Hotels Reviews

Review: Raffles Hotel Singapore

Has a two-and-a-half-year renovation successfully modernised the original iconic Raffles Hotel, while maintaining its heritage and charm?

Hotel Front

History

Raffles Hotel Singapore needs few introductions. Established as a 10-room beachfront property in 1887 and named after the founder of Singapore, Stamford Raffles, it quickly gained a reputation for the highest service standards, attracting wealthy clientele.

Many extensions and acquisitions of adjacent buildings then occurred as the hotel expanded. The main building as you see it now actually replaced the original beach house hotel, and was completed in 1899.

Hotel Front 2.jpg
The main Raffles Hotel building is 120 years old. (Photo: Raffles Hotel)

In 1987 Raffles Hotel was declared a National monument of Singapore, 100 years after first opening.

A previous restoration was conducted from 1989 to 1991, when the hotel closed for approximately two-and-a-half-years.

The hotel is operated by AccorHotels under a long-term management contract, though Accor does not own the property. Katara Hospitality of Qatar is the current owner of Raffles Hotel.

Today Raffles has emerged fresh from its latest renewal, another two-and-a-half-year revamp from December 2017 to July 2019. We visited during the opening month to see if the newly modernised property has successfully maintained its long-standing heritage and elegant charm.

ADVERTISEMENT

Pre-arrival

Our butler contacted us by email several days before our stay to check on our arrival arrangements, while offering to make dining reservations and spa appointments in advance.

Limo transfer

Rates at the hotel are inclusive of a one-way limousine transfer, designed to collect guests from Changi Airport.

Limo Logo.jpg
Raffles limo. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Since we were on a ‘staycation’, the hotel was happy to pick us up from our home address instead.

I was travelling alone to the hotel initially, as Eddie was planning join me straight from work later in the afternoon.

I noticed that the Raffles limo arrived at our address 15 minutes before the scheduled pick up time, however I was not quite ready to leave.

At exactly 2pm, the arranged pickup time, the driver called the doorbell, then assisted me with my luggage and whisked me on my way in the brand new Mercedes S Class.

The ride was very comfortable indeed, with complimentary New Zealand ‘nakd’ water and cold towels provided.

The limo, which appeared to be brand new, was Wi-Fi enabled. As a Singapore resident, it was really not necessary for me, but this is certainly a useful feature for those arriving from overseas.

Limo Wi-Fi.jpg

If you’re arriving at Changi Airport, for example, it’s a 20 to 30 minute drive to the hotel, depending on traffic. I tested the Wi-Fi speed on my short 15-minute journey and the speed was impressive.

Limo Wi-Fi Speed.jpg

It’s unusual to see such fast connections at airport lounges or hotels in most of the places we stay, so this definitely rates as a fast and useful service.

ADVERTISEMENT

Arrival

Drop off is at the main hotel entrance at 1 Beach Road. With luggage taken care of by the porters, you are escorted into the Grand Lobby. This is an impressive airy space with a large brand new chandelier taking centre stage.

Lobby Chandelier
Grand Lobby. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

This is the public area of the hotel, where you can access the Writers Bar and two of the restaurants. At the back between the two staircases is the guests only section, which leads through to the reception area and the lifts.

Between the front doors is a grandfather clock.

Clock.jpg
Grandfather clock. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

No one seems to know exactly how old the clock is, but it has apparently been in the hotel since inception in 1887, making it at least 132 years of age. It is wound by hand each morning and still chimes every 15 minutes.

There was even a Harpist playing when I arrived.

Harpist.jpg
Harpist playing in the Grand Lobby. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The reception area is an intimate space. There are two desks with chairs and some sofas to relax on while the formalities are completed.

Reception Desk.jpg
One of the reception desks. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

I was offered a glass of Billecart-Salmon Champagne on arrival, which of course I accepted (it’s six o’clock somewhere!).

Welcome Champagne.jpg

Check in time is set for 2pm, however the bad news was relayed that due to an issue with our proposed suite an alternative one had to be prepared, but was not currently ready.

The hotel offered me a complimentary drink and lunch at the pool bar while I waited. Due to the delay, a late checkout to 4pm on our departure day was guaranteed for us, without me asking.

Once up at the pool bar, I ordered a beer and chose the beef sliders for a late lunch. It was an excellent dish.

Sliders
Beef sliders by the pool. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Eddie then joined me but unfortunately when we came back down to reception the room was still not ready and it was around 5.30pm before we were escorted there.

While this isn’t the first impression you expect from such an expensive hotel, it was their first near-100% capacity weekend since the reopening and that was clearly taking them off guard a little.

The staff were very apologetic and in addition to the complimentary lunch our room rate for the first night was switched to the day rate (50% off).

When we reached the suite they had also arranged a complimentary bottle of Champagne and some snacks, which was a kind and appreciated gesture.

Champagne Welcome.jpg
Welcome Champagne and snacks in our suite. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The Champagne was extra special as it was one of only 3,000 bottles of Billecart-Salmon commissioned for the re-opening of the hotel.

