Forbidden Hill has a sinister ring to it, much more so than Fort Canning Hill, but the original name of this Singapore landmark was indeed ‘Forbidden Hill’ or Bukit Larangan in Malay. Fort Canning Hill has been an important location for as long as people have been looking at it.

hotel in fort canning singapore
Hotel Fort Canning

And look at it, they have. The exclusive location has been home to the creme de la creme of Singapore from present day to the colonial times in the fourteenth century and all the way back to when the Majapahit kings ruled from the forbidden hill. Sir Stanford Raffles decided that if it was good enough for kings, it was good enough for him and put his colonial headquarters there.


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Deluxe Room at Hotel Fort Canning
Deluxe Room at Hotel Fort Canning

Situated right in Singapore’s central business district, the ‘hill’ is only about 60 meters higher than the surrounding streets, but this important location at the corner of Canning Rise and Fort Canning Road has a greater height in the history of the city and the nation. From the surrender of Lieutenant General Percival to the Japanese to the founding of the city’s Botanical Gardens, great events have taken place at Fort Canning.

Fort Canning
Fort Canning

Going further back, the history of the hill is important as well. Local Malay people wouldn’t climb the hill because they considered it the sacred site of their ancestral kings palaces. Hence the name of Bukit Larangan or Forbidden Hill. At the base of the hill, the great Keramat Iskander Shah was rumored to be interred. The last of the great Muslim Malay kings.

Mineral Water Pool
Mineral Water Pool

When Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in 1819, some of the brush and debris was removed and not to the surprise of the locals, the ancient brick buildings which had been the great Malay palaces were revealed. The modern science of archeology has gone further and revealed that this was the hub of an important trading center that thrived until the end of the fourteenth century.

Hotel in Fort Canning
Hotel in Fort Canning

Sir Stamford Raffles, never one to be forbidden anything, decided to make the Forbidden Hill the site of his own residence. In less than two weeks, he had moved into a 100 x 50 foot bungalow with large verandas, venetian blinds, and the traditional atap roof. Soon after he had begun the city’s now famous botanical gardens with Nathaniel Wallach. A key ingredient were the many fruit trees on the hill which were presumably remnants of the ancient king’s orchards.

The Glass House
The Glass House

After Raffles, Fort Canning Hill was home to the governors and eventually was called Government Hill until a Fort was built there in 1859 due to increasing problems with the local population. The Fort was completed under the rule of Viscount Charles John Canning and thus called, Fort Canning. It was at this point the modern name of the hill came into use. The fort was important in World War II and later control of the fort was given to the Singaporean military in 1963. In 1981 Lee Quan Yew planted a fruit tree and changed the name to Fort Canning Park.

Today the park is an important green space in Singapore and serves as avenue for concerts, festivals, and of course many family outings. With it’s important historical, military, and cultural spaces, Fort Canning Park is a favorite of both locals and visitors.

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