Must-See Museums in Singapore for culture and history

Must-See Museums in Singapore for culture and history
June 01 04:30 2017

Paying a visit to a museum should be top of your list of best things to to in Singapore. With so many great museums to choose from, you can dive deep into the history and culture of this melting-pot metropolis.

There are museums in Singapore for all tastes and ages, where not only the artefacts inside are historic, but the buildings themselves are living relics of the Lion City’s colonial past. You can peruse international standards like Madame Tussauds and the Trick Eye Museum, but here we are focusing on uniquely Singaporean Museums. Pay a visit to these must-see museums in Singapore, where you can learn about the culture and history of the Little Red Dot.

We have also written a stand alone article of the best art museums in Singapore, which you can find here. For this reason, we have excluded purely art museums and galleries from this list and have focused on history and culture museums.

1. National Museum of Singapore

National Museum of Singapore

National Museum of Singapore. Image credit: National Museum

Dating back to 1887, the National Museum of Singapore is the country’s oldest, making it a distinct cultural landmark. It hosts the annual Night Festival, houses dynamic art installations, performances, and film screenings, all telling thought-provoking stories of the past. The beautiful neoclassical building with glass additions is a perfect representation of Singapore’s mix of old and new.

After after the large scale and expensive refurbishment and rebranding ($118 million) it really is the best museum in Singapore if you’re strapped for choices. There are two main galleries to visit. The first, the Singapore History Gallery, is for history buffs and retells the unique story of Singapore from the 14th century to the present day. The trendier Singapore Living Galleries take a more modern twist and focus on four lifestyle themes that include food, fashion, film and photography. They also have film outdoor screenings occasionally, so check on their website before you go.

Plan your trip by downloading their app for a well-rounded experience. Available on the Apple Store or Google Play Store.The National Museum of Singapore is on the outskirts of Fort Canning Park, so hop over to the Battle Box Museum for a bonus museum visit (check no. 13 below for additional info).


Address: 93 Stamford Road, 178897

Opening hours: Singapore History Gallery 10am-6pm, Singapore Living Galleries 10am-8pm

Admission: Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents (present Pink or Blue NRIC for scanning) and Children 6 years and below (any nationality) enjoy free admission to all galleries. Standard Adult $15; Senior (60 years and above), Students and Special Access $10

2. Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (NUS) Singapore

Image Cred: Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (NUS) Singapore

Be prepared for an epic experience when you visit Lee Kong Chian (LKC) Natural History Museum at the National University of Singapore (NUS). The grounds are themselves are a massive seven storeys and cover 8,500sqm of space. So either choose which exhibits you want to visit beforehand or come with your best marathon running shoes.

The iconic building, titled “The Rock” and designed by Singapore architect Mok Wei Wei, is a large monolithic structure that resembles a cliff, complete with a living wall of terraced planters that were sourced from the seashores of Singapore. Inside, purveyors of history will find over 560,000 catalogued lots with over a million specimens of all kinds of curiosities from all of the region. There are dinosaur fossils, specimens the largest turtle ever recorded, and the remains of a 10.6 metre long female sperm whale.

When you’re ready to go outside, take a breezy walk in the phylogenetic garden to see plants of all kinds. And don’t forget to download their App-ollonia on the Apple Store, and interactive web application that will surely enhance your museum experience.


Address: National University of Singapore, 2 Conservatory Dr, Singapore 117377

Opening hours: Tue-Sun 10am-7pm

Admission: $9-$21

Admission:Singaporean adult S$16.00; Singaporean Child, Student, NSF, Senior Citizen & Person with Disability S$9.00; Non-Singaporean Adult S$21.00; Non-Singaporean Child, Student, Senior Citizen S$13.00

3. Singapore Philatelic Museum

Singapore Philatelic Museum

Singapore Philatelic Museum. Image Credit: Choo Yut Shing (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Let’s test your general knowledge quick. What does the term philatelic mean? Something to do with philanthropy or philharmonic? Or maybe just something about your uncle Phil? Philately is actually the study of stamps and all things postal. But wait. If stamp collecting makes you yawn, hold your breath because the Singapore Philatelic Museum is bound to make you gasp.

