Take a Trip to the Past at the National Museum of Singapore
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Take a Trip to the Past at the National Museum of Singapore

Exploring the city center or immersing yourself in the local food culture sounds great and all, but you know what’s another fun way to experience Singapore? It’s by visiting a museum and seeing the country’s rich history through art and exhibitions!

If interested, you should add the National Museum of Singapore to your itinerary, which is undoubtedly one of the country’s best museums. It’s the oldest museum in the country, so you’ll find the most comprehensive collection and exhibitions here. 

For a fun time at the National Museum of Singapore, read on. This article lists all the cool exhibitions to see and other fun things to do at the museum.

Things to Know

Address: 93 Stamford Rd, Singapore 178897
Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday—10 am to 6:30 pm
Contact Number: +6563323659

History and Background

History and Background

The National Museum of Singapore was established in 1849 as the Raffles Library and Museum. It started out as a section of a library at the Singapore Institution, and it underwent several more relocations before settling on Stamford Road. 

Throughout the years, the museum has undergone countless expansions and renovations—although the 19th-century exterior design has been kept. On February 14, 1992, it received the honor of being gazetted as a National Monument of Singapore. 

How to Get There

Bus: To get to the National Museum, ride any of these bus services: 7, 14, 14e, 16, 36, 64, 65, 77, 106, 111, 124, 128, 139, 162, 162m, 166, 167, 171, 174, 174e, 175, 190, 700, 700A, 857, and 972. 

Then alight at the YMCA or SMU Stamford Road bus stops, which are a few minutes away. 

MRT: If you prefer riding the MRT, you can alight at either the Bencoolen, Bras Basah, Dhoby Ghaut, or City Hall stations. All of them are within walking distance of the museum. 

Car: For people who prefer to drive, there’s a limited parking facility within the museum’s premises. The rates are S$2.50 per hour (7 am to 6 pm), S$4 per entry (6 pm to 3 am), and S$4 per hour (3 am to 7 am). 

Admission Fee

Only Singapore citizens, permanent residents, and children aged six years old and below are given free admission to all permanent galleries inside the museum. 

If you’re a tourist or a foreign resident, here are the ticket prices:

  • Standard adult—S$27 (all-access), S$15 (permanent galleries), S$18 (special exhibition)
  • Senior citizen (60 years old and above), student, and person with disabilities—S$20 (all-access), S$10 (permanent galleries), S$14 (special exhibitions)

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit the National Museum of Singapore is during weekdays because that’s when the museum isn’t crowded. You can explore the museum at your own pace and without worrying about inconveniencing anyone. 

If you can only visit on the weekends, you can avoid the crowds by visiting the museum as soon as it opens. 

Museum Etiquette

To ensure you’ll have a problem-free experience, be sure to follow the museum etiquette:

  • Don’t bring food and drink to the exhibitions and galleries.
  • Don’t touch any of the objects inside the museum. This also means not to rest on display panels, showcases, and gallery walls. 
  • Selfie sticks and flash photography are not allowed inside the museum. 

Aside from these rules, here are a few more tips that you need to keep in mind.

  • If you’re carrying bulky items, there are lockers on Level 2 and in the basement. Using a locker only requires new S$1 or 50c coins.
  • There’s free Wi-Fi inside the museum. Just choose “Wireless@NMS” and sign up using a valid email address. 
  • If you need captions for the exhibitions, you can check the Dome Bot. Captions are available in English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. Audio-video clips and other interactives are also available. 

Exhibitions and Galleries to See 

History of the National Museum of Singapore

The History of the National Museum exhibition is an extravagant mural painted by Yip Yeow Cheong over the course of four days. This mural was inspired by the art style of the 19th-century landscape paintings featured in the museum. 

As the name suggests, this exhibition features an artistic depiction of the museum’s rich history and collection. At the bottom, you can see the museum’s humble origins. 

Look up and you’ll find some of its collections, including zoological items (e.g. a stuffed tiger).

The mural also has a landscape section that’s almost a reproduction of Singapore from Mount Wallich, which was painted by Percy Carpented in 1856. Animals from William Farquhar’s collection of drawings, such as the Malayan tapir, are included as well.

Singapore History Gallery

Take a trip down memory lane when you explore the Singapore History Gallery, one of the first things you’ll see when you visit the museum. This gallery features various pieces of artwork and installations that depict a narrative of the nation’s development.

Firstly, you’ll come across the Singapura section, which is essentially dedicated to the period from 1299 to 1818. This section features the oldest rock formations (from the Paleozoic Era!) and the earliest written records that mention Singapore.

