Civic District Walkabout
Start at City Hall MRT Station


Civic District Walkabout will take you through Raffles Institution, CHIJMES, Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, MacDonald House, Istana Park, Young Men's Christian Association, Wesley Methodist Church, National Archives of Singapore, Armenian Church, MICA, and much more.

Tours: This walkabout will begin right after the map below. Click here to skip History.

History: Raffles Institution was founded in 1823; The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd was built around 1843; The Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus was a school founded by Father Jean-Marie Beurel and French nuns in 1854; St. Joseph’s Institution in 1855; Orchard Road Presbyterian Church was erected in 1878; Raffles Hotel opened in an old bungalow on 1 December 1887; begin the tour to discover more history.

At City Hall MRT Station, take Exit A, at the top of the escalator exit to your left and walk to the junction of Stamford Road/North Bridge Road, just outside the entrance to Robinsons (Raffles City - opened 3 October 1986) you will see a monument for ...

1. Raffles Institution was located on this site, on 5 June 1823, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles laid the foundation stone of a building which he named "The Institution". The scheme was to provide for a total education system. The Institution first started functioning in 1835 providing only elementry education. The Institution evolved into an exclusive high school, after shedding its elementary component in 1886. Renamed Raffles Institution, in memory of its founder, it went on to serve as a beacon for educational development across the nation. This monument was unveiled by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew on 4th October 1997.

Opposite is ...

2. Raffles Hotel opened in an old bungalow on 1 December 1887 as a 10-room hotel by the Sarkies Brothers. The Main Building was opened in 1899. During the Japanese Occupation (1942-45), it was renamed Syonan Ryokan (Light of the South Hotel). In 1989, the hotel closed for a complete refurbishment and reopened on 16 September 1991. Over the years, Raffles Hotel has developed a long list of distinguished guests including Michael Jackson. Drop by the Long Bar for a taste of the renowned Singapore Sling, created in 1915 at Raffles Singapore by bartender, Ngiam Tong Boon.

3. CHIJMES - The Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus was a school founded by Father Jean-Marie Beurel and French nuns in 1854. It was relocated in 1983. In 1995, the area was converted into a commercial complex known as CHIJMES. Be sure to check out the chapel with its stunning stained glass windows. In CHIJMES, Caldwell House was designed by the well-known architect, G.D. Coleman, for H.C. Caldwell, a senior clerk to the Magistrates. Later, it became part of the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus when Caldwell sold it to Father Beurel. Look out for “The Gate of Hope” where babies were abandoned from the very beginning.

4. The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd was built between 1843 and 1847 and was consecrated a Cathedral on 14 February 1897. Built at a cost of $20,000, this Roman Catholic cathedral takes the form of a crucifix in the Renaissance style. The cathedral became an emergency hospital during the Second World War. This Cathedral’s architecture was inspired by two English churches of the time, St Paul’s in Convent Garden and St Martin-in-the-Fields. It was built to meet the needs of the growing Catholic population in Singapore.

5. Singapore Art Museum - For 120 years, this was the home of St. Joseph’s Institution, a missionary school. Founded by the French priest Father Jean-Marie Beurel and a small group of LaSalle Brothers on 1 May 1852, the school was open to boys of all religions. Construction of the first building begain in 1855 and took 12 years to complete. In 1987, the school moved to larger grounds in Malcolm Road. The restoration of the building to an art museum commenced in 1992. The Singapore Art Museum was officially opened on 20 January 1996.

