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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Palm Court Suite

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Looking back towards the parlour from the bedroom. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
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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.