The Best Museums in Singapore

A list of the best museums in Singapore, focusing on the best museums for kids in Singapore. Includes art galleries, war museums and other Singapore must sees.

The Best Museums in Singapore

There are some brilliant museums for kids in Singapore and visiting these Singapore museums can be a cheap way to entertain the family while educating them too. They are also a great way to escape from the Singapore heat for a few hours!

About Singapore Museums

Many of the museums in Singapore can be broadly divided into two types – those celebrating the origins of Singapore and the ancestors of the people who make up its multi-cultural population, and those commemorating the war efforts.

Then there are the art galleries and science & design museums too. One of the very best museums in Singapore, the excellent ArtScience Museum, doesn’t really fit into category but is definitely worth a visit.

This Singapore must visit museum celebrates art, culture, science and technology and always has excellent exhibitions, including fun and interactive exhibitions for the kids.

Being such a young nation, which has progressed rapidly undergoing massive changes in its short history, many of Singapore museums and galleries are able to include the personal viewpoints of those who have lived through the changing and turbulent times.

This makes for fascinating and often poignant exhibitions.

Singapore War Museums

World War II was an extremely significant chapter in Singapore’s history. Firstly, it was the focus of the greatest and most humiliating defeat in British history, and consequently the high point of the Japanese expansion in Southeast Asia.

 

Secondly, it was consequently the turning point of the mindset of local Singaporeans, as summed up by former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew:

“My colleagues and I are of that generation of young men who went through the Second World War and the Japanese Occupation and became determined that no one – either the Japanese nor the British – had the right to push and kick us around. We were determined that we could govern ourselves and bring up our children in a country where we can be a self-respecting people.”

The importance of the war in Singapore’s history explains the number of museums dedicated to this time, and the interest they hold for locals and visitors alike.

Singapore with Kids book

Several of these museums include harrowing accounts of the hardships of war and involve a lot of reading and are therefore not really suitable for children.

The exception to this is Fort Siloso, which can easily be visited in a kid-friendly way. Also included in our list of museums to visit in Singapore are the Battle Box and the Changi Museum, both of which would be suitable for older children.

There aren’t many free musuems in Singapore (two exceptions are Fort Siloso and the Changi Museum, both listed below) but I do recommend checking here for discounted tickets for all these Singapore museums.

Click here for more ideas for visiting Singapore on a budget.

The Best of Singapore Museums

Our list of museums in Singapore starts with those we think are the best Singapore museums for kids. At the bottom you will also find a list of other Singapore museums worth visiting if you have longer or the museum particularly appeals.

Looking for more ideas? Check out our post 50 Things to do in Singapore with Kids.

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ArtScience Museum Singapore

This museum and art gallery at Marina Bay Sands not only hosts an impressive line-up of international touring exhibitions but is also a striking and iconic feature on the Singapore skyline.

Located within the famous Marina Bay Sands complex, this Singapore must see features a distinctive lotus flower design, with the 10 ‘fingers’ or ‘petals’ housing its gallery space.

The exhibitions held at the ArtScience Museum are always groundbreaking, futuristic and intriguing, embracing an eclectic mix of influences from art and science, media and technology, and design and architecture. We have seen all kinds of exhibitions here, including a digital Van Gogh exhibition, a Titanic exhibition, Lego exhibition and a Marvel comic exhibition.

ArtScience Museum Singapore

There’s nearly always something interesting on for the kids here, so keep your eye on their exhibition programme.

If no touring exhibitions pique your interest, the permanent Future World: where art meets science is always a hit with kids. With its multitude of interactive installations, this is one of our favourite indoor play spaces in Singapore.

My kids love particularly love colouring in sea creatures and seeing them come to life on the big screen. Give yourselves plenty of time for this – my kids never want to leave!

Top Tip! Visit on a Friday, and up to 4 children under the age of 12 go free with every adult ticket purchased.

