World War II museums and sites in Singapore

World War II museums and sites in Singapore

During World War II, the fall of Singapore and Malaya and the subsequent Japanese Occupation that followed, from 1942-45, was one of the most significant periods in Singapore's past. To make sure the sacrifices made in this time are not forgotten, these museums and sites commemorate the people that fought bravely and lived through this dark time in Singapore's past.

The Battle Box

Hidden in Fort Canning Park, the Battle Box (in photo) is a preserved World War II bunker which tells the story of the last days leading to the fall of Singapore and Malaya to the Japanese. Book into one of their hour-long tours, A Story of Strategy and Surrender, to explore the underground command centre and its role in WWII. It was here that the decision to surrender was made, and guides explain the events that led up to this momentous decision, while showing you around both genuine and replica rooms that the military worked in. For a more extensive insight, attend the Of Graves, Guns and Battles tour, which includes a guided walk around Fort Canning Hill and educates you on its significance during this tumultuous period of Singapore's history.

Changi Chapel and Museum

Considered by many to be the most iconic of World War II sites in Singapore, Changi Chapel and Museum tells the story of the prisoners of war who lived in this area. The infamous POW camp located here is remembered through archival displays, documents and an audio tour, where you learn about the dark stories of life here through first hand testimonies. Don't miss the collection of paintings and sketches by William Haxworth and Mary Angela Bateman, which bring to life the daily routines of internees at the prison, and the replica of the stunning Changi Murals, originally painted by POW Stanley Warren during his time here. After exploring the exhibition, take time for silent reflection at the beautiful chapel.

Fort Siloso

Located on Sentosa, Fort Siloso preserves a former fort which was used by the British during World War II during their defence against the Japanese, and was built in the late 19th century to protect the busy port of Singapore from any possible threats of sea invasion. This free museum guides you around the only remaining coastal fort on the island, and is home to memorabilia such as coastal guns and the remains of military structures and tunnels. The Fort Siloso Skywalk is the best place to start your visit, a treetop trail high above the ground. After this, wander around the Heritage Trail or the Gun Trail, which each provide important insights into this period of Singapore's history. Make sure you visit the Surrender Chambers, an immersive exhibition which uses light, sound and film to bring the story of the Japanese invasion to life.

Former Ford Factory

The historic Former Ford Factory is the place where the British surrendered unconditionally to the Japanese in 1942. Take time to explore the permanent World War II exhibition here, Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies. Run by the National Archives, this exhibition uses oral, archival and published accounts to show the diverse experiences of Singaporeans during this time. You can also explore the museum by booking onto a tour, where you can hear even more detailed stories behind the rich collections on display.

Reflections at Bukit Chandu

Focusing on the bravery of the Malay Regiment during World War II, Reflections at Bukit Chandu commemorates their defence of Singapore at the Battle of Pasir Panjang. Vastly outnumbered, the 1,400 soldiers made a last, deeply courageous stand against the 13,000 strong Japanese army approaching them. Housed in a colonial bungalow close to the battle site, this National Archives-run exhibit uses its wealth of material to highlight their story. The centre is also connected to the bucolic Kent Ridge Park, which you can reach over a canopy walkway.

Civilian War Memorial

Dedicated to the civilians who died during the Japanese Occupation, 1942-45, this striking architectural structure is housed in its namesake War Memorial Park, on Beach Road. The structure is a tall pyramid with each of the four sides representing one of the official races of Singapore who suffered during this dark time. Every year on the 15th February, on Total Defence Day (the day that Singapore surrendered to the Japanese,) a ceremony is held here to honour and remember those who lost their lives.

Sail away to some islands

Sail away to some islands

Singapore's coastline is dotted with peaceful islands where you won't find a shopping mall in sight. Jump on a boat and travel offshore to enjoy chilled beaches, coastal hikes and an amazing array of flora and fauna. Here's where to escape to when you've had enough of city life.

Pulau Ubin

A mere 15-minute boat ride away from the mainland, travel to Changi Point Ferry Terminal and let a charming old-school bum boat whisk you away to this undeveloped island gem. Ubin is one of the last two remaining kampongs (villages) in Singapore, and is also home to some incredible biodiversity. Travel by foot or rent a bike to explore the island, and stop off at some of its noteworthy sights. The Chek Jawa Wetlands are unmissable and best visited at low tide, where a 1 km boardwalk reveals the millennia-old coral reef below. Make sure you also visit the Pekan Quarry, where the old granite pit has transformed into a beautiful lake, for some insta-worthy shots and a glimpse of rare birdlife.

Kusu Island

Part of the Southern Islands, Kusu is the Singaporean island most steeped in culture. In October, the ninth lunar month, the island transforms itself from a sleepy stop-off with beautiful white beaches, into the destination of a great pilgrimage; where visitors flock to the Da Bo Gong temple to honour the deity known as Tua Pek Kong. The island's religious significance comes from the myth that the deity transformed a tortoise into this island, and hence Kusu is also home to a tortoise sanctuary. Visit Kusu by ferry, which leaves Marina South Pier several times a day - a round trip via St John's Island will only set you back $18 per person.

