Once a colonial trading post for the British, Singapore is an incredible city-state in southeast Asia where remnants of the colonial period stand alongside skyscrapers. Although Singapore’s contemporary architecture is mindboggling, the island is also brimming with Chinese, Indian, Malay and British heritage, making it a melting pot of rich cultural experiences.
There’s an excellent mix of modern and historical landmarks in Singapore that you must see when visiting. Here are our top picks.
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Modern Landmarks in Singapore
1- ArtScience Museum
At Singapore’s ArtScience Museum, art and science combine to show visitors new ideas, innovations from across the centuries, and new technologies.
The 2011 museum was designed by Moshe Safdie, who was inspired by the opening of a lotus flower.
Within the museum are exhibitions featuring works from Leonardo da Vinci, Andy Warhol and M.C. Escher.
Recent exhibitions at the ArtScience Museum have included Disney: Magic of Animation, and Minimalism: Space. Light. Object., a show which featured more than 80 artists and 40 composers to create an interactive piece of work.
The nearest subway to the ArtScience Museum is Bayfront MRT Station, take exit D for the shortest walk.
2- Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands is a jaw-dropping architectural landmark of the Singapore skyline.
Comprising of luxury accommodation and shops, infinity pools and incredible views over the city, Marina Bay Sands is a place to stay for a swim in the sky.
Architect Moshe Safdie designed the building, which consists of three 55-storey high towers and offers luxury accommodation suites with personal butler services.
Balanced above the three towers is the Sands SkyPark, which is a cantilever structure with 360-degree views over the city and bay from its observation deck, and an infinity pool offering similar views over the city.
The nearest subway to Marina Bay Sands is Bayfront MRT Station, take exit C or D for the shortest walk.
Opened in 2009, Bugis+ is an impressive architectural structure which houses a retail and entertainment complex in the Bugis Street area of Singapore.
The building features curved panels adorned with smaller hexagonal detailing in monochrome, which is a pleasant contrast to the colourful vibrancy of the internal structure.
The internal structure of the building, a rectilinear form, was designed to mirror the surrounding area, as local houses are often brightly coloured.
Within Bugis+ are many stores and restaurants, as well as dedicated performance and exhibition spaces, and entertainment areas.
The roof of Bugis+ is used as a roof terrace, open-air theatre and features cafe pods with views over the city.
The nearest station to Bugis+ is EW12 Bugis Station.
4- Rain Vortex in Jewel Changi Airport
The crowning jewel of Jewel Changi Airport, the Rain Vortex is a spectacular 40-meter tall indoor waterfall, the tallest in the world.
The vortex was designed by Moshe Safdie’s architecture firm and pours down through an opening in the geometrical ceiling.
To compliment Safdie’s vortex, Peter Walker and Partners Landscape Architects designed an indoor forest, with climate control in place to support 200 species of tropical and exotic plants, and offers visitors a closer look at the vortex through a Forest Canopy walkway.
The vortex makes use of Singapore’s regular thunderstorms, as it uses rainwater at 10,000 gallons per minute.
The water from the vortex is designed to be re-used in the building once it has cooled.
The nearest subway to Rain Vortex in Jewel Changi Airport is Changi Airport MRT Station.
5- Gardens on the Bay
Containing more than 1,500,000 plants, the Gardens on the Bay is one of the most beautiful landmarks in Singapore.
Gardens on the Bay won the World Building of the Year award in 2012 and was certified as the Largest Glass Greenhouse by Guinness World Records in 2015.
The Gardens showcase incredible feats of architecture combined with a selection of rarely seen plants in Southeast Asia, with plants from cooler and hotter climates.
Formed of three gardens in total (Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central), Gardens at Bay South are the most iconic, with their Supertree sculptures becoming a symbol of the city.
The nearest subway to the Gardens on the Bay is Bayfront MRT Station, take exit B.
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6- Singapore Flyer
At 165 meters high, the Singapore Flyer is one of the largest observation wheels in the world.
The Flyer has 28 capsules, each able to hold 28 people on a revolution of the wheel, with it travelling at 0.76km/h.
Due to the precision engineering of the Flyer, the ride is designed to be smooth and stable, despite its height and the weather conditions.
