From Changi Museum and Bukit Chandu to Fort Canning and Kranji, journey to the past as these tours around local historic districts show you pre-modern Singapore
Singapore may be only 51 years young, but the story of this little red dot actually begins much earlier, as a thriving port of call before it became a British colony in 1826. The colonial-state later fell under the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945 during World War II, and it was a major turning point in Singapore’s history as it sparked the building of a nation.
Remnants of the war are littered throughout the city, but a good place to start your journey into the past is at Changi Museum. It serves as a memorial to the soldiers and victims of the Japanese Occupation through the documentation of the emotional events that happened during the tumultuous period. Choose to explore key historic sites including Selarang Barracks, Johore Battery, and Changi Beach on the Changi WWII tour, or learn about the stratagems and actions that instigated the downfall of Singapore in WWII at the Through Fog & Fire – The Battle for Singapore, 1942 tour.
Those keen on a broader itinerary can go on the East Coast & Changi tour by Tour East Singapore. This excursion, which starts with a jaunt around Malay cultural enclave, Kampong Glam, will take you through the Changi Chapel and Museum, where you’ll experience the tragedies and triumphs that emerged during WWII. Then, you’ll be driven through the quaint and rustic Changi Village to see a more tranquil, laid-back side of modern Singapore, before making your way to Tampines New Town, a bustling heartland.
Another important landmark in Singapore’s wartime history is Fort Canning, a small hill where colonial and modern Singapore was born. For a deep dive into the hill’s rich history, join Journeys’ Of Graves, Guns & Battle tour; you’ll visit the graves of war victims and heroes, as well as explore a former WWII underground command centre called the Battlebox.
One of the fiercest battles that took place in Singapore during WWII is the Battle of Pasir Panjang, in which Second Lieutenant Adnan Saidi led the Malay Regiment soldiers against a 13,000-strong Japanese army. Relive this heroic clash at Reflections at Bukit Chandu by The National Heritage Board as you interact with the historical artefacts and exhibits. For a more in-depth war experience, you can also embark on the War & Peace: The Kranji Experience tour by Singapore History Consultants, as you explore the site of the Kranji Beach Battle, the second attack on Singapore by the Japanese before the Battle of Pasir Panjang.
Changi WWII , (65) 6214 2451.
Through Fog & Fire – The Battle for Singapore, 1942 (65) 6214 2451.
East Coast & Changi, (65) 6735 1221.
Of Grave, Guns & Battle, (65) 6325 1631.
Reflections at Bukit Chandu, (65) 6375 2510.
War & Peace: The Kranji Experience, (65) 6221 3804.
Singapore Insider is published quarterly, in partnership with Singapore Tourism Board. Pick up the printed edition for free at Singapore Visitor Centres island-wide, including Orchard (junction of Cairnhill Road and Orchard Road), orchardgateway, ION Orchard (Level 1 Concierge), and Chinatown Visitor Centre (2 Banda Street), or download the digital version.