As a tiny country, it can be common to hear from both locals and visitors to Singapore that they have been to “everywhere on this island”. If you have uttered that before, not so fast! There are still many hidden places in Singapore which you may not have heard of! This article lists just 9 of these hidden places in Singapore – ranging from quiet green oases to historical buildings and small, interesting museums.
Hidden Places in Singapore: Green Spaces & Recreation
1. Ann Siang Hill Park
The Telok Ayer area, with its restored shophouses and religious compounds, is a focal point for heritage in Singapore. Yet tucked away behind the façades is a small hill park, accessible only via a few secluded walkways. Indeed, this is unique among the hidden gems in Singapore, being right smack in the middle of the CBD!
Ann Siang Hill took its name from Chia Ann Siang, a 19th-century businessman who once owned this site. A former gathering place for the residents of Chinatown, the hill is today a small but quiet oasis, amid the frenzy of tourists and the office crowd. Look out for an old well, and the numerous tropical plants which flourish in the park.
Ann Siang Hill Park can be accessed from three points: along Amoy Street (next to Siang Cho Keong Temple), from the cul-de-sac end of Ann Siang Road, and from Ann Siang Hill. The first entrance is an 8-minute walk from Tanjong Pagar MRT station, past Telok Ayer Park and then Amoy Street Food Centre. Alternatively, from Chinatown MRT station, get onto South Bridge Road and then turn left into Ann Siang Hill.
2. Little Guilin (Bukit Batok town park)
The rock cliffs of Little Guilin certainly bear an uncanny resemblance to the world-renowned attraction at Guilin in Guangxi Province, China. The site of a disused granite quarry, these cliffs are located in Bukit Batok Town Park. The sprawling park also has a winding nature trail, in addition to the cliffs and shimmering lake fronting it.
From Bukit Gombak MRT station on the North-South line, walk past the ActiveSG Stadium to reach the park entrance.
3. Labrador Nature Reserve / Labrador Park
Perched on the southwestern coast of Singapore, Labrador Park is a relatively secluded green space spanning 10 hectares. The site housed a former British military base, which was known as Fort Pasir Panjang or Labrador Battery. The underground tunnels, machine gun platforms and other military relics dotted around the park today testify to this history. Don’t miss the Berlayer Beacon, sited at the tip of the park, to provide ships with navigational help. From this vantage point, both the eastern part of Sentosa and the luxurious condos on Keppel Island can be seen.
Aside from these sites, numerous other options include sightseeing, bird-watching, running trails and having a relaxing picnic! Located a 7-minute walk from Labrador Park MRT station, follow Labrador Villa Road to one of the park entrances.
4. Sembawang Hot Springs
After a brief year and a half revamp, the Sembawang Hot Spring Park re-opened in January 2020. This is the only hot spring in Singapore, having been discovered back in 1908. Its centrepiece – a multi-level cascading pool, which allows visitors to sit and soak their feet in warm spring water. The four levels have varying temperatures, increasing from 40 degrees C in the lowest level to a scalding 70 degrees C at the top! Apart from water collection points and numerous information panels, an egg cooking station is also available for hungry visitors.
Such hidden places in Singapore, like Sembawang Hot Spring Park, are not easy to get to! From Yishun MRT station, catch either buses 858 or 969 along Yishun Avenue 2, and alight after 4 stops. Follow the pathway and turn left onto Gambas Avenue, and the park entrance will be ahead on your left. There are toilets, a small garden and a café near the entrance. The hot springs are a further 200 metres’ walk in from the entrance. The hot spring park is open daily from 7am to 7pm.
Hidden Places in Singapore: Culture & Exhibitions
5. The Old Parliament @ The Arts House
Despite its downtown location, the Arts House is well-hidden from the hustle and bustle along the Singapore River’s banks. The two-storey building is quietly wedged between the more prominent Victoria Theatre and the present sprawling Parliament building. Yet, completed in 1827, the Arts House is very possibly the oldest surviving building in Singapore! Originally built as a residence, it served as a courthouse, and then a government store-house, for some time. From 1965 to 1999, it served as the location of the Singapore Parliament, before it decamped to the adjacent building. The Arts House then underwent refurbishment before re-opening as an arts venue in 2004.