6. Cathay Building (国泰大厦) stood on the site of an old bakery and Victorian building managed by Teo Ho Lye and Louis Moulteni from Poland, it stood for more than 40 years before it was demolished in 1934. The property was purchased by the family of the late Loke Yew in 1937. Cathay Building was opened in 1939 by Dato Loke Wan Tho as the headquarters for the British Malaya Broadcasting Corporation until the Japanese invaded Singapore in 1942 and the building was used as the Japanese Propaganda Department Headquarters. Cathay Building then was also the first and tallest skyscraper not only in Singapore but also in South-East Asia with a height of approximately 80 metres. Curtains were raised at The Cathay Cinema on 3rd Oct 1939 to an audience of more than a thousand who watched the premiere of "The Four Feathers" in Singapore's first air-conditioned cinema. When the war ended in 1945, it served as the headquarters for Admiral Lord Mountbatten while serving as the Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia Theatre of the South East Asia Command (SEAC). When the SEAC was disbanded a year later, the building was converted back to a cinema and a hotel. The cinema was the first to show American and British films in Singapore. A new air-conditioning plant was installed in the building in 1948. The Cathay Hotel ceased to exist in the 1950s when it was converted into apartments. The building was refaced in 1978 with a new look by STS Leong. The original design was shadowed by the new facade. Cathay Building was the location for the first Orange Julius outlet in Singapore, which opened in 1982. In 1990, Cathay Organisation opened Singapore's first arthouse cinema, The Picturehouse adjacent to Cathay Building. The main Cathay cinema was then converted into a two-hall cineplex during that period. Cathay Building and the Picturehouse showed its last movie in 2000 before closing for redevelopment. The redeveloped Cathay Building was officially opened on 24 March 2006 and renamed The Cathay.

7. MacDonald House was built in 1949 for Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation. On 10 March 1965 a powerful bomb exploded in MacDonald House killing three persons and injuring thirty-three. The bomb was one of several terrorist attacks in Singapore during the Indonesian Confrontation.

8. Istana Park is situated directly opposite the Istana, the official residence of the President of Singapore. The park was completed in 1995. The centrepiece of this park is the 16-metre high Festival Arch rising out of a shallow reflecting pool.

9. Orchard Road Presbyterian Church, a.k.a. Greja Kechil and the Scots Churchy, is the earliest Presbyterian church in Singapore. The Church was erected in 1878 at a cost of $20,000 and worship began with only 42 members. During the Japanese Occupation, it was used as a supply base for the Japanese and most of its early records were destroyed. After World War II, the Rev Geer who had been interned in Changi, reopened the Church for regular services in 1947.

10. Young Men's Christian Association - The building was completed in 1984 and stands on the site of the old building built in 1911. The old YMCA was the East Branch of the Kempeitai (Japanese Military Police). It was here that many innocent civilians were interrogated and tortured. The building also served as a prison for people suspected of anti-Japanese activities.

11. Wesley Methodist Church - In early 1907, Sir John Anderson, the governor of Singapore, granted a piece of land at Fort Canning (today's site) for a Church to be erected. This was in recognition of the Church's contributions in the fields of missions and education. Under the leadership of Rev A.J. Amery, the new building at Fort Canning was completed and named The Wesley Methodist Church. The governor was so interested in the construction of the Church that he personally laid its cornerstone! Wesley's growth was interrupted during the war years. Her building was stripped and used as an ammunition depot. The only items belonging to the Church which survived the war was a badly damaged Hammond organ, the lectern, the marble baptismal font and the stained glass windows. The Church was rededicated on Easter Day 1948.

12. National Museum - The oldest part of the museum is the front block which opened as the Raffles Library and Museum on 12 October 1887. In 1907, the addition of the parallel rear block doubled the size of the museum which had by then become the premier museum in British Malaya. In 1960, the library and museum were separated and Raffles Museum was renamed the National Museum in 1969. In 1993, the museum underwent another transformation to become the Singapore History Museum, dedicated to the presentation of Singapore's history and heritage. In 2003, the building was closed for major renovations and development of an extension block. It re-opened in 2006 as the National Musuem of Singapore.

Walk to the left side of the Musuem, take the path where you will see the Living World by Ju Ming sculpture ...

Beside this sculpture, on the ground you will see a storyboard on Old Malay Wall of Singapura, ahead you will see ...

13. St Andrew's School storyboard. This school was located at Fort Canning from 1875 to 1940. The St Andrew's Mission School building was subsequently used as the St John's Ambulance Headquarters and the British Council Buildig. The site ultimately made way for the National Library building in 1960.

Take the escalator up, turn right at take the path until you come to a zebra crossing (Stamford Green), cross the road, turn left and take the pavement (oppostite traffic direction) down the hill, on your right is ...

14. Fort Canning Park was once the sacred burial grounds of the Malay Kings, this park was known as Bukit Larangan (Forbidden Hill). It was later renamed Government Hill. Drawn by its historical significance and panoramic view, Stamford Raffles built his bungalow and established the first botanical gardens here in 1822. It was one of the administration centres for the colonial government during the 19th century, and the site of the British army headquarters during World War II. Today, it has been developed into a beautiful park, with historical artefacts nestled amid its lush greenery.

You will pass by Spice Garden, ROM, until you come to ...

15. National Archives of Singapore - Formerly the Anglo-Chinese Primary School, the National Archives of Singapore was located to this site in 1997. There is a wealth of resources, including wonderful old photographs of Singapore, oral history tapes, old maps and documents available for public reference.

16. Singapore Philatelic Museum, originally part of the Anglo-Chinese Primary School which used to house the Headquarters of the Methodist Church and the Methodist Book Room. This museum houses a unique collection of stamps and first day covers. Features include hands-on displays and interactive games on multimedia terminals.

17. Freemasons' Hall - This building houses the Masonic Lodges, other Masonic bodies and the Masonic Club in Singapore. Freemasonry began in Singapore in 1845 with the consecration of Lodge Zetland No. 748 at the Masonic Room in Armenian Street. Freemasons held their meetings in different places, until in 1879 when they moved into this building.

18. Peranakan Museum - Construction of Tao Nan School building at this site was completed in March 1912, lessons were taught in Hokkien. In 1916, Mandarin replaced Hokkien as the medium of instruction. Tao Nan terminated its classes in 1942 when World War II began. It was occupied by the Japanese army, and it was heard that they used it as a military headquarters. Immediately after the war, the Hokkien Huay Kuan took charge of the repairs to the school and Tao Nan reopened in October 1945. In 1982, Tao Nan surrendered its Armenian Street premises and relocated to Marine Parade. Preparations for the inaugural exhibition of the Asian Civilisations Museum began in 1994, the permanent exhibition of the Musuem began with a focus on different aspects of Chinese culture and civilisation. Later, the permanent exhibtion at ACM, Armenian Street focused on showcasing the rich material and cultural heritage of the Peranakans. The ACM closed at the end of 2005 to be redeveloped as a new museum to showcase the eclectic Peranankan culture. The museum officiallyl opened on 25 April 2008 as the Peranakan Museum.

19. Armenian Church is regarded as early-Singapore architect George Coleman’s masterpiece. Modelled after the Mother Church in North Armenia, this is Singapore’s oldest surviving Christian church and was the first to be built in Singapore. Construction commenced in 1834 and the church was consecrated on 26 March 1836. Take a walk in the peaceful memorial garden where pioneers of the Armenian community are buried. In 1899 at a flower show, Agnes Joaquim unveiled the Vanda Miss Joaquim for the first time, and won the $12 first prize for her flower. Agnes died 3 months later at the same year due to cancer at the age of 44. In 1981, the Vanda Miss Joaquim was designated Singapore's national flower. Her tombstone stands in the Armenian Church today.

20. Central Fire Station (中央消防局) opened in 1909, this station is Singapore's oldest fire station. The idea for a professional Fire Brigade was conceived after a fire in Kling Street destroyed S$13,000 worth of property on 7 November 1855. Today, it houses the Singapore Civil Defence Force, the Fire Brigade's successor. There is a Civil Defence Heritage Gallery in this building and is open to public.

21. Old Hill Street Police Station - The Old Hill Street Police Station (OHSPS), was erected in 1934 to house the Hill Street Police Station and Barracks by the Public Works Department. It was gazetted as a national monument in 1998 and transformed into comfortable and lively premises for the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA). MICA moved from PSA Building to the OHSPS which was renamed as the MICA Building in 2000. The building was later renamed as the Old Hill Street Police Station again in 2012, after MICA became the Ministry of Communication and Information. Before the construction of the Old Hill Street Police Station, the Assembly Rooms - a space for public functions and a building that housed a theatre and a school - occupied this site from 1845 to 1856. The building has a total of 927 windows with colourful shutters.

Information is correct as at 21 June 2015. Please visit the destination website for latest updates.