The Istana

The Istana

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.

The Istana holds great significance in Singapore’s history and culture. As a symbol of power and authority, it represents the country’s colonial past and its journey towards independence. The building’s design is a reflection of the British influence on Singapore’s architecture during the 19th century. The Neo-Palladian style, characterized by grand proportions, symmetrical facades, and classical elements, was popular among European colonial powers at the time.

The Istana’s historical importance goes beyond its architectural beauty. It has witnessed significant events in Singapore’s history and has been a witness to the changing political landscape of the country. During the colonial era, it was the residence of the British governors, who held power over the island. The Istana served as a symbol of British authority and was a meeting place for colonial officials.

After Singapore gained independence in 1965, the Istana became the official residence of the President. It has since been the venue for state ceremonies, official receptions, and diplomatic events. The building’s function rooms have hosted dignitaries and world leaders, cementing Singapore’s position as a global player on the world stage.

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Visitors to Singapore who are 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. During these special occasions, the Istana opens its doors to the public, allowing them to experience the grandeur of the building and learn about its historical significance.

On these Open House days, the Istana comes alive with activities and programs for visitors of all ages. Musical performances from students and youths fill the air, adding a festive atmosphere to the event. Face painting and sand art workshops provide entertainment for children, while guided nature walks allow visitors to appreciate the lush greenery surrounding the Istana.

The Istana’s gardens and green spaces are a haven for nature lovers. The building stands on what used to be a nutmeg plantation, and remnants of the plantation can still be seen within the grounds. The gardens are meticulously maintained and feature a swan pond, a spice garden, and a Japanese-inspired garden. These green spaces provide a peaceful retreat in the heart of the city and offer a glimpse into Singapore’s natural heritage.

Besides exploring the grounds, visitors can also learn more about the Istana’s history through guided tours of the building’s function rooms. These rooms have witnessed important events and have hosted numerous dignitaries and world leaders. The tours provide insights into the Istana’s role in Singapore’s diplomatic relations and its contribution to the country’s international standing.

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For those who are unable to visit the Istana on Open House days, the Istana Heritage Gallery offers a year-round opportunity to learn about the building’s history and significance. Located just across the road from the Istana, the gallery houses educational exhibitions that showcase the Istana’s rich heritage. Visitors can view a collection of gifts presented to Singapore’s presidents, explore state artifacts, and admire a collection of artworks.

The Istana Heritage Gallery also offers guided tours that delve deeper into the building’s history and architectural details. These tours provide a chronological timeline of the Istana’s development and highlight its role in shaping Singapore’s history. From its colonial past to its present-day significance as the office of the President, the gallery offers a comprehensive understanding of the Istana’s place in Singapore’s heritage.

In conclusion, the Istana is not only a beautiful architectural masterpiece but also a symbol of Singapore’s history and culture. From its colonial past to its present-day role as the office of the President, the Istana has played a significant role in shaping the country’s identity. Whether visiting on Open House days or exploring the Istana Heritage Gallery, visitors have the opportunity to immerse themselves in Singapore’s rich heritage and gain a deeper appreciation for this national treasure.

Address And Location:


Orchard Road, Singapore 238823

Istana Park
35 Orchard Road, Singapore 238902
(directly opposite main gate of the Istana)

  • Operating Hours

    Chinese New Year 6 February 2019
    Labour Day 1 May 2019
    Hari Raya Puasa 5 June 2019
    National Day 29 July 2019
    Deepavali 27 October 2019

    Opening hours
    8.30am – 6pm

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    *As part of The Istana’s 150th anniversary celebrations, the Istana grounds will also be open on 6 October 2019.

    Istana Heritage Gallery opens daily from 10am – 6pm, except Wednesdays


  • Orchard Road, Singapore 238823

    Istana Park
    35 Orchard Road, Singapore 238902
    (directly opposite main gate of the Istana)

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