Room types

There are 115 Suites in the renovated hotel, an increase from the 103 prior to the latest revamp. The room types are as follows:

No. Type Size
6 Studio Suites 46 sq m
18 State Room Suites 67 sq m
31 Courtyard Suites 58 sq m
35 Palm Court Suites 70 sq m
12 Personality Suites 58-79 sq m
5 Residence Suites 120-150 sq m
2 Promenade Suites 85 sq m
4 Grand Hotel Suites 150 sq m
2 Presidential Suites 260 sq m

Note that the six Studio Suites are not for public sale, they are designed to accomodate staff of VIP guests.

ADVERTISEMENT

Palm Court Suite

35 of the hotel’s 115 suites are Palm Court Suites, and we opted for this category during our weekend stay.

Verandah.jpg
Table and chairs on the verandah outside our Palm Court Suite. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

As their name suggests, these overlook the Palm Court in a peaceful setting with a table and chairs on the verandah outside each room.

Parlour

The parlour is the space that you enter from the verandah. It’s laid out as a small living room with a plush sofa, armchair, side tables and plenty of soft furnishings. As with the rest of the room, the ceiling is double height with beautiful cornicing that is effectively accentuated by hidden uplighting.

Living Room.jpg
Living room side of the parlour. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Across from the sofa is a small dining table, which you can also use as a desk. There’s a large wall-mounted TV on this side, plus the bureau – dressed up as leather trunk. This contains the minibar, glassware, coffee and tea making and a selection of snacks and drinks.

Welcome Champagne.jpg
Dining and TV in the parlour. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The windows either side and above the door allow plenty of natural light in. Privacy is maintained by sheer blinds for the eye-level windows beside the door. All the blinds are automated and can be operated by wall switches or either of the two iPads in the room, which we describe in more detail below.

Parlour Overview.jpg
Parlour overview. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

There is an abundance of small decorative touches throughout the room such as small vases, local artwork, curated books and ornaments, all of which have some relation to Singapore, the region, or Raffles itself. This sort of attention to detail is rare even in the most luxurious hotels. During our tour, the staff told us that even amongst rooms of the same category there are different items, books and ornaments to make every suite unique.

Two smaller windows and double door, all equipped with folding wooden shutters, lead through to the bedroom – allowing for natural light to flow through during the day.

Minibar

The bespoke chest next to the front door alongside the parlour’s dining table contains the suite’s minibar.

Minibar Chest.jpg
Minbar chest. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Tea and coffee making (Nespresso) facilities are provided, with a chiller drawer containing soft drinks, beers and wines.

Soft drinks, tea, coffee and snacks are all complimentary and replenished daily. Alcoholic beverages are chargeable, with a more extensive list of options available in the room service menu.

Bedroom

An extremely soft and luxurious king-size four-poster bed is flanked by bedside tables and Chinese style lamps. The end of the bed features a wooden bench where you can find some additional butler services such as laundry, dry cleaning and shoe polishing instructions.

Bedroom.jpg
The plush four-poster bed. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The opposite wall features another large television and dark wooden bookshelves creating a mini-library. The corner armchair makes this the perfect reading nook.

Bedroom Overview 2.jpg
A TV, armchair and bookcase on the opposite bedroom wall. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The high ceilings continue through the entire room giving a light airy and spacious feel, accented by the recessed uplighting.

Bedroom to Door.jpg
Looking back towards the parlour from the bedroom. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
Bedroom Overview.jpg
Bedroom. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The very clean, minimalist bedside tables initially made us wonder if they had forgotten the most modern essential – device charging, with a wall of switches and plug sockets usually found in new hotels.

They haven’t been forgotten of course, these functions are cleverly concealed in the top bedside drawer on either side, with multi-standard power sockets, USB ports and some room lighting functions.

Bedside Sockets.jpg
Bedside power sockets. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

We not only found the bed extremely comfortable, but the location of the bedroom between the bathroom at the rear and parlour at the front, coupled with the doors, shutters and blackout blinds, meant almost no light or noise pollution at all. That’s ideal for those easily disturbed once the sun rises.

Dressing room

Beyond the bedroom, through sliding doors, is a dressing room. The back wall is decorated with beautiful traditional dark wallpaper. Both sides of the room feature a large, well-lit wardrobe and in the centre is a dressing table with a built-in compartment containing a vanity mirror and hairdryer.

Dressing Room.jpg
Dressing room. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

If you wish, your butler will unpack your belongings. That’s not normally a service we would use but given that we wanted to head down to the Writers Bar for pre-dinner drinks we took advantage during this stay.

Clothes.jpg
Your butler will unpack for you should you wish. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

I think we can safely say our clothes have never been so immaculately organised in any hotel room before!

Bathroom

At the back of the suite is the bathroom, a superbly equipped marble-lined affair with a large roll top traditional free-standing bath taking centre stage.

Bathroom 1.jpg
Bathroom. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
Bathroom 2.jpg
Bathroom. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The floor is tiled with a stunning colonial print. Two sinks with separate dressers are equipped with a dizzying array of towels and amenities. Toiletries are specially created for Raffles Singapore by London-based perfume house Ormonde Jayne.