St John's Island

Close to Kusu, St John's Island also lies to the south of Singapore and has an even more colourful history. Now strictly developed for recreation, in the past the island has played various roles; from a leprosy quarantine centre in the 30s, to a holding centre for political detainees in the 50s, and in the 60s, a rehab centre for people suffering from opium addiction. Aside from its curious past, it's a peaceful place to escape the city, with picnic areas, beautiful and quiet beaches and even a museum, the Sisters' Islands Marine Park Public Gallery, which showcases Singapore's efforts to champion marine biodiversity. Visit by ferry from Marina South Pier.

Lazarus Island

The most deserted of the Southern Islands, Lazarus is perfect for urbanites looking for a secluded getaway. The undeveloped beaches have perfect white sands and turquoise waters, and if you arrive early on a weekday or weekend morning, you'll be sure to have the place to yourself. Only 15 minutes away from Marina South Pier, take the ferry to St John's Island and walk 10 minutes over to Lazarus via a small causeway.

Coney Island

North of Singapore, close to Punggol, is Coney Island. Despite the familiarity of the name, this island is not an amusement park (though it was named that by developers in the 50s who had plans to turn it into one,) but a stunning nature reserve with some of Singapore's most impressive biodiversity. Connected by a causeway, you can reach the island by foot, and once there look out for hidden beaches and try and spot the chickens, otters and monkeys that call the island home. It's recommended to rent a bike to cover the most ground you can, but hop off to wander along the well-paved boardwalks and to sit quietly in one of the bird shelters.

Pulau Semakau

At first thought, Semakau isn't the most appealing of island destinations due to being the home of Singapore's only remaining landfill site. However, Semakau Landfill is only situated on the eastern part of the island, and the western side is one of the most biodiverse and untouched areas of Singapore. The island's waters are home to meadows of rare seagrass and flora and fauna that flourish in the mangrove ecosystem. To visit Semakau, book a tour with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (part of National University Singapore, or NUS) and be guided around the mangroves and coral nurseries by a local researcher.

Hidden treasures in nature

Hidden treasures in nature

Some would describe Singapore as a concrete jungle, but with a little time and patience you can find a plethora of edible goodies in the parks, beaches and outdoor spaces of this garden city. Lace up your trainers and head off the beaten path – you can find some truly delectable edible treasures hidden away in Singapore if you know where to find them.

A little research goes a long way

Before starting your foraging journey, make you sure you do thorough research on the types of wild plants out there. Mistaking one plant for another or eating the wrong part of an otherwise edible plant could lead to you ingesting something poisonous. If in doubt, take the safer route and don't eat it, or ask a more experienced forager for help. Also make sure you avoid picking or collecting edible plants from nature reserves or land stewarded by the National Parks Board, as you could be breaking a law. Ideally, forage away from the roadside to avoid plants exposed to pollution.

The best of nature's bounty

The plethora of interesting edible plants native to Singapore is boundless, but why not start with ones most familiar to you? We're talking fruit trees like jackfruit, banana, papaya and mango. You can also find fragrant and colourful herbs and spices like ginger, pandan and curry leaves and the striking blue butterfly pea flower growing in abundance. And if you're a seafood lover, the beaches and mangroves of Singapore's coastline are a veritable treasure trove of wild shellfish. Here are seven foraging favourites to look out for:

Butterfly pea flower

A mainstay of Nonya or Peranakan cooking, the butterfly pea flower lends its natural colouring to a variety of rice dishes, including the iconic nasi kerabu, and can also be made into a fragrant (and wonderfully colourful) tea. Look out for these bright flowers growing in parks and wild areas all over Singapore.

Pandan leaves

With a distinct and delicious fragrance that conjures up memories of Nonya kaya (pandan coconut jam best enjoyed with toast, kopi and soft-boiled eggs) and colourful kueh (local desserts and cakes), pandan (also known as screw pine) is native to Singapore and its aromatic and elegant leaves are used to flavour all manner of local delicacies. You'll smell this one before you see it, as large clumps of wild pandan fill the air with their aroma.


Delectable shellfish like mussels, clams and oysters are frequent guests on the shores of Singapore. On Kranji Beach you can find mud mussels, locally known as “tua tow,” which thrive in the mangrove ecosystem native to Singapore's coastline and are found buried in the shoreline mud. Travel west to Punggol Beach, and you can feast on wild sea snails like spiral melongena, which you can often find canned in local supermarkets. Enjoy them fresh by searching in the sandy shorelines they inhabit.

Torch ginger flower

Torch ginger, also known as bunga kantan in Malay, is an attractive variety of ginger with waxy and light pink petals on the flower buds. Used in a plethora of local dishes, particularly in Malay and Peranakan cuisine, the flowers can be chopped up and added to dishes like rojak (a sweet and spicy fruit and peanut salad) and used a garnish on top of desserts.