Click here to buy discounted tickets to the ArtScience Museum Singapore.

National Museum of Singapore

If you only have time to visit one history museum in Singapore, the National Museum of Singapore would be a good option, to give you an overview of the history of the country.

Starting in the 14th century, the exhibitions take you through the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles and his influence, the difficult times of World War II and the Japanese occupation, and on to the building of modern Singapore.

National Museum Singapore

As visitors walk through Singapore’s history, they can choose from two path options.

The Events Path shows the major events and characters from Singapore’s history, while the Personal Path looks at these events through the eyes of local characters – from Chinese coolies to Arab merchants, British generals, Chinese ayahs, local socialites and bus drivers.

The museum prides itself on its cutting-edge presentation of its displays and there is a multitude of interactive elements to keep kids interested.

Each guest is furnished with the excellent Audio Companion, which guides you through the galleries and brings the National Museum Singapore exhibition to life with interviews, dramatised scenarios and personal accounts.

Download the excellent Family Time Guide to the museum – it includes questionnaires, activities and things to look out for throughout the museum. It is aimed at kids aged 7 – 12.

The last Saturday of the month is family day at the National Museum of Singapore. Activities include workshops, guided tours, storytelling, performances and more. Learn more here.

Click here to buy discounted National Museum Singapore tickets online.

Chinatown Heritage Centre

The Chinatown Heritage Centre is another of our picks for the top musuems in Singpoare. This Chinatown museum provides a fascinating journey through the lives of the Chinese immigrants who flooded into Singapore throughout the 19th century.

It is a real insight into the contrast between Singapore around the turn of the century and Singapore today.

Divided between the maze-like warrens of three restored shophouses, the exhibitions explore the harsh conditions that forced the many Chinese migrants to flee their home country in search of a better life.

Chinatown Heritage Centre Singapore

Those who survived the overcrowded, inhuman conditions on the month-long sea journey to reach Singapore were met with further perils on arrival.

All these hardships are well documented here, and personal accounts by former immigrants help bring the exhibition to life.

One of the highlights of the museum is the re-creation of cubicle living. As increasing numbers of immigrants poured into Chinatown, the shophouses were divided and then sub-divided into cubicles.

These living spaces have been re-created from the memories and stories of former residents to evocatively depict the cramped conditions.

Click here to buy discounted tickets to the Chinatown Heritage Centre.

Images of Singapore Live

Images of Singapore Live on Sentosa Island gives a broad round-up of Singapore history and culture, allowing you to learn in one visit an overview of the stories told in the smaller dedicated museums.

Although it lacks the wealth of information displayed at the National Museum of Singapore, its simplicity makes it easier to digest the information, making it ideal for kids.

The entire story is told through waxwork models, background soundtracks and re-creations of events, all helping bring it to life for kids.

Asia Travel With Kids Facebook Group

The Singapore Adventure exhibition takes you through the rainforest of the island’s origins, past Sir Stamford Raffles as he signs the treaty giving the British colonial rule, and along the Singapore River as the different ethnic groups arrive to set up their new lives.

Finally you walk through the jungle of World War II, dodging bullets and air strikes before learning of life under the Japanese occupation and ending with the walk towards independence.

The Singapore Celebrates exhibition illustrates the festivals celebrated by Singapore’s multi-ethnic population, by allowing you a glimpse inside family homes during these festive times.

This provides an entertaining way to get to grips with the multitude of traditions and festivals crammed into the Singaporean calendar.

Read more about things to do in Sentosa in our Ultimate Guide to Sentosa Island.

Asian Civilisations Museum Singapore

The Asian Civilisations museum was initiated to promote a better understanding of the rich cultures that make up Singapore’s multi-ethnic society.

It occupies over 14,000 square feet and safeguards over 13,000 artefacts, its exhibitions exploring the history of cultures brought to Singapore by the different ancestral groups originating from China, South East Asia, South Asia and West Asia.

