Contrary to the stereotype, museums are more than just dusty old galleries full of boring historical artefacts. Check out these unusual museums in Singapore, which are guaranteed to provide you with new, exciting experiences!
Fun fact: Did you know that Singapore is home to more than 50 different museums? With heritage centres, cosy galleries and even animal-themed experiences, there’s something here for every museum enthusiast. Step off the beaten path into these quirky and niche museums that you probably never knew existed!
1. The Intan
Located in the heart of Joo Chiat Terrace, this gem of a museum offers visitors an intimate, experiential encounter with all things Peranakan. Owner Alvin Yapp came up with the idea of turning his home into a heritage space back in 2003, after numerous requests to show off his personal collection of Peranakan antiques.
The Intan has since relocated from his little flat to a two-storey terrace house where Alvin hosts personal tours for small groups of people. You’ll learn more about the history and culture of the Peranakan people, and get to enjoy a traditional Peranakan Tea Experience lovingly prepared by Alvin’s mother.
2. MINT Museum of Toys
Prepare for a nostalgic trip down memory lane at this exciting museum. MINT (which stands for “Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia with Toys”) is the world’s first purpose-built museum for toys. Here you’ll find an incredible collection of rare vintage collectibles like Popeye, Batman, Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse and Star Wars, valued at a cool $5 million overall! The toys and items were sourced from more than 40 different countries, and range in date from the 1840s to the 1970s.
Besides these, the museum also has a collection of vintage confectionery tin boxes, larger items like Mobo horses and pedal cars, and original enamel advertising signs. Whether you’re a child at heart or an avid toy collector, you’ll definitely enjoy browsing the displays and revisiting the good old days.
Where 26 Seah Street
Opening hours 9.30am – 6.30pm daily
Admission $7.50 per child aged 2-12 years, $15 per adult
3. Vintage Cameras Museum & Click Art Museum
Remember when film cameras used to be huge, folding things on heavy wooden tripods? Well, this museum does, and it aims to spread the love for old-school photography to all who step through its doors. Even the museum building itself is shaped like a giant camera! Inside, you’ll find a fascinating showcase of over 1000 vintage cameras, all from the owners’ personal collection. There are James Bond-style spy cameras, pigeon cameras, box cameras and even a giant Mammoth camera!
Camera nuts will be pleased to know that visitors are actually allowed to handle the cameras − not just view them. When you’re done, hop on over to the Click Art museum which is located on the same premises. Here, you’ll be able to practise your budding photography skills and take snapshots of yourself with famous personalities like Lee Kuan Yew and Charlie Chaplin.
Where 8C & 8D Jalan Kledek
Opening hours 10.30am – 9.30pm daily
Admission $15 per child below 12 years, $20 per adult
4. The Kindness Gallery
An initiative of the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM), the Kindness Gallery is a place where people can learn more about kindness and graciousness. Preschoolers will love it here − they’ll get to meet Singa the Lion, who is the movement’s main mascot. He brings children on Kindsville Tours at the gallery, and teaches them about kindness and social etiquette.
Drop by on the first two weeks of each month, and your kids will also get to join Singa and the Kindness Cubbies to learn about good manners and other values. You can also help support the SKM movement by purchasing various Kindness merchandise at the gallery.
Where #01-08 Stamford Court, 61 Stamford Road
Opening hours 10am – 5pm, Mondays to Fridays
5. Singapore Musical Box Museum
An entire museum dedicated to musical boxes? This might seem peculiar… At least, until you discover that Singapore actually had a special relationship with these instruments in the past. You’ll be able to learn more about the fascinating history and popularity of musical boxes here, and how they first made their way to Singapore.
Of course, the highlight is the 40 or so musical boxes that are on display, which come from the personal collection of the museum’s founder, Mr Naoto Orui. If you’re lucky, you may even get a personal tour from Mr Orui himself, where he’ll tell you the stories behind each of his timeless pieces.
