Raffles Hotel

sights / Architecture

Raffles Hotel information

Singapore (city) , Singapore (country)
1 Beach Rd
Getting there
Metro: City Hall
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Yes, it's a cliché, but try resisting the allure of that magnificent ivory frontage, the famous Sikh doorman, and the echoes of days when Singapore was a swampy, tiger-tempered outpost of the British Empire. Starting life in 1887 as a modest 10-room bungalow fronting the beach (long gone thanks to land reclamation), Raffles is today one of Singapore's most beautiful heritage sites, laced with quiet tropical gardens, nostalgia-inducing bars and a string of high-quality art galleries and boutiques.

Opened by the Sarkies brothers, immigrants from Armenia and proprietors of two other grand colonial hotels – the Strand in Yangon (Rangoon) and the Eastern & Oriental in Penang – the hotel's heyday began in 1899 with the opening of the main building, the same one that guests stay in today. Raffles soon became a byword for oriental luxury ('A legendary symbol for all the fables of the Exotic East', went the publicity blurb) and was featured in novels by Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham. The famous Singapore sling was first concocted here by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon in 1915, and (far less gloriously) the last Singaporean tiger, which escaped from a travelling circus nearby, was shot beneath the Billiard Room in 1902. By the 1970s, Raffles was a shabby relic, dodging the wrecking ball in 1987 with National Monument designation. In 1991 it reopened after a $160 million facelift. The hotel lobby is open to the public, and is a popular tourist attraction. Dress standards apply: no shorts or sandals.