Raffles Hotel

Coordinates: 1°17′40.8″N 103°51′16.6″E / 1.294667°N 103.854611°E / 1.294667; 103.854611

Raffles Hotel (Chinese: 莱佛士酒店) is a colonial-style hotel in Singapore, and one of the world's most famous hotels. Opened in 1899, it was named after Singapore's founder Sir Stamford Raffles. Managed by Raffles International, it is known for its luxurious accommodation and superb restaurants. The hotel houses a tropical garden courtyard, museum and Victorian-style theatre.


The hotel was founded by the four Armenian Sarkies Brothers (Martin, Tigran, Aviet, and Arshak Sarkies). They opened the 10-room colonial bungalow at Beach Road and Bras Basah Road owned by an Arab trader and philanthropist Syed Mohamed Alsagoff on 1 December 1887. Alsagoff developed the site of his late father's estate until it became the most modern building in Singapore at the time. Sarkies was a tenant on favourable short-term lease. The original location was by the seaside, although continued reclamation means that the site is presently some 500 metres away from the shore. No Asians were permitted as hotel guests until the 1930s. Designed by architect Regent Alfred John Bidwell of Swan and Maclaren, the current main building of Raffles Hotel was completed in 1899. The hotel continued to expand over the years with the addition of wings, a verandah, a ballroom, a bar and billiards room, and further buildings and rooms. The Great Depression spelled trouble for Raffles Hotel and, in 1931, the hotel went into receivership. In 1933, however, the financial troubles were resolved and a public company called Raffles Hotel Ltd was established.

Upon the start of the Japanese occupation of Singapore on 15 February 1942, it is commonly said that the Japanese soldiers encountered the guests of the Raffles Hotel dancing one final waltz. During World War II, the Raffles was renamed Syonan Ryokan (昭南旅館, shōnan ryokan), incorporating Syonan ("Light of the South"), the Japanese name for occupied Singapore, and ryokan, the name for a traditional Japanese inn.

The hotel survived World War II despite the hardships Singapore faced and the use of the hotel at the end of the war as a transit camp for prisoners of war. In 1987, the government declared the hotel a National Monument.

In 1989, the hotel closed for an extensive renovation, at a cost of S$160 million. The renovation was carried out by Ssangyong Engineering and Construction, a South Korean construction firm acclaimed for its overseas projects.

It re-opened on 16 September 1991; while the hotel was restored to the grand style of its heyday in 1915, significant changes were made. All rooms were converted to suites with teak-wood floors, handmade carpets, and 14-foot ceilings. The storied Long Bar, where the Singapore Sling cocktail drink was invented, and which was patronized over the decades by a host of literati, including Ernest Hemingway and Somerset Maugham, was relocated from the lobby to a new adjoining shopping arcade.

In announcing the 18 July 2005 sale of parent company Raffles Holdings, Colony Capital LLC chief executive Thomas J. Barrack said in part as the purchaser, "We deeply respect the historical significance of the Raffles Hotel Singapore and we consider it our responsibility to protect that legacy".

On 16 September 2007, the hotel celebrated its 120th anniversary with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who turned 84 on the same day.

On 8 April 2010, The Straits Times reported that a Qatar sovereign wealth fund has bought Raffles Hotel for US$275 million (S$384 million). In addition to taking over Raffles Hotel, Qatari Diar will inject US$467 million into Fairmont Raffles in exchange for a 40 per cent stake in the luxury hotel chain.

The hotel also houses the Raffles Hotel Museum, which displays the rich history of the hotel. The museum was created after a well-orchestrated heritage search by a public relations consultant. People from all over the world returned items and memorabilia of their stay at the 'grand lady of the far East'; photographs, silver and china items, postcards and menus as well as old and rare editions of the works of the famous writers who stayed there. These items are displayed in the museum along with photographs of its famous guests and visitors.


Raffles Hotel has a shopping arcade housing boutique brands such as Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co.. The arcade houses most of the hotel's restaurants. It also has shops such as Singapore's famous custom tailor, CYC The Custom Shop, which makes shirts for Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The third floor of the arcade houses the Raffles Hotel Museum and Jubilee Hall.

