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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.

National Gallery Singapore
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. 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 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: Download a digital map of the gallery on your mobile devices for easy navigation in the art wonderland. The entry is currently free until July 31.

Future World
Photograph: ArtScience Museum

2. 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: Its permanent exhibition Future World is a mind-bender – it takes visitors on an interactive journey of lights, digital art, and magic. Together with digital art installations by teamLab, it features over 170,000 LED lights that change colours, as well as an 8-metre-tall digital waterfall where water particles tumble down logs in accordance with the laws of physics.

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3. 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.

#UnderstandEverything from home with ACM
Photograph: Asian Civilisations Museum

4. Get a glimpse of the past 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, Southeast 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: Grab a colourful activity booklet at the museum which comes complete with stickers and postcards, and follow the trails to discover how the different faiths and beliefs were spread across Asia through religious art.

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Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
Photograph: Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

5. 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.

Malay Heritage Centre
Photograph: Malay Heritage Centre

6. 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: Explore Singapore's significance in the maritime world with Seekor Singa, Seorang Putera, dan Sebingkai Cermin: Reflecting and Refracting Singapura. Go back in time and watch it all unveiled through the lens of various Malay world perspectives and indigenous material culture, juxtaposed against European colonial sources.

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SINGAPO人: Discovering Chinese Singaporean Culture
Photograph: Dewi Nurjuwita

7. Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC)

Things to do Cultural centres Tanjong Pagar

What is it? New to the cultural scene, the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC) first opened doors in 2017.

Why go? The centre teams up with arts and cultural groups and community partners around the city to showcase the rich Chinese culture through engaging exhibitions, performances, workshops, and more.

Don’t miss: Its inaugural permanent exhibition Singapo人: Discovering Chinese Singaporean Culture which debuted in March this year. Explore what it means to be uniquely Chinese Singaporean through five specially curated interactive zones that spotlight elements that shaped the distinctive Chinese Singaporean identity – from food, language, and traditions to popular culture and music.

Indian Heritage Centre
Photograph: Indian Heritage Centre

8. 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: Navigate through the special exhibition, From the Coromandel Coast to the Straits - Revisiting Our Tamil Heritage, for a collection of narratives that recount the experiences of Tamil diasporas in Southeast Asia and Singapore from pre-modern to contemporary times.

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Gelam Gallery
Photograph: Cam Khalid

9. 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.

The News Gallery: Beyond headlines
Photograph: Ray Chua/National Library Board

10. 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: Head to level 11 for its latest permanent exhibition, The News Gallery: Beyond Headlines. The exhibition is divided into five zones and features original copies of Singapore's earliest newspapers – even those from the 1820s – and a fun, fake news-busting game for the whole family.

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Passengers
Photograph: Sprmrkt

11. Wine, dine, shop and view some art at SPRMRKT

Shopping Grocery stores Bukit Timah

What is it? An ideal nook for a meal, a shop, and some art – all in a relaxed atmosphere.

Why go? You can dine with a selection of mouthwatering delicacies, and shop produce from all around the world, while examining the stunning works of art by local and international artists that line its walls.

Don't miss: The space at Cluny Court has reopened with local painter Faris Heizer's first solo exhibition, Passengers. Marvel at seven of his masterpieces featuring caricatured figures that draws attention to the artificiality of his painting's narratives, with the figures existing in an abject reality ruled by its own logic and boundaries.

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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