Toiletries.jpg
Ormonde Jayne toiletries. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Natural light flows through from windows at the very back of the bathroom, one alongside the sinks and the other in the WC.

Bath Detail.jpg
Windows in the bathroom. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

This provided great morning light in our suite.

There are two frosted glass doors either side of the bath, one leading to the WC and the other through to the shower room – which is equipped with a large rain shower head and a small bench.

Shower Toilet.jpg
Shower and WC. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Double Sinks.jpg

Shower.jpg
Shower. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Attention to detail is very high, with the bathroom brought right up to date in technology terms too. There are adjustable lighting and sound controls, and even a switch to activate the suite’s ‘do not disturb’ sign in the WC, in case the doorbell rings at an inopportune moment!

Switches.jpg
Bathroom controls. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

iPad

Two iPads, one in the parlour and the other next to the bed, provide a range of suite and television controls. They can also be used to order in-room dining and other butler services.

Aside from controlling the blinds, both televisions, all of the lighting and the air conditioning, additional hotel information can be accessed.

Ipad 1
iPad functions. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

For a more traditional style, guests aren’t forced to use these devices and significant effort has been made to keep the traditional style wall switches that all still function as expected. You can also contact your butler directly at any time by phone.

Ipad 2
iPad functions. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
Ipad 3
iPad functions. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Butler service

Your butler is the point of contact for any service requests during your stay. Ours was excellent, not only unpacking for us but taking care of all the little touches too.

She noticed that we had brought our own bottle of Champagne from home to enjoy during the weekend and kindly offered to keep this chilled for us until we wanted it. When we asked for it on the Saturday evening it was delivered with an ice bucket and two Champagne flutes and served on our verandah as requested.

Our butler even came to our room to escort us to our Spa treatment on Saturday morning, and arranged our verandah breakfast on Sunday even though we only remembered to order it just after midnight!

From these services right down to running you the perfect bubble bath, your butler is sure to look after you during any stay at Raffles.

One butler is responsible for every two to three suites.

ADVERTISEMENT

The hotel

A walk around the hotel confirms the very high standard of the renovation work conducted with close attention to detail.

New artwork by Lotus Arts de Vivre and lighting design by Tino Kwan complement new furniture lining the corridors in the main building’s impressive atrium, with plush carpets on the staircase.

Palm Court Wing

The Palm Court is a quiet, private wing that may only be accessed by hotel guests. It’s an L-shaped two-storey structure, that is connected to the main building just to the right of the lobby.

This was the first extension to the original Raffles hotel, and opened in 1892.

Palm Court Sign.jpg
Palm Court Wing. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

It features an immaculately manicured lawn with tropical flower beds, frangipanis and palm trees.

Palm Court Flowers.jpg
Palm court in the evening sun. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Considering the busy main road just beyond the perimeter and its CBD location, this really is a very pleasant oasis of calm. A patio outside the main hotel building, located alongside La Dame de Pic, features some tables suitable for catching the afternoon rays whilst enjoying this idyllic garden.

Palm Court 2.jpg
The Palm Court Wing viewed from the main building outside La Dame de Pic restaurant. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

If you are wondering how they keep the grass so green in Singapore’s burning heat, especially during the recent dry spell, the answer is near constant attention and watering by an army of garden staff.

Palm Court Doors.jpg
Palm Court Suites. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
Palm Court Sunset.jpg
Palm Court in the evening sun. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
ADVERTISEMENT

Swimming pool

Originally the swimming pool at Raffles was in the Palm Court, however it was relocated to a rooftop position in 1989. This location has been retained in the newly renovated hotel.

Pool 1
Rooftop swimming pool on level 3. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The pool bar has a full range of drinks and a food menu. As you would expect, there is poolside service provided.

The waiters were really friendly and courteous and were working very hard, but we couldn’t help feeling another pair of hands especially on the busy weekend afternoons would have made the experience better for everyone.

Drinks
Water and cold towels are provided poolside. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

For example, we waited for a good 10 to 15 minutes after sitting down at our sun loungers with no service offered, then even had a swim before heading up to the bar to ask for a drink.

Of course, the staff then brought our welcome chilled water and cold towels, but at a five star luxury hotel, we would have expected this to be a bit more proactive.

Every guest at Raffles is entitled to a complimentary signature Singapore Sling, a cocktail famously invented at the hotel in the early 1900s by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. Since we hadn’t taken ours yet, we decided to have it at the pool bar.

Singapore Slings
The legendary Singapore Sling, served poolside. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

After that we decided to share a Club Sandwich for lunch. Like the sliders the previous day, this dish was very nicely prepared.

Club Sandwich
Club Sandwich. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

In the afternoon these cute little chocolate ducks were served by the pool in a mango jelly.

Chocolate Duck
Chocolate duck in mango jelly. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Gym

The gym is located on the 3rd floor, the same level as the swimming pool. It is well lit, with some sections also benefitting from natural light (though there is no view to speak of) and has an extensive range of equipment, spread across three distinct sections.

One area has free weights and some weight machines.