Next, you’ll find the Crown Colony and Syonan-To, which trace the events from Sir Stamford Raffles’ arrival up to World War II. The last section is Singapore, which shows the country’s independence and its development up to the present day. 

Walking through all these sections makes you appreciate how far Singapore has come. Even if you’re not Singaporean yourself, you can’t help but feel pride in everything this country has accomplished.

An Old New World: Digital Edition

If you want a more educational exhibition, An Old New World: Digital Edition is worth checking out. This exhibition features an immersive video presentation where curators Daniel Tham and Iskander Mydin discuss the significance of pre-colonial artifacts.

This exhibition also provides an additional transcript function, so if you’re struggling to follow the narration, you can simply refer to the tour script. You’re also free to explore the exhibition at your own pace if that’s what you prefer.

Singapore, Very Old Tree

Singapore, Very Old Tree is another exhibition creatively depicting the country’s history and legacy. This exhibition is inspired by an old postcard found in the National Archives that shows an old, unspecified tree dating back to 1904.

The photographer and artist who created this exhibition, Robert Zhao Renhui, is known for addressing the relationship that mankind has with nature, and that’s exactly the crux of this exhibition. 

Here, you can see 17 images of old trees located throughout Singapore, and each image showcases the unique story of each tree. So, in a way, when you explore this exhibition, you’ll get to see an alternative perspective of Singaporean history.

Story of the Forest

For a moment, get lost in the beauty of art at the Story of the Forest gallery. This immersive art installation is created by teamLab, a renowned digital art collective, and it features 69 drawings of William Farquhar that are transformed into 3D animations. 

These drawings depicted the wildlife found in the Malay Peninsula in the 19th century, and with the animation, you’ll feel like you’ve taken a step back in time to see and interact with these trees and animals yourself! 

My favorite thing to do when visiting this gallery is to sit in the center and just let the animations surround me. In a way, it’s a humbling experience because you’re reminded of how beautiful nature can be. 

Wings of a Rich Maneuver

When you reach the Glass Atrium on Level 2, don’t forget to look up if you don’t want to miss this masterpiece! 

Wings of a Rich Maneuver is an art installation by local artist Suzann Victors, and it features eight kinetic chandeliers that “sing” as they sway and move in mid-air. As if that isn’t impressive enough, the chandeliers are made of precision-cut Swarovski crystals!

This art installation is a delight to both your eyes and ears. Not only do the chandeliers sound melodic when they move, but they also look captivating because of how the light catches and dances on those crystals. 

Other Things to Do

Join a program

Join a program

Permanent exhibitions and galleries aren’t the only things that the National Museum has to offer. There are also educational programs held here, each centering around certain themes; many of them are child-friendly too, so your little ones can join if they want!

Here are some of the permanent programs that might pique your interest. Just keep in mind that some of these programs come with additional fees. 



Location: The Salon, Level 1 
Admission Fee: S$5 per person

HistoriaSG is a yearly talk that covers specific periods in Singapore’s history. So, if you want to delve deeper into the nation’s history, this program is for you. 

The topics change every year, so there’s always something to look forward to. For example, in 2023, it was all about the structural changes that occurred in Singaporean society, and in 2022, it was about the Singapore Constitution.

The date of this program also changes, so if you’re interested in attending one, you should check the website for more details. 

A Lighter Side of History

A Lighter Side of History

While HistoriaSG is all about serious historical topics, A Lighter Side of History focuses on, well, the lighter side of Singapore’s history. To be more specific, this program celebrates the nation’s diverse culture and heritage. 

The program doesn’t just hold talks but also hosts other fun activities, such as hands-on workshops, live performances, and demonstrations. With this program, I’ve attended coffee workshops and celebrations of Deepavali and the Mid-Autumn Festival

These talks and activities happen frequently throughout the year, and their topics and themes change every time. So, I recommend checking out the website to see which ones are happening soon. 

Family Fun at the National Museum

Family Fun at the National Museum

If you’re traveling with your little ones, attending Family Fun at the National Museum is your perfect opportunity to bond with them. This program promises a full day of family-friendly activities, such as sensory playdates and relaxing scavenger hunts!

Family Fun at the National Museum occurs several times a year, usually around important holidays like National Day, Deepavali, and Christmas. Additionally, this program is accessible to children with special needs (e.g. a wheelchair user). 


Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday—9 am to 6 pm

Even senior citizens can have fun at the museum! Reunion is a social space created with the intention of letting senior citizens, including those with mild cognitive impairment and dementia, interact with each other meaningfully. 

This social space has several sections. There’s a group activity area, an immersive projection cave, music booths, and a quiet room. If you’re hungry, there’s a cafe as well. 

Even though Reunion is meant for senior citizens, it’s still open for everyone. Just make sure to register at the website because this space gets fully booked pretty fast. 