Anyone interested in design or history will love this museum as it showcases the miniature works of art dating back to the 1830s that depict Singapore’s politics, history and nature as well as its popular culture. The building itself is a marvelous transformed colonial building. There are different exhibits throughout the year, but the permanent exhibition is a wonderful window into this special field where you will see the first stamp ever made and learn about the importance of stamps. And if you need to send a package, it’s also a working post office. So you can kill two birds with one stone.


Address: 23B Coleman Street, Singapore 179807

Opening hours: Daily 10am-7pm

Admission: Singapore Citizens & Permanent Residents, as well as children under 3 and their primary caregiver enter for free. Adults $8; Children (3-12), students and senior citizens $6.

4. Asian Civilisations Museum

Asian Civilisations Museum

Asian Civilisations Museum. Image credit: Asian Civilisations Museum

Showcasing the history of Singapore’s ancestral cultures, the Asian Civilisations Museum is located at the Empress Place Building, which is a National Monument in itself. Head in to explore the artefacts from China, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and the Islamic World.

The Asian Civilisations Museum is also one of Singapore’s largest museums with seven galleries that hold over 2,000 artefacts from the regions mentioned above. There are some beautiful relics to explore and some interesting insights from Asia. Each floor has its own distinct theme, so whether you’re interested in different faiths, art or trade, you will find it here.


Address: 1 Empress Pl, Singapore 179555

Opening hours: 10am-7pm daily, except Fri 10am-9pm

Admission: Free for Singaporeans & Permanent Residents

Foreign Residents and Tourists – $8; Friday evenings, 7pm to 9pm – $4

Family of 5 – $24

Foreign Students and Seniors – $4; Friday evenings, 7pm to 9pm – $2

5. Changi Museum

Changi Chapel Museum

Changi Chapel Museum. Image credit: Jnzl’s Photos (CC BY 2.0)

Note: The Changi Chapel and Museum is currently under major renovations and is slated to open in 2020. Read on for reference.

Honouring the spirit of those who braved WWII, the Changi Museum is an especially important museum for all the Prisoners-Of-War (POW) and their families. Today, the museum stands as a reminder of the dark days of the war, and serves to educate visitors of the country’s past. The chapel is also a beautiful place to reflect on the stories heard in the museum.

If you can only choose one WWII museum to visit in Singapore (yes there a many), then this should be it. There are guided war trails that will transport you to the various historic places that were so important in the war. There is also an audio tour of the museum where you can listen to first-hand stories from POWs that were imprisoned in Changi.


Address: 1000 Upper Changi Rd N, Singapore 507707

Opening hours: 9.30am-5pm daily

Free admission

6. Chinatown Heritage Centre

Chinatown Heritage Centre Singapore

Chinatown Heritage Centre Singapore. Image Cred: Joyofmuseums (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Recreating the scenes of the shophouses where people lived in the 1950s, the Chinatown Heritage Centre, located within restored shophouses, transports you back in time to experience how early residents lived. Here, you can trace the journey of early pioneers who travelled from China to Singapore, which became their home.

There are various tours available through the gallery from a self-guided multimedia tour to a docent guided tour. Or you can opt for the character tour where you will experience history of the colourful district with a Chinatown character. This is by far the best museum in Singapore to learn about the Chinese immigrant history with an immersive experience that will leave you far more knowledgeable about the struggles of the early settlers.


Address: 48 Pagoda St, Singapore 059207

Opening hours: 9am-8pm daily

Admission: With multimedia guide: Adults $15, Child (7-12 years) $11

With guided tour: Adults $20, Child (7-12 years) $16

Seniors: Free with every paying visitor; multimedia guide $3; guided tour $8

7. Indian Heritage Centre

Indian Heritage Centre

Indian Heritage Centre. Image Credit: Choo Yut Shing (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Indian Heritage Centre showcases the history of the Indian and South Asian communities, in a four-story museum within Little India. The architecture blends both traditional Indian elements and modern features, with a design inspired by the baoli or Indian stepwell. The glass facade walls shine bright in the day and are lit up with colour at night, represent the diverse and multi-faceted Indian community living in Singapore.  

