Photo Credit: Heather, Expat Travelingmom

Photo Credit: Heather / Expat Travelingmom

We might have chosen the busiest time to visit the Istana, Chinese New Year, but any time you go will be busy as its only open to the public five times a year: Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Hari Raya Puasa, Labour Day and National Day.  If you plan your vacations right, you’ll get a rare chance to visit this breathtaking 98-acre estate.

The Istana is the official residence of the president of Singapore and is an important part of Singapore’s history and heritage. The British Colonial government, in order to house its governors, built the Istana building.  The Istana, originally known as the Government House, was handed over to the Singapore Government in 1959 when they turned into a self-governing Republic, and renamed it Istana (“Palace” in Malay).

For the Chinese New Year holiday, we chose to go with the masses and seek entry into Istana for a mere SGD 1. The Istana is located

Photo Credit: Heather/ Expat Travelingmom

Photo Credit: Heather/ Expat Travelingmom

on Orchard Road, right off the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station. As we came out of the MRT station, we were confronted with a massive line of people lining the sidewalk for what seemed like miles. Not only was there the line on the sidewalk, there were switchbacks, and lots of them. This was easily going to be a 2-hour wait, minimum. Luckily, the line keeps moving, but you’d better bring your sunblock, hat and plenty of water for the wait. Tip: If you’re Singaporean, you don’t have to wait in this line, and if you’re elderly or have very young children, you can go in the express line to the left of this massive line.

Once we made it through the security check, the grounds just sprawled open before us. Greeted with Swan Lake (literally, two swans grace this lake) and wide-open green space, we felt like we had escaped to another destination well outside the city. Towering trees, beautiful flowers and even a mini golf course stand proudly on these grounds. Being Chinese New Year, all sorts of festivities were happening all around the grounds. We had the chance to learn about bird conservation efforts with the Singapore Bird Park, say hello to a few goats (it is the year of the goat after all), watch performances by various dance troops and we even got to see the arrival of the President and his wife.

Photo Credit: Heather/ Expat Travelingmom

Photo Credit: Heather/ Expat Travelingmom

For an additional SGD 2, you can choose to go into the Istana, viewing various ceremonial rooms and gifts given to the President and Prime Minister from all over the world. We even managed to see a gift from the UAE. The artwork and décor are beautiful and worth a visit.

No matter when you go, I highly recommend visiting the Istana simply for the sake of its pure beauty. For a few hours, we felt removed from all things fast paced and enjoyed soaking in the nature around. An additional treat would be to watch the changing of the guard, which happens every month on Orchard Road in front of the Istana. The Ceremony is based on the British Changing of Guards Ceremony at Buckingham Palace, England. Thirty-six Guards and two Guard Commanders are involved in the Ceremony.

Changing of the Guard Ceremony dates:

Sunday, 4 January 2015
Sunday, 1 February 2015
Sunday, 8 March 2015
Sunday, 5 April 2015
Sunday, 3 May 2015
Sunday, 6 September 2015
Sunday, 4 October 2015
Sunday, 1 November 2015
Sunday, 6 December 2015


The guards start marching from the starting point at approximately 15 minutes to 6pm.

Photo Credit: Heather/ Expat Travelingmom

Photo Credit: Heather/ Expat Travelingmom

Open House dates for 2015

Chinese New Year (2nd Day)      20 February
Labour Day (Actual Day)             1  May
Hari Raya Puasa (Actual Day)    17 July
National Day (Sunday before)     2  August
Deepavali (Actual Day)               10 November


Our heartfelt condolences go out to the people of Singapore as they have lost a great man and leader today, Lee Kuan Yew, today, 23rd March, 2015.  Istana is the official residence of the Prime Minister,although not where he lived, and where his body has now come to rest today for a private family wake, until his burial later this week.  A legacy has been left for the people of Singapore to carry on.