The Civic District lies at the very heart of Singapore and is well-known for its key government buildings, museums, protected parks, and memorial spaces. Although home to many must-see attractions, any visit to the Civic District wouldn’t be complete without taking at least a glance at the world famous Raffles Hotel – which of course, makes our Top 10 list! Comprised of only a few square miles, the Civic District is packed full of some of the most fascinating museums, important historical buildings and best attractions in central Singapore. The area, easily accessible from City Hall MRT, is walking distance from the Bugis area in the north, the Singapore River to the South and Marina Bay is just a short stroll away.
The 12 best things to do in Civic District Singapore are:
This is possibly the most famous hotel in the world and one of the top 10 places to visit in civic district Singapore which consisted of only a few bungalows when it first opened in 1887. Today, it stands proud as a Singaporean icon, with over 100 luxurious suites, 65 boutique shops, as well as a whole host of world-class restaurants and bars across its grounds. The pick of the bunch includes the French colonial styles Raffles Grill restaurant, as well as ‘Long Bar’ – the place to come for the best Singapore Sling in town. The Raffles Museum also boasts various exhibits with items dating back to the colonization period of Singapore.
The National Museum Singapore
It is both the oldest museum in Singapore (dating back some 120 years) and also the largest, with more than 18,000sqm of floor space. There are two main sections inside: the Living Galleries and History Gallery. The Living Galleries consists of fashion, film, food, and photography as well as Chinese Opera, whilst the History sections contain a whole host of artifacts documenting the rich and fascinating past of Singapore. Even if you’re not a history buff, the building itself is worth a look on its own merit; the classic neo-classical style structure features a mix of modern designs and touches – truly an architectural marvel. You can find the museum just behind Fort Canning Park on Stamford Road.
Art Science Museum
Southeast Asia’s leading institution is home to 21 galleries spread across 50,000 square feet. The iconic lotus-inspired building has staged major exhibitions that explore the interrelationship between culture and technology, art and science. Notable exhibits include those of Leonardo Da Vinci, Salvatore Dalí, Andy Warhol and Vincent Van Gogh, as well as the upcoming cinematic tribute Marvel Studios: Ten Years of Heroes exhibition and Theo Jansen’s world-famous moving sculptures -The Strandbeests.
National Gallery Singapore
Housed in two national monuments – City Hall and the former Supreme Court – the National Gallery Singapore oversees Southeast Asia’s largest public collection of modern art in its long-term and special exhibitions it stages. The Gallery also partners international museums to give voice to Southeast Asian art in a global setting. Additionally, a children’s gallery over at the Keppel Centre for Art Education within The Gallery, and family programmes designed in consultation with art practitioners will stimulate the imagination of young minds and ignite creativity and appreciation for visual arts.
Maxwell Food Centre
Tucked into the thick of local hawker surrounds, Lad & Dad stands out with its British comfort-offering. From Bangers & Mash to Bacon & Chip Butty, the young owner and his dad cooks and serves hearty meals from the heart. Swing by The Hangar Coffee Express for a cuppa of gourmet coffee or savor authentic Eurasian and Peranakan cuisine at Popo and Nana’s. With a rotating menu of signatures such as Ayam Buah Keluak and Devil’s Curry, be sure to be early at meal periods to avoid the unfortunate ‘sold out’ tags.
Offer your prayers at the St. Andrew’s Cathedral:
Head up the elevator from City Hall MRT and this gleaming white, stunning cathedral is almost impossible to miss. St Andrew’s Cathedral is the biggest and first Anglican Church in Singapore, designed by Colonel Ronald McPherson. The current structure was rebuilt in 1856 after the original was damaged beyond repair by lightning strikes. You’re free to walk inside through the arched entrance, exploring the huge main chapel as well as a visitor’s center for various souvenirs and artifacts. The surrounding park area is also a great, free place to come and chill out too, with many locals using this space as an area for a picnic and some cold drinks, particularly on the weekends.
If you fancy an immediate escape from the city environment, head to Fort Canning Park to find a tranquil slice of greenery right in the center of Singapore. Walking distance from both City Hall and Clarke Quay MRT Stations, one minute you’re surrounded by gleaming modern offices and sprawling malls, and the next you’re transported into what seems like a different world. Lush trees and vegetation are in rich supply at this unexpected spot, which is particularly popular for joggers, dog walkers, or just anybody fancying a break from the sprawling metropolis that is Singapore.
[ suggested read – top 12 things to Do in Chinatown Singapore ]
Go for a run:
Run along the scenic Marina Bay, especially at dusk or when night falls, for a breath-takingly surreal experience that is absolutely motivating. Take in the sight and sounds along the Esplanade by the Bay which features live performances by the river on most evenings. Recommended route: Begin at the Marina Barrage, Singapore’s 15th reservoir, and the first in the heart of the city. Then head towards Marina Bay Sands, Clifford Pier, The Fullerton Hotel, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, the Floating platform just beside before hitting the Helix Bridge, and back towards the Marina Barrage.
Enjoy the starry night scene:
Whoever said Singapore had no night scene was just plain ignorant. The island is in fact home to some of Asia’s top bars and night spots with progressive experiences to boot. Smoke & MirrorsPerched atop the National Gallery Singapore and overlooking the vast green field of the Padang with Marina Bay Sands looming in the background, the innovative cocktails have been featured at the Singapore Cocktail Festival consecutively. They also host guest bartenders from other top bars in Asia which creates even more excitement in the Singapore bar scene.
Read at this famous library:
This 16-story building of books between City Hall and Bugis MRT Stations replaced the former National Library of Singapore at Stamford Street, which closed in 2004. The current building has a Central Public Library with a collection of over 200,000 books which can all be rented out – if you sign up as a member. There’s also a reference only section (Lee Kong Reference Library), which is a great place to come to study with their Wi-Fi access and large meeting spaces as well as use their large collection of on and offline information resources.
Go on this Art Trail:
Discover a different perspective of the country’s history through art when you embark on the Civic District Art Trail. Guide yourself around art installations that tell the Singapore story. From prominent historical figures such as Sir Stamford Raffles, modern Singapore’s founder, located outside Victoria Theatre, to 21st-century architectural icons. Admire the works of some of Singapore’s pioneering sculptors, as well as modern pieces by artists from around the globe. These include the sculptures 20 Tonnes by Singaporean sculptor Han Sai Por, just in front of the National Museum of Singapore.
Pay a visit to Supreme Court building
This was built in 1939 and was one of the last colonial buildings to be constructed in the civic district area. Its handsome Corinthian columns boast murals by Italian artist Cavaliere Rodolfo Nolli. You can pick up a “Guide to the Supreme Court”, as well as watch a multimedia presentation on the Singapore judiciary system and view the Supreme Court Open House and Exhibition. Next, to the Supreme Court, an impressive flight of steps leads up to the City Hall. This is where the Japanese officially surrendered, at the end of World War II.
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