Singapore is known to be a melting pot of cultures, with Malay, Chinese, Indian, and even British influences in its heritage. This is apparent in the country’s food, traditions, religions, as well as architecture.
Today, let’s check out some of the country’s most iconic historical buildings and discover what made Singapore a rich country full of life and culture.
These are good for a visit as a weekend family activity during the school holidays, or if you’re planning day trips for team bonding at work as well!
The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
If you’re an explorer who enjoys visiting heritage or cultural sites, try going to the majestic Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Little India.
It is Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple, and was built by Bengali immigrants in 1881 as a place of worship and refuge.
One of its first names was Soonambu Kambam Kovil, or “temple at the lime village” as most Indians at the area at that time worked at the lime kilns.
Moreover, in this very same building was where the Japanese soldiers sought physical refuge during World War II. Interestingly enough, the temple and all its statues was spared by the bombings!
Much like most of the older buildings in Singapore, the temple has gone through several rounds of reconstruction.
Today, the temple is well-known for its intriguing exterior design, with the tower entrance displaying different multi-coloured deities atop the temple.
Located in Singapore’s CBD, this building is hard to miss with its neoclassical design.
At the very site where the hotel now sits was the former Fort Fullerton, built in 1829 to defend the community against attacks from the sea. It was named after Robert Fullerton, the first governor of Straits Settlement.
The fort was demolished in 1873, and the Exchange Building was built in its place.
It was only in 1924 that the construction of the Fullerton building began. At the time, the building served as a General Post Office of Singapore.
The Fullerton Building also formerly served as the Singapore Club, where high ranking officials used to gather. Then in 1942, during World War II, it became a hospital with makeshift operation rooms for wounded British soldiers.
The Fullerton Hotel officially opened on 1 January 2001, and is now an iconic 5-star hotel that stands along Singapore river with visitors from all over the world.
Old Hill Street Police Station
Did you know that there are 927 rainbow-coloured windows in the Old Hill Street Police Station? But behind the building’s vibrant facade is a relatively dark past.
Built in 1934, the Hill Street Police Station and Barracks was the largest government building at the time of its opening. It used to be one of the finest police barracks in the world, too.
However, during the Japanese Occupation from 1942 to 1945, the Japanese Military Police used the building to hold and interrogate suspects. There, they tortured and painfully extracted confessions from prisoners. They painted it with a rather dull colour, too, with a white-grey and brown camouflage pattern, opposite to its bright finish today.
It was only in 1984 that the building was renamed to the Hill Street Building, and the new occupants of the building moved in. These included the Board of Film Censors, Oral History and Archives Department and the Public Trustees.
In 1997, a whopping $82 million was spent to transform the police station into office spaces to house MITA (The Ministry of Information and the Arts). The building was subsequently renamed the MITA building in 1999.
After MICA was re-organised into the Ministry of Communications and Information, and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, the building was renamed again to Old Hill Street Police Station. The building still houses the two ministries today.
CHIJMES is the second oldest building in Singapore, after the Old Parliament House.
Before it became known for its al fresco food and beverage scene, it was the place where the Convent of the Holy Infant of Jesus (CHIJ) was first built.
It originally included 3 schools, an orphanage, the nun’s apartments and the chapel known today as CHIJMES Hall.
The orphanage used to be home to babies who were unfortunately too ill to be helped. But those who survived received free education from the school as they grew up.
In 1983, the government purchased the school, which was moved to Toa Payoh.
Because of its historic status, the government retained its name to pay respect to its earlier roles. CHIJMES is a combination of CHIJ and “mes”, to deliberately make it sound like the word “chimes”.
Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall
Have you ever been to these locations to watch concerts and performances?
Well, you should know that Majulah Singapurah was first premiered in this theatre!
Home to world-class performances and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Victoria Theatre used to be a venue for public meetings, dances, and other social gatherings.
The theatre was originally named Singapore's Town Hall, while the concert hall was formerly known as Victoria Memorial Hall, named to honour the death of Britain’s Queen Victoria in 1901. The name can still be found on the building’s facade.
(And for older Singaporeans, “Old Vic" may be a name that rings a bell!)
With its beautifications and extensions, it’s hard to imagine that the complex took 54 years to complete. Just like in other buildings, the complex had several purposes too.
First, the building served as Singapore’s Library back in the 1860’s to 1870’s. Then in 1942, Victoria Theatre was made as a makeshift hospital to treat wounded Japanese soldiers. Eventually, the venue became a place where war criminals were put on trials.
Rediscover Singapore’s Heritage
If you’re wondering what to do in Singapore, whether it’s for a school holiday activity, or a Christmas family outing, fret not!
Monster Day Tours provides various day tours that’ll bring you and your loved ones to rediscover Singapore’s heritage and culture!
During these tours, you’ll hear stories about Singapore’s past like the ones we’ve shared above.
You can also opt to go on themed experience tours, where we incorporate elements like food and hands-on activities into the walking tour to give you a fully immersive experience!
Book a tour with us today! Visit www.monsterdaytours.com/singaporediscover-tours