  • Raffles Hotel is reputedly where the sole surviving wild tiger in Singapore was shot and made extinct. Some stories place this event in the Long Bar. Raffles itself claims the tiger had escaped from enclosure at a nearby "native show" and chased underneath the hotel's Bar & Billiard Room (a raised structure) and shot to death there on August 13, 1902.
  • Raffles is where the Singapore Sling was invented. The cocktail was invented by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon between 1910 and 1915.
  • Raffles is the setting for Murakami Ryu's novel and film titled Raffles Hotel. The film was shot on location.
  • The site of the hotel was originally the location of the oldest girls' school in Singapore (1842), now called St. Margaret's. It was founded by Maria (Tarn) Dyer, the missionary wife of Samuel Dyer.
  • The hotel was featured as a Japanese stronghold in Medal of Honor: Rising Sun.
  • Raffles Hotel was the subject of Paul O'Grady's Orient for Carlton Television.
  • The hotel featured in episodes of the BBC/ABC co-production Tenko.
  • Long Bar is featured in Peace Arch Entertainment's "UberGuide" television travel series as one of the top ten bars in the world.
Food and beverage outlets
  • Ah Teng's Bakery
  • Bar and Billard Room & Martini Bar
  • Doc Cheng's & Doc Cheng's Bar
  • Empire Cafe
  • Long Bar, birthplace of the Singapore Sling
  • Long Bar Steakhouse
  • Raffles Courtyard & Gazebo Bar
  • Raffles Creamery
  • Raffles Culinary Academy
  • Raffles Grill
  • Royal China at Raffles (branch of the famous Royal China in London)
  • Seah Street Deli
  • THOS SB Raffles Shop
  • Tiffin Room
  • Writer's Bar
  • Anders Helledi & Klaus Poulsen
Famous visitors and guests

Famous visitors and guests of the hotel include:

  • Anthony Burgess
  • Ava Gardner
  • Beyoncé Knowles
  • The Black Eyed Peas
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Elizabeth Taylor
  • Fascinating Aïda
  • George H.W. Bush
  • Emily Armstrong
  • Gwen Stefani
  • Hugh Jackman
  • James A. Michener
  • Okko Kamu
  • Jean Harlow
  • John Trotter
  • Joseph Conrad
  • Karen Mok
  • Maya Spitzer, daughter of Eliott Spitzer
  • Michael Jackson
  • No Doubt
  • Noel Coward
  • Patrick Macnee
  • Queen Elizabeth II
  • Queen Sofia of Spain
  • Robert A. Heinlein
  • Rudy Giuliani
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • W. Somerset Maugham
  • Isoroku Yamamoto
  • Marcia Nightingale
  • Janet Leakey
  • Ilsa Sharp. There Is Only One Raffles: The Story of a Grand Hotel. Ulverscroft Large Print (1991). ISBN 978-0708924532
  • Raymong Flower: The Year of the Tiger, 1986, Singapore
  • Andreas Augustin. The Raffles Treasury, Secrets of a Grand Old Lady. Treasury Publishing (1988). ASIN B000PCGBHO
  • Andreas Augustin. Raffles, The Most Famous Hotels in the World, London/Singapore/Vienna, (1986)
  • William Warren, Jill Gocher (2007). Asia's legendary hotels: the romance of travel. Singapore: Periplus Editions. ISBN 978-0-7946-0174-4. 
  • Ralph Modder. Romancing the Raffles: A Collection of Short Stories. SNP Editions (2000). ISBN 9814059692
  • Ryu Murakami (Author), Corinne Atlan. Raffles Hotel. Picquier (2002). ISBN 978-2877305839
  • Chefs of Raffles Hotel. The Raffles Hotel Cookbook. Butterworth-Heinemann (2003). ISBN 978-9814068581
  • Fables From the Raffles Hotel Arcade. Angsana Books (1995). ISBN 978-9813056725
  • Gretchen Liu. Raffles Hotel style. Raffles Hotel (1997). ISBN 978-9813018860
  • Lenzi, Iola (2004). Museums of Southeast Asia. Singapore: Archipelago Press. pp. 200 pages. ISBN 981-4068-96-9. 


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