A hotel whose name is instantly recognizable, the Raffles Singapore is pure colonial confection, a landmark maintained in its original style, with liveried Sikh doormen greeting guests. Opened by two Armenian brothers in 1887 as a 10-room bungalow hotel overlooking the South China Sea—its address, 1 Beach Road, attests to the waterfront location before reclamation extended Singapore’s boundaries—it has since welcomed movie and music stars, authors, and heads of state. Somerset Maugham wrote, after a stay, “Raffles stands for all the fables of the exotic East.” At the end of World War II, it served as a transit camp for prisoners of war. A new wing and various extensions have turned Raffles into a little enclave, with pretty interior courtyards and a high-end shopping arcade with antique, art, fashion, and jewelry stores. Rooms come with butler service, 14-foot ceilings, verandas, Asian carpets, brass fittings, and glistening teak floors.
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The surrounding area is a hot spot for luxury hotels, though none are as storied as the Raffles. Chijmes, a converted Catholic convent now filled with bars, dining, shopping, and art, is a few hundred feet down the road. A short walk farther, the beautiful Peranakan Museum presents the history of the descendants of Chinese who moved to this part of Southeast Asia in the 15th century and beyond. Inspired painters in need of supplies can visit Singapore’s best art store, Art Friend, in the nearby Bras Basah Complex (231 Bain St. #03-33).
Need to Know
Rooms: 103 suites. From $1,120. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options:Halia, sister restaurant of the identically named outlet at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, serves Asian-inflected modern European. The new Ujong @ Raffles—opened in April 2014—has garnered press and praise for its updated takes on classic Singaporean dishes such as nasi lemak (rice with anchovies, peanuts, and chili paste), chicken rice, and bak chor mee (minced pork noodles). Raffles Grill features a view of the Palm Court and a menu of contemporary French cuisine. Spa and gym details: On the third floor of the main building, a spa with six treatment rooms offers Ayurvedic and jet-lag therapies and a menu of wraps and facials. A gym is open 6 a.m.–11 p.m.
Who's it for: Travelers with deep pockets and an interest in Singapore’s colonial history, entertainment, and (actual) royalty. Our favorite rooms: Suite 201 looks across the Palm Court with views of the main hotel building and spindly palm trees. When in Singapore:It's hardly a secret, but Raffles claims that the Singapore Sling cocktail was invented in 1915 at the hotel’s iconic Long Bar by Chinese barman Ngiam Tong Boon. Seems like a good enough reason to order one.