The permanent exhibition, Indians in Singapore – Past & Present, is a vibrant tribute to Singapore’s Indian community that features 5 themes that depict the historical ties between India and Southeast Asia. There are also special exhibitions that change every so often. Be sure to visit the Indian Heritage Centre’s Visitor Services Counter and take a copy of the Little India Heritage Trail booklet. From there, you can go on a self-guided tour around Little India.


Address: 5 Campbell Ln, 209924

Opening hours:

Tues to Thurs 10am-7pm

Fri & Sat 10am-8pm

Sun 10am-4pm

Admission: Free admission to Singaporeans and Permanent Residents and visitors aged 6 years and below. Overseas Visitors: Adults $6.00, Students $4.00; Seniors (60+yrs): Free

8. Malay Heritage Gallery

Malay Heritage Centre

Malay Heritage Centre. Image cred: Erwin Soo (CC BY 2.0)

A key heritage institution for Singapore’s Malay community, the Malay Heritage Gallery sits within the grounds of Istana Kampong Glam (or the Sultan’s Palace), where Malay sultans once presided. The museum is where artefacts, interactive multimedia and a range of exhibitions allow you to delve into the local Malay culture.

As the name of the area suggests, there are many gelam trees on the premises. There is also a replica of a Bugis prahu boat called the Pinisi and details of the Bugis people and their trade. Don’t forget to download the Singapore Heritage Trails app before going on your Kampong Glam heritage trail walking tour. Here’s a nice PDF from the National Heritage Board for you to read before you take the journey.


Address: 85 Sultan Gate, Singapore 198501

Opening hours: 10am-6pm daily except Mon


Admission to the Museum building is free for Citizens, Permanent Residents and children under 6 years, except for selected programmes.

International guests: Adults (20% discount for group of 20 pax and above) $6.00; Family Package (for maximum of 5 members) $18.00; Seniors (60 years old and above) and Students and Persons with Disabilities (PWD) $4.00; 1st caretaker of PWD Free Admission.

9. Peranakan Museum

Peranakan Museum

Peranakan Museum

The Asian Civilisations Museum’s sister museum, the Peranakan Museum traces the roots of Peranakan communities in Singapore and the region. Learn about the traditional 12-day Peranakan wedding, admire beautiful motifs of batik, and take part in one of the museum’s many programmes for a more interactive experience.

There are 10 galleries to choose from that showcase this vibrant hybrid culture including wedding garments and the daily life of the Peranakan Chinese community (Quick Fact: Peranakan are not only Chinese). Before you visit, check out our guide to the Peranakan Museum which will tell you all about the Peranakans, and provides our personal recommendations from what to watch at the Museum to where to get an authentic Peranakan meal.


Address: 39 Armenian St, 179941

Opening hours: 10am-7pm daily, except Fridays 10am-9pm

Admission: Singaporeans and Permanent Residents enjoy free entry to all Permanent Galleries daily, prices will differ for other exhibitions. Foreign Residents and Tourists $13; Family of 5 $39; Foreign Students and Seniors $9.

10. MINT Museum of Toys

MINT Museum of Toys

MINT Museum of Toys. Image cred: Jase Lam (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Here’s a slightly different take on a typical museum. The MINT Museum of Toys houses a range of toys from the region and beyond, all in mint condition and collected by the CEO Mr Chang Yang Fa. Over the years, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 50,000 items from over 40 countries, 8,000 of which are on display.

