First-time visitors to the Lion City will marvel at its blend of old and new, seeing futuristic skyscrapers coexisting with heritage shophouses and decades-old monuments. Among Singapore’s most iconic structures is Raffles Hotel, a 130-year old landmark which stands just a stone’s throw away from some of the city’s stunning museums and tourist attractions, adding a unique contrast to its modern skyscraper neighbours.
Opened in 1887 by the Armenian Sarkies Brothers, the colonial-style hotel was originally a 10-room beachfront hotel housed within an old bungalow at the corner of Beach Road and Bras Basah Road. The hotel quickly evolved and was gazetted as a national monument in 1987, on its 100-year anniversary. The Raffles Hotel now boasts 103 suites, 14 different restaurants and bars, a Victorian-style theatre and a 24-hour luxury shopping mall.
One of the world’s few functioning 19th-century hotels, the Raffles Hotel is a beauty. Upon stepping in, you will be treated to an expansive white marble lobby with cathedral ceilings anchored by Corinthian columns. Its storied hallways have been graced by royals, celebrities and literary luminaries alike.
W. Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, Elizabeth Taylor, Charlie Chaplin and Michael Jackson (who celebrated his 35th birthday here) are among those who have fallen for the charms of the grand dame — and who can blame them?
Today, the hotel still sees illustrious guests such as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Queen Elizabeth II, Christian Louboutin and Karl Lagerfeld. The latter stayed in May 2013, choosing the iconic hotel as the venue to premiere his short film on Coco Chanel called Once Upon a Time, further adding to its glitz and glamour.
Having celebrated its 130th anniversary, the hotel is set to embark on a restoration programme which will be carried out in three phases. The first phase, which began on 13 February this year, saw the temporary closure of Long Bar, Long Bar Steakhouse, Raffles Courtyard, Ah Teng’s Bakery and the Shopping Arcade. The second phase is set to commence on 13 August and will involve the renovation of the hotel’s lobby and some of its hotel suites.
The restoration project will be led by leading global architecture and design firm Aedas Singapore, which is no stranger to restoration projects. The firm’s other projects in the past include the London Coliseum and the revitalised Mallory Street/Burrows Street in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. The interiors, on the other hand, will be handled by award-winning designer Alexandra Champalimaud — who has worked with many high profile luxury hotels around the world including Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles and The Dorchester in London.
The hotel is conducting a guided tour in collaboration with the National Heritage Board before it commences the second phase of its restoration, so guests and members of the public can have a last look at the iconic hotel’s storied hallways and iconic suites — including the prestigious Sarkies Suite.
With names such as Aedas Singapore and Alexandra Champalimaud onboard, the hotel’s restoration looks promising. And while we patiently await the hotel’s reopening in 2018, check out these 6 things you never knew about Singapore’s crown jewel.
(Photos: Raffles Hotel Singapore)