The Istana is Singapore’s version of the White House, the official residence of the President and a site of great historical significance. In 1867, Singapore’s colonial governor Sir Harry Saint George Ord ordered the construction of a neo-Palladian structure to replace the original governors’ mansion that was demolished several years prior.
The plans for the building were thought by many to be too expensive and extravagant, but the mansion was erected and completed after two years in 1869, just in time to impress the visiting Duke of Edinburgh. When Singapore began self-governing in 1959, the then-named Government House was handed over and renamed the Istana, the Malay word for “palace.” While considered the official residence of the president, the Istana is primarily used for ceremonies and official functions.
The Istana only opens to the public on a handful of holidays spread throughout the year, and non-Singaporeans must pay a small entrance fee. If you plan to visit during an open house, remember to bring along your passport.