It's only natural that Singapore museums come in great variety, as the city-state's history is rich in pickings in several different areas. The rather sombre but fascinating Changi Prison Chapel and Museum is a stark reminder of the sufferings of WWII, while the colourful Chinatown Heritage Centre and the Peranakan Museum each explore and explain different cultural facets of the Straits Chinese.

    The Singapore Navy Museum and the Philatelic Museum are both self-explanatory but nonetheless recommended. The oldest museum in Singapore – the National Museum – is also the largest, where you’ll find a regular treasure trove of films, clothes, and attractive trinkets.

    A visit to Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) – one of Singapore’s most acclaimed national museums – is a great way to take a journey through the interesting pan-Asian arts and culture scene. The Asian Civilisations Museum has 1,000 plus artefacts in its 11 galleries on three levels in the Empress Place Building.

    Being the only museum in the region that is dedicated to the Asian civilisation, the museum enables you to explore an extensive selection of relics on Southeast Asian, South Asian, Chinese and West Asian cultures – some of which are more than 5,000 years old.

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    Location: 1 Empress Place, Singapore 179555

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 7 pm (open until 9 pm on Fridays)

    Phone: +65 6332 7798


    The National Gallery Singapore houses the world’s largest public collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian art, with nearly 10,000 pieces in total. Located in the Civic District of Downtown Singapore, this is the real historic heart of the country, with the gloriously renovated building once being home to City Hall and the National Supreme Court.

    Dubbed as Singapore’s latest ‘visual arts institution’ (a fancy name for an art gallery), the government-backed projected aims to ‘strengthen Singapore’s role as a regional and international hub for visual arts’. It’s also the largest of its type in the country with over 64,000 sq m of floor space, overtaking the ever-popular Singapore Art Museum in Clarke Quay.

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    Location: 1 St Andrew's Rd, Singapore 178957

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +65 6271 7000


    photo by GordonMakryllos (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    The National Gallery Singapore houses the world’s largest public collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian art, with nearly 10,000 pieces in total. Located in the Civic District of Downtown Singapore, this is the real historic heart of the country, with the gloriously renovated building once being home to City Hall and the National Supreme Court.

    The exhibits are spread across 6 galleries. The Goh Seng Choo Gallery and Singapore History Gallery have some of the museum’s most incredible exhibits.

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    Location: 93 Stamford Road, Singapore 178897

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 7 pm (open until 9 pm on Fridays)

    Phone: +65 6332 3659


    Shaped like an outstretched hand – or perhaps even a bunch of bananas – the ArtScience Museum sits on the waterfront in the shadow of Marina Bay Sands, and provides the city with ever-changing displays, from Dali to Harry Potter.

    A place of great interest for children and adults, a visit here is both entertaining and educational, exploring the links between art and science. The gallery is impossible to miss, on the bay side walkway of the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel, 10 minutes’ walk from the Bayfront MRT station.

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    Location: 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 7 pm (last admission at 9 pm)

    Phone: +65 6688 8868


    Changi Prison Chapel and Museum

    This sobering museum is situated at Changi Prison which is still being used as a prison today. It gives a glimpse of the life of prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation of World War II. Next to the museum is a replica of the simple chapel built by Allied prisoners during their internment. Pinned to the building are notes from people who lost loved ones in Changi.

    Location: 1000 Upper Changi Road North, Singapore 507707

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm (last admission at 4.30 pm)

    Phone: +65 6214 2451


    photo by Whoosises. (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Images of Singapore

    Located at Imbiah Lookout on Sentosa Island, Images of Singapore is a must-visit historical museum featuring audio-visual presentations showing Singaporean history and culture, focusing on its people and their lives. In an old-style warehouse format, exhibits include the period when the Malaysians rule, the arrival of the British and the post-colonialist period under Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and more.

    After a walk around the museum, visitors can stop by and enjoy Singapore cuisine at Tastes of Singapore. The menu includes real local dishes like Nyonya lobster laksa, tandoori chicken and assorted jumbo satay.

