Opened in 1887, the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Raffles Hotel Singapore has earned its status as one of Singapore’s most significant landmarks. Naturally, the hotel has its share of stories from its more than 130-year history and a resident historian — whose Raffles tenure spans more than 50 years — to share it with visitors.
Heritage experts helped restore the legendary property in 2019 to its 19th-century glory, creating a present-day time capsule. We’ve rounded up some little-known facts for your next visit to this historic hotel.
Beach House Beginnings
The hotel was initially built in the 1830s as a humble seaside home. In 1887, Asia’s most famous hoteliers, the Sarkies brothers, extended the property and lavishly refitted it to become Raffles Hotel.
After the transformation, Raffles was no longer humble nor on the beach. The elegant establishment offered guests rare luxuries such as splendid ballrooms, fine dining prepared by French chefs and modern amenities such as electric lights and tropical Singapore’s most coveted comfort: ceiling fans.
What Happens in Long Bar…
Cocktail enthusiasts know Long Bar as the home of the Singapore Sling, invented by mixologist Ngiam Tong Boon in 1915. However, there’s something else Long Bar is famous for. Upon walking into the bar, you will feel the crunch of peanut shells under your feet.
You are encouraged to participate in a messy Raffles tradition that’s unusual in meticulously clean Singapore. Take a seat on one of the comfortable chairs under the retro ceiling fans that resemble handheld fans, order an outstanding cocktail and help yourself to the bags of peanuts on the countertops. Throw the shells wherever you wish. Of course, as in the old days, the shells are cleaned up at night’s end.
A Roster of Famous Guests
A 1920s billboard advertising Raffles Hotel as “Patronised by Royalty and Nobility” remains accurate 100 years later. Celebrities and heads of state continue to make Raffles their retreat of choice when in Singapore. Queen Elizabeth II, Charlie Chaplin, Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp and William and Kate all enjoyed stays at the luxury hotel.
Raffles is especially a favorite among the literary set: W. Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad stayed and wrote at the Singapore hotel. Today, renowned and budding authors make pilgrimages to its modern Writers Bar to have a drink at the shiny brass bar in their memory (don’t toss peanut shells on these herringbone floors).
A Real Gem of a Spa
The revamped Raffles Spa offers a unique indulgence: healing with precious stones. The Four-Star spa’s treatment menu uses gem therapy in everything from the Signature Gemstone massage that employs gems and gemstone-blended oils to the drinking water infused with restorative stones like lapis lazuli and quartz. Even the sound healing treatment incorporates the vibrations of crystal bowls.
Priceless gem sculptures adorn the spacious Gem Suite, which offers massage beds, a bathroom, a vitality pool and a separate entrance. It’s one of Singapore’s most beautiful and exclusive spa spaces.