Our very first foray into the 18-hectare Fort Canning Park consisted of an impromptu midnight stroll through the iconic hilltop landmark from the Dhoby Ghaut end right over to the Clarke Quay section of the Singapore River. We were utterly enchanted by the park that night – the elevated vantage point gave us a chance to truly enjoy the spectacular view of the city’s twinkling lights in the distance. There’s something magical about exploring unfamiliar territory while being fully surrounded by nature and looking down into a maze of brightly lit buildings. We knew we absolutely had to return to this place in the daytime, just to see if it would be just as beautiful. And of course, that was exactly what we did the next day.
Originally known as Bukit Larangan, or “Forbidden Hill” in Malay, the hill has been a local landmark since Singapore’s earliest recorded history due to its strategic location as the highest elevated point within walking distance to the civic district. It has been the exclusive address of several of the nation’s rulers and colonial leaders dating right back to the 14th century.
In 1859, increased security concerns led to the hill taking on a military role with the building of a fort, named Fort Canning after Viscount Charles John Canning, who was then Governor-General and first Viceroy of India. Many key historic events have taken place on the hill, including the surrender of Singapore to the Japanese by Lieutenant General Percival during World War II in 1942.
In 1981, the hill was renamed Fort Canning Park with the planting of a fruit tree by then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Today, the park serves as an important green lung for Singapore’s downtown city area, overlooking Orchard Road in the heart of the Central Area that forms the Central Business District. The lush backdrop and sprawling lawns have also made Fort Canning a hub for cultural and artistic creativity. It acts as a prominent venue for many recreational activities and celebrations, playing host to theatre productions and music festivals throughout the year.