National Museum of Singapore

A staggering level of detail

What we say: 4 stars

The National Museum of Singapore is housed in a beautiful 1887-built building (the former Raffles library and museum) and offers an array of galleries celebrating Singapore’s history and culture. Singapore is home to oodles of museums, but thanks to informative displays, a range of exhibitions and a lovely gift shop and choice of restaurants, this is one to include on your essentials hit-list.

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Look up when you enter — it’s gorgeous.

The main Singapore History Gallery begins with a dramatic walk through a large rotunda theatre showing a film on the rounded walls. Singapura: A Day in the Life was shot in 2006 and takes you through, well, a day in the life of the city-state. This is where you’ll also get the hang of your nifty tablet, handed out as you enter (not when you pay for your ticket upon initial entry, though it’s included in the ticket price); follow its directions and you’ll end up downstairs in the theatre, ready to amble through the rest of the museum.

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Koyaanisqatsi-esque introduction to Singapore.

Various rooms and displays will then waltz you through Singapore’s history, from mysterious fragments found where Singapore stands today through to modern day.

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One of the first more accurate maps of Singapore.

While we thought the tablet worked well, there is something to be said for the printed word that you can read quickly; sometimes we just didn’t want to sit for three minutes to listen to an audio explanation that we could have read in 30 seconds. Then again, there’s also something to be said for the atmosphere created by audio — it’s very well done, so long as you allow yourself enough time to take it all in. Of course, you can skip whatever you like.

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Everybody loves a museum opium den display.

The history covers Singapore’s opium dens, the rise of Lee Kuan Yew, and plenty of other highlights through beautiful displays well integrated overall with the audio. Children aged seven and above can follow a tour tailored to them.

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Lee Kuan Yew on the tele. Just imagine if he’d had Twitter.

Several other galleries each highlight an aspect of Singaporean life. On our last August 2014 visit fashion as well as the film and wayang galleries were closed for upgrades. Food was open and we thought very well done, particularly for those fresh to the region, with for instance a beautiful herb and spice display that included some scents to sniff. The photography gallery meanwhile featured some stunning black and white historical news photographs.

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The herbs and spices of Southeast Asia.

The final permanent exhibit showcases ecological drawings from the time of Singapore’s first Resident and Commandant Sir William Farquhar. You might be surprised to see what kinds of flora and fauna Singapore once hosted.

The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, usually at an additional charge. Check the museum’s informative website ahead of a visit to see what’s on.

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Everything… except actual satay.

We’d thoroughly recommend setting aside at least a half-day at the museum if you’d like to explore the galleries properly and listen to the audio guide. You could probably whisk through in a couple of hours if you wanted just a quick look.

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Loads of blasts from the past.

Several dining options mean you can take a break between galleries if it’s all a bit much. We’d suggest heading to the more casual and socially responsible Food for Thought, but there’s fine dining Flutes and the Cantonese option of Chef Chan’s as well. Do also set aside some time to browse Museum Label for a souvenir beyond the usual.

More details
93 Stamford Rd
http://www.nationalmuseum.sg/
Opening Hours: Daily 10:00-18:00, Living Galleries 10:00-20:00 (free admission to Living Galleries daily 18:00-20:0
Last updated: 15th October, 2014

Last reviewed by:
Samantha Brown is a reformed news reporter. She now edits most of the stuff you read on Travelfish.org, except for when you find a typo, and then that's something she wasn't allowed to look at.

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