The Raffles Hotel, Singapore

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“Raffles, Singapore, probably the most famous hotel in the world.”

Hotel Essence Photography

Hotel photography

Michelle Chaplow and the Hotel Essence Photography team were commissioned to photograph this luxury hotel for an editorial piece in The Most Famous Hotels in the World. The Raffles is a colonial-style landmark and historic monument of Singapore. Michelle’s photography highlights the hotel’s impeccable butler service, its beautiful tropical gardens and its sleek interiors. Her work also depicts the hotel’s grandeur, from the pillared entranceway to the golden chandeliers of the dining rooms.

The hotel experience

Guests at The Raffles are greeted by the warm smiles of the doormen, recognised by their pristine white turbans and military-inspired uniforms, who are there to make their experience as personal and comfortable as possible.

The hotel has a variety of restaurants, including the Butcher’s Block steakhouse, La Dame de Pic, offering French-inspired cuisine by award-winning chef Anne-Sophie Pic, the much-loved Osteria Bar & Billiard Room, and The Grand Lobby, where guests can indulge in The Raffles’ signature afternoon tea. You can read Michelle’s first hand account of afternoon tea at The Raffles Singapore here. The famous Tiffin Room serves North Indian cuisine, and Yì by Jereme Leung, of Celebrity MasterChef, offers Cantonese classics and adaptations of China’s ancient delicacies.

The Long Bar is the birthplace of the iconic Singapore Sling cocktail. This is traditionally enjoyed with monkey nuts – and in super-clean Singapore, the bar is the one place where guests can throw their shells onto the floor.

The Raffles can be found in Singapore’s vibrant Downtown Core and features its own shopping arcade which houses most of the hotel’s restaurants, along with 40 boutique shops. The hotel underwent an extensive refurbishment in 2019 and guests can now enjoy its newly opened bars, restaurants and cosy communal areas. The team stated: “Our restoration was designed to ensure that we retain what is so special about Raffles – the ambience, the service, the charm and the heritage of the hotel.”

The accommodation on offer comprises 115 modern suites, including state room, promenade and presidential suites. There are 35 Palm Court Suites that overlook the lush tropical garden, The Raffles’ hidden gem. The Personality Suites honour illustrious guests from the hotel’s past, and feature memorabilia relating to the lives and careers of these famous visitors. The hotel describes the rooms as each having ‘a timeless elegance that will captivate their tenants’, as their interiors appear exactly as they did in the nineteenth century. Amenities of all the suites include complimentary refreshments and toiletries, daily housekeeping and turndown service, a minibar, 24-hour room service, and a separate living room.

Guests also have the opportunity to enjoy The Raffles Spa, The hotel prides itself on its ‘unparalleled access to spiritual rejuvenation and physical relaxation’. Services also include aromatherapy, naturopathy and ayurvedic medicine. The facility has a VIP suite which is great for couples, jacuzzi, steam shower and lounge area.

Hotel’s history

The Raffles Singapore was established by Armenian hoteliers the Sarkies Brothers, and was named after British statesman Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, founder of colonial-era Singapore. It is the flagship property of Raffles Hotels & Resorts and opened its doors to guests in 1887. The memorably luxurious experience that it provides has become a key contributor to Singapore’s booming tourism industry; in fact, many people are known to visit the country precisely to pay a visit to The Raffles. It is renowned worldwide as a landmark historic hotel and a tourist attraction in addition to its role as a hotel – guests relaxing on the lawns have been known to see tourists peering in through the bushes. Fortunately, the pool area is very private and tourists disappear in the evenings.

The hotel was the first in the region to have electric lights, and in its 130-year history, it has overseen numerous fascinating events. In 1902, a tiger escaped from a local circus and hid under the Bar & Billiard Room, in a space that was then used for storage. Once spotted by a colleague, the tiger was shot by the headmaster, and became the last to be killed in Singapore. This animal history continued two years later when a wild boar was wrestled to the ground by a brave doorman, and also in 1904, a python was spotted and courageously captured by another doorman. Guests are evidently in safe hands!

The Long Bar is a place where history is made; its famous Singapore Sling cocktail was created in 1915 by Raffles bartender Ngiam Tong Boon, who used gin, juices, grenadine and cherry liqueur to produce the drink’s distinctive rosy colour. In colonial-era Singapore, it was against social etiquette for women to drink in public, but the feminine flair of this pink cocktail created a significant shift in the public mindset and helped normalise the drinking of alcohol by women. The Bar is also probably the only place in Singapore where throwing rubbish on the floor is championed, as guests are famously allowed to brush their peanut and monkey nut shells off the table while enjoying their Singapore Sling. This is unusual as the rules on dropping litter in Singapore are extremely strict and dictate that people pay a $1,000 fine for the offence.

The Raffles is one of the few remaining great nineteenth-century hotels in the world and the beautifully preserved colonial-style treasure was declared a National Monument in 1987. This grand dame of the far east is now managed by the AccorHotels group and has been a member of Historic Hotels Worldwide since 2018. Its notable guestbook includes Charlie Chaplin, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson and Queen Elizabeth II. Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness) and Rudyard Kipling (The Jungle Book) are among its historic clientele.

The hotel made a cameo appearance in Paradise Road (1997), was featured as a Japanese stronghold in Medal of Honor: Rising Sun, was the subject of Paul O’Grady’s Orient for Carlton Television and is where Nick and Rachel stay when they arrive in Singapore in the film Crazy Rich Asians.

Recent history

The hotel recently underwent a major renovation in January 2017. It closed in December of the same year to allow extensive refurbishment of all its rooms, and the addition of an extra 12 suites, creating the hotel’s current 115 accommodation options for guests. The transformation of the former Jubilee Theatre into a ballroom was the final alteration, before The Raffles reopened to the world’s travellers in August 2019.