Check out a few overlooked yet interesting sights

There are several interesting sights that are often overlooked in the National Museum. Usually, it’s because these details are hidden or way out of sight for anyone to take notice. 

Sometimes, these things are out in the open, but people just don’t pay any attention to them.

If you’re the kind of person who has an eagle eye or likes scavenger hunts, here are some interesting things about the museum that you should keep an eye out for.

Spiral Staircase

This has to be one of my favorite mysteries about the National Museum. You see, on Level 2, there’s a spiral staircase that has been around for a long time, but the top is closed, and no one knows why! 

So far, people only have speculations, and they’re usually of the spooky variety. They say that where the staircase leads is someplace haunted, which is why it’s closed. 

It’s highly likely that the room’s just closed because there’s nothing in it that’s interesting enough to show to the public. But hey, it’s fun to make up all these mysterious and spooky assumptions!

Banyan Tree

Right on the lawn of the National Museum, you can spot a banyan tree. Its enormous size and enigmatic hanging roots will likely strike awe in you. 

Many people consider the banyan tree as an iconic sight. You’ll also see in Singapore, Very Old Tree that banyan trees, in general, are common in Singapore, and locals, especially the religious ones, have a special relationship with them.

Gemmill Fountain

Now, the Gemmill Fountain is really going to fly under people’s radar because it’s tucked away in a courtyard and not inside the museum. But don’t overlook this because it’s actually a historical artifact!

The Gemmill Fountain was a parting gift from the banker John Gemmill in 1864. It’s the oldest public drinking fountain in Singapore!

This water fountain is made of marble, and its spout is shaped like a lion’s head. Even though time has made its mark on the fountain, it’s still impressive how it’s managed to continue standing to this day. 

Watch a movie during the Singapore International Film Festival

The Singapore International Film Festival is a must-visit for film lovers. Luckily, the festival screenings, forums, and other events occur in various places across the island, and the National Museum is one of these locations. 

The festival usually hosts about 100 movies from 50 countries, and if you prefer to stop by the museum, you have to go to the Gallery Theatre on the Basement Level. As for tickets, you need to purchase them from the festival website itself. 

Attend the Singapore Night Festival

Just like the Singapore International Film Festival, the Singapore Night Festival is another yearly celebration that takes place across various locations throughout the nation, including the National Museum. 

The festival is all about bringing the city to life at night by hosting all kinds of fun activities. The theme changes every year, but you can expect to find food stalls and makeshift skating parks popping up. 

As for the National Museum, it has become tradition for the building to light up at night. It’s always a spectacular sight!

Where to Eat

Café Brera at Reunion

Location: Level 1
Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday—9 am to 5 pm
Pricing: $$
Contact Number: +6584136360

Get your next dessert fix at Café Brera at Reunion! This bakery within the National Museum boasts some of the most aesthetically pleasing and fragrant pastries I’ve seen; just looking at them is enough to make my mouth water. 

So far, my favorite sweet treats are the Biscoff Cruffin (light, fluffy, and crunchy) and the taro mochi croissant (the stretchy filling is so addictive). There are also savory options; examples include the bacon mushroom baguette sandwich and the sardine puff pastry.

To get the most out of your money, I recommend ordering the Brera signature set, which already comes with croissants of various flavors and kouign-amann (a sweet cake made from laminated dough). 

Food for Thought

Location: Level 1, Concourse
Operating Hours

  • Monday to Friday—10 am to 6 pm
  • Saturday and Sunday—10 am to 7 pm

Pricing: $$
Contact Number: +6563389887

The past meets the present—that’s the aesthetics you’ll get from Food for Thought. On one side, you’ll find a wall featuring old-school windows and doors, and on the other, there are floor-to-ceiling windows that let in the natural light. 

Aside from its interior design, the restaurant serves delicious food. My favorites are the lemon dill fish and chips (savory perfection with a sprinkle of tanginess) and the soft shell chili crab linguine (combines sweet and spicy pretty well). 

Another highlight is that this restaurant has a selection of books, so while waiting for your order, you might want to grab a poetry collection or an autobiography and just quietly read.

Where to Shop

Supermama, The Museum Store

Location: Level 1, Concourse
Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday—10 am to 7 pm

Do you want to bring home a souvenir from the National Museum of Singapore? Then, you better head to Supermama!

Founded in 2010, this souvenir shop on Level 1 is full of aesthetically pleasing goods and home decorations. I personally like the plates with the museum imprinted on them; they look so simple and sophisticated at the same time.

Aside from kitchenware, there are artwork pieces that you can hang on your living room wall. Bags and tumblers are also available if you want something more practical.