The range of toys expands from the 1840s and each level is divided into a specific theme namely: Outerspace, Characters, Childhood Favourites and Collectables. Fun fact, the name MINT means “Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia with Toys” which alludes to the effect that toys have on our minds. What better way to explore different cultures than to take a look at what kind of toys their children play with?


Address: 26 Seah Street, 188382

Opening hours: 9.30am-6.30pm

Admission: Adult $15.00; Child (ages 2 to 12) $7.50; Senior Citizens (60+ with valid ID) $7.50.

11. Singapore Science Centre

Science Centre Singapore

Science Centre Singapore. Image cred: smuconlaw (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Apart from the ArtScience Museum, mentioned in our art museums of Singapore post, which is a blend of both art and Science, the Singapore Science Centre is solely focused on the wonderful discipline. The Centre first opened its doors in 1977 and has been transforming minds ever since.

There are regular exhibitions in the 14 different spaces that promote all the scientific fields from physical to industrial. It has a one-of-a-kind dome shaped roofed at the Omni-Theatre, which includes a 276 seater IMAX theatre. If you’re looking for fun activities in Singapore for kids, then this should be your first destination. KidsSTOP is dedicated to younger science enthusiasts and Snow City is Singapore’s only indoor Snow Centre. It also has Southeast Asia’s largest Observatory.


Address: 15 Science Centre Rd, Singapore 609081

Opening hours: 10am-6pm

Admission: Tickets will differ depending on your preference. See here for details.

12. Singapore Discovery Centre

Singapore Discovery Centre

Singapore Discovery Centre.Image cred: Shaun Wong (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Singapore Discovery Centre has humble beginnings in an idea to share the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) story with the rest of the country and the world. Today is is much more than a military museum, showcasing five interactive galleries that are a pleasure to all the senses.

With so many exhibitions and Singapore’s largest flat-screen movie theatre, you can easily spend the entire day here and not get bored. Standouts include Gateway, where you can experience Singapore’s drastic transformation in just 3 short videos, the Visionarium Design Studio which has the world’s largest 360-degree screen, and the 4D Simulator Ride.

There are also various simulations that educate the public on national threats, asking the viewer what would happen if there were a threat to the city-state. Other activities include paintball, paddle boats and a Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute (SAFTI) bus tour to see our protectors in action.


Address: 510 Upper Jurong Road, Singapore 638365

Opening hours: 9.00am-6.00pm (Closed on Mon, except public or school holidays)

Admission: Free admission for Singaporeans and PR. $10; children $6

13. The Battle Box

The Battle Box Singapore

The Battle Box Singapore. Image cred: jokertrekker (CC BY 3.0)

Singapore has an interesting and tumultuous history. The British took over in 1826 and held authoritative power until they surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February 1942. The cessation of power was carried out in an underground bunker in Fort Canning Hill called the Battlebox. The historic site has now become a museum and on of Singapore’s most visited attractions.

The Battle Box Tour: A Story of Strategy & Surrender provides answers to the question why Singapore fell into the hands of the Japanese even though they had twice the soldiers. You will experience the historic event as you are guided through the site for one hour. The Of Graves, Guns & Battles Tour is a more extensive guide through Fort Canning that lasts for 2.5hrs. Fort Canning itself is a beautifully green location in the centre of the city with a gorgeous hotel, so you can visit the Battle Box along with a walk in the park.

Fort Siloso and Reflections at Bukit Chandu are two more World War II museums in Singapore and historic sites to visit for history buffs.


Address: 2 Cox Terrace, Fort Canning Park, Singapore 179872

Operating Hours:

(Mondays, including public holidays):

1.30pm, 2.45pm, 4.00pm

(Tuesdays to Sundays, including public holidays):

9.45am, 11.00am,

1.30pm, 2.45pm, 4.00pm

Admission: $18/adult, $9/children – A Story of Strategy & Surrender Tour

$32/adult, $15/children – Of Graves, Guns & Battles Tour

14. Maritime Experiential Museum

Maritime Experiential Museum and Aquarium

Maritime Experiential Museum and Aquarium. Image Credit: Choo Yut Shing (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

All budding seafarers (or pirates) will love this interactive museum in Singapore that transports participants back in time to the Maritime Silk Route of decades past. A free 45min guided tour will take you on an adventure through 15 thematic galleries and even a few danger zones where you will have to escape from the clutches of the pirates or try to survive a typhoon!