The Flyer opened in 2008 and was designed by Dr Kisho Kurokawa and DP Architects.
From the Flyer, passengers can view the Marina Bay, the skyline of Singapore, and on particularly clear days even Malaysia and Indonesia.
The nearest subway to the Singapore Flyer is Promenade MRT Station, take exit A.
7- Singapore Sports Hub
The Singapore Sports Hub is an entertainment, sports and lifestyle hub located in stunning buildings.
Singapore Sports Hub opened in 2014, and regularly hosts live sporting events such as the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens, and concerts from internationally acclaimed artists such as Coldplay and Jay Chou.
The main building, which replaced the old National Stadium, is an architectural wonder. Designed as a dome, with lattice lighting over it, and a retractable roof, this building has fast become a landmark of Singapore.
The nearest subway to the Singapore Sports Hub is Stadium MRT Station, which exits directly into the Sports Hub.
8- Helix Bridge
Inspired by the geometric structure of DNA, Helix Bridge is a curved footbridge entwined by a double helix.
The bridge connects Marina Centre and Marina Bay Sands and is 280 meters long.
Within the Helix are a series of LED lights which shine in multiple colours at night and illuminates the glass and steel structure.
To add to the spectacle of this intricately designed bridge, four viewing pods stretch out over the water below the bridge, giving visitors a 360-degree view of the Singapore Skyline, and of the water below.
The nearest subway to Helix Bridge is Promenade MRT station, take exit A.
9- Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
Officially opened in 2002, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay holds on average 3000 performances of dance, music and theatre each year.
At present, Esplanade has five performance venues, with a 6th currently under construction.
Twin geodesic domes make up Esplanade, and due to their structure of steel and glass, stunning effects are produced both inside and out when the lighting is just right.
The Esplanade’s ethos forges community links, and they hold many outreach programs including regular performances and classes for students, coffee mornings, and of course, celebrations of Asian culture and the arts.
The nearest station/subway to Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay is Esplanade MRT Station, take exit D.
10- Henderson Wave
Another of Singapore’s stunning public walkways is Henderson Wave.
The wave is 36 metres above the ground and features a level yet curving walkway surrounded by twisting and curving sides giving the bridge its wave-like shape.
The bridge is made from steel arches and curved bands of Balau wood, a hardwood only found in Southeast Asia.
Thanks to its unusual shape, there are many niches and recesses where visitors can exit the walkway to sit and rest while looking out over the views.
Like many landmarks and monuments in Singapore, Henderson Wave lights up each evening with a series of LED lights, transforming it entirely into something magical.
The nearest subway to the Henderson Wave is Telok Blangah MRT Station, which is a four-minute walk away.
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Standing like a guardian in Singapore’s bay area in Merlion Park, the Merlion, a mythical half lion half mermaid creature is a symbol for Singapore.
The legend of the Merlion began with Sand Nila Utama, a Malaysian prince who sailed the seas.
He met a lion when arriving on an undiscovered island, then named Temasek (fish town).
Due to his chance encounter with the lion, he changed the islands name to Singapura, which means Lion City in Sanskrit.
The Merlion was built in 1964, combining the legend and Singapore’s fishing history through the addition of a fishtail.
It is one of Singapore’s most visited monuments.
The nearest subway to Merlion is Raffles Place MRT Station.
12- Raffles Hotel
Raffles Hotel has been a must-visit destination for travellers since its opening in 1887.
The hotel prides itself on its heritage, and through its exterior building to the interior design, room layout and service, this old world charm is the very essence of Raffles.
The hotel holds such standing in Singapore that this colonial-style building was declared a National Monument in 1987.
Throughout its time, the hotel has hosted some legendary guests including Rudyard Kipling, Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner.
Surrounded by tropical gardens that in places intertwine with the hotel itself, the gardens and verandas offer a tranquil escape from the energy of the surrounding city.
The nearest subway to the Raffles Hotel is Esplanade Station, a two-minute walk away.
13- Kampong Glam
Kampong Glam is Singapore’s oldest quarter and was once a thriving port town.
Today, the quarter is a fashionable and trendy area with an enigmatic blend of history, culture and modern twists.
Allocated to the Malay, Arab and Bugis communities by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1822, the area quickly became a seat for Malay royalty within Singapore.
