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Artscience museum, Future World
Photograph: Teamlab

20 ways to get cultured in Singapore

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

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Despite being a young nation, Singapore is steeped in history and heritage. Here’s what we love about the city’s art and culture scene.

1. Enter the Lost World at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Museums Natural history Kent Ridge

What is it? The museum houses a collection of rare sauropod dinosaur fossils and a million zoological specimens belonging to at least 10,000 species. 

Why go? A dinosaur fossil, a sperm whale skeleton, the only specimen of the largest species of turtle ever recorded, and an Asian Brown Flycatcher specimen collected by the famed British naturalist Alfred Wallace himself – these are just some of the highlights you’ll see here.

Don’t miss: Surrounding the museum are four gardens such as the Phylogenetic garden, which charts the evolution of plants and habitats. The other gardens – themed after mangroves, swamps and dryland forests – feature plants that are unique to these habitats. Bonus: entry to the gardens is free.

2. Dive into the playwriting scene at W!ld Rice

Theatre Performing arts space Rochor

What is it? Dive headfirst into Singapore's playwriting scene at W!ld Rice's new 358-seat theatre in Funan.

Why go? Considered as one of the city's leading theatre companies and the folks behind the annual Singapore Theatre Festival, W!ld Rice is known for productions that have the distinctive Singapore flavour but also universal in terms of storytelling.

Don’t miss: Upcoming play Peter Pan in Serangoon Gardens about the boy who wouldn't want to grow up – with a local twist. 

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Kult Kafe
Kult Kafe

3. Hang with the hip kids at Kult Studio & Gallery

Art Galleries Rochor

What is it? Perched atop Emily Hill, Kult Studio & Gallery is a refreshing studio space for “rebel creatives from all over the world”. 

Why go? Check out originals by local artists that are going for $200-$500.  

Don’t miss: Mindscapes by Deepika Das, an artwork on vinyl record inspired by 80s music (specifically Pink Floyd), and Doppelganger by Gabriel DeSouza, a skeletal painting made from gold ink on black paper.

Gelam Gallery
Photo: Cam Khalid/Time Out Singapore

4. Strike a pose at Gelam Gallery

Art Rochor

What is it? Singapore’s first outdoor gallery located along the back alleys of Muscat Street.

Why go? Two parallel walls burst with a kaleidoscope of colour thanks to over 30 Instagram-worthy works by artists from the region and beyond.

Don’t miss: Admire the pop culture-dominated creation by multi-disciplinary artist PrettyFreakyFantasy or take a snap of a bold, terrestrial piece by graphic designer Liyana Farzana before exiting to Baghdad Street.

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Utterly Art Exhibition Space
Utterly Art Exhibition Space/Facebook

5. Nab your first art piece at Utterly Art Exhibition Space

Art Chinatown

What is it? It is one of Singapore's most active art spaces, changing its exhibitions to highlight a wide spectrum of artists, sculptors, ceramists and photographers from Southeast Asia and beyond. 

Why go? Previous exhibitors include established artists such as Loh Jahan, Robert Freeman, Chng Seok Tin, and Ansel Adams. 

Don’t miss: It's also the best start when it comes to nabbing your first art piece.

6. Be spellbound at Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall

Music City Hall

What is it? Located at the heart of the colonial district, The Victoria Theatre & Victoria Concert Hall has long played a prominent part in Singapore’s cultural scene.

Why go? With its neoclassical architecture and impressive interior, the home of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra manages to be spacious yet intimate, and provides the sort of warm acoustics which musicians and music lovers crave.

Don’t miss: Be spellbound by a chamber performance at the Victoria Concert Hall.

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7. Watch a musical at Sands Theatre

Theatre Marina Bay

What is it? A theatre located at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands and strategically placed across the mall's row of celebrity chef restaurants. 

Why go? It plays host to many world-class performances.

Don’t miss: Get cultured and watch a Broadway musical or West End blockbuster.