There are numerous rooms and spaces in the Arts House, some of which with a storied history. The old Parliament chamber on the upper floor, which occasionally hosts performances, is otherwise open to public access. On the left-hand side of the chamber, look out for famous names engraved into some of the front-row seats. These names include the first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, along with his cabinet members. The nearby Blue Room, meanwhile, is where LKY held his Cabinet discussions. The other rooms sometimes host temporary art exhibitions, talks or seminars – check out upcoming events here. On the ground floor, immerse yourself in the black and white photographs and colourful paintings of old Singapore.
The Arts House is a 10-minute walk from either City Hall or Raffles Place MRT interchanges. From City Hall, head straight down St. Andrew’s Road, past the National Gallery and the Padang. From Raffles Place, cross the historic Cavenagh Bridge and turn left along the river, taking a right turn after the Asian Civilizations Museum and then walking a further 150 metres. The Arts House is open daily from 10am to 10pm, with free admission.
6. Gillman Barracks
Far from a conventional art gallery, this collection of art spaces and exhibitions are housed in several repurposed colonial-era barracks. Named after British general Sir Webb Gillman, these buildings served as army barracks first for British soldiers, then for the Singapore Army until the 1990s. In 2012, it was relaunched as a contemporary arts centre, complete with bars and eateries.
Gillman Barracks is located a 12-minute walk from Labrador Park MRT station on the Circle Line. Enter via a small gate from Alexandra Road. The typical opening hours of the galleries are 11am to 7pm, but varies slightly between the venues. For more details, refer to the individual pages of the art galleries, listed here.
7. Singapore Maritime Gallery
You might be familiar with Marina South Pier, where you can catch daily ferries to the outlying Southern Islands of Singapore. On the second floor of the ferry terminal, however, is the interesting but little-known Singapore Maritime Gallery. The exhibits are divided into chronological sections, detailing different periods in Singapore’s maritime history. It begins with the early days as a trading entrepot and also covers the importance of Singapore’s modern port. Interactive features, such as the ship bridge simulator and an Explorer’s Corner, would certainly interest younger visitors.
The gallery is open from 9am to 6pm, daily except Monday, and admission is free.
8. [email protected] Queenstown
This tiny, independent and resident-managed museum, nestled deep in the heartlands of Queenstown, is very easy to miss. Opened little over a year ago in February 2019, it tells the story of Queenstown, the nation’s first satellite town. It occupies a single ground-floor unit, among a row of shophouses which faces Tanglin Halt Food Centre. The exhibits are vestiges of everyday life in the old estate, such as signboards, among other snippets. On the second floor, an event space occasionally hosts related talks and workshops.
The museum address is Block 46-3 Commonwealth Drive, #01-388. From Commonwealth MRT station on the East-West line, walk down Tanglin Halt road on your way to Tanglin Halt Food Centre. The museum is open froml Tuesdays to Saturdays, generally from 9:30am to 2:30pm. Admission is free.
9. Former Ford Factory
Off a secluded portion of Upper Bukit Timah Road, between Beauty World and Hillview, lies the Former Ford Factory. Run by the National Archives, it houses an exhibition detailing the Japanese Occupation of Singapore during World War II. The building itself, as its name suggests, began life as a former car assembly plant. Later, it was the site where the British surrendered to the Japanese on February 15, 1942. Along with wartime items and relics, the boardroom where the surrender took place is also part of the exhibition. Behind the building is a small garden, in which wartime crops such as tapioca are grown.
The Former Ford Factory is located at 351 Upper Bukit Timah Road. From Beauty World MRT station on the Downtown line, take one of buses 67, 171, 184 or 961 from the bus stop beside the row of restaurants on Cheong Chin Nam Road, and alight after 3 stops. Alternatively, from Hillview MRT station, take one of buses 67, 75, 170, 178 or 961 and alight after 3 stops. The centre is open from 9am to 5:30pm, daily except Monday. Admission is free for Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs), with an entry fee of $3 for foreign visitors.
So, how many of these 9 hidden places in Singapore have you visited, or heard about previously? As someone who has conducted tours for foreign exchange students during my university days, as well as being a very frequent visitor to the city centre, I’m unashamed to reveal that I only knew of and visited the Arts House (#5) late last year when wandering around the area!
Indeed, each of these parks and attractions are off-the-radar, and yet unique in their own ways. I’m sure there are more secret spots in Singapore apart from these nine, which could fit into a longer list. In the meantime, if you would like suggestions for your next outing, do consider one of these hidden places in Singapore!
Also, here are some useful lifestyle tips and articles for better living in Singapore.