Doesn’t matter if you’re a local, expat or tourist – put on your walking shoes and wander with these Singapore heritage trails
Singapore might be a mere dot on the map but there’s a lot to see and do on this little island. For history and heritage junkies, there are plenty of hoods worth wandering into like Bukit Timah and Kampong Lorong Buangkok. While we can hop on a Vespa or cruise on a kayak for a fun tour, we’re equally loco for these local heritage trails that teach us a thing or two.
Get your Chinatown on
Sure, signing up for a membership opens a whole bunch culturally centric events for you. But you can also attend some of their heritage walks as a non-member. Like the URA/FOM Heritage Trail that starts off from the Urban Redevelopment Authority building and takes you around four areas in Chinatown. They also have a guided tour of Asian Civilisations Museum every Monday like clockwork.
Friends of the Museum, free
Addicted to architecture
The folks at Jane’s Tours sure know how to construct a cool architectural trail. Learn about Singapore’s colonial history and visit some of the island’s most picturesque black and white bungalows. If you aren’t colonially hungover, there are other heritage trails like WWII and mid-century & modern architecture.
Jane’s Tours, tours from $60 onwards
Prance around a precinct
If you’ve landed on our shores without much of a plan or happen to be free on a weekday, Monster Tours’ free walks are meant for you. You don’t need to sign up or RSVP, just show up on time. Explore Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam for a two and half hour heritage walk filled with info, local food tasting (sometimes) and fun facts.
Monster Day Tours, free
Visit the President’s home
Better hustle – Istana, the gorgeous 18th century, neo-Palladian style Presidential palace is open to the public only five times a year! Yes, you can explore the place on your own, if you’re looking for a fact-packed walking tour by an expert, they’ve got those too for a nominal charge.
Istana Guided Walks, child $2, adult $4 onwards.
Art + History = Winner
The good guys at Gillman Barracks along with Friends of the Museums want to take you through the iconic colonial military area turned art hub. If art and architecture are your jam, this walking tour will make an impression. Get the picture?
Gillman Barracks Art & History tour, free
Sign up for a graveyard shift
If you’re dead tired of cultural precincts and need a change of scene, a walk at the Bukit Brown cemetery might liven things up. One of Singapore’s largest and last-remaining graveyards has several stories to tell. Just download a PDF from the website and uncover the resting places of significant Singaporeans, find intricate tomb design, read World War II tales and more.
Bukit Brown self-guided walking tour, free
Care for some culture?
With a TripAdvisor track record like no other, Indie Singapore’s free walking tours are worth a shot. Pick from these three precincts – Chinatown, Kampong Glam & Bugis and Singapore River via the Civic District.
Indie Singapore, free
Help yourself to a trail
National Heritage Board’s Roots self-guided tours let you pick from countless trails (101 as we write this article) put together by various organisations and volunteers. There’s a trail for pretty much everything – chase stained glass windows and hopscotch at heritage schools or stroll through Jewish and Armenian quarters and discover the significance of Yishun and Sembawang. Endless options…
Roots self-guided tours, free
Have an app-solute treat
Download this super helpful app created by NUS students in collaboration with National Heritage Board and be on your way. Clearly there are plenty of heritage trails to tread, so this handy mobile app tries to crowdsource and consolidate them for you.
Singapore Heritage Trails app, free
Park it like it’s hot
Vegetating in Singapore’s many gardens and national parks is fun, but if you’re looking for more to do, best follow National Parks Board’s events page. They have sporadic heritage walks across the many green spots on the island. Like the Heritage on the Hills tour at Fort Canning that’ll take you to structures from ancient 14th century to the colonial 19th century and beyond. This is our kind of walk in the park!
National Parks Board heritage tours, free
Get a ticket to kooky town
You know Haw Par Villa is legit our favourite oddball spot in Singapore. So we bet Journey Tours’ Haw Par Villa after-dark tour into the 10 Courts of Hell will kill it (in a good way)! Held every Friday night, learn about the Aw family that Death stalked and other legends and myths from Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese history and mythology. Because who needs Halloween when we have this all year round.
Journey Tours, Haw Par Villa, child $5, adult $10
Find scars of a war
For the Changi Museum Guided War Trail, hop on a motorcoach and revisit a dark time in Singapore’s history. Get a lesson in history about the WWII Japanese invasion and explore historically relevant sites like the Selarang Barracks, Changi Prison and Kranji War Cemetery.
Changi Museum War Trail, child $30, adult $58
Have an annoyingly long layover at Changi airport? No problem – Changi airport will come to the rescue. If you have five and a half hours to kill, sign up for the Heritage tour that’ll take you to Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam as well as the Merlion park.
Changi airport tour, free
Note: Although many of these tours are free, we highly encourage you to tip the tour guide at the end of the tour.