8. Travel back in time at Capitol Theatre

Theatre City Hall

What is it? With 900 seats, the theatre is home to plays and musicals and occasionally, gala events.

Why go? Travel back in time to 1930s Singapore at the historic building.

Don’t miss: Catch dance and theatrical productions, film screenings, and red-carpet movie premieres.

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Lionheart Studio
Photo by: Lionheart Studio

9. Create your own masterpiece at Lionheart Studio

Art Painting Chinatown

What is it? Lionheart Studio takes art therapy to a new level with free flow hot drinks (coffee or tea), soothing music and aromatherapy oils. 

Why go? Art classes and art jamming activities are set in a curated indoor garden concept amidst a concrete jungle. 

Don’t miss: Unleash your inner Monét with the all-in packages that go for $35 per pax for a two-hour session, which includes light guidance and facilitation at no additional costs.

National Gallery
Photo:Darren Soh and National Gallery Singapore

10. Appreciate local art at the National Gallery Singapore

Art City Hall

What is it? An art museum in the heart of Singapore that holds an extensive collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian art.

Why go? Home to the former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings, the National Gallery Singapore is a result of combining the two structures. This beautifully restored space is now a whole new monument with over 8,000 works of art reflecting of the heritage and art history of Singapore and surrounding regions lining its walls. There are various exhibitions taking place on a rotational basis to keep the visuals fresh.

Don’t miss: All Singaporeans and PRs are granted free entry, but standard tickets for non-Singaporeans are $20. Download a digital map of the gallery on your mobile devices for an easy navigation in the art wonderland.

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11. Appreciate art and history at Asian Civilisation Museum

Things to do City Hall

What is it? One of Singapore's largest and most impressive museums with seven galleries showcasing more than 2,000 artefacts from the civilisations of China, South-East Asia, South Asia and West Asia.

Why go? The first floor of galleries charts the story of trade across the region, while the second floor presents systems of faith and belief and the third features materials and design used in Chinese ceramics from the Han to the Qing dynasty.

Don’t miss: The museum often holds special themed events and guided tours.

12. Take a secret tour at the Esplanade

Music City Hall

What is it? A performing arts wonderland, the iconic durian-looking landmark houses a 1,600-seat concert hall and a 2,000-seat theatre. It also has a dedicated library, art and music shops, restaurants and bars, as well as an outdoor theatre.

Why go? The Esplanade opens its doors to visitors who are eager to have a closer look at the world-class space. Uncover how the concert hall is engineered to keep out even the slightest external noise and vibration. Be amazed at how the hall, which has hosted renowned musicians from all around the globe, can be adjusted to mimic the acoustics of a tiny room or a large cathedral.

Don’t miss: Discover local bands playing against the backdrop of the stunning bay at the spacious outdoor theatre every Sundays.

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13. Zoom into the future at ArtScience Museum

Art Marina Bay

What is it? A lotus-shaped museum located within the Marina Bay Sands showcasing high-tech artworks that seamlessly weaves art, science, design, architecture and technology.

Why go? Observe how the two seemingly contrasting entities – art and science – come together in the world’s first ArtScience Museum. Open your mind to the futuristic sphere of cutting-edge interactive installations and explore how art and science shape the world that we live in.

Don’t miss: Check out Future World, the ArtScience Museum's permanent exhibition featuring immersive digital artworks by award-winning Japanese art collective teamLab. Enter a room filled with over 170,000 LED lights that change colours, as well as an 8-metre-tall digital waterfall whose water particles tumble down logs in accordance with the laws of physics.

Indian Heritage Centre
Photo: Indian Heritage Centre

14. Get cultured at Indian Heritage Centre

Museums Rochor

What is it? With a glowing glass façade inspired by stepwells that are commonly found in South Asia, the Indian Heritage Centre is a museum with a wealth of artifacts dotted around its five galleries.

Why go? It documents and explores the history and culture of Indians, especially in relation to Singapore, all the way from the 1st century to the present day.

