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9 Iconic Places in Singapore That No Longer Exist

Singapore has changed much since its founding and even before. As every Singaporean knows, the country grew from a simple trading port to a hub of international business. Its population has also grown significantly, and like any other city, old and obsolete buildings must be demolished to make way for modern properties. Out with the old, in with the new, as they say.

For Singapore, this is far more important than any other city due to extremely limited space. As such, when a building or location is no longer generating a profit or has become obsolete, it has to go. Maybe it’s just in the way of more decent developments. Either way, you may be saddened to see some of your childhood memories go.

Here are some iconic landmarks in Singapore that have since been demolished.

1. Big Splash

Credit: Adrian Hind

Famous for its iconic multicoloured 85-metre slide, Big Splash was one of Singapore’s first waterpark. Built in 1977 and located at East Coast Park, many Singaporeans spent their childhoods here, having fun in the pools or throwing parties. 

It was closed down in 2006 due to declining popularity and developed into a recreational area with several restaurants in 2008, with its slides and pools also removed. It was later closed for good and demolished in 2016, last remnants of Big Splash are now gone completely, though its rainbow slide is still fondly remembered by many. 

2. Gay World

The third amusement park in Singapore, Gay World was built in 1936 and may be familiar with the older generation. Gay World was famous for its nightlife, where its attractions included ronggeng (a type of traditional Javanese dance), movies, arcades, gaming, cultural shows, wayang, cabaret performances, and trade shows, among many others. It reached its peak in the 1950s to 1970s, before declining. 

With a declining number of visitors, the park decided to make admissions free in 1987, but that failed to attract a significant number of visitors, and Gay World was eventually closed in 2001. The Singapore Indoor Stadium now sits at where the park once was in Kallang. 

3. Thieves Market

Not technically a location and more of a collection of tents and mats along Sungei Road, it was more of the people and community that made this landmark truly stand out. First established in the 1930s, Sungei Road Thieves Market was the largest and oldest flea market in Singapore. Visitors could buy just about anything here for ridiculously low prices and haggle their way down even lower. 

The notorious market was closed down for good in 2017 when the street was shuttered for further development, though a part of it still lives on every weekend at Woodlands Industrial Park. 

4. Van Kleef Aquarium 

Located at the foot of Fort Canning Hill, Van Kleef Aquarium was the first public aquarium in Singapore. Built in 1955, it was a popular attraction for both Singaporeans and foreign tourists, and was fully air-conditioned with a collection of some 180 species of fish, totalling 6,500. It was especially notable for having a swamp exhibit for mudskippers.

Due to being unable to keep up with newer competitors such as Singapore Zoo and Jurong Bird Park, it closed its doors for good in 1996 and was demolished two years later. 

5. Old National Theatre 

Built in 1959 to celebrate Singapore’s self-governance and funded with the help of the public, it was officially opened in 1963 just in time to host the first Southeast Asian Cultural Festival. It would later go on to function as the venue for international music stars such as Shirley Bassey and The Bee Gees, along with hosting National Day rallies and conferences. 

It was later closed and demolished in 1986 due to structural and safety reasons and moved to the iconic Esplanade Theatre we all know and love today. 

6. Old National Library 

Built in 1960 at Stamford Road, the Old National Library Building was famous for its red bricked construction. It held thousands of books of all different languages, and promoted reading in children by having storytelling sessions. And talks for teenagers. It also promoted local writers. During its lifetime it was a popular hangout spot for students from neighbouring schools. 

The National Library Building moved to Victorial Stree in 1996, and the old one was eventually closed down in 2004 and demolished to make way for the Fort Canning Tunnel for traffic. 

7. Fantasy Island

Before Universal Studios Singapore in Sentosa, there was Fantasy Island. Much like its successor, it was an amusement park that was famous for its giant 8-lane slide. It was host to 16 attractions, opening in 1994. 

With high entry fees and inaccessibility, however, not to mention its high injury rates, its popularity declined, and it was eventually closed in 2001.

8. Tang Dynasty City

Intended to be a place where movies would have been filmed and a theme park at the same time, the Tang Dynasty City was opened in 1992 in Jurong. Built to replicate the ancient Chinese capital Chang’ An (present day Xi’ An), this attraction had impressive pagodas and gardens, all surrounded by a 3-metre-tall fortress wall. 

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. It closed its doors just five years later in 1997 in the wake of the Asian Financial Crisis and never managed to recover. Its overgrown buildings made it resemble an actual ruined Chinese village, and was popular with ghost hunters and urban explorers. The whole park was demolished in 2007. 

9. Escape Theme Park

While this amusement park may not have been part of your childhood given how it opened in the year 2000, perhaps you may have taken your children or grandchildren here. The park truly did live up to its motto of ‘360 degrees of fun’, Escape featured all the popular rides of any successful amusement park: a pirate ship, rollercoaster, go kart tracks, a haunted house, and log plume. 

Unfortunately, a combination of complaints and accidents were the park’s demise. It closed in 2011 to make way for the adjacent waterpark, Wild Wild Wet. 

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