Singapore has changed much since its founding in 1965, going from a third-world country with no natural resources to speak of to a sprawling world-class nation-state. If you’re part of the older generation, you may have witnessed this change yourself. Singapore today is in many ways barely recognisable to the nation it once was.
There are, however, still many places in Singapore that have been preserved throughout the generations, and some of these places have remained mostly unchanged. These are places that may be familiar to you during your childhood, and you can still visit these places today.
Here is a list of places to go to relive your childhood.
1. Cathay Theatre
Built in 1939, the Cathay Building was the first skyscraper and tallest building in Southeast Asia. It was famous for its revolutionary air-conditioned theatre, and was the first in Singapore.
It was both a cinema and hotel, screening movies from its opening to the present day. The hotel was closed in 1970, and in 2000, it was closed for renovation and reopened in 2006.
Now known simply as The Cathay, the building retains its original art decor facade. While the building itself is very different from how it was years ago, you can watch movies here in much more comfort than before, and of course, sit in a fully air-conditioned theatre.
2. National Gallery
Formed from the old City Hall and Supreme Court buildings, constructed in 1929 and 1939 respectively, the National Gallery was opened in 2015. It stands as an important fixture in Singapore as it represents the country’s heritage and history and holds valuable artefacts and artworks.
The Padang stands directly opposite. The open, grassy area is where Singapore held its National Day parades, starting in 1966 in celebration of its first ever National Day, until 2006 where parades were held at The Float @ Marina Bay. 2015 marked the first time in years the parade was once again held at the Padang in celebration of the country’s 50th National Day.
3. Kampong Lorong Buangkok
The last remaining kampung in Singapore, Kampong Lorong Buangkok stands as living history. Built in 1956 on what was originally a swamp, small plots were rented out to Malay and Chinese families to settle down.
Over the years the land around it was developed into the modern urban sprawl known today, but the village is still home to 30 families, including the daughter of the village’s original landlord.
As the last remaining village in Singapore, it is a portal to the past, and allows visitors to see what Singapore used to look like 50 years ago.
4. Toa Payoh Dragon Playground
One of the oldest and most iconic playgrounds in Singapore, this playground resembling a dragon was designed and built in 1979, and is located in Toa Payoh. It is seen as one of Singapore’s icons and heritage.
While one of two playgrounds with the iconic dragon design, the other one being located in Ang Mo Kio, the one in Toa Payoh has retained its original sand surface. This playground will be preserved and not demolished.
5. Golden Mile Complex
Built in the 1960s and opened in 1972 and located between Nicoll Highway and Beach Road, Golden Mile Complex (then known as Woh Hup Complex) stands as both a residential and commercial property. While some may consider the building to be an ‘eyesore’, its resident call it home, and it has become an iconic sight.
Today, the complex is famed for its many Thai shops and restaurants, Singapore’s very own Little Thailand. For many Golden Mile Complex is the go-to place to purchase and eat Thai food and products.
6. Changi Village
Tracing its origins back to a simple fishing village located by the coast in the 1920s, Changi Village today stands as a quiet HDB estate with smaller and older flats with a certain charm to it. As one of the oldest estates in Singapore, many people, especially the older generation, may be familiar with this place, doubly so if they’ve grown up here.
With its laid-back vibe, Changi Village is an excellent place to relax and truly feel Singaporean. The area is known for its hawker centre, serving delicious food, and for being a gateway to Pulau Ubin.
7. Balestier Road
Dating back to the mid-1800s as a simple sugar plantation, Balestier is now a shopping destination known for its vibrant nightlife. The road is still lined with numerous old shophouses decades old, and many ‘old-timey’ shops where you can purchase classic goods and snacks can be found here.
The location is also home to other old buildings such as the Red Temple, Shaw Plaza (closed for renovations), and historic Balestier Market.