The eleven themed galleries form a microcosm of Asian Society, exploring such diverse cultures as Hindu Buddhist kingdoms, the Hmong tribes of northern Thailand and the classical Javanese kingdoms of Indonesia.

Asian Civilisations Museum

It also explores the far-reaching effects of the globally dispersed Chinese communities and Islam as a way of life.

A series of multimedia and interactive elements throughout the galleries add interest and fun to the experience for kids. These include videos dotted throughout the displays, virtual hosts who introduce you to each region, and interactive ExplorAsian zones, especially for kids.

The last Saturday of the month is family day at the Asian Civilisations Museum. Activities include workshops, guided tours, storytelling, performances and more.

There are free daily guided tours – check the website for more information.

The café is a pleasant place to enjoy a drink or bite to eat while watching the bumboats chug along the Singapore River.

Fort Siloso

Of all the war museums in Singapore, Fort Siloso is the most accessible to kids. There is plenty of space to run around, waxwork models to bring exhibitions to life, and there are big cannons to marvel at and tunnels to explore. And what’s more – it’s free to enter!

Its location at the entrance to Keppel Harbour made Sentosa Island strategically important in the defence of Singapore, and many forts and batteries were built here during the 1880s, including Fort Siloso.

During World War II Fort Siloso endured heavy bombing by Japanese aircraft and was used as a Prisoners of War camp during the Japanese Occupation. Today it remains the sole surviving coastal fort in Singapore.

Fort Siloso Singapore Museum

In addition to all the informative displays and interesting memorabilia, one of the highlights of visiting Fort Siloso is the chance to wander around the fort itself.

The scale, the quality of preservation of the buildings, tunnels and guns and the magnificent views out to sea allow you to really appreciate how life was for the soldiers, whilst the calm and tranquility away from the bustling ‘fun’ attractions of Sentosa allows for peaceful reflection on Singapore’s war history.

Visits are done by self-guided tours throughout the three zones of the museum, where you are directed by waxwork models and sound recordings. The first two zones take you through life in the 1880s and during the World War II years.

Here you can visit ammunition stores, the battery command post and witness the firing of the 7 inch gun. The final zone takes you through a tunnel complex leading to the 12 Pounder Quick Firing Gun and Fire Direction Tower with their views out to sea.

Battlebox at Fort Canning

The Battle Box, nine metres below ground in the centre of Fort Canning Park, was completed in October 1939 and became the underground bomb-proof bunker of Britain’s HQ Malaya Command during World War II.

The site is of particular historical significance as the place where General Percival reached the fateful decision to surrender Singapore to the Japanese on 15th February 1942.

It comprised 26 rooms, two entrances and a cat-ladder escape hatch. It also contained three filtration units which not only provided ventilation, but could also de-gas air which could have been poisoned.

With this capability, all the doors of the Battle Box could be closed and occupants could live off recycled air.

Today the Battle Box has been turned into a war museum, with scenes recreated with waxwork models to allow visitors to relive the last few hours within the underground command centre prior to the British surrender.

Battle Box Fort Canning

Visits to the Battle Box are by guided tour only, lasting approximately 45 minutes.

The tour begins with a showing of a video setting the scene of the weeks and days leading up to the fateful day, 15th February 1942.

From here you enter the Battle Box to commence your ‘fly on the wall’ tour through the signal control and operations rooms, and to sit in on the important meetings between the officers which led to the historical decision to surrender.

Air raid sirens and the sounds of the close-by bombing help convey the fear and claustrophobia experienced by the occupants, and being privy to the conversations between the commanders instils the sense of desperation felt during these final hours.

For this reason, the Battle Box is more suitable for older kids.

Click here to buy Battle Box tour tickets online.

Changi Museum

Another free entry museum in Singapore is the Changi Museum. The exhibition here is dedicated to all the civilians and Prisoners Of War who suffered incarceration during the Japanese occupation of Singapore from 1942-45.

