The Lawn, in front of the main building

One of Singapore’s oldest heritage sites, the Istana (which means ‘palace’ in Malay) is an architectural marvel and historical site of interest all in one. This Neo-Palladian style building was first designed and completed in 1869 by Colonial Major John Frederick Adolphus McNair.

It was the official residence for 21 of Singapore's governors during the colonial era, and currently serves as the office of the President of the Republic of Singapore. Step aside, and discover both the historical and modern-day significance of this national treasure.

Nature, Culture and Heritage
A family snapping a photo at the Istana

Visitors to Singapore who’re hoping to explore The Istana should take note that the grounds are only open to the public five days a year. Open House days are set to coincide with the public holidays of Chinese New Year, Labour Day, Hari Raya Puasa, National Day and Deepavali.

Merriment and bustle abound during the Istana’s Open House, with programmes including musical performances from students and youths, face painting and sand art workshops. Visitors are welcomed to roll out their picnic mats, and spend a relaxing afternoon amidst the scenic beauty of this historical landmark.

For nature lovers looking to enjoy lush greenery while expanding their knowledge of botany, there are guided nature walks of its gardens and green spaces. The Istana stands on what used to be a nutmeg plantation, and remains a treasure trove of flora and fauna, with a swan pond, a spice garden and even a garden inspired by the harmonious beauty of Japanese horticulture.

Besides touring the grounds, you'll be able to hear interesting stories of the rooms, who have welcomed royalty and presidents, with tours of the Istana Main Building's function rooms.

Diplomats and dignitaries from all over the world have been hosted in the Istana’s halls, and you’ll be able to better understand Singapore’s global friendships by viewing a special display of gifts presented to the Lion City’s presidents and prime ministers.

Historical insights all year round
Educational exhibits at the Istana Heritage Gallery

While access to the Istana grounds is only open to the public five days a year, the Istana Heritage Gallery—located just across the road—provides year-round insights for visitors with exciting educational exhibitions.

Some of these exhibitions include a display of gifts presented to Singapore’s presidents, state artefacts and a collection of artworks. Aside from these exhibitions, the gallery’s guided tour will explain the building’s rich history and intricate architectural details in a chronological timeline.