Wild pepper leaves

With their small, waxy leaves and white flower buds, wild pepper (known as kaduk hutan in Malay) is a common occurrence in parks and gardens around the island once you know how to look for it. Favourite hawker dish otak-otak (grilled fish paste) partly gains its distinct flavour from being wrapped in wild pepper leaves, and then encased in a further layer of banana leaves before cooking. The mildly bitter taste is also used in dishes like nasi ulam, a Nonya rice dish flavoured with a variety of wild fragrant herbs.

Noni fruit

Found thriving on rocky and sandy shores all over Singapore, the noni fruit tree may have a pungent aroma, particularly when the fruit is at its ripest, but don't let that put you off giving it a try. Also known as the Indian mulberry, the fruit (similarly to its European counterpart) can be squeezed into a delicious juice. Traditionally, it's believed that the noni fruit has anti-carcinogenic properties.


This quirky fruit grows abundantly in Singapore, known for its remarkable similarity to bread, both in taste and texture. In traditional Peranakan and Malay cooking, it is sliced, covered in flour and deep fried - resulting in an appearance similar to you tiao - the doughnut-like sticks often enjoyed with fragrant and heavy soup dishes like bak kut teh and as breakfast with a side portion of condensed milk for dipping.

The Projector - cinema history

The Projector - cinema history

Singapore's newest cultural icon is tucked away inside a shabby shopping mall on Beach Road. Take the lift up to the fifth floor of the Golden Mile Tower, and you'll step into a secret arthouse paradise, where you're greeted by a low-key bar area well stocked with popcorn, snacks, top-notch coffee and local craft beers. Head through one of the two innocuous doors and you'll find yourself in their retro screening rooms, a unique throwback to the cinemas of yesteryear, with rows of blue flip-up chairs with wooden armrests still intact.

Back in the 70s, the Golden Theatre was the biggest cinema in Singapore and showed all the latest releases, but it eventually lost out to competitors, sliding into Bollywood and adult film screenings in the 90s before shutting down its operations for a short time. Preserved within though, the screens still retained their vintage features, and in a world of identikit Golden Villages, this became its unique selling point. In 2014, the old Golden Theatre opened its doors again, reinvented this time, as The Projector - Singapore's first independent cinema - this time showing the best and most diverse indie, foreign and cult favourite films, classics, arthouse, horror, local flicks, retrospectives and hosting a multitude of special themed nights.

Created via an Indiegogo campaign, masterminds Karen and Sharon Tan and Blaise Trigg-Smith were running the design consultancy and management company Pocket Projects when the opportunity arose to take over the cinema. Already specialising in breathing new life into old, derelict and historic spaces, the trio turned their experience onto the iconic movie theatre, and after struggling to find a cinema operator to inhabit the space, simply decided to do the job themselves. After partnering with design practice FARM, they used their crowdfunding campaign to carry out basic renovations and purchase two brand new digital projectors.

The cinema has three themed screening rooms. The first, the 230-seat Green Room is the main screening room, and the neighbouring screen Redrum (referencing The Shining, but pronounced Red Room) includes a stage, bean bag seating and is the go-to space for cultural events and alternative performances. The third dedicated screening room Blue Room, opened in late 2017 and focuses on cinema screenings, taking its name from the Instagram-friendly rows of blue seating inside.

But what makes The Projector such a cultural gem isn't the quirky interior or nostalgic atmosphere. It's the timetable. The Projector's listings are totally unique. From cult classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and so-bad-it's-good movie The Room, to the latest acclaimed indie flicks like Beautiful Boy and The Travelling Cat Chronicles, the selection is the result of a careful curatorial process. Creative and marketing brain Jerome Chee has a painstakingly careful approach to acquiring films, which is more than visible with a glance down their listings.

Local film consultancy Luna Films also works in partnership with The Projector on the programming, and is partly responsible for the brave film choices they are known for. Often, the cinema is faced with issues from international distributors who are often difficult about releasing their film in just one cinema in Singapore. Despite this, The Projector has become home to some of the numerous annual film festivals held in Singapore, from the German Film Festival held in partnership with the Goethe Institut, to smaller, ground roots festivals like The Freedom Festival, which focuses on human rights films and documentaries.

Conceived as more of a cultural space then simply a cinema, The Projector has also played host to multiple film festivals, launches and premieres, as well as music events and gigs in their atmospheric screening rooms. The lobby area is also home to Clockwork, a co-working space that inhabits the space during the day. The inviting cinema cafe and versatility of the space - with its lo-fi lobby area and outdoor car park, which often doubles as an outdoor bar and event space (and has a killer view of the Kallang area) - means The Projector can play multiple roles.

There's no doubt The Projector is one of the best cinemas in Singapore, if not in Asia, and with its continually evolving use of the space and its creative film and event programming, its success is bound to continue.