Singapore is often regarded as a very modern city because of its huge, bright shopping-centres, high-rise buildings, and luxurious hotels. However it was once a British colony and the colonial area of Singapore is one of its most interesting. Here the visitor can find many grand and imposing historical buildings, such as the Raffles and Fullerton Hotels, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, and the Supreme Court and City Hall.
It is easy to imagine being back in the days of long Edwardian summer days as one walks around the wide, tree-lined streets in this area.
Raffles Hotel, founded in 1887 by the American Sarkies brothers, has a long and illustrious past. The Singapore sling was invented here. No visit to Singapore is complete without enjoying this relaxing cocktail in the cool garden courtyard at this famous hotel. Hollywood stars, including Ava Gardner and Charlie Chaplin, stayed in sumptuous suites at the elegant white building. The dark and stylish Writer’s Bar pays tribute to them and features photographs of some of the great authors, such as Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham.
Studying the history of the hotel at the Raffles Museum is well-worth it. Here there are photos of the many famous guests, antiques, and travel items. One can imagine the elegance and excitement of travel in bygone days in this museum.
Most people can’t afford to stay at Raffles but there is a wide choice of eating places which range from expensive restaurants to the rather cheaper Empire cafe. This has large American-style meals and delicious desserts.
The modern extension includes an exclusive shopping arcade with purveyors of luxury items, such as Louis Vuitton.
2. The Fullerton Hotel
The Fullerton Hotel overlooking the Singapore river is another luxury hotel worth seeing. This building with its wide columns used to be the site of Singapore’s General Post Office and exclusive Singapore Club and other government buildings. Staying here is very expensive but having a drink at the tastefully furnished Post Bar won’t ‘break the bank’. The huge lobby with its atrium and extremely modern look is worth exploring and doesn’t clash with the colonial style of the building.
3. Cavenagh Bridge
The Victorian Cavenagh Bridge, the oldest bridge in Singapore, is near the Fullerton Hotel. This iron and steel suspension bridge is worth walking over to see the spectacular views especially at night. An old-fashioned police sign at the end which forbids some vehicles and all cattle and horses ‘by order of the Chief Police Officer’ adds an air of nostalgia.
4. St. Andrew’s Cathedral
Consecrated in 1862, this Anglican cathedral was built by convict labour. The large light-filled church built in the Neo-Gothic style with its romantic arches and a towering ceiling is a pleasure to visit. Interesting memorials to eminent people in colonial Singapore line the naves.
5. Old Supreme Court Building
This impressive colonial building features wide Corinthian columns and a large dome. The Italian artist, Cavalieri Nolli, designed the murals inside.
6. City Hall
The long rectangular structure also has Roman columns but isn’t as attractive as the Supreme Court Building which looks more elegant. This is probably because of its classical dome. This building was the site of the Japanese surrender to Lord Mountbatten in 1945.
The Old Supreme Court Building and the City Hall are soon to be converted into the National Art Gallery of Singapore.
7. Old Parliament House
Built in 1827, this was originally the residence of a Scottish merchant, John Argylle Maxwell. Although Singapore now has another Parliament House, this Neo-Palladian building has been restored and now houses the Arts House in which exhibitions and concerts are held.
8. Singapore Cricket Club
Located in the Padang (the CBD) of Singapore, this is another historic building worth seeing. Cricket was once the most popular game in countries of British origin and the grand style of the building reflects this.
After the bustle of the shopping and Chinatown districts of Singapore it is a good idea to wander around the much more peaceful colonial area of the city and become immersed in the history and grandeur of its early days.