Where 168 Telok Ayer Street (beside Thian Hock Keng Temple)
Opening hours 10am – 6pm, Wednesdays to Mondays
Admission Free for children up to 6 years, $6 per student, $12 per adult
6. Singapore Maritime Gallery
It’s a well-known fact that much of Singapore’s success was built on its port back in the day. Now you can sail into the past and discover our maritime beginnings. Starting from the 13th century, voyage through time and learn how Singapore evolved from a small trading post into a premier Global Hub Port and world’s leading International Maritime Centre today.
Take the helm and be a captain for a day at the Ship Bridge Simulator. Younger ones can even play the role of a Junior Maritime Explorer. They get to put on a (digital) costume, helm a ship, get nautical with knots or be a crane loading up 20-foot containers on a ship! If the weather is fine, they’ll also love the nautical-themed rooftop playground with a view of the coast.
Where Level 2, Marina South Pier, 31 Marina Coastal Drive
Opening hours 9am – 6pm, Tuesdays to Sundays & public holidays
7. Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
Stepping into this museum is a little like entering Jurassic Park, with dinosaur fossils and giant skeletons of extinct animals everywhere you look. It’s the perfect place for wildlife and plant enthusiasts to explore the history of life on earth − with 16 different zones, there’s definitely a lot to see and do! You can’t miss meeting with the museum’s main stars: Prince, Twinky and Apollonia. They are three dinosaur specimens that are among the most intact fossils ever found.
When you’ve had enough of looking at old bones, head on out to the four gardens around the museum. These chart the evolution of plants and various habitats. You can also visit the Heritage Gallery to view old-school museum specimens, including a leatherback sea turtle which was caught at Siglap Beach in 1883!
Where National University of Singapore, 2 Conservatory Drive
Opening hours 10am – 7pm, Tuesdays to Sundays & public holidays
Admission $9 per child aged 3-12 years, $16 per adult
8. Red Dot Design Museum
Housed in a super-sleek building by the Marina Bay waterfront, the Red Dot Design museum is considered to be the centre for innovation in Singapore. Every year, it presents the largest exhibition of products and brands that have achieved the highest standards in design (along with other smart product concepts).
Design fans can immerse themselves in the displays of over 1000 innovative products, some of which can be purchased at the Museum Design Shop. This is also where you’ll find the Market of Artists and Designers (MAAD), where the community gathers to promote and sell original works from Singapore’s creative and design scene.
Where 11 Marina Boulevard
Opening hours 10am – 8pm, Mondays to Thursdays | 10am – 11pm, Fridays to Sundays
Admission Free for children under 6 years, Singapore citizens can pay as you wish
9. JCU Museum of Video and Computer Games
A relatively young museum which only opened mid-2013, the JCU Museum of Video and Computer Games is dedicated to the history of console and computer gaming in Southeast Asia. Located on the James Cook University campus, it boasts a collection of classic game consoles (like the Magnavox Odyssey and Vectrex), along with accompanying games and related paraphernalia.
Gamer nerds are welcome to drop by and try out these “ancient” gaming systems for themselves. Museum curator and JCU lecturer Professor Robert Dillon is the person to contact if you’d like to visit this very geeky gallery!
10. Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum
Believe it or not, this grandiose Tang-style temple cost about $62 million to build. It might seem excessive, but there’s a good reason behind it: the temple houses a tiny fragment of tooth which purportedly belonged to the Buddha. According to the monks, this sacred relic was recovered back in 1980 from a collapsed stupa in Myanmar, and they’ve been guarding it in Singapore ever since. Visitors can only view the tooth during specific hours.
While waiting, you can also check out the Buddhist culture museum, history gallery and various relic chambers. Don’t miss the serene pavilions on the rooftop! Before heading over, do have a look at the website for a list of what not to wear or bring into the temple, as it’s first and foremost a religious site.
Where 288 South Bridge Road
Opening hours 7am – 7pm daily
Museums, like museum-goers, come in all shapes and sizes. Studies show that museum visits can help you feel inspired, relaxed and open to new possibilities. The next time the kids have a free afternoon to while away, consider taking them for a visit to your favourite museum!