The museum is particularly harrowing and evocative as it is put together from interviews with former inmates, Prisoners of War and their families. It is not suitable for young children.

The bulk of the exhibition focuses on life in Singapore during these dark times. Personal accounts of torture and humiliation at the hands of the Kempeitei (the Japanese military police) are interspersed with stories of the hardship of rationing and high inflation, and the struggle for survival.

Changi Museum Singapore

Others tell of the inventiveness of the soldiers in finding methods of communication whilst incarcerated, and the ingenuity of finding ways in which to boost morale.

More shocking are the brutal statistics that accompany the personal memories – such as the 16,000 Prisoners Of War who died from hunger, physical abuse and tropical disease whilst being forced to labour on ‘Death Railway’, a railway line being built by the Japanese to cross the Thai/Burmese border.

The Changi Prison section helps visitors to understand the restrained living conditions of prison life, with four inmates forced to share a cramped cell designed for one.

Although entrance to the Changi Museum is free, it is well worth paying for the personal audio tour, which really brings the exhibition to life with additional stories and actual interviews with survivors.

Need somewhere to stay in Singapore? Check out our pick of the Best Family Hotels in Singapore.

Other Museums to Visit in Singapore

National Gallery Singapore

Housed in in grand surroundings in the former City Hall and Supreme Court, the National Gallery Singapore has the reputation of being the best art gallery in Singapore.

This impressive Singapore art exhibition safeguards the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

Family activities such as storytime, workshops and tours are held every other Saturday. Keep a look out for the striped wall labels that are written specially for kids. You can also download audio guides and activity guides before you go.

Click here to buy discounted National Gallery tickets online.

Singapore Art Museum

Housed in a 19th Century former all-boys mission school, the Singapore Art Museum was the first art museum in Singapore. It continues to exhibit one of the world’s most important public collections of contemporary Southeast Asian Art.

If you are visiting with kids, check out the worksheets for download. These are aimed at visiting schools but can be useful to plan your visit and make it more entertaining for kids.

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

The Lee Kong Chian Museum always makes a fun and educational morning or afternoon.

The biggest hit with the kids is always the three dinosaur skeletons – Prince, Apollonia and Twinky. But there are over 500,000 other specimens to explore amongst the twenty zones of the museum, including a Singapore sperm whale and a Sunda pangolin.

Click here to buy discounted tickets online.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum

The staggering Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in the heart of Chinatown not only houses one of the most revered relics in the Buddhist world, but also has an excellent museum on the third floor where you can learn all about the life story and teachings of Lord Buddha.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum

The story of Buddha is accompanied by an impressive collection of some of the world’s most beautiful and rare Asian Buddhist artefacts. There’s not a lot to keep younger kids entertained here but it is free!

The Peranakan Museum Singapore

The Peranakans (‘Peranakan’ meaning ‘child of’ in Malay and referring to people of mixed ethnic origins) were the offspring of foreign traders who married into the local population.

The Peranakan culture is unique to South-east Asia – specifically Penang, Melaka and Singapore. The Peranakan Museum mainly focuses on the Peranakan Chinese (the descendents of Chinese traders who settled in Malacca) and showcases their fascinating cultural heritage through the most comprehensive collection of Peranakan artefacts in the world.

The first Sunday of the month is family day with arts & craft activities and themed tours aimed at families.

Trick Eye Museum

It’s not really a museum, but it is a lot of fun! The Trick Eye Singapore is all about photo taking, so if you are snap happy then this one is for you.

Trick Eye Museum Singapore

This fun interactive exhibition uses optical illusions to bring 3D murals to life when you step into them and take a photo. Kids will love seeing photos of themselves hanging from ceilings, shooting from a canon, flying on a broomstick or escaping from the jaws of a monstrous fish.

Click here to buy discounted Trick Eye Museum tickets online.

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The Best Museums in Singapore

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