Don’t miss: Rediscover Peranakan Indian communities through old photographs, letters and stories in the Chetti Melaka of the Straits special exhibition. 

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15. Become a homebody at the Intan

Things to do Walks and tours Geylang

What is it? This private Peranakan home-museum in Joo Chiat gives visitors a taste of old-world Peranakan charm during its Tea Tour, which touches on Peranakan history, culture and even embroidery craft.

Why go? Learn more about the Peranakan culture through the extensive collection of antiques, artefacts and rare gems. You can also book the Intan tour which lasts 90 minutes for tea or three hours for an authentic Nonya dinner. Trust us – once you step into The Intan, chances are you won’t ever want to leave.

Don’t miss: The tour starts at $45 for a minimum of six people but do book an appointment prior to the visit. The Intan is also known to host private parties, book launches and small concerts. 

Mint Museum
Photograph: Albert Lim K S

16. Relive your salad days at Mint Museum Of Toys

Things to do City Hall

What is it? Home to a world-class collection of vintage toys and collectable items. 

Why go? Revisit your good ol’ childhood memories and ignite your child-like wonder with the thousands of toys and items on display throughout its four levels. 

Don’t miss: The ever-changing toy exhibitions that are tailored to the different seasons. Check out their festive toy exhibitions and public talks by renowned toy makers and collectors.

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National Museum of Singapore
Photo: National Heritage Board

17. Explore the past at National Museum of Singapore

Things to do City Hall

What is it? The largest museum in the city, it comprises two main galleries – the National Museum of Singapore History Gallery and Modern Colony Gallery – that takes you back to Singapore's past.

Why go? The Singapore History Gallery, which traces the history of Singapore from its beginnings in the 14th century to the present day, and the Singapore Living Galleries, which focus on four lifestyle themes – food, fashion, film and photography. It’s also worth a visit just for the building, an imposing neoclassical structure, complemented by modern glass additions.

Don’t miss: Look out for film screenings, massive art installations and more at its lush outdoors.

Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage
Photo: Singapore Botanic Gardens

18. Watch an outdoor concert at the Singapore Botanical Gardens

Attractions Parks and gardens Tanglin

What is it? 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.

Why go? It hosts a myriad of musical performances and makes an ace spot for an evening of classical music, acapella shows, intimate acoustics and throwback tunes. 

Don’t miss: Free live performances such as the NParks Concert Series in the Park, Garden Sounds and Music Day Out. Just remember to BYOB (bring your own blanket)!

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19. Live like royalty at the Malay Heritage Centre

Things to do Rochor

What is it? This 160-year-old building used to be the royal seat and palace of the last Sultan of Singapore but now houses the rich heritage of Singapore’s Malay community with six permanent galleries spanning two levels of the centre.

Why go? Learn all about Kampong Glam’s glory days as a booming port town before Raffles landed in 1819.

Don’t miss: Special events, dance performances and other festivities that showcase Malay culture and heritage. Take a break at the various Malay restaurants dotted around the area as well.

20. Be a bookworm at National Library

Things to do Literary events Rochor

What is it? With a central borrowing library, reference library and a digital library in tow, the National Library which also happens to be the city's biggest aims to be more than just a place for book-reading.

Why go? Showered with architectural awards before it even opened, the building is designed as two towers, linked by walkways and walled almost entirely with glass. The spacious reference section on the upper floors offers great views of the city. There are some small exhibition spaces, and it also houses the Drama Centre, which regularly showcases local productions.

Don’t miss: Check out How to fall in love with classics, a lecture that delves deeper into the world of poetry and literature. Also, check out their other events, tours and plays happening monthly.

More ways to get cultured

National Museum of Singapore
Photo: National Heritage Board

The best museums in Singapore

Things to do

There’s a lot more diversity than you’d reckon when it comes to museums in Singapore. Besides the usual arts-focused spaces, we’ve rounded up a broad spectrum of other funky collections: toys, optical illusions and more.

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