Historic Hotels in Singapore to Book if You Want to Travel Back in Time

After an extensive restoration, Raffles Singapore is an intriguing mixture of old and new
After an extensive restoration, Raffles Singapore is an intriguing mixture of old and new | Courtesy of Raffles Hotel / Expedia
Prianka Ghosh

You may think of the Republic of Singapore as a very young country, but the first settlements of the area date all the way back to the late 11th century. Ancient Singapura was a significant trading post for Chinese, Arab, Portuguese and Indonesian merchants. This, along with the more recent British colonial history, accounts for the vibrant clash of cultures that defines the island nation today. Step into the past by staying in one of these historic Singapore hotels – bookable on Culture Trip.

1. SO/ Singapore, for a touch of glamour in Telok Ayer

Boutique Hotel

Skyscrapers surrounding the 1927 Rooftop Pool & Bar at SO/ Singapore
Courtesy of SO/ Singapore / Expedia

A five-minute taxi ride from Marina Bay Sands (if the traffic behaves), this restored Central Business District hotel makes a pretty good first impression with its 19th-century neoclassical facade – all grand columns and ornate trim. Once in the door, the French-inspired decor in the pastel-panelled rooms features details by designer Karl Lagerfeld, who also dresses the staff. Techies will love the in-room iPad mini, used as a remote control panel for everything from the TV to the air conditioning. The food is fresh, fusion and fun – try the torched goat’s cheese salad with caramelised fig compote and garden greens.

2. AMOY by Far East Hospitality, for Chinese culture in Telok Ayer

Boutique Hotel

Grand, high-ceilinged lobby at AMOY by Far East Hospitality
Courtesy of AMOY by Far East Hospitality / Expedia

From the delicate lattice screens to the blue-and-white porcelain sinks in the sleek rooms and suites, intricate Chinese design details abound at this Singapore hotel, housed inside a collection of converted shophouses. Sip sake in the atmospheric, red-brick Japanese restaurant, and don’t miss the Fuk Tak Chi Temple museum just off the lobby.

3. Capella Singapore, for beach access on Sentosa island

Resort, Hotel

Spacious room at Capella Singapore with large windows showing views over trees
Courtesy of Capella Singapore / Expedia
Designed by Sir Norman Foster, this luxury Singapore hotel has bagged a rare coastal spot overlooking the South China Sea on Sentosa island. The reception is housed in a 19th-century officers’ mess; ask to upgrade to a premier sea view suite for vistas of the Andaman Sea, or go large with a pool villa. All rooms and suites feature minimalist design with dark furniture and balconies for a breath of fresh air. The resort is awash with places to eat and drink – don’t miss the delicious dim sum.

5. Hotel Fort Canning, for a historic building in Fort Canning Park


Distant view of Hotel Fort Canning with abundant greenery and skyscrapers behind it
Courtesy of Hotel Fort Canning / Expedia
The original Hotel Fort Canning was built in 1926 as the administration building for the headquarters of the British Far East Command. Located on Fort Canning Hill, both the hotel and the grounds will have you feeling as if you’ve stepped back into the colonial past. The original building was the site of one of the most significant historical events of modern-day Singapore, the surrender of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942. History buffs will love the Lobby Archaeological Pits, which feature authentic artefacts dating as far back as the 14th century.

6. The Fullerton Hotel, for five-star luxury on Boat Quay


Outdoor pool and smart, colonnaded exterior of the Fullerton Hotel
Courtesy of the Fullerton Hotel / Expedia
The ambitious idea of constructing the Fullerton Building was first floated in 1919. It would be the largest building project ever undertaken in Singapore, and it would be five years before plans were approved and financed, and a further four years of construction before the Fullerton Building opened in 1928. Like many colonial buildings in Singapore, it played a role in World War II. The building was protected from being bombed, and served as the headquarters of the Japanese military administration during the three-year occupation of Singapore. Today, while the exterior of the Fullerton Hotel has been preserved in all its glory, the interior has been modernised to a luxurious five-star standard.

7. Raffles Singapore, for an iconic stay and singapore slings in Bugis

Hotel, Ryokan

The grand exterior of Raffles Singapore with greenery and a flag
Courtesy of Raffles Singapore / Expedia
The most iconic historic hotel in Singapore, Raffles opened its doors in 1887 as a beachfront bungalow with just 10 guest rooms. The hotel expanded as it gained a reputation for opulence and famous guests, until the Great Depression crashed down on the then-owners, the Sarkies Brothers. During World War II, occupying Japanese troops renamed the hotel Syonan Ryokan, meaning Light of the South. Raffles Hotel has been careful to maintain its old-world charm through multiple extensive renovations since then, and is still considered the best hotel in Singapore. Guests and non-guests alike can be found propping up the bar in the venue that invented the Singapore Sling, signature cocktail in hand.

8. The Vagabond Club, for an arty escape near Little India

Boutique Hotel, Hotel

The exterior of the Vagabond Club with red shutters and blinds
Courtesy of the Vagabond Club / Expedia

The Vagabond is not as old as some others on this list, but this artistic boutique hotel presents a different side of Singapore history, located as it is in a 1950s art-deco property. Throughout its chequered past, the building has been both an illegal brothel and a workers’ dormitory. Being the first hotel in Asia designed by French architect Jacques Garcia, its lobby is full of thought-provoking art installations, and it’s within walking distance of the sights of Little India and Arab Street.

9. The Scarlet Singapore, for a luxe shophouse stay near Chinatown


Brightly decorated room at the Scarlet Singapore with blue drapes and headboard
Courtesy of the Scarlet Singapore / Expedia

The Scarlet Singapore is located in a row of two-storey shophouses originally built in 1868, and anchored by a four-storey art deco building dating to 1924. The shophouses, once home to Chinese immigrants, have been immaculately restored, while the facilities have been retrofitted with modern amenities. Even the decor, with its opulent splashes of gold and crimson, will give you a sense of stepping back in time.

10. Goodwood Park Hotel, for high-end shopping on Orchard Road


Room decorated in neutral tones with a view of the outdoor pool at Goodwood Park Hotel
Courtesy of Goodwood Park Hotel / Expedia

Built in 1900, Goodwood Park Hotel has a very distinct look. It was originally built for the Teutonia Club, catering to the German community in Singapore, and the architects took inspiration from the castles that dot the banks of the Rhine. The hotel has a tumultuous history: it was confiscated by the British at the outset of World War I, and during the Japanese occupation it was the official residence of high-ranking soldiers in the Japanese army. After the war, it was the site of war crime trials. The most striking feature is the tower block, which still stands out today when approaching Orchard Road from Scotts Road and is listed as a national monument.

Jo Fernandez contributed additional reporting to this article.

Still looking for a place to stay? Book one of the best guesthouses in Singapore now, via Culture Trip.

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