Sleep: Singapore

The city-state is brimming with places to stay, but which hotels hit the mark? We reveal all, from laid-back hideaways to grande dames oozing colonial opulence, and hipster pads in Chinatown taking design to new heights

By Lee Cobaj
Published 12 Apr 2015, 11:00 BST, Updated 30 Jun 2021, 13:43 BST


With its theme parks, cable cars, casinos, and day-trippers, stylish Singaporeans can be a bit shy about how much they enjoy Sentosa. True, this rainforest island, 15 minutes south of the city centre, may be a bit manufactured but there's plenty of attractions for the energetic — zip-wiring from jungle to beach, go-karting down hills, rainforest rustling, plus the only Universal Studios in Asia. There are also a handful of heritage sites, nature tours, a bunch of beaches, and some sexy seaside drinking dens.

We recommend: Capella
Clinging to a verdant jungle cliffside, overlooking the South China Sea, this five-star hotel has design credentials to die for. At its centre are two former British Army barracks, dating back to the 1880s, which have been transformed by the sinuous Sir Norman Foster-designed structure that wraps around them and sweeps down the hillside. Chic rooms are luxuriantly-hued in shades of wheat, mink and amber, with dark wood furniture, spa bathrooms and private balconies. Languish by one of three swimming pools, relax in the Auriga Spa, sip drinks at open-air Bob's Bar, or eat dim sum at the Andre Fu-designed Cassia restaurant.
- Rooms: Doubles from SGD779 (£375).

Best for posing: W Singapore
Flanked by a flotilla of private yachts and rows of fancy shops and restaurants, the 240-room W brings a slice of Miami Vice to Sentosa Island. Rather than opt for the usual black marble and glitter balls associated with the W brand, this seaside resort is a much sunnier affair, with swathes of creamy marble, glossy woods, pale gold tiling and artful crystal chandeliers. The spa looks like it's been transported from the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the pool is bathed in violet neon light at night, and the rooms come with big puffy beds and bathrooms stocked with Bliss amenities. It's a blast.
- Rooms: Doubles from SGD419 (£202).

Best for families: Singapore Resort and Spa Sentosa
The Balinese-style Singapore Resort and Spa is a favourite staycation spot for locals. With two wings housing 215 rooms, three al fresco restaurants, a sprawling spa, a 55-metre swimming pool, and a stretch of beach, all circled by 27 acres of tropical jungle — there's absolutely no reason to leave. Should you wish to, though, the hotel provides regular transport to VivoCity, the largest shopping mall in Singapore, and Universal Studios, as well as a three-hourly shuttle bus to Orchard Road, a 1.4-mile bustling boulevard flanked by shops, restaurants and entertainment.
- Rooms: Doubles from SGD357 (£175).

Historic Centre and Riverside

This is where it all began, in 1819, when Brit Sir Stamford Raffles sailed around the Malay Peninsula, planted the Union Jack, and founded Singapore. Colonial Neoclassical courthouses, Gothic churches, Palladian theatres and European-style hotels followed — many still beautifully preserved. But this is also where Singapore's past meets its glimmering future. Round the river and be wowed by the Marina Bay Sands Casino's triple towers, the giant Singapore Flier Ferris wheel, and the Avatar-like Supertree Grove.

We recommend: Raffles Singapore
Don't listen to anyone who tells you Raffles is a tourist trap — they've clearly never stayed. Sure, the shopping arcade is lively and there are queues out the door for an original Singapore Sling at the Long Bar, but once you've slipped behind the velvet rope, this grande dame is nothing short of magnificent. Guests are tucked away in colonial-era suites — all dark, teakwood floors and silky oriental rugs against creamy walls and pale paisley prints. Each has its own little balcony space in the colonnaded corridor, a vast, vintage-style bathroom and butlers any dowager countess would be proud of. The real character of the place, though, is to be found in the public spaces, where ladies in twinsets and pearls take afternoon tea, businesspeople broker deals over tiffins of curry, and honeymooners lock eyes in the Writer's Bar as the pianist strikes up 'their song'. A stay at Raffles is far from affordable, but it is unforgettable.
- Rooms: Doubles from SGD1,400 (£659), B&B.

Best for budget: Adonis Hotel Singapore
Chinese shophouse meets New York loft at this tiny 19-room boutique abode, round the corner from Raffles. Crisp, clean rooms are kitted out with powerful showers and free wi-fi. Breakfast and evening cocktails are included, served in the bar-cum-restaurant-cum-reception area.
- Rooms: Doubles from SGD216 (£105), B&B.

Best for eye-candy: The Fullerton Bay Hotel
This ice cube-shaped hotel is Singapore incarnate — cool, confident and sparkling on the outside, full of tradition and tranquillity inside. Its 100 huge rooms exude a luxury cruise liner feel, with walnut furnishings and views of the riverside district or Marina Bay Waterfront. Hit the rooftop pool late afternoon, before sunset cocktails at Lantern Bar.
- Rooms: Doubles from SGD550 (£270), B&B.

