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101 things to do in Singapore: Arts and Culture

Check out museums, art galleries, and free performances in our public spaces


Get a designer art fix

Get a designer art fix inside Hermès. Situated on the third floor of the high-end designer store, this space opens wheneer they have shows going on – their exhibitions are generally site-specific installations, and ironically, feature some of the most interesting and conceptual pieces around. Hermès art spaces can also be found in Berlin, Tokyo and New York.

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Get to know the Peranakans

The name Peranakan describes both a rich culture and a unique ethnic group, arising from the meeting of Chinese and Malay peoples. They’re known for their delicious cooking, but if you can’t wrangle a dinner invitation, head to the ten-gallery Peranakan Museum for the world’s largest and best overview of Peranakan life over three floors. Explore documents and artefacts – jewellery, silver, furniture, textiles and crockery predominate – brought to life through interactive and multimedia stations.

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Brush up on Asian culture

One of Singapore's largest and most impressive museums, the Asian Civilisations Museum has 11 galleries showcasing more than 1,300 artefacts from the civilisations of China, South-East Asia, South Asia and West Asia. The permanent exhibition, Singapore River Gallery, tells the stories of coolies, indigenous Orang Laut (or ‘Sea People’) and fresh-off-the-boat Europeans (Gallery 1).

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Raffles Place

Get cultured at ‘the durian’

Love or hate its design, Singapore’s premier performing arts centre Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay is now one of the city’s iconic landmarks (it’s also known as ‘the durian’ for its distinctive domes) and a world-class artistic venue, hosting concerts and performances by local troupes such as the Singapore Dance Theatre or international touring companies like the Royal Shakespeare Company in its 1,600-seat Concert Hall and the 2,000-seat Theatre. There’s also the Outdoor Theatre for music festivals like Baybeats and other free concerts, a black box Theatre Studio (seating 220) and a Recital Studio (245).

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Get familiar with local art

Formerly a Catholic boys’ school, the intimate building that now houses the Singapore Art Museum features a number of small, unusual and hidden gallery spaces scattered throughout the building – many of which house longrunning exhibitions showcasing their impressive collection of South-East Asian contemporary art, including a number of notable ‘pioneer’ works.

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City Hall
Splash out on a fancy VIP cinema experience

Splash out on a fancy VIP cinema experience

Catch the latest blockbuster while lounging on your recliner seat, an embroided blanket keeping you warm. Sip on a glass of wine, and luxuriate in the fact that you’ve paid to have a concierge at your beck and call. This first-class cinema experience is available at various cinema chains including Golden Village (www.gv.com), The Cathay (www.cathaycineplexes.com.sg) and Shaw Theatres (www.shaw.sg).

Prices start from $20, but vary across cinemas.


Go art gallery hopping at a former army barrack

Set within the lush grounds of the former army training ground, Gillman Barracks is home to some of the world’s top galleries located in five buildings. It’s easy to get lost in the massive compound so wear your most comfortable togs and arrive in the late afternoon. Some of our favourites include FOST Gallery, Sundaram Tagore Gallery Singapore and Pearl Lam Galleries.

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Labrador Park

Watch a concert in the park

Situated on an islet in the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ Symphony Lake, the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage is an idyllic venue for open-air concerts, with the audience sitting at the water’s edge. Of the monthly concerts held – from jazz, Latin and classical to pop and R&B – the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s free, biannual ‘SSO in the Park’ is the most popular.

Symphony Lake, Singapore Botanic Gardens, 1 Cluny Rd (6471 7138, www.sbg.org.sg). Botanic Gardens. Admission is free.

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Botanic Gardens

Check out a performance on a historic stage

Located at the heart of the colonial district, the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall has long played a prominent role in Singapore’s cultural scene. With its neoclassical architecture and impressive interior, it manages to be spacious yet intimate, and provides the sort of warm acoustics that performers and audiences crave. Recently re-opened, the space has already seen plenty of action: the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) was partly hosted there, while the Singapore Symphony Orchestra continues to hold regular chamber concerts in what was once their former home.

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Raffles Place

Make a wish in a turtle pond

The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum is a fascinating place with over 200 live turtles and tortoises from over 60 different species, including the snake-necked tortoise and the alligator-snapping turtle. Toss the odds-defying ‘lucky’ Asian pond turtle a coin and your wish might come true – but we think he’d favour a fresh hunk of cucumber.

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Chinese Garden