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Historical gardens at Fort Canning Park

About the historical gardens

Earmarked for its strategic location by both the ancient kings and colonial rulers of our sunny island, Fort Canning Park has undergone numerous changes over the centuries.

Visit Fort Canning Park and explore the 9 historical gardens that are restored and curated to celebrate the park's rich heritage:

A freshwater spring used to flow from the west side of the hill. In ancient times, it was known as Pancur Larangan, or the ‘Forbidden Spring’ as it was used as a bathing place by the noble ladies of the royal court of Singapura.

This ancient bath, which would have been an important part of the palace, has been re-created in the 14th-century Javanese style.

This garden features a commissioned mural wall handcrafted in natural volcanic rock which details life in Fort Canning Park from the 1300s to the 1800s, as well as the socio-cultural influence of water in different eras. The mural wall is designed by Mr Eng Siak Loy.

The Artisan’s Garden was once the site of the craftsmen’s workshop and living quarters in the 14th century. Craftsmen who enjoyed royal patronage lived and worked here, making fine goods for the residents on this hill.

This ancient artisans’ workshop was also one of the few palatial areas open to non-royals. It was located on the lower eastern slope to be accessible to commoners as other sides of the hill were surrounded by forests and salt marshes.

The archaeological dig site here is one of the rare remaining ones in Singapore. Learn about past archaeological excavations on the hill and their interesting findings. There is also an activity space here for the hosting of archaeological workshops.

The Sang Nila Utama Garden, named after the first ancient king of Singapore, is a receation of Southeast Asian gardens of the old. Gardens were integral parts of palaces, such as the one which stood on this hill in the 14th century. The garden has traditional features typical of these spaces, such as a symmetrical layout, a series of Javanese split gates to mark different zones or realms, and a reflective pool for meditation.

Here you will find plants of significance in the Javanese culture. Ornamental plants such as magnolias and ixoras and perfume plants such as gardenias and vallaris help us imagine how these ancient, quiet gardens may have looked like.

Inspiration was taken from historical records by John Crawfurd, who spotted giant specimens of fruit trees when he first arrived at Fort Canning. Hence, you will find duku, rambutan and pomelo trees planted here.

The Jubilee Park sits on the western slope of Fort Canning Park. The area used to be called "King George the Fifth Jubilee Park", named to mark the 1935 silver jubilee of King George the Fifth and Queen Mary. Located here were recreational facilities for Singaporeans to enjoy, such as the River Valley Swimming Pool, Van Kleef Aquarium and the National Theatre. All of them have been demolished over time.

This green space at the foot of Fort Canning Hill has since been restored as a family-friendly area where children can play with swings, seesaws, logs and slides hugging the hill slopes. Bring your little ones here for hours of outdoor fun!

This garden is named after Sir Stamford Raffles (1781–1826), the founder of modern Singapore. While Raffles is well-known for his contributions to establishing a thriving port in Singapore, it is a lesser-known fact that he was an avid naturalist who spent his free time studying botany and wildlife.

In honour of Raffles' love for plants, the Raffles Garden showcases the diverse plant species that Raffles had encountered in Southeast Asia. It includes species collected, studied or planted by Raffles and fellow naturalists, some of whom were his closest friends.

Singapore’s first botanical and experimental garden was established in 1822 and spanned 20 hectares on the eastern foothills of Fort Canning Hill. It focused on growing spices and economic crops to boost Singapore’s economy, with nutmeg and clove being the primary crops grown here.

At one time, the garden had over 600 nutmeg trees and 300 clove plants. Some of the other crops grown were gambier, pepper, sugarcane, coffee and tea. The garden was closed in 1829 and the land was reallocated.

The historical boundaries of the first botanic garden (PDF, 1.46MB) lies along Hill Street, Victoria Street, Bras Basah Road, Handy Road and Canning Rise. It includes the Farquhar Garden, Spice Garden and Armenian Street Park.

It was here that you can find the following crops which were introduced to Singapore in its colonial days.

  • Latex and resin: Local communities harvested latex and resin long before rubber became an important crop.
  • Timber: Back in 1822, the first garden cultivated tree species which were useful in supplying timber and bark.
  • Ornamental and fragrant trees: The first botanic garden was a popular sightseeing destination and was the closest thing in Singapore to a recreational park at the time.
  • Forest fruits: Giant specimens of fruit trees such as durian, rambutan and duku were found on the hill suggesting that earlier settlers had planted them there.
  • Coastal riverine: Coastal and riverine vegetation once grew along the area of the present-day Stamford Canal.

The Farquhar Garden is named after Major-General William Farquhar, the first British Resident and Commandant of Singapore. Like Raffles, Farquhar was a keen naturalist who commissioned and compiled natural history drawings of the unique wildlife he encountered in the Malay Peninsula.

Through the ‘living paintings’ in giant frames, learn more about the species which Farquhar found noteworthy such as guava, jujube, taro and gambier.

In 1819, Raffles started a spice plantation at Fort Canning which proved successful and later inspired Singapore's first botanic garden. The current Spice Garden comprises three zones – the existing Spice Garden area, the pedestrianised Canning Rise and the Spice Gallery. It features more than 180 varieties of plants, including spice trees and herbs.

Learn about the spice trade's role in the history of Singapore, the early history of spice plantations, and Singapore’s role as a spice trading and production hub here. Stop by the Spice of the Month display, which features different culinary spices and recipes that they are used in.

Part of Armenian Street was pedestrianised in 2019 to create a new park and public space for people and events, as part of the larger plans to connect Fort Canning Park, Bras Basah, Bugis, and the Civic District together to form an expanded arts, cultural and heritage precinct.

The plants here were chosen to create synergies between the outdoors and the surrounding buildings, such as the Peranakan Museum and Armenian Church.

In the main Armenian Street Park area, you can also find plants in mobile planter boxes that represent the Peranakan culture. The plants have been curated according to recipes (such as curries and Nyonya desserts), various uses in everyday life (flowers for hair adornments and plants used for potpourri), as well as their symbolic value (for example, Fingered Citron which symbolises happiness and longevity) to the Peranakans.