Exploring England’s Heritage and Culture


Most Singaporeans are familiar with its colonial history and the role that the British Empire played in founding the island-state and developing its port. In the modern cityscape of Singapore, there still exists historical monuments built in the colonial era. While visiting England, keep an eye out for classic Victorian architecture that might seem familiar.

Singaporeans visiting the UK can learn more about the legacy of the British Empire and their culture that has indelibly left its mark on Singapore. Outside of London, explore the tranquil countryside of England that capture the charm of a different era.

British Cultural Treasures to Look Out For

Victorian architecture

Victorian architecture that many Singaporeans might find familiar to some of the older buildings in Singapore is actually an update of the medieval Gothic style. Some common features of Victorian architecture are bay windows, uniformed brickwork, stained glass windows, and ornate elements on pointed roofs.

Theatre

The theatre, poetry and other literary arts are a huge part of the British culture. Catch your favourite classic musical or play at one of the many theatres in London.

Circus

The circus and its usual antics that we’ve come to know originated in London. Head to one of the London circus shows while you’re in town and be treated to a modern take on circus acts.

Interesting Places to Visit

England needs more than just a week to conquer, but if your balik kampung trip can’t stretch that long, take a look at these attractions. A healthy mix of nostalgic heritage buildings and tourist attrations makes your balik kampung journey more enjoyable.

1. National Maritime Museum, London

City Dwellers: For those looking for history in a modern, highly developed city, London is the way to go. The convenience of public transport also makes London a great city destination.

CC2.0 by Elliott Brown

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London is one of the largest maritime museums in the world. A tribute to the Britsh Empire’s great exploits in the from the 18th century. Popularised by pop culture, the RMS Titanic was also part of the British fleet. Discover how the British embarked on expanding their empire through their navy over the centuries.

Admission fee: Free, except for select exhibitions

Address: Park Row, London SE10 9NF, UK

Opening Hours: Daily, 10 am – 5 pm

Getting there: Take the Southeastern line on the Tube towards Maze Hill station. It’s an 8-minute walk to the museum.

2. Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London

CC3.0 by C. G. P. Grey

Right across from the National Maritime Museum is the Old Royal Naval College, one of England’s most treasured historic buildings. In its heyday, it served as a palace, hospital and college for navy recruits. The campus features beautifully painted ceilings and intricately designed chapels. Book ahead to receive a guided tour of the painted ceilings within the building.

Admission fee: Free

Address: King William Walk, Greenwich SE10 9NN

Opening Hours: Daily, 10 am – 5 pm

Getting there: Cross the road from the National Maritime Museum.

3. Royal Botanic Gardens, London

The sprawling park functions not only as a tourist attraction but also as an essential botanical research hub and education institution. The garden houses several attractions like the Treetop Walkway, Princess of Wales Conservatory and The Hive. Also found in the garden is the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse that is home to an impressive collection of temperate zone plants.

Admission fee: £17.75

Address: Richmond TW9 3AB, UK

Opening Hours: Daily, 10 am – 7 pm (Last entry at 6 pm)

Getting there: Take the Tube to Kew Garden and walk 500m to the Victoria Gate of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

4. Tower of London

Officially known as Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, it is a historic castle, once the residence of generations of English Kings. The current structure as it stands today was fortified and expanded in the 13th century. Explore the long and exciting history of the tower through the ages while you walk through its halls.

Admission fee: £22.70

Address: St Katharine’s & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB, UK

Opening Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 9 am – 5:30 pm | Sunday – Monday, 10 am – 5:30 pm

Getting there: Take the Tube to Tower Hill station and walk towards the Tower.

5. St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London

The historic hotel was built in the 19th century next to the Midland Railway station St. Pancras. It was one of the most luxurious hotels at the time, hiring an army of servants and bellboys to serve the 300-room hotel. Since 2011, St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel has opened its doors again to guests, offering them unrivalled hospitality and the same old-world charm of the Victorian era.

Address: Euston Rd, Kings Cross, London NW1 2AR, UK

Getting there: The refurbished hotel still stands at its original site, right next to the St. Pancras station.

6. Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester

For Architects Wannabe: You can feel the strong Roman and Gothic influence in Gloucester architecture, especially in its well-known cathedral. Balik kampung will pretty much like going around a European town with a full dose of history.

CC3.0 by Diliff

Built in the 12th century, the majestic Gloucester Cathedral features the largest medieval stained glass windows in England. It was a great feat for this historical building to only have sustained minor damages through the centuries. Harry Potter fans should know that several of the movies’ scenes were shot in the cathedral. For the full experience, plan your visit to the Cathedral on a Sunday when services are held.