There is also an exhibition that displays the Vessels of the Maritime Silk Route with different models based on Chinese, Borobudur and Javanese trading ships of the era. And there is even a training centre where you can learn to be sailor by reading nautical charts or how to tie different knots. And if you get bored, which you won’t, there is the rest of Resorts World and Sentosa’s beaches to keep you busy.


Address: Resorts World Sentosa, 8 Sentosa Gateway, Singapore 098269

Opening hours: Daily 10am-7pm

Admission: $16/adults; $10/child (4-12yrs); $5/senior citizens

15. Republic of Singapore Air Force Museum

Republic of Singapore Air Force Museum

Republic of Singapore Air Force Museum. Image cred: Dave1185 (CC BY 3.0)

The Republic of Singapore Air Force Museum is an aerophile’s dream. The Museum takes you on a journey through the development of the Lion City’s Air Force from its days as part of the Royal Air Force back in 1927 to the present day. There are both interactive and artefactual displays from the nine indoor galleries to the outdoor gallery.

The indoor gallery provides an interactive historical guide of the RSAF, and by no means is it a boring diorama, there are visual effects and games as well. The outdoor gallery is a more hands-on experience for lover of aviation. Here you will get up close with various fighter jets like the A4-C Skyhawk, the SF 260 Marchetti and the Hunter Hawker, as well as missiles, and anti-aircraft systems. It is also an educational experience as the gallery provides a brief history of each artefact and how they help Singapore’s defense remain strong.


Address: Paya Lebar Airbase, 400 Airport Rd, Singapore 534234

Opening hours: Tue-Sun 8.30am-5pm (Closed on Monday & Public Holidays)

Admission: Free

16. Sports Museum

Singapore Sports Museum

Singapore Sports Museum. Image cred: Singapore Sports Council (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Singapore really does cater for all types, so sports enthusiasts who aren’t into art or culture have a place to call home. The Singapore Sports Museum housed in the Singapore Sports Hub is fixed with permanent galleries that show the history and development of sports in the Little Red Dot from colonial times to independence.

Explore artefacts donated from some of the top sportspersons of the country and learn about when Singapore started to excel, and how it become host to international events from its first F1 Grand Prix in 1966 to hosting the 2018 WTA Finals.


Address: National Stadium, 15 Stadium Rd, Singapore 397718

Opening hours:

Weekdays: 10:00AM to 8:00PM

Weekends, Eve of Public Holidays and Public Holidays: 10:00AM to 9:00PM

Admission: Residents of Singapore and children under 6 enter for free. Adult $10; Children over 6, students and senior citizens $5

17. Vintage Cameras Museum

Vintage Cameras Museum

Vintage Cameras Museum. Image Credit: Choo Yut Shing (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

You may have passed this interesting building many times on your way through Kampong Gelam to Haji Lane or Bugis, but next time you should definitely take a look inside. The highly Instagrammable white facade is of a giant Rollei camera, of which, you will have to walk through the lens to get inside.

Boasting a collection of over 1,000 vintage cameras, this is by far one of the most interesting museums in Singapore to visit. There are cameras of all types on display, from the tiniest spy-cams to the most beautifully retro shooting instruments. Browse the gallery of old-school photographs or learn something new about the art form. Head to DECK after your visit for a complete photographic experience.


Address: 8D Jalan Kledek, Singapore 199264

Opening hours: Daily 10.30am -9.30pm

Admission: $20 for adults; $15 for senior citizens and children below 12. Entry is free for children ages 5 and below.

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Singapore n Beyond
Singapore n Beyond

Sharing getaway and itinerary ideas in Asia and insider knowledge of Singapore

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