The grounds of the palace, Istana, is now the Malay Heritage Centre.
Walk down Haji Lane, a colourful shopping street filled with stores, boutiques and cafes serving traditional delicacies as well as cuisines from further afield such as Sweden and Mexico.
The nearest subway station to Kampong Glam is Bugis, a 10-minute walk away.
14- Kranji War Memorial
Standing on a hillside in a quiet area of the city is Kranji War Memorial.
The memorial honours the men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty while fighting for the Commonwealth during World War II.
Within the grounds are more than 4400 white gravestones, honouring people from Commonwealth countries such as Britain, Australia and India.
There is also a dedicated plot, number 44, which is dedicated to 69 Chinese servicemen who were killed when Singapore fell in 1942.
The plot marks their mass grave.
Memorial services are held here each year on November 11th, Remembrance Day, to pay tribute.
The nearest subway to Kranji War Memorial is Kranji MRT Station.
15- Sri Mariamman Temple
Sri Miriammam Temple is in Chinatown and is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore.
The temple dates from 1827 and is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Mariamman who cures illness and disease.
The current structure dates from 1862 and is now a national monument.
The temple is exceptionally ornate and features statues decorated in bold colours, gilded archways, and floral garlands and tapestries.
The external facade of the temple is decorated with intricate sculptures of mythological figures.
The nearest subway to Sri Mariamman Temple is Chinatown MRT Station, take exit A.
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CHIJMES, pronounced ‘chimes’, was once a girls school named the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Middle Education School.
Today, CHIJMES is a lifestyle complex, however, it has not lost any of its traditional convent architecture or landscaping.
The building itself was designed by a colonial architect named George Colman.
It was built in typical neoclassical style, featuring tall pointed arch windows, stained glass and of course a tower, all in white.
The grounds feature stunning green spaces, courtyards and marble water features.
Housed within CHIJMES is an ornately decorated chapel which dates from the early 1900s.
This chapel features delicate frescoes, intricate plasterwork and Belgian stained glass windows.
The nearest subway to CHIJMES is Bras Basah MRT Station.
17- Sir Stamford Raffles Statue
As Sir Stamford Raffles was a key figure in developing modern Singapore, it’s not surprising there are two statues in his honour.
The original statue of Sir Raffles – sculpted by Thomas Woolner, an English poet and sculptor – stands in front of Victoria Memorial Hall.
A copy of the statue looks out to sea at the Singapore River and sits on the Raffles Landing Site, where Sir Raffles first set foot on Singapore in 1819.
The nearest subway to the Sir Stamford Raffles Hotel is Raffles Place MRT station, a four-minute walk away.
18- Lau Pa Sat Clock Tower
Lau Pa Sat is a beautifully designed building dating back to the 1840s and was formerly a fish market.
Presently, it is a food market with a myriad of stalls selling local cuisines.
The building itself is an octagonal structure with the clock tower standing in its centre, with a clock face on all sides.
Lau Pa Sat’s famous clock tower was built in 1991, and every 15 minutes, one of a series of chimes will ring out a Chinese, Malay or Indian tune.
The nearest subway to Lay Pa Sat Clocktower is Downtown MRT Station, take exit F.
19- Thian Hock Keng Temple
Dating back to the early 1800s, Thain Hock Keng Temple is a living monument and one of the oldest Hokkien temples in Singapore.
Constructed in the traditional southern Chinese architectural style, the temple contains no nails and relies on intricate wooden joints to hold its structure.
The temple is festooned with carvings of extraordinary creatures such as dragons and phoenixes, as well as columns and intricate gild carvings.
The nearest subway to Thian Hock Keng Temple is Telok Ayer MRT Station.
20- Vintage Camera Museum
A more unusual museum to visit in Singapore is the Vintage Camera Museum, a museum dedicated to cameras from years gone by, all housed within a camera-shaped building.
The entrance to the museum is through the lens of the camera.
The museum has an impressive display of more than 1000 cameras including a replica of the worlds largest camera, spy cameras used during the first and second world wars, and even cameras used by carrier pigeons.
Rare photographs are also on display here, including a replica of the first photograph ever to be taken.
The nearest subway to the Vintage Camera Museum is Bugis MRT Station, a five- minute walk away.