Heritage trails to take the kids on to explore Singapore’s history

balestier-1 shophouses Honeykids Asia Singapore
Take advantage of a spot of sunshine and head on an outing with the kids!

We’re always looking for new places in Singapore to explore, from Chinatown to Haji Lane, and discovering all the uniquely multicultural aspects of Singapore, and the good folks at National Heritage Board has just the thing up its sleeve… Trails aplenty to embark on a more in-depth exploration around the Little Red Dot. And as we like to try and test fun activities on your behalf, we recently took some of these trails ourselves. The verdict? Yes, you’ll get a little sweaty, but it’s well-worth it for an eye-opening, up-close-and-personal look into Singapore’s history. Who needs aircon when you’ve got adventure?

We’ve picked out five of the best heritage trails in Singapore to bring the kids on. Keep an eye out for the heritage trail markers if you’re not able to pick up a booklet or map at any NHB museum, and download a digital copy to have on the go. Ready? Mosquito repellent and sunscreen on, water bottles filled, let’s go!

Historical Landmarks of Balestier

45 min on foot
Once a site of American consulate Joseph Balestier’s sugarcane estate, Balestier has an eclectic mix of unique architecture from pre-war terrace houses to lavish Chinese baroque shophouses and the modern Balestier Point. Pick up the trail booklet from Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall and head to Maha Sasanaramsi Burmese Buddhist Temple, home of the largest marble Buddha statue outside of Myanmar. Cut through Zhongshan Park and check out probably the last surviving water kiosk at Boon Teck Road. And once you’ve refuelled with your free water and tea, cross over to Balestier Market for a bite to eat from the former wet market before continuing your journey exploring the architecture in the area.

Tampines Green Spaces Trail

Check out these futuristic water tanks from Tampines NEWater Service Reservoir. Photography: Roots.sg

One hour on bicycle
If you’re looking for a new cycling trail then look no further! Pick up a booklet at Our Tampines Gallery, get the kiddos cycle ready and embark on this biking trail in Tampines that will take you past plenty of green spaces and former kampongs as well as industrial sites. Start at Bedok Reservoir Park, a former sand quarry and head to Tampines Link past the temples and ‘ice-cream cone’ water tanks at the Tampines NEWater Service Reservoir. You’ll be breezing past shophouses from the former Hun Yeang Village before heading towards Pasir Ris Farmway, home of some of our favourite farms before ending up at Lorong Halus Wetland. From there you can explore your way over to Punggol Waterway and Waterway Point (where you’ll find some well-deserved air-conditioning).

Orchard Road’s Historical Gems

ngee-ann-city Photography: Petar Spaseski via Flickr

Ngee Ann City was built on the site of a Teochew Cemetery. Photography: Petar Spaseski via Flickr

40 min on foot; or 30 min with a bus ride
Why not turn a shopping trip into a history lesson with this trail? Start off at the Royal Thai Embassy and head to Shaw House Orchard MRT entrance towards Tang Plaza which houses C K Tang, Orchard Road’s first department store. You’ll see landmarks such as Goodwood Park Hotel, Ngee Ann City, the site of a former Teochew cemetery, before scouting around The Heeren for a Budak (Peranakan sculpture). Try to spot more pieces of Peranakan heritage such as the old Singapore Chinese Girls’ School and Peranakan Place, the gateway to Emerald Hill, before heading back to civilisation (and maybe a bit more shopping).

 Serangoon in the 1900s

The Former House of Tan Teng Niah is the only remaining Chinese Villa in Little India. Photography: Roots.sg

40 minutes on foot
We’ve already sussed out the best places to visit in Little India, but if you’re planning to dig a little deeper into the history of the area then prepare to travel back in time to the early 20th century. The trail recommends starting at the Indian Heritage Centre where you can pick up the trail booklet, but you can also start off at Tekka Centre to catch the early morning market buzz before 9am. Work your way backwards down Race Course Lane where you’ll find Chinese Clan Associations and large murals. Check out the roads where buffalos once walked and see the colourful Former House of Tan Teng Niah, the only remaining Chinese Villa in Little India.

Bukit Timah Heritage Trail Kampong Life Trail

Bukit Timah Railway Station used to connect Malaysia to Singapore. Photography: Roots.sg

1 hour by bus and on foot
Here’s a forgotten piece of Singapore’s past – the former Bukit Timah Railway Station. Located just a stone’s throw away from King Albert Park MRT station, you can pick up the trail booklet from Bukit Timah CC and explore the now abandoned railway station that once connected Singapore to Malaysia. Then head to Sixth Avenue to explore the Masjid Al-Huda mosque and Hoon San Temple. For the real adventurers, follow the Rail Corridor down to Fuyong Estate towards nearby Rail Mall for eats and drinks.

Top image: Sim Kwong Ho shophouses, Sheralyn Loh

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