
No surprises over what's sold at the souvenir shop. I used to be crazy for such packs.
No surprises over what's sold at the souvenir shop. I used to be crazy for such packs.
Precious eggs on display during the Precious Eggs: Of Art, Beauty and Culture temporary exhibition.
Precious eggs on display during the Precious Eggs: Of Art, Beauty and Culture temporary exhibition.
The Shaking It With Shakespeare exhibition which lasted from May 2016 to March 2017.
The Shaking It With Shakespeare exhibition which lasted from May 2016 to March 2017. | Source

Access Information

The Singapore Philatelic Museum is at 23-B Coleman Street, a stone's throw away from the Peranakan Museum.

Location of the Museums

show route and directions
A markerNational Museum of Singapore -
93 Stamford Road, Singapore 178897
get directions

B markerPeranakan Museum -
39 Armenian St, Singapore 179941
get directions

C markerSingapore Philatelic Museum -
23-B Coleman Street, Singapore 179807
get directions

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Kuan Leong Yong

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      • CYong74 profile image
        Author

        Kuan Leong Yong 3 months ago from Singapore

        Hey GlenR, hope you come here again n. :)

      • Glenis Rix profile image

        GlenR 3 months ago from UK

        I loved visiting Singapore in November 2017. Sadly, two weeks was not long enough to see everything that I would have liked to see (or to get acclimatised). I am sorry to have missed these museums, so thanks for the insight.

      • CYong74 profile image
        Author

        Kuan Leong Yong 7 months ago from Singapore

        Hey, you definitely must! Let me know if you need any other info to prepare for your trip!

      • Cheeky Kid profile image

        Cheeky Kid 7 months ago from Milky Way

        I'm planning to go to Singapore next year. Hope I can visit these interesting museums.

      • CYong74 profile image
        Author

        Kuan Leong Yong 8 months ago from Singapore

        Hey Linda, thanks for your comment. Glad you like the pics. Hope you visit us some day too. :)

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 8 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Thank you for the interesting and enjoyable tour of the museums. The external appearance of the buildings is attractive.

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