Past & Curious

Published on 13 April 2015

Wander off the beaten track and discover some of Singapore’s quirkier museums. Here are eight of our favourites.



Touted the world’s first purpose-built toy museum, this boasts an incredible collection of 50,000 vintage toys and memorabilia that its owner has spent decades collecting from over 40 countries. Each of the five floors is specially themed. Level 2, for instance, holds the world’s largest collection of China-made toys, while other levels feature Disney memorabilia alongside childhood favourites like Astroboy, Batman, pre-war Japanese figurines and Tintin. (Trivia: The MINT stands for Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia With Toys. Cool!)

WHERE 26 Seah Street
OPEN daily 9.30am-6.30pm
ADMISSION $15 (adult), $7.50 (child 2-12 years old).


One of the most overlooked museums in Singapore, this innocuous shophouse in Chinatown’s commercially- bustling Pagoda Street offers an intriguing, authentic snapshot of Singapore of yore. Climb up the old wooden staircase and step into a labyrinth of mood-lit rooms that recreate, with startling authenticity and sounds, the living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens of the early immigrants.

Closed for renovation till mid-2015
WHERE 48 Pagoda Street


The best way to get an instant sense of a country’s political and economic history is to look at its coins and notes. Which is why this museum is so fascinating. The exhibits trace our currency from the earliest days when Singapore’s port was dominated by barter trade to the very first post-Independence notes, all the way to the current high-tech polymer notes we usually tuck away so carelessly into our wallets. Learn all about the iconic images printed onto the notes and coins, as well as geeky trivia about the in-built security features.

WHERE The Museum has relocated to the Singapore Mint’s headquarters at 20 Teban Gardens Crescent and will be reopened at a later date.


Many youngsters today have probably never posted a letter in their lives, much less understand the obsession that once gripped entire generations of stamp collectors. All the more reason to drop in on this museum and ogle its incredible collection, some of which date back to the 1800s. Like coins and currency notes, stamps provide a convenient snapshot into an era’s history — its transportation, movers and shakers of the time, as well as food, ethnic celebrations, and even its flora and fauna. Art lovers will be stunned by the incredible miniature artwork and expertise that went into creating the limited-edition stamps.

WHERE 23B Coleman Street
OPENS 9.30am-7pm (Tue-Sun), 1pm-7pm (Mon)
ADMISSION FREE for Singapore citizens & permanent residents. Foreign visitors: $6 (adult), $4 (child 3-12 years old).

PHOTO Singapore Philatelic Museum


Given the army forms such an important part of life for Singaporeans, it makes sense that there should also be a museum celebrating not just the heritage of the Singapore Army but also the sacrifices of NSmen, NSFs, regulars, veterans and their family members. The six galleries meticulously showcase the Army’s development since its beginning and includes a nostalgic mock-up of a 1970s soldier’s bunk as well as displays of army equipment that are accompanied by the ‘sounds and smells’ of battle.

WHERE 520 Upper Jurong Road
OPENS daily 10am-6pm, closed Mon
ADMISSION  free for Singapore citizens & permanent residents. Foreign visitors: $5 (adult), $3 (child 6-12 years old).

PHOTO Defence Media Centre, MINDEF


Feline lovers can purr to their hearts content at this wonderful, light-filled space that is a collaboration with the Cat Welfare Society. The whimsical exhibits capture kitties in art and photographs, alongside renditions of every famous cat from Puss-in-Boots to Garfield. Particularly intriguing is the section that theorises the local Malayan cats arrived in Singapore on the same ships that brought the first settlers to the island.

WHERE 8 Purvis Street, #02-02
OPENS 4.30pm-7.30pm (Fri), 12pm-7.30pm (Sat & Sun)
ADMISSION $9, free for children
below 6 years old.

PHOTO The Cat Museum


The Loke family is one of Singapore’s most illustrious and famous. Its patriarch Loke Yew arrived in Malaya from Guangdong in the mid-1880s and became the colony’s richest man, making his fortune in tin-mining and real estate. His descendants diversified the family business interests into Singapore including the iconic Cathay cinema. The Cathay Gallery offers a unique peek into this unusual family, chockablock with an unrivalled collection of cinematic memorabilia, art, photography and personal items amassed over the past 150 years.

WHERE 2 Handy Road, #02-16 The Cathay
OPENS daily 11am-7pm
Closed on Sun & public holidays


Nothing is what it seems here. Using clever optical illusions, interactive stage-sets turn 2-D paintings into 3-D impressions. When photographed, you appear to have shrunk to half your normal size, Superman is carrying you up-up-and-away through the skyscrapers of Metropolis, you’re hanging off an icy ledge, or even sticking your head into a giant, pre-historic sea-monster. Fabulous fun for kids of all ages — and adults too!

WHERE Resorts World Sentosa, 26 Sentosa Gateway #01-43-44
OPENS daily 10am-9pm
ADMISSION $25 (adults), $20 (child 4-12 years old).

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