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Phoenix Park: Ex-British Secret Service Base Turned Historic Site In Singapore

Phoenix Park, Singapore

For those who have been around the Tanglin area enough, Phoenix Park may seem like a modest row of old buildings. But unbeknownst to many Singaporeans, this is a site steeped in history, having served as a key government facility since colonial times.

It now stands as a quaint little office complex filled with chic cafes and restaurants the public can visit. Whether you are a history buff or a budding photographer looking for a charming photo op, here’s what you can do here.

Colonial-era buildings that house a rich history

Phoenix Park was officially constructed in 1949 by the then-British government and used to house key offices during the colonial administration.

A famous example is the British spy agency, Security Intelligence Far East, which operated from Phoenix Park. The agency regularly dealt with top secret information, and it’s not hard to imagine someone like James Bond having worked here.

colonial-era building on a hill at phoenix parkThe site was used by the Japanese as a golf course during World War II.
Image adapted from: @shyuechou via Instagram 

After the British left, the complex was handed over to the Singapore government. Subsequently, the Internal Security Department (ISD) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) both made Phoenix Park their headquarters.

avondale grammar school singapore building at phoenix park
Block A is shaped like a naval ship at the bequest of the Supreme Allied Commander, Lord Louis Mountbatten.
Image credit: LHN Group

Much like other British colonial buildings from the 1940s, Phoenix Park contains semi-detached row houses that sport a monochrome black-and-white look – similar to that of Wessex Estate and Beaulieu House.

Fast forward to the present day and you’ll discover that the complex is now home to offices, schools, and various shops. 

However, the buildings have kept their original structures and aren’t something you’d ordinarily find around Singapore. In fact, Singapore declared Phoenix Park a historical site in 2012 due to its cultural significance throughout the years.

Things to do around Phoenix Park

If you’re a keen explorer of lesser-known sites in Singapore, you’ll be glad to know that the park complex is open to the public, although the schools and office buildings are off-limits. There are restaurants located within the park itself for you to wind down after exploring the area too.

Head to Spruce, a European restaurant, for a delicious brunch menu with burgers and cocktails, set against a scenic backdrop of lush greenery and wide-open spaces.

outdoor dining area at spruce restaurant singaporeYou can also come by during the evenings when the place is filled with fairy lights for a magical dinner date.
Image credit: via Instagram

You can also check out the German beer garden Bread, Beer, & Brez’n. From bratwursts to authentic German cakes and bread, this eatery will transport you to Germany without you having to leave your seat.

 staircase up a hill with black and white buildings at phoenix park singapore
The white walls of the surrounding blocks serve as the perfect backdrop for that OOTD. Bonus points if you’ve got a film camera!
Image credit: @struttingaround via Instagram

Take advantage of the historical buildings here to achieve a natural #vintage look for your photos.

A piece of history at Phoenix Park

Take a walk among these former government buildings not too far from Orchard Road for a trip into our nation’s history beyond what our Social Studies textbooks can show you.

For those looking for a break from the concrete jungle’s towering skyscrapers, Phoenix Park will appease both your curiosity and camera roll at the same time.

How to get there: The closest MRT station is Napier MRT Station (Thomson-East Coast Line). From there, walk down Holland Road then southward down Tanglin Road to reach Phoenix Park.

Alternatively, take bus 111 or 132 from bus stop 09131 (Opp Orchard Blvd Stn) for 3 stops and alight along Tanglin Road.

Other historical buildings in Singapore:

Cover image adapted from: Archify, via Instagram

Article originally published on 11th July 2021. Last updated by Xin Tian Koh on 24th August 2023.