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12 Fun Facts About The Raffles Hotel In Singapore

Even though the downtown area of the island state of Singapore saw the development of numerous amazing skyscrapers over the past couple of decades, one of the most famous hotels in the city is a historic structure that was built in the late 19th century.

In this article, you’ll discover some of the most interesting facts about the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, one of the most amazing places to stay during your visit to this sprawling city.

1. It’s located in the Downton Core District of Singapore

The Raffles Hotel is a historic building located in the Downtown Core area of Singapore, a bustling city-state in Southeast Asia.

The hotel was built in the colonial architectural style which gives it a completely different vibe than the modern Marina Bay Sands which you can find just to the southeast of the hotel.

Other famous landmarks in the vicinity of the hotel are the iconic Merlion just south of it, the National Gallery of Singapore just to the southwest, and the futuristic Theatres on the Bay.

Raffles Hotel facts
The Raffles Hotel in Singapore / Wiki Commons

2. The hotel started as a private beach in the 1830s

The history of the hotel dates back to the 1830s when the area that the hotel was eventually built was a privately owned beach house. This beach house was transformed into a hotel facility in the year 1878 known as the “Emerson Hotel.”

The Sarkies Brothers, a group of 3 Armenian brothers who ran a chain of luxury hotels in Southeast Asia, leased the property in 1887 and transformed the humble structure into a 10-room luxury hotel.

The hotel was named Raffles Hotel in honor of Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles (1781-1826), the man who is considered to be the founder of modern-day Singapore.

3. The current hotel started with 10 rooms and opened in 1887

The Sarkies Brothers differentiated themselves from the competition by offering a high-end service in an extremely luxurious setting. Even though the hotel opened on December 1, 1887, with just 10 rooms, it was an instant success.

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The fact that they attracted a rich clientele allowed them to quickly expand the hotel and that’s exactly what they did the following decades.

3 new buildings featuring 22 suites each were added the first decade after the hotel had opened its doors, and the Palm Court Wing was completed in the year 1894 as well.

The hotel continued to be expanded in the first couple of decades of the 20th century until it all came crashing down during the Great Depression in the early 1930s.

Raffles Hotel history
The historic structure in the 1930s / Wiki Commons

4. The hotel has had a couple of different owners throughout its history

The Sarkies Brother filed bankruptcy in the year 1931 and the hotel was taken over by a newly established company called “Raffles Hotel Ltd.

The hotel was briefly renamed “Syonan Ryokan” during the Japanese occupation of Singapore between 1942 and 1945 but was returned to the British following the successful “Operation Tiderace,” which resulted in the liberation of Singapore.

The hotel switched hands a couple of times in the past decades, including a takeover of the entire Raffles Hotel Chain in 2005 by American investment firm Colony Capital LLC for a whopping $1.45 billion.

The current owner is “Katari Hospitality,” a company based in Qatar. The management of the hotel is in hands of Accor, a French multinational hospitality company.

5. It was declared a National Monument of Singapore in the year 1987

The first major renovation of the Raffles Hotel started in the late 1980s. This project completely restored the grandeur of its peak days during the early 20th century and cost $160 million to complete.

The second major renovation project took place in 2017 when all rooms were soundproofed and refurbished. The total number of suites was also raised from 105 to 115 and the project was finally completed in 2019.

Because of the historic nature of the structure, the Raffles Hotel was designated as a National Monument of Singapore on March 4, 1987.

Facade of the Raffles Hotel
The façade of the historic hotel / Wiki Commons

More interesting facts about the Raffles Hotel in Singapore

6. Even though the hotel started with 10 rooms in 1887 and was expanded several times the following decade, the main building of the hotel wasn’t completed until the year 1899.

7. The architect of the main building was an English-born architect named Regent Alfred John Bidwell (1869-1918). This man also designed the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building in Kuala Lumpur.

8. The main building of the hotel was a unique structure upon completion in the late 19th century. It was not only the first building in the region to have electric lights but also automated ceiling fans.

Raffles Hotel lobby
The lobby of the hotel / Simon Sees /

9. The Japanese renamed the hotel “Syonan Ryokan.” This is a reference to the name used to define Singapore during the Japanese occupation “Syonan,” which translates to the “Light of the South,” and the name of a traditional Japanese hotel named “Ryokan.”

10. Even though the original grandeur of the hotel was restored during the first renovation project in the early 1990s, significant changes to the layout of the structure were made as well.

Singapore Sling Raffles Hotel

The popular Long Bar was relocated from its original location into a newly constructed shopping arcade. The Long Bar is famous in Singapore for being the location where the National cocktail, the “Singapore Sling,” was invented, and where guests throw peanut cases on the floor.

11. The Qatari investment firm that bought the Raffles Hotel paid $275 million for the business in April 2010. This was followed by a $467 million investment by the Qatari Investment Fund into the entire Raffles Hotel Chain in 2015.

12. One of the most popular features of the hotel is a shopping arcade that features 40 stores and a wide variety of restaurants and bars. This is the perfect place to both shop and to enjoy a relaxing dinner in an amazing setting in the heart of Singapore.

Raffles Hotel Singapore evening
The hotel at night / William Cho /