The Istana is the official residence and office of the president of Singapore. It was built between 1867 and 1869 for the first British governor of Singapore during the days of colonial rule. It now holds offices for the President and Prime Minister of Singapore, as well as quarters for entertaining with foreign heads of state. The grounds open to the public for visiting on select public holidays each year: Chinese New Year, Labour Day, Hari Raya, National Day and Deepavali. Be sure to check their schedule for exact days they will be open to the public. During the Open House, you can enter the main building to view some of the rooms where visitors meet with the president, as well as a collection of gifts from nations of the world, for a small fee.
The Istana is located next door to Plaza Singapura shopping mall on Orchard Road. Entry is free to Singaporeans and PRs. For all others, entry is SGD 2. We have seen incredibly long lines to visit Istana on Chinese New Year, when most everything else on the island is closed, but this year’s National Day Open House had small crowds and no lines during the time we visited, between 10 and 1 p.m.
When you first enter Istana, you are greeted with perfectly manicured lawns, tree-lined sloping paths and a swan lake. However, despite the shade, know that it is incredibly hot and humid in Singapore, especially in the summer so I recommend bringing plenty of water.
Visiting the Main Building
The main building is partially open for an additional fee of SGD 2 for Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents, SGD 4 for all others. Inside you can see where the president entertains foreign dignitaries. There is also a few pieces of local artwork on display and a large collection of gifts from countries of the world. If you like looking at exquisitely made decorative pieces, then I recommend entry to the main building. I enjoy looking at things like small silver chariots and porcelain vases so I find it interesting.
Near the main building, you can go down some steps to a small garden with a gazebo. This gazebo used to hold a statue of Queen Victoria, but on this last visit it was gone.
During World War II, Singapore was occupied by the Japanese. When they surrendered in 1945, the Japanese gave this cannon to Singapore. It is on display on The Istana grounds.
Arts and Heritage Village
Each Open House at Istana has a different theme. The SG 50 National Day theme was “Once Upon This Island”. In the Arts and Heritage Village, many of the local museums had booths set up, with crafts and art projects for the whole family to enjoy. There is also plenty of entertainment offered. In the Arts and Heritage Village, the crafts and music reflected the diverse heritage of Singapore. There is also a main stage set up further in.
If you would like to visit Istana
- To get to The Istana, take the MRT to Dhoby Ghaut Station (serves Purple, Red and Gold lines), exiting via Plaza Singapura, or take a bus to Plaza Singapura. The Istana is next door, to the west.
- Entry to the grounds is free for Singapore Citizens and PRs. All others pay SGD 2.
- Entry to the main building is SGD 2 for Singapore Citizens and PRs. All others pay SGD 4.
- The Istana only opens to the public 5 days a year. These days are in honor of Chinese New Year, Labour Day, Hari Raya, Deepavali and National Day. However, opening days may not correspond exactly with those days o check the schedule on their website.
- The Istana Open House has activities and performances for families and children.