The best museums in Singapore

Looking for a culture fix in Singapore? Here are the best museums you should make time to visit
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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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National Gallery
Photo:Darren Soh and National Gallery Singapore
Art

National Gallery Singapore

icon-location-pin City Hall

Formerly the Supreme Court and City Hall, this behemoth of an art museum – it’s the largest of its kind in Singapore – focuses on South-East Asian art from the 19th century up until today. And with several kid-friendly exhibits and installations, the little ones have lots to check out, too.

Art

ArtScience Museum

icon-location-pin Marina Bay

Fusing art and science, the 21 gallery spaces here have hosted some of the most famous exhibitions in the world. Like those that feature the sets, costumes and props from blockbuster films such as Titanic and the Harry Potter franchise. And its current permanent exhibition, Future World, is a mind-bender: designed by Japanese arts collective teamLab, the show takes visitors on an interactive journey of lights, digital art and magic.

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National Museum of Singapore
Photo: National Heritage Board
Things to do

National Museum of Singapore

icon-location-pin City Hall

Previously known as the Singapore History Museum, the National Museum of Singapore is the largest local museum. It comprises two main galleries: 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 themes: food, fashion, film and photography.

Singapore Art Museum
Photo: National Heritage Board
Art

Singapore Art Museum

icon-location-pin City Hall

This former Catholic school for boys was revamped in the early ’90s when there was a policy of converting old colonial buildings into public museums. Because of its small, unusual and hidden gallery spaces, it has never held blockbuster shows. Instead, it specialises in smaller exhibitions, mostly 20th-century Asian visual art, often drawn from its own collection of South-East Asian ‘pioneer’ art.

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Asian Civilisations Museum
Photo: National Heritage Board
Things to do

Asian Civilisations Museum

icon-location-pin City Hall

The Asian Civilisations Museum is the first in the region to represent an integrated perspective of pan-Asian cultures and civilisations. It boasts 11 galleries showcasing more than 1,300 artefacts from the civilisations of China, South-East Asia, South Asia and West Asia.

Museums, Natural history

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

icon-location-pin Kent Ridge

We’ve been dreaming of our very own night at the museum ever since Ben Stiller tamed a T-Rex skeleton – don’t laugh, you know you did, too. But good things come to those who wait, and we rejoiced when the doors of South-East Asia’s first-ever natural history museum were finally flung open once again. Of course, no prehistoric creatures or ancient sculptures will be coming to life here (we think), but it’s still pretty darned cool.

Spread over two floors, 15 zones and 2,500 sq m, the exhibition gallery showcases over 2,000 specimens of South-East Asian plants and animals. But the highlight – for us, at least – is the chance to get up close and personal with three 150 million-year-old dinosaur fossils. Jurassic Park, anyone?

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Peranakan Museum
Photo: National Heritage Board
Things to do

Peranakan Museum

icon-location-pin City Hall

‘Peranakan’ describes both a rich culture and a unique ethnic group that arose from the meeting of Chinese and Malay peoples. This ten-gallery exhibition venue houses documents and artefacts of Peranakan culture, brought to life by interactive and multimedia displays spread over three floors.

Things to do

Trick Eye Museum

icon-location-pin Sentosa

Originating from Korea, the Trick Eye Museum at Resorts World Sentosa Singapore houses six zones with different themes such as ‘Safari’ and ‘Circus’. Each features three-dimensional paintings and optical illusion masterpieces that make for crazy photo ops.

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Reflections at Bukit Chandu
Photo: National Heritage Board
Things to do

Reflections at Bukit Chandu

icon-location-pin Kent Ridge

The museum commemorates the brave defence of the vastly outnumbered soldiers of the Malay Regiment against the Japanese in the Battle of Pasir Panjang during WWII. Documentary material is gathered in display cases on the first floor, while the rooms upstairs recreate the building’s military past.

Indian Heritage Centre
Photo: Indian Heritage Centre
Museums, Cultural centre

Indian Heritage Centre

icon-location-pin Rochor

With a glowing glass façade inspired by stepwells commonly found in South Asia, the Indian Heritage Centre has a wealth of artefacts that are dotted around five galleries. They document and explore the history and culture of Indians, particularly in relation to Singapore, all the way from the 1st century to the present day.

