Fort Canning Singapore

Tombs, Trees and Thais




Fort Canning Singapore: take a hill, put it right downtown, add ancient and colonial history, spice it up with gorgeous trees, a hotel, cemeteries and rock concerts and this is a place definitely visiting for a while.

Located at the end of Orchard Road, not far from the Padang and historic district, Fort Canning Singapore is a pretty intense experience of the island's colorful history.

The Ancients Left Their Marks


View Fort Canning Park in a larger map

The early Malays held the hill to be quasi-holy since it was the site of their ancestral kings' homes.

Seeing that Sir Thomas Raffles built his home up there as well, that belief was not implausible. And true enough, excavations for the reservoir at the summit did find ruins and artifacts dating back to the 14th century, so those old kings liked their views and breezes as much as any condo dweller in a high-rise does today.

A number of locations on the hill show Singapore's past: a terrace that used to be a palace (they think), a site where Hindu gold ornaments were found, a sacred spring for the princess that later watered the shipping port below (the spring, that is, not the princess), and the resting place of the last of the independent kings of Singapore.

Some historians says this was also the place where Siam invaders attacked the local fort at some point - and you thought those Thais were gentle and welcoming.

It is a worthwhile walk, and easy as well, so get your map and description of it all from National Parks' Ancient History Walking Trail guide.

Can't Miss the Trees

While you are at it checking out the ancients, you might as well gaze up now and again at the magnificent trees all around Fort Canning Singapore, including some 9 heritage trees, specially designated and protected as part of Singapore's heritage and history.

There is a specific trail for tree-gazing, with its own - yep, you guessed it, National Parks' Trees of the Fort Walking trail. This walk partly overlaps with the Ancient history walking trail and takes you to medicinal trees, a baobab, the kids' favorite cannonball tree, teak, banyan and saga trees and a Flame of the Forest that blooms nicely red in season.

This walk is also easy to do on mostly paved paths and if you like trees like I do, really worth the time.

Those Colonials Again

Finally, walk the longest trail, the Colonial History Walking Trail, again a nice walk conceived by National Parks. This trail takes you from cannons and the first botanic gardens, to government house and flagstaff, lighthouse, a spice garden and the first Christian cemetery.

The cemetery is very interesting in that the tombstones were set into a wall in the 1970's to preserve them. You can find inscriptions in English, German and other languages and reflect on the young age of some of the interred - victims of disease or murder, maybe?

A highlight is also the Battle Box - the underground bunker where the English general staff held out against the Japanese invaders. You can take a tour and watch the generals - lifelike animated puppets - discuss their options for fighting the Japanese. Provided they work properly.

Today - Rocking on the Bones

The Fort Canning Green area is used for concerts and plays today. This used to be a cemetery years ago, so 'shake those old bones' takes on a whole different meaning when you're swaying to the tunes.

The Hotel Fort Canning was recently opened here. Housed in a former military HQ and staff college, it is a luxury hotel with a wonderfully historic surrounding and beautiful swimming pools.

Have a look at a more detailed background on Fort Canning Singapore and all it has to offer.

Fort Canning Singapore history and background.

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