Psst! Come a little closer as we let you in on the niche museums that offer an unconventional experience.
Did you know we have cool hidden treasures in our local museum scene? We’ve all been to cultural bigwigs like National Gallery Singapore and the National Museum of Singapore, but apart from these top-notch galleries and their permanent exhibitions, the city is also home to a number of secret museums. We say it’s time to ditch the mainstream (just for a bit!) and take a deep dive into obscure spots that cover everything from music and movies to animals and history.
Best secret museums in Singapore
1. Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
This secret museum is nestled on the grounds of the National University of Singapore and holds unique specimens you’d never think to find in our corner of the globe. Always wanted to take a peek at a real dinosaur skeleton? It holds not just one but three diplodocid sauropod fossils that are about 80% complete. You’ll even find the well-preserved remnants of a giant leatherback turtle and a sunda pangolin here. Talk about eye-opening!
Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, National University of Singapore, 2 Conservatory Drive, Singapore 117377
2. The Cathay Gallery
So you love discovering film trivia? Here’s something to add to your inner encyclopedia: a secret movie museum. Hidden on the second level of The Cathay, this free-to-enter exhibition is a display of nostalgia. And it’s home to gems like vintage posters and cameras, antique cinema chairs and funky movie memorabilia. As you stroll down memory lane, you’ll also get a peek into the family behind the Cathay empire.
The Cathay Gallery, #02-16, The Cathay, 2 Handy Road, Singapore 229233
3. Singapore Musical Box Museum
Always been fascinated by the tinkling sounds of musical boxes? Find out how these intriguing trinkets came to our shores at Singapore’s first musical box museum. Situated next to the majestic Thian Hock Keng Temple at Telok Ayer, it houses antique items (including gramophones) from Europe and the US. While we’re used to seeing palm-sized musical boxes, some of the intricate ones on display can tower over visitors! Psst: sign up for a guided tour to learn more about their history while enjoying classic tunes.
Singapore Musical Box Museum, 168 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068619
4. Former Ford Factory
Travel back in time to 1941. That’s when the Ford Motor Company set up its factory at Bukit Timah after its establishment on our shores in 1926. During its glory days, it was Ford’s first motorcar assembly plant in Southeast Asia. But when wartime came, it was turned into a facility for fighter planes and military vehicles. Now a national monument, the former factory features a permanent WWII exhibition that looks back on its legacy. It’s a fitting place, as this was where the British met the Japanese to officially surrender Singapore in 1942.
Former Ford Factory, 351 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 588192
5. JCU Museum of Video and Computer Games
This one is for all the gamers out there. Betcha didn’t know we have this unusual museum dedicated solely to video games! It’s hosted at the Singapore campus of James Cook University. This secret little space takes you through the history of gaming, with colourful shelves of vintage consoles. Highlights include the original Xbox and Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Plus, check out rare games, classics and paraphernalia. Take note: entry is free – and you can even fiddle around with the retro games. But visits are by appointment only.
JCU Museum of Video and Computer Games, James Cook University, 149 Sims Drive, Singapore 387380
6. The Battlebox
History buffs, where y’all at? Fort Canning Hill may be a familiar hangout for most of us. But did you know the lush nature spot is home to a former WWII British underground command centre? Dating back to 1936, The Battlebox is where the British decided to surrender Singapore to the Japanese in 1942, Now, it’s a restored museum home to a maze of secret rooms and corridors. They’re filled with wartime artefacts, recreations and shows that bring you back to the past. How’s that for a real-life history lesson?
The Battlebox, 2 Cox Terrace, Fort Canning Park, Singapore 179622
7. The Intan
If you’re intrigued by Peranakan culture, we can think of no better place to indulge your curiosity than The Intan. It’s the private shophouse home of Alvin Yapp, who welcomes guests into his abode. This is where you’ll get a close-up glimpse of Peranakan culture, tradition, food and lifestyle. A tea, lunch or dinner experience takes you around the space to marvel at his collection. Think artefacts, embroidery crafts, knick knacks and furniture pieces. Best of all, you can spend the rest of the day exploring the heritage ‘hood of Joo Chiat!
The Intan, 69 Joo Chiat Terrace, Singapore 427231
8. The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum
Making its home in Yishun‘s Orto, this sanctuary for turtles and tortoises aims to rescue and rehabilitate these creatures – especially the rare species among them. We love that its box turtles and terrapins wander freely around the park. That means a hands-on learning experience for the family as visitors get to pet and feed them. If you’re lucky, you may even get to see the reptiles mate or watch their eggs hatch! But head over while you can, ‘cos Orto will shut its doors in 2023 and its tenants are due to move out by June.
The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum, #01-16, Orto, 81 Lorong Chencharu, Singapore 769198
9. Kreta Ayer Heritage Gallery
Launched in 2019, this community space spotlights the heritage of a neighbourhood popular with early Chinese immigrants in Singapore. Old school photographs and artefacts showcase the vibrant arts scene that flourished in Chinatown. So, you’ll learn about Nanyin music and Chinese opera, puppetry, painting, calligraphy and tea appreciation. Plus, admission is free, so you can pop by anytime you’re in the area.
Kreta Ayer Heritage Gallery, Kreta Ayer Community Club, 28 Kreta Ayer Road, Singapore 088995
10. Singapore Chinese Opera Museum
Step into the world of Chinese opera at Kampong Glam, where you’ll be immersed in culture. That’s because its walls are embellished with ornate costumes, historical facts and photographs of past performances by Chinese opera troupes in the city. From Cantonese and Teochew to Hokkien and Yue opera, this niche museum covers it all.
Singapore Chinese Opera Museum, #01-27, Sultan Plaza, 100 Jalan Sultan, Singapore 199001
Which of these secret museums in Singapore are you most excited to explore?