Civic District Trail

Trail 1

Raffles' Landing Site

The statue of Sir Stamford Raffles marks the site where he, the founder of modern Singapore, is believed to have set foot on Singapore soil in January 1819. Raffles, an agent of the British East India Company, had ventured to Singapore in the hope of establishing a British port and his ambition was to make Singapore a free port and a stopping point for traders along the shortest sea route between India and China.

"Singapore is everything that we could desire, and I may consider myself most fortunate in the selection; it will soon rise into importance"

Stamford Raffles on his selection of Singapore as a trading port in February 1819.

Asian Civilisations Museum (at Empress Place building)

An impressive symbol of colonial authority, the oldest part of Empress Place Building was completed in 1867, the year Singapore became a British Crown Colony. Originally designed by J F A McNair as a Court House, the building was used instead by various colonial government departments. The building was renamed Empress Place Building in 1907 to commemorate the reign of Queen Victoria, Empress of India. It will house the Asian Civilisations Museum in 2002.

Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall

Victoria Theatre was built as the Town Hall and was an architectural milestone for Singapore as it marked the arrival of Victorian Revivalism. Victoria Memorial Hall was built as a grand gesture to the memory of Queen Victoria in 1901. During World War II, the Hall was used as a hospital and following Japanese surrender, a venue of Japanese war crime trials. Today, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall is the home of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and a lively and popular venue for the performing arts.

"...Notwithstanding the heat of the afternoon, the interior of the building was kept pleasantly cool by the electric fans fixed upon the walls, demonstrating the hitherto unheard of possibility of a meeting of 1,000 people under one roof being held in Singapore in comparative comfort..."

The Straits Times (1905)

Dalhousie Obelisk

Dalhousie Obelisk was built in 1850 to honour the visit of Lord Dalhousie, Governor-General of India. It serves as a reminder to all merchants of the benefits of free trade.

Lim Bo Seng Memorial

This marble pagoda is a memorial dedicated to Major-General Lim Bo Seng an outstanding World War Two hero who led the anti-Japanese resistance movement. He died a martyr at the age of 34 after being captured in Malaya in 1944.

"I fully realised the risks involved, but once the job was started, it must be pushed to a successful end. You must not grieve for me. You should take pride in my sacrifice and devote yourself to upbringing of the children. Tell them what happened to me and direct them to my footsteps."

Extract from Lim Bo Seng's farewell letter to his wife (1945)

Esplanade Park

Esplanade Park used to be a favourite haunt of courting couples and families. Dressed in their Sunday best, people used to gather here to take in the sea breeze. If you are lucky, you may meet a snake charmer performing for tourists and an ice-cream seller peddling local ice cream!

Indian National Army Monument

This World War Two plaque was erected in 1995 to mark the site of the original Memorial, dedicated to an unknown soldier of the Indian National Army during the Japanese Occupation.


This memorial was unveiled on 31 March 1922 by the young Prince of Wales, later Duke of Windsor, in memory of the British soldiers who died in World War One. A dedication to commemorate those who died in World War Two was added later on the reverse side of the monument .

"We are met here to do honour to the men, who, in common with many others from all parts of our great Empire, died that we as an Empire might live. Those who passed during the five years of war to victory, which are symbolised by the five steps that lead up to this monument, we shall never forget."

The Duke of Windsor, Prince of Wales (1922)

Tan Kim Seng Fountain

In 1857, Tan Kim Seng, a prominent Chinese community leader and philanthropist, donated a sum of $13,000 to the Municipal Council for the purpose of bringing free piped water to the Town. The Council erected this beautiful Victorian fountain in 1882 in recognition of his generous contribution.

Civilian War Memorial

Also known as the "Chopsticks", this structure was built to honour the civilians killed during the Japanese Occupation. The four pillars symbolise the Chinese, Eurasians, Indians and Malays who died in the war. A memorial service is held at this site on 15 February every year to commemorate the Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942.

"The flowers, oh how they are coated crimson with tears,
The sea, oh how it is dyed crimson with blood
The souls of the dead , how they rise and fall with the tides
As they stand guard over this rising nation!"

Pan Shou (1967)

City Hall and the Padang

Sit on the grand steps of City Hall and catch a game of cricket on the Padang - a Malay word meaning 'flat field'. City Hall has witnessed many of Singapore's historic events including the surrender of the Japanese to the British and the declaration of Singapore's independence by Lee Kuan Yew on 9 August 1965. The building houses the Judiciary today.

"Singapore shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent nation founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of her people in a more just and equal society."

Extract from the Proclamation of Singapore (1965)

Supreme Court

Built in 1939, the Supreme Court was the last colonial classical building to be built in Singapore. Marvel at the massive Corinthian columns and the large dome. Above the entrance of the building, the stately sculpture of Justice wields her scales and there is a frieze of the historic signing of the 1819 treaty between Raffles and Sultan Hussein, which established Singapore as a trading post.

"This quiet, cool and dignified building would be a credit to cities much larger than Singapore... this great building symbolical of these ideals (of truth and justice) has risen slowly and steadily during years of storm and stress, and now stands serene and ready."

Governor Sir Shenton Thomas (1939)

Old Parliament House

The last stop of Trail One is the Old Parliament House. Built in 1827 by G D Coleman, it is Singapore's oldest surviving building and was used to house the Court and other Government Offices until 1965, when the building became Parliament House. Singapore's first independent parliamentary sessions were held here. Look out for the bronze elephant statue in the grounds, a gift from King Chulalongkorn of Siam on his visit to Singapore in 1871.

"A large graceful building with a fine display of pillars and porticoes, and by its size and elegance, foreshadowed the greatness to which Singapore would rise."

John Cameron, "Our Tropical Possession in Malayan India" (1865)