The Istana is the official residence of Singapore's head of the state, the President. It used to be known as the Government House, built originally to replace the first Government House set up on Fort Canning Hill in 1819. The foundation of the new Government House was laid in July 1867, and the building was completed in two years.
Government House was renamed to Istana Negara Singapura just before the British colony achieved self-governance in 1959, and territory's first president, Yusof Ishak, became the Istana's first official resident.
Like most government buildings of the time, the main Istana building was built in neo-Palladian, Anglo-Indian style. The Istana's brickwork, exterior plastering, most of the flooring and the interior design were set up by Indian convict labour. Designed in the shape of a cross by chief engineer J.F.A. McNair, the pillars and pilasters to the tower and the roof were largely designed according to the Corinthian Iconic and Doric styles.
Istana grounds offer an almost surreal experience to visitors – it's almost like a step back into time, with the tranquil greenery evoking the languid luxury of days gone by.
Back in the day, the Istana grounds used to be a nutmeg plantation. The plantation has long since disappeared, of course, replaced with an expansive garden that has itself seen a number of changes over the years, including the laying of a nine-hole golf course.
The Istana grounds are open to the public only during certain holidays like Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Hari Raya Puasa, Labour Day (May 1) and National Day (August 9) from 8.30am to 6pm. Admission is free for all Singaporeans and Singapore permanent residents. Visitors will need to pay $1 each for entry.
The IstanaAddress: Office of the President of the Republic of Singapore, Orchard Road
Contact: (+65) 6736 6622
Operating Hours: On selected days: 8.30am to 6pm (Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Hari Raya Puasa, Labour Day, National Day).