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Explore these secret museums in Singapore

Get the whole fam together to see some of the coolest, quirkiest collections at these hidden museums. By Ho Zimin

By Time Out Singapore editors |
Museums, Natural history

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Kent Ridge

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 at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. 

The gallery is perfect for anyone interested in wildlife – but not the legwork it involves. Sixteen zones display specimens that run the gamut of plants, fungi, mammals, dinosaurs and more. 

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. 


The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum


Nestled in the Chinese Garden is The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum – that’s right, live. It’s a sanctuary for more than 200 turtles and tortoises of over 60 species, including a host of rare reptiles. Be wowed by the weird and wondrous mata-mata, fearsome alligator snapping turtles, and one 60-year-old Asian pond turtle. There’s even a double-headed, six-legged amphibian that the museum owners claimed to have found in their courtyard and nursed back to health. 

Kids can head to the petting corner, where they’ll get up-close and personal with some of the gentler critters. Look out for the tiny terrapins and soft shell tortoises roaming freely through the park – you can give them a pat on the shell or feed them. 

Things to do

The Cathay Gallery

City Hall

Calling all cinephiles – this one’s for you. If you’re at The Cathay Cineplex, your moviegoing experience doesn’t have to end at the credits. Head to the second floor and you’ll find more movie magic at The Cathay Gallery. 

This hidden gem is a time capsule of movie memorabilia: think antique cinema chairs, cameras and film projectors. Film buffs can geek out over the gallery’s permanent exhibition, which includes a wall papered with vintage film posters of the most iconic flicks in cinematic history, such as the animated classic The Jungle Book and The Sound of Music

A walk through The Cathay Gallery will take you through the storied history of the Loke family, who were pioneers of the film industry in Singapore and founders of the Cathay Organisation. While you’re there, be sure to check out the black-and-white trailer for the Cathay-produced horror flick from 1957, Pontianak.

Things to do

Singapore Musical Box Museum

Tanjong Pagar

Be enchanted by tinkling musical boxes in a museum dedicated to these delightful trinkets. Though only recently opened to the public, in 2015, through the museum’s doors lies centuries worth of history. Here, you can learn about the popularity of musical boxes throughout the years, how they first came to Singapore, and how Singapore played a pivotal role in bringing musical boxes to South-East Asia in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Most of the musical boxes here are antiques that are centuries old, each telling a unique story of the craftsmanship of yesteryears. The museum aims to upkeep the preservation of these artefacts, and its collections hail mainly from Switzerland, Germany and the US.

Make a trip to these other museums

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

Best museums in Singapore

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.