Istana Open House: Deepavali 2013

This post is about my very first visit to the Istana! Usually I walk from Orchard to Plaza Singapura (Dhoby Ghaut) and wonder what is behind the Istana’s gates, without ever venturing in as there are guards there 24/7. (@_@)

Yesterday, I got to enter those gates and visit the sprawling grounds of the Istana, because it’s one of the Open House days:

Istana Singapore

Before you can get past the gates, you have to queue, of course:

Istana Singapore

Singaporeans and PRs don’t have to pay entrance fees. All other visitors pay S$1.

Many shutterbugs came for the Istana Open House:

Istana Open House

Istana Open House

Many people brought their kids along too. Here’s a cute girl:

Istana Open House

And another…

Istana Open House

Muahaha! 😀

10 Things I Never Knew About The Istana:

  1. The Istana Building was constructed between 1867 and 1869, which means it is at least 144 years old! It survived the Japanese Occupation (1942-1945)!
  2. The Istana had its first open house on 1 Jan 1960 and has since opened its doors to the public on selected public holidays.
  3. The Istana was built by the British colonial government as the Governor’s official residence. It was then known as the Government House. It was designed by Colonial Engineer, Major John F.A. McNair and constructed by 3,000 convict labourers.
  4. The Istana was built on land which used to be a nutmeg plantation belonging to Charles Prinsep!
  5. State gifts are exhibited in the Banquet Hall during the Istana’s open house days, and the centerpiece of this room is the 220kg, 2.35-metre wide Maria Theresa-styled candelabra chandelier! [All the chandeliers at the Istana look STUNNING!]
  6. The State Room and the Reception Hall has plasterwork of fruits as part of the ceiling’s decorative feature! So don’t forget to look up at the ceiling when you visit!
  7. Changing of Guards Ceremony at the Main Gate happens every first Sunday of the month (except July and August) from 5.45pm to 6.30pm. This custom began during President Yusof bin Ishak’s term in office in 1969.
  8. There is a Swan Pond within the Istana grounds, and it is the largest of four ponds there.
  9. Sri Temasek, a 19th century bungalow, was designated as the Prime Minister’s official residence after Singapore gained independence. However, no Prime Minister has ever resided there.
  10. The Villa, built in 1938, has housed distinguished guests such as Premier Deng Xiaoping, President George Bush, and PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

When you visit, you may like to sign up for one of the guided tours…

Pay a small fee for the Nature Guided Walk / Istana Main Building Guided Tour (All proceeds go to charity) –

Istana Nature Guided Walk

Istana State Building Guided Tour

I signed up for the Main Building Guided Tour (sadly, photography is not allowed within!)

Istana Main Building

*Guide: Peggy Lee*

Istana Open House guide Peggy Lee

Our guide, Peggy Lee, took us around the Building, and pointed out the artwork, ceiling decorative features, concealed aircon vents, etc.

She also called the Presidential Chair a “throne” multiple times. She’s probably still living in colonial times. LOL!

And since we couldn’t take pictures within the Main Building, we took pictures OUTSIDE! 😀

Istana Open House

Istana Open House

My friend, Clarence, is a high-flyer! 😀

Istana Open House

Istana Open House

Istana Open House

(above) The 105mm Japanese cannon was presented to the people of Singapore after the Japanese surrender in 1945, by Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Supreme Allied Commander for Southeast Asia. It serves as a symbol of Singapore’s liberation after the Japanese Occupation.

*Clarence has forgotten how to march…*

Istana Open House

Parents, if you have gotten bored of bringing your kids to shopping malls, parks and all, head over to the Istana during the next Open House.

*The playground, before it got crowded*

Istana playground

Istana Open House

To find out more about the Istana: www.istana.gov.sg

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