Address: 12 College Green, Gloucester GL1 2LX, UK

Opening Hours: Daily, 7:30 am – 6 pm

Getting there: To get to Gloucester from London, take the train to Gloucester Railway Station. From there, it is a 10 to 15-minute walk to the cathedral.

7. Roman Baths, Cotswolds

The Most Rural Kampung in The UK: Let’s face it – the UK’s most rural kampung has nothing like the dilapidated buildings and war-torn ruins that you are expecting. You can still sleep comfortably in a posh hotel at night and visit the rustic medieval buildings the next morning.

The Roman Baths

The historic Roman Baths complex in Cotswolds is one of the most well-preserved ancient Roman buildings to date. The site was built on natural springs and was used as a bathhouse since the first century AD. Visitors are allowed to view the various sections of the bathhouse but are not permitted to enter the water.

Admission fee: Up to £17.5

Address: The Roman Baths, 5 Strand Ln, London WC2R 1AP, UK

Opening Hours: The Roman Baths are open every day except Christmas Day, but the opening and closing hours vary throughout the year. For more information, click here.

Getting there: There is a bus service from London airports to the city of Bath. The bus station is a 5-minute walk from the Roman Baths.

8. The Slaughters, Cotswold

CC2.0 by Phil Dolby

One of the most photogenic villages in Cotswold, The Slaughters is often featured as a backdrop in many films and productions. Take a leisurely stroll through the tranquil and picturesque town and stop by the Lower Slaughter Mill and the cafe for afternoon tea.

Address (Visitors Centre): Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, GL54 2HP

Getting there: Taking the train to Cotswold from London is a viable option but requires many transfers. A more comfortable option would be to rent a car and drive up to Cotswold that is about 2 hours away.

9. Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford

Contemplative Trip: Balik kampung to Oxford feels more like going back to your favourite Alice in Wonderland or The Chronicles of Narnia. Expect a more vibrant nightlife in this student town rather as compared to Cotswold, but minus the touristy crowd of London.

Set within the campus of Christ Church College in Oxford University, the cathedral serves as a college chapel and the church for the Diocese of Oxford. The historic building is also home to the world-famous Cathedral Choir, drawing a large crowd of worshippers and tourists alike daily.

Address: St Aldate’s, Oxford OX1 1DP, UK

Opening Hours: There are religious activities taking place in the cathedral throughout the week. Here is a list of dates and timings that the church will be closed to visitors.

Getting there: Take the train from London’s Paddington and Marylebone stations to Oxford station. From there, take a 15-minute walk to the city centre where you’ll find the college and church.

10. Tudor House and Garden, Southampton

Classy Kampung: When your kampung has turned into rows of atas boutiques, swanky museums and fancy hotels, you know your balik kampung trip is gonna be a stylish one!

Tudor House and Garden is a historic building that served as Southampton‘s first museum in 1912. The building itself had been built in the 12th century and underwent many major redevelopments over the centuries. After exploring the main building, head over to the garden grounds that have been recreated to resemble that of the Tudor knot garden.

Admission fee: £5.00

Address: Bugle St, Southampton SO14 2AD

Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday, 10 am – 3 pm | Weekends, 10 am – 5 pm | Closed on Fridays

Getting there: Take the train to Southampton Central rail station. The Tudor House & Garden is approximately 1.5 km away.

Heritage of Flavour: Must-try British Food

British dishes include the famous fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash and Scotch eggs.

 Credit: Zhihui Lim

Fish & Chips

Best in Rock & Sole Plaice — possibly the most nostalgic fish & chip shops in London.

Scotch Egg

Scotch egg | Credit: Irene Arieputri

Scotch egg

Traditionally, a scotch egg is hard-boiled egg enclosed in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. However, today many places serve soft-boiled eggs instead.

Best in Coach & Horses, London.

Chicken tikka masala

Roasted marinated chicken in spicy curry. It’s, in fact, the British national dish.

Best in Punjab, Covent Garden, the UK’s oldest North Indian shop.

Moving beyond the typical British food, do you know that a few Singaporeans have also opened F&B businesses in England? Some Singaporean restaurants in the UK:

Rasa Sayang    At Chinatown, London, serving Singaporean-style nasi lemak.

Singapore Garden    North-west London, serving traditional Nyonya cook

Old Chang Kee    London, 15a New Row, London

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