    Location: 40 Imbiah Road, Singapore 099700

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 6.30 pm (open until 7.30 pm on Saturday and Sunday)

    Phone: +65 6275 0388


    Malay Heritage Centre

    Located in the same grounds as Istana Kampong Glam (aka the Sultan's Palace) in Kampong Glam, this heritage centre is dedicated to Malay Singaporeans. Like in many rural areas in Southeast, the Malays in Singapore lived in traditional wooden huts on stilts (or 'kampong' in Malay) for many decades until the 1980s when the government relocated most Singaporean into apartments. That move spelled the end of the Malay kampong in Singapore.

    This exhibition takes people back to the old period to see the life and culture of the Malays; not only their traditional kampong residences but their arts and crafts.

    Location: 85 Sultan Gate, Singapore 198501

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +65 6391 0450


    photo by Elisa.rolle (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Peranakan Museum

    The Peranakan museum explores this unique culture that’s still a part of Singapore’s living heritage. The museum features 10 galleries exhibiting more than 1,200 items of Straits Chinese artefacts. Those items include silver, porcelain, jewellery, textiles, food and religious items.

    It also covers the links with Peranakan communities in Southeast Asia such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar. Check out this small museum which houses one of the finest collections of Peranakan artefacts in the world.

    Location: 39 Armenian Street, Singapore 179941

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 7 pm (open until 9 pm on Fridays)

    Phone: +65 6332 7591


    photo by Elisa.rolle (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Red Dot Design Museum will make you look at everyday objects in a different light. Taking the mystery out of innovations that make our life easier and exploring some of the more unusual gizmos and gadgets, it is easy to spend an hour or so here. Although it’s a fairly small gallery, the spectrum of design is large and varied – everything from advertising posters, packaging, computers to household appliances.

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    Location: 11 Marina Boulevard, Singapore 018940

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 8 pm (open until 11 pm Friday-Sunday)

    Phone: +65 6514 8265


    Singapore Art Museum

    The Singapore Art Museum is where you can see close to 8,000 pieces of Singaporean and Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art. It's located in the centre of Singapore’s major shopping district on Bras Basah Road, and is easily accessible by MRT and bus. Spanning over 10,000 sq m, this museum offers 14 fully climate-controlled galleries. You can find a collection of cafés and restaurants inside the museum, along with a gift shop.

    Location: 71 Bras Basah Road, Singapore 189555

    Open: Saturday–Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm, Friday from 10 am to 9 pm

    Phone: +65 6332 3222


    photo by ProjectManhattan. (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Singapore Discovery Centre

    For those with questions about Singapore there is no better place to learn about the history and future of the city than the Singapore Discovery Centre. The centre has been described as an art gallery, science museum and outdoor play area all in one and is a great half day out for younger children, with plenty of easy to understand interactive displays and just about enough to keep adults entertained as well. Located on Upper Jurong Road, it's about a 10-minute walk from th Joo Koon MRT station.

    Location: 510 Upper Jurong Road, Singapore 638365

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +65 6792 6188


    photo by Glen Bowman (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Singapore Philatelic Museum

    Housed in a quaint old building which dates back to 1908, a browse around the Singapore Philatelic Museum makes for an interesting afternoon for both stamp collectors and non-collectors. There's a fine collection of local and international stamps, as well as first day covers.

    The stamps provide a thought-provoking glimpse of the development of Singapore and its multicultural society across the decades, through the pictorial, artistic and administrative lens of the different historical periods. There's also a detailed visual display of how stamps are made, from the drawing board to the printing plates and progressive sheets, to the final product. Visitors may ask for guided tours at the reception area or arrange tours by calling ahead of time.  

    Location: 23-B Coleman Street Singapore, Singapore 179807

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +65 337 3888


    photo by Elisa.rolle (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Singapore Navy Museum

    The Singapore Navy Museum traces the development of naval forces in Singapore, from the Straits Settlements Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in the 19th century to the Republic of Singapore Navy of today. Also on display are antique marine equipment, historic photos and details of the high-tech missile corvette vessels of the current Navy. Don't forget to bring along your passport.

    Location: Endurance Block 36 Admiralty Road West, Levels 1 to 3, Sembawang Camp, Singapore 759960

    Open: Monday–Friday from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm (closed on weekends)

    Phone: +65 6750 5585

    Paul Smith | Compulsive Traveller

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