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Museums, Natural history

Lion City Kitty – The Cat Museum, Muses & Mansion

icon-location-pin City Hall

A first of its kind in Singapore, Lion City Kitty is pretty much a one-stop destination for all things feline. Aptly situated within a quaint shophouse on ‘Purrvis’ Street, the space comprises a museum (of course) that depicts the history of cats around the world, an art space that serves as a platform for local artists to showcase cat-centric creative work, and the Mansion, a playground for kitties that’s flush with toys and scratch posts.

Things to do

Malay Heritage Centre

icon-location-pin Rochor

Located at the historic Istana Kampong Gelam, this museum traces the history of the Malay community from the days of the earliest settlers and the sea faring might of the Bugis villagers to the golden years of the Malay entertainment industry. Featuring six sub-galleries, exhibits include the history of Kampong Gelam and contributions made by various Malay pioneers.

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Mint Museum
Photo: Albert Lim K S
Things to do

MINT Museum of Toys

icon-location-pin City Hall

This private museum is considered to be the largest collection of its kind in South-East Asia, showcasing a collection of over 50,000 pieces of vintage toys. With rare or one-of-a-kind pieces sourced from more than 40 countries – some of which date back to the mid-19th century – it’s easy to get caught up in the past in this five-storey temple to toys.

Science Centre
Photo: Watson Lau
Things to do

Singapore Science Centre

icon-location-pin Jurong East

An institute built for the cultivation of everything scientific (yeah, science!), this kid-friendly institution features regular exhibitions that promote the physical, life, applied, technology and industry sciences. The centre also lays claim to Singapore’s only domed cinema, the Omni-Theatre, which is equipped with state-of-the-art IMAX technology.

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Singapore Philatelic Museum
Photo: National Heritage Board
Things to do

Singapore Philatelic Museum

icon-location-pin City Hall

Curating philatelic materials of Singapore from the 1830s to the present day, the Singapore Philatelic Museum also boasts an extensive collection of stamps from member countries of the Universal Postal Union. It’s also a working post office: where better to fire off a few postcards of your own?

Museums

The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum

icon-location-pin Jurong East

No, it’s not on Kusu Island. Housed in the Chinese Garden, most of the specimens in this turtle and tortoise sanctuary started off as family pets of the owners, the father-daughter duo Danny and Connie Tan. Since its humble beginnings, the museum is now home to more than 1,000 critters from 58 species, including playful pig-nosed turtles, terrapins, large tortoises, and even feisty alligator snapping turtles.

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Museums, Specialist interest

Singapore Chinese Opera Museum

icon-location-pin Rochor

Growing up in China, Bian Hui Bin was exposed to traditional Chinese opera from a young age. He has harboured a deep love for the artform ever since – and so when he came to Singapore, he hoped to introduce the different types of Chinese opera to locals and foreigners alike. And he did with this museum. Tucked away on the second floor of a Kampong Glam shophouse, it showcases the styles, costumes and props employed by the various types of Chinese opera in Singapore.

Things to do, Exhibitions

Changi Chapel & Museum

icon-location-pin Pasir Ris

Even though the museum is housed in a purpose-built venue, and the chapel is a reconstruction (the original was shipped to Australia after the war), this is the most iconic of the WWII sites in Singapore.

The main interest lies in the stories of industry and ingenuity within POW camps here. The civilian and military internees essentially established an alternative, if somewhat surreal, society, catering for everything from entertainment to the manufacture of thousands of everyday items. Contact with the outside world was maintained through handmade and carefully disguised radios. 

The chapel, located in the courtyard of the museum, encourages quiet reflection. It also houses copies of the kitschy but affecting Changi murals, recreated by the original artist, Stanley Warren, after a widely publicised international effort to find him. The $8 audio guide is pricey, but it is comprehensive and complements the displays well.

The museum is currently undergoing a major redevelopment and is slated to reopen in 2020.

 

 

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Things to do

Madame Tussauds

icon-location-pin Harbourfront

Aside from the usual army of international superstars, visitors can take selfies with some of our local heroes and celebs, including Jack Neo and Gurmit Singh, at the A-List Party section. Another feature to look out for is the indoor boat ride, Spirit of Singapore, which is unique to the Singapore outpost. It features some of our native plants, models of sightseeing attractions, and glimpses into local culture, such as a re-enactment of a traditional Chinese opera.

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