Just Back: Sublime Singapore

Singapore is a popular tourist destination with famous landmarks, such as the Merlion, Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay, the Jewel Changi Airport, the Orchard Road shopping belt, the resort island of Sentosa and the Singapore Botanic Gardens. // Photo by Getty Images

With its mix of colonial and modern architecture, diverse dining scene and urban green spaces, Singapore is a destination worthy of a spot on any traveler’s wish list. But thanks to the arrival of the glamorous new lifestyle complex at Jewel Changi Airport and the reopening of the legendary Raffles hotel, Singapore is having a major moment and we can’t wait to get back there the moment international travel resumes.

Raffles Singapore is a 115-suite property. Shown here is the hotel’s swimming pool.

Closed for more than two years for a total renovation, Raffles reopened its doors last August. Wow Moment: Stepping inside the lobby, our jaw dropped at the sight of the dazzling new crystal chandelier suspended from its atrium. All 115 of Raffles’ guestrooms are suites. Its top offerings are the 2,800-square-foot Sarkies and Sir Stamford Raffles Presidential Suites, located in the main building. If your travel needs don’t include a palatial pad, book one of the 753-square-foot Palm Court Suites, the most popular pick. Residence Suites, which have one or two bedrooms, a living and dining area, pantry, office and powder room, as well as private access, are ideal for families. All suites include butler service. Contact the hotel’s director of sales and special projects Amy Ang ([email protected]; 011-656-412-1289) to make a room reservation. Insiders at the in-demand hotel say it’s best to book rooms as far in advance as possible for a stay any time of year.

A highlight of Raffles’ renovation is its new, 4,800-square-foot spa, which has six treatment rooms, a vitality pool, an aromatic steam room and an ice fountain. We hear the two-hour Traveller’s Interlude is a popular pick. Complete with a dry brushing ritual, a deep tissue massage and a pressure point facial, it’s no wonder why. For small groups, book the separate four-person Gem Suite. Guests can book spa treatments on-site through their Raffles Butler, but to ensure the desired time and treatment, book with a spa concierge ([email protected]; 011-65 -6337-1886) as soon as room reservations are made. Spa manager Siti Mohd ([email protected]; 011-656-337-1886) can assist with special requests. 

Raffles Singapore has a new crystal chandelier in the grand lobby suspended from the atrium. 

The renovation also brought with it 10 new and restored food and drink venues. At the new La Dame de Pic, chef Anne-Sophie Pic’s berlingots — pasta parcels filled with French cheese fondue — can’t be missed. Modern Chinese food stars on the menu at yì by Jereme Leung, and BBR by Alain Ducasse marks that star chef’s first foray into Mediterranean cuisine. The Tiffin Room, part of the hotel since 1892, serves Northern Indian fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And would a visit to Raffles be complete without a Singapore Sling in the famed Long Bar or Afternoon Tea in its grand lobby? Hardly. Chef concierge Syed Musaddiq (syed[email protected]; 011-656-412-1180) can assist with restaurant reservations, as well as recommend the best places to try kaya toast (toast smeared with a sweet coconut jam) and Peranakan food (a combination of Malaysian, Indian and Chinese cooking). Both are quintessentially Singaporean.

Musaddiq can also arrange VIP experiences, such as a private tour of the National Museum, reservations at Singapore’s Michelin-star restaurants (Candlenut is the world’s first Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant), or a shopping excursion to glitzy Orchard Road with transportation in a chauffeured Mercedes-Benz. Note to savvy shoppers: Orchard Road is home to every imaginable designer store, but we loved shopping for clothes, accessories and beauty products at Design Orchard, a one-stop shop showcasing both emerging and established talent from Singapore.

The Tiffin Room, part of Raffles since 1892, serves North Indian cuisine.

Another architectural gem is The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore, which is overseen by general manager Sebastien Mariette ([email protected]). It opened in October 2018 in two historic, early 20th-century buildings in the Civic and Cultural District. A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, the hotel has 132 guestrooms and 23 suites across several categories. Located in the historic Stamford House wing, the one-bedroom Heritage Suite is the hotel’s premier pick, with separate living and lounge areas, a dining room and a light-filled bathroom with a freestanding modern tub. Tip: Because it’s the only one, book the Heritage Suite at least a month in advance, if possible. Insiders tell us that couples tend to enjoy Terrace Suites, and that families feel at home in Grand Deluxe Rooms, some of which can connect to Classic Rooms. Terrace and Heritage rooms are said to have the best views, but be sure to specify whether it’s the city, St. Andrew’s Cathedral or Marina Bay Sands you’d like to look out at.

We stayed in a Stamford Suite and felt absolutely serene thanks to its high ceilings, spacious layout and elegant, unfussy décor. To book a room or suite, reach out to director of sales Vic Khor ([email protected]; 011-656-715-6816). 

The Fullerton Bay Hotel, a 100-room hotel, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this summer. // Photo by Darren Soh

Flights to Singapore are long, and a visit to The Capitol Kempinski’s three-room spa might help beat jet lag. The 90-minute Singapore Massage is a guest favorite. Blending Chinese, Malay and Indian massage techniques, it’s a nod to Singapore’s diversity. Book spa treatments via assistant spa manager Chanel Ho ([email protected]; 011-656-715-6876) two or three days in advance, if possible. Good to know: The hotel does have a lovely rooftop pool, but the few lounge chairs beside it fill up quickly, especially on hot days. 

Although it would be forgivable to spend your entire Singapore stay inside the hotel, its well-connected concierge team will make sure you see the city in style, whether that means playing 18 at the world-renowned Sentosa Golf Club or taking a vintage Vespa sidecar tour. They can also make sure you experience some of Singapore’s best dining. For an off-the-beaten-path dining experience, ask chief concierge Lydia Tang ([email protected]; 011-659-817-1692) to book a private dinner at FatFuku, local food writer and cookbook author Annette Tan’s in-home private dining concept. A minimum of six guests is required, so you might find yourself rubbing elbows with other savvy travelers or locals around Tan’s dining room table. We suggest adding The Capitol Kempinski’s own 15 Stamford to your dining plans, too. Helmed by three-Michelin-star chef Alvin Leung, its menu showcases ingredients and cooking styles from Asia and beyond. Tip: Try the laksa with green tea-smoked onsen eggs and tiger prawns. And don’t turn in without first having a nightcap at The Bar at 15 Stamford; it’s home to Singapore’s largest rum collection. Ask assistant director of F&B Wong Yun Kai ([email protected]; 011-656-715-6870) to assist with reservations. 

If your taste in hotels skews more modern, book a room at The Fullerton Bay Hotel, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts that’s celebrating its 10th anniversary this summer. Here’s what to know when booking: The hotel has 100 