Chinatown and the CBD

South of the river, grit and glam sit side by side in Chinatown and the CBD (Central Business District). The latter's colourful tourist strips mixed with atmospheric alleys, Chinese mansions, Taoist temples and food markets. Club Street and Ann Siang Hill are also here, their former shophouses packed with late-night revellers. And while the CBD can feel sterile in places, particularly at weekends, it's benefitted from its proximity to Chinatown; new bars, restaurants, and hotels are shooting up all the time.

We recommend: New Majestic Hotel
Singaporeans from the worlds of theatre, cinema, fashion and tech installation created the hotel's 30 rooms — and what fun they had. There are split-level suites soaring into attic spaces; garden rooms with geishas painted on the walls and views over Chinatown's rooftops; and pretty balcony rooms billowing in red silk and lit by lotus lamps. Egyptian cotton bedding, free wi-fi and juices only add to their appeal. Elsewhere, there's a pool, a Cantonese restaurant, and a lobby with reconditioned 1930s barbers' chairs. Skip the skimpy breakfast and venture out into the neighbourhood; Chinatown's Bukit Pasoh Conservation Area has rainbow-coloured shophouses, organic cafes, yoga and meditation centres and day spas.
- Rooms: Doubles from SGD230 (£112).  

Best for night owls: Naumi Liora
Located on cool-as-you-like Keong Saik Road, across the way from the latest Potato Head Folk restaurant/lounge, the Naumi Liora couldn't be better placed for rolling out of clubs and straight into bed — just aim for the tangerine-and-green facade. The entry-level rooms don't have windows but an extra £30 will buy an upgrade to one of the leafy porch suites. And while there isn't anywhere for breakfast, the neighbourhood teems with atmospheric cafes serving creamy kaya toast and potent cups of kopi.
- Rooms: Doubles from SGD160 (£78).  

Best for fashionable types: Sofitel So Singapore
The sparkly new Sofitel So Singapore — which opened last summer in the heart of the CBD — is currently the most fashionable hotel in town. Guests are greeted by glamorous staff, draped in black-and-white Chanel suits, before being whisked to rooms hewn from the angled corners of a 1920s telegraphic centre. The Xperience Restaurant serves up a fabulous breakfast, and an exciting fusion of Singaporean and French cuisines throughout the rest of the day. But it's the Karl Lagerfeld-designed gold-tiled rooftop pool that really steals the show.
- Rooms: Doubles from SGD300 (£146).    

Orchard Road

Orchard Road, a former nutmeg and pepper plantation, sprouts from the edges of the Historic District and runs for over a mile, hedged by mirrored office towers, swish apartment blocks, big brand hotels, and mall after shiny mall. It's not all rampant consumerism, though; tucked away in its corners are Emerald Hill, the site of some traditional, pastel-painted Peranakan buildings and the 19th-century Istana palace. The Botanic Gardens — perhaps the finest in all of Asia — is found at the upper end of the road, overlapping Tanglin. 

We recommend: Hotel Jen Orchardgateway Singapore
This 502-room hotel might be aimed at a new 'jen-eration' (their word, not mine) but an in-the-thick-of-it location, fresh interiors, and surprisingly affordable rates make Hotel Jen a top choice for travellers of all ages. Naturally, the hotel is well connected; both technically — you'll find free, fast, wi-fi across its 10 storeys and mobile-charging stations all over the place — and logistically; the MRT subway runs straight from Changi airport to the air-conditioned mall below, meaning you don't have to lug your suitcase through Singapore's streets in crushing heat and humidity. Floors are slotted with lush sky gardens, a cafe bar and a restaurant, while up top there's a snazzy rooftop pool, sporting lime-green-and-tangerine beanbags, a tiki-style bar, and super views of the city, from Little India in the north all the way past Fort Canning Park to the Marina Bay Sands in the south. The catch? Rooms are on the small side. But, on the other hand, the beds are huge and very comfortable.
- Rooms: Doubles from SGD240 (£117). 

Best for business: The Quincy Hotel
This smart 187-room hotel is close to Orchard Road and the vast Paragon shopping centre. The lobby makes quite an impression, with soaring steel, smoked glass and funky art installations. The list of free amenities and services is extensive: Egyptian cotton sheets, Molton Brown toiletries, wi-fi, local calls, mini-bar and one-way transfer, plus all-day dining at local eatery Dean & Deluca.
- Rooms: Doubles from SGD264 (£129), B&B. 

Best for pampering: The St. Regis Singapore
This European-style haven, at the top of Orchard Road, bordering Tanglin, is flanked by posh malls, pretty suburbs and parkland. The lobby appears to have more marble than the Palace of Versailles and the rooms share the Gallic vibe (high ceilings, pale silk wall-coverings and marble bathrooms). The Remède Spa is one of the city's best, plus there's a tropical pool and six restaurants.
- Rooms: Doubles from SGD405 (£195).

Published in the April 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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