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Singapore Museums, Arts and Culture

In the many Singapore museums, art and culture come to life in a variety of ways. The city’s past and present are truly fascinating and exploring the museums scattered across the island is the best way to gain a full appreciation of this.

Art lovers would be remiss to skip the National Gallery Singapore during their holiday, while you should make the Asian Civilisations Museum a top priority if you’re interested in learning more about Asian culture. Meanwhile, the ArtScience Museum is as intriguing on the inside as its ‘welcoming hand’ exterior suggests.

National Gallery Singapore

Take a trip to the Downtown Core and visit the National Gallery Singapore. With more than 8,000 pieces, this is the largest public display of contemporary Southeast Asian artworks in the world. Singapore has a rich, unique identity, and the National Gallery showcases the most visual representation of it. Exhibitions change frequently, so check the gallery’s website to see what’s on or just show up and let yourself be surprised.

Peranakan Museum

Peranakans (also known as Straits-born Chinese) are people whose ancestors were Chinese immigrants that travelled to Malaysia and Singapore. The Peranakan Museum comprises temporary exhibitions and nine permanent galleries covering all aspects of this fascinating culture, from its origins and traditions to its language and fashion. Key artefacts include a tablecloth made from more than a million beads, a pair of rare pagoda trays, and two Ranjang kahwain (wedding beds).

ArtScience Museum Singapore

The first thing you’ll inevitably notice about the ArtScience Museum is its extraordinary exterior. The building’s design has earned it the moniker ‘The Welcoming Hand of Singapore’. The museum itself is indeed welcoming, especially if you come with a curious mind. Exhibitions rotate regularly, but they frequently touch on themes including the ancient world, nature, photography and art, and predicting what the future might hold.   

National Museum of Singapore

What better place is there to get some insight into how Singapore came to be the thriving multicultural metropolis it is today? Dating back to 1849, this is the city’s oldest museum. The Renaissance and Palladian architectures of the National Museum of Singapore are interesting in their own right. However, it’s really the History Gallery, the ‘We Built A Nation’ exhibition and other displays that will captivate you for hours.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum

Find this four-storey Buddhist temple is in the heart of Singapore’s Chinatown. From the ornate Mountain Gate entrance with its fierce guardian statue to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Pagoda on the roof, there are several sacred items to discover. Meanwhile, the museum provides excellent information on the culture and history of Buddhism.

Fort Canning

Fort Canning Hill, which is now a park popularly used for events and festivals, has played an important role in the history of Singapore. You can take a tour of the ‘Battle Box’, where the momentous decision was made to surrender Singapore to the Japanese during World War II. Other key sites include the Sally Port (a secret door into the fort) and the fort’s wall and gate.

Asian Civilisations Museum

This is the ideal museum for immersing yourself in the culture of Singapore and Southeast Asia. Among the permanent exhibitions, you’ll find sculptures illustrating ancient religions, contemporary art, remarkable ceramics recovered from a shipwreck, and more. Highlights of the Asian Civilisation Museum’s collection include an ornately decorated octagonal cup, a spiritually enlightened Jina statuette, and a luminous tortoiseshell cabinet.