Civic District

Before Singapore assumed self-government in 1959 and became a fully independent Republic in 1965, the island was a British colony and traces of its colonial heritage can still be seen today. Indeed, beneath the futuristic skyscrapers which embody modern Singapore, much of the grand colonial charm still remains, about which Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham waxed lyrical. The heart of colonial Singapore straddles the mouth of the Singapore River, where Raffles first landed. A cluster of architectural legacies such as the Parliament House, Victoria Theatre, Singapore Cricket Club, Supreme Court and City Hall surrounds an open expanse of green, named the Padang ("playing field" in Malay). Not too far away, Raffles Hotel on Beach Road the jewel in the crown of Singapore's collection of world-class hotels, epitomises this grand old era. Explore this interesting district on foot with the help of the Civic District Trail walking tour map which is available at the Raffles Hotel Museum, National Museum Shops and Visitor Information Centres.

The statue of Singapore's founder, Sir Stamford Raffles, cast in dark bronze by Thomas Woolner stands in front of Victoria Theatre. Its replica, made of pure white polymarble stands at North
Boat Quay , at an area colloquially known as Raffles Landing Site, as this is the spot where Raffles is believed to have first stepped ashore.
Location: North Boat Quay
Getting There: Take the MRT to Raffles Place MRT Station (EW14/NS26) and walk across Cavenagh Bridge.


The trailblazer of the Singapore entertainment scene, Boat Quay is arguably Singapore's best place to 'chill out'. With a good mix of high end restaurants and alfresco dining and lively bars and pubs, Boat Quay is the hangout for most professionals and expatriates. Imagine that only a century ago, sun-tanned coolies and swaylos (water-hands) balanced heavy gunny-sacks of rice on their shoulders, with springy gangplanks under their feet, loading and unloading a bewildering plethora of produce. When Raffles signed the agreement securing the auspicious title of free port for Singapore, this instantly opened the floodgates of immigrants from neighbouring countries. Within six months, Boat Quay had become a hothouse for trading, and by the 1860's, three-quarters of all shipping business was done at Boat Quay. Here was the starting point of all that is Singapore today: affluent, hardworking and adamant on success. Immigrants were keen to erect their shophouses on the already crammed south side of the River, because it resembled the concaved belly of a carp, which according to Chinese belief, was where prosperity and wealth lay. Notice how the row of shophouses, which have been carefully conserved, vary in height. This was a sign of each man's wealth - the higher the shophouse, the wealthier the owner.
Check Out: Harry's Quayside (jazz bar)
Getting There: Head towards the Singapore River from Raffles

Designed and built by George Coleman as a colonial mansion in 1827, this is Singapore's oldest government building. It was the former home of Singapore's democratically-elected Parliament. Visitors to the stately building are greeted by a bronze elephant statue, a gift from King Chulalongkorn of Siam in 1871. Singapore's Parliament has shifted to new premises at 1 Parliament Place, just a short walk away.
Location: Empress Place
Getting There: Take the MRT to Raffles Place Station (EW14/NS26) and walk across Cavenagh Bridge.

Built in 1887, this grand Old Lady of the East is one the world's last great 19th century hotels. The hotel is a favourite retreat of writers and movie stars and home of the Singapore Sling, a celebrated cocktail. Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad and Charlie Chaplin were among its most illustrious guests. An extensive SGD 160 million face-lift has given the hotel back its old, unique charm and majesty. This all-suite hotel is adjoined by a brand new arcade built in the same colonial style. It includes a museum featuring memorabilia from a bygone era, a Victorian-style playhouse named Jubilee Hall, 70 retail shops featuring famous brands like Tiffany's and Louis Vuitton as well boutiques and specialty stores from the region.
Location: 1 Beach Road, Singapore 189673
Tel: (65) 6337 1886
Fax: (65) 6339 7650
Getting There: Take the MRT to City Hall Station (EW13/NS25) and walk towards Beach Road.

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  Information provided by Singapore Tourism Board.


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