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Your guide to an artsy family holiday in Singapore

There's no better place to get acquainted with our rich history than in the Civic District, where National Gallery Singapore and other attractions provide more than enough entertainment for the whole family

The National Gallery
Photo: Darren Soh and the National Gallery Singapore
Time Out Singapore in partnership with National Gallery Singapore |

Get cultured

At the heart of the Civic District is National Gallery Singapore (1 St Andrew’s Rd), housed in the former City Hall and Supreme Court, and dedicated to Singapore and South-East Asian art. And if you’ve kids in tow, Gallery Children's Biennale (until Oct 8) is not to be missed.

With the theme ‘Dreams & Stories’, Gallery Children’s Biennale is a collection of ten interactive artworks that the kids will be exploring in no time. For instance, Firewalk: A Bridge of Embers, by Filipino artist Mark Justiniani uses optical illusions to create a feeling of floating mid-air over what seems to be an endlessly deep archaeological site. Families are encouraged to sign up for the free tours (Wed & Sat, 5pm) led by docents, who will share the dreams and stories that inspired the artworks.

Photo: Yayoi Kusama, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore, Victoria Miro, London, David Zwirner, New York.

YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow (until Sep 3) is another exhibition that's perfect for both the little ones and the grown-ups. The influential Japanese artist is known for her whimsical use of dots and pumpkin motifs, and this retrospective features 120 old and new paintings, sculptures, videos and installations. The highlight is the spectacular Infinity Mirrored Room  ̶  Gleaming Lights of the Souls where mirrors and lights make for a contemplative sensory experience, as though you're suspended in an infinite space.

Come August, National Gallery Singapore kicks off its first-ever open-air festival, Civic District Outdoor Festival: When Time Stood Still. Running over two weekends (Aug 4, 5, 11 & 12), the festival sees light projections cast onto building façades, giant illuminated bunnies on the Padang, and a glorious art and street food market with live performances by artists and musicians.

National Kitchen by Violet Oon

Fuel up

While museums are not usually synonymous with good food, National Gallery Singapore’s dining establishments will dispel that stereotype.

Taking a cue from the museum's regional focus, Gallery & Co. (#01-11) presents a menu of modern café fare with an Asian twist, such as tacos stuffed with otah-otah, and lemongrass-rubbed ribs. (Psst: the adjacent retail section is also great for picking up souvenirs, from quirky enamel pins to baby onesies.)

Yan's signature crispy roast suckling pig served in 3 ways

For a full-on feast, tuck into traditional Cantonese dishes in elegant settings at Yàn (#05-02). It’s famous for roast meats and nourishing double-boiled soups, but the restaurant’s classic dishes like fried rice and fried noodles truly showcase its mastery of the wok. But if you’re visiting in the afternoon, hit up National Kitchen by Violet Oon (#02-01). The Peranakan restaurant’s Singapore High Tea set makes for a tasty respite from walking the galleries.

Fountain of Wealth at Suntec City Mall

Get active

Nearby the gallery, Suntec City Mall (3 Temasek Blvd) is home to two indoor playgrounds that the kids will go wild in. Obstacle courses, trampolines and bouncy castles are the stars at The Polliwogs (#02-724), while Cool de Sac (#02-379) is noteworthy for its wide range of play areas that even include a ‘treehouse’, complete with a suspension bridge.

Opposite Suntec City, in Marina Square (6 Raffles Blvd), you’ll find Pororo Park (#02-29). It’s the ultimate destination for fans of the titular little penguin and his friends. Besides a play gym and ball pit, there's a replica of the Korean cartoon character’s house, a pretend supermarket, and a travelling Pororo Express.

Far East Organization Children’s Garden

When you want to take it to the great outdoors, the Far East Organization Children’s Garden over at Gardens by the Bay (18 Marina Gardens Dr) is ideal for expending the tykes’ leftover energy. There are two life-sized treehouses, sprawling water play areas, and an adventure trail across spider nets, through tunnel slides and under green arches.


Gardens by the Bay

Make photographic memories

You’ll also want to carve out time to visit the rest of the Gardens by the Bay. In the Flower Dome, baobabs, olive groves and South American blooms make for stunning Insta-worthy backdrops – if you can keep your kids still, that is. If not, let them loose on the 22m-high OCBC Skyway that spirals around the Supertrees.

After checking out the park, walk over to the waterfront promenade at Marina Bay Sands (10 Bayfront Ave) for a magnificent light and water display. Spectra runs in the evenings from Thursdays to Sundays, with lasers and projections dancing on the water, and water fountains erupting into the nightsky.

For a rare peek inside a fire station, wake up for the Saturday morning open house at the Central Fire Station (62 Hill St), the site of Singapore’s oldest working fire station. The tots can strap on a kid-sized helmet while they embark on a tour, and they'll even get to don a fireman's suit, hose out a fake fire, and climb aboard the trucks for photo ops.

Pan Pacific Singapore

For slumber and more

Pan Pacific Singapore (7 Raffles Blvd) is in prime position: it’s located a hop, skip and jump away from the National Gallery Singapore, and across the playgrounds in Marina Square and Suntec City. Not that you’d need them. An outdoor playground, a big wading pool for toddlers and a herb garden for the kids to roam are among the hotel’s child-friendly amenities.

The Fullerton Hotel Singapore

For a grand holiday, The Fullerton Hotel (​1 Fullerton Square) is an immaculate choice. And its family package offers an unbeatable deal: it includes a complimentary buffet breakfast for two adults and two children, Segway or e-scooter rentals (1 hour/person, max four people/room), one-day passes to Adventure Cove Waterpark in Sentosa for two adults and two children (or three adults), and walking tours of the neighbourhood. What's more, the rooms come with kids’ amenities like baby bath tubs, kids' bathrobes and colouring books – perfect for putting together their own masterpieces after seeking inspiration from the National Gallery Singapore.

And if you can’t get enough of Kusama even after leaving the gallery, The Fullerton Hotel has put together an afternoon tea ($22/children; $43/adults) whose sweets are inspired by the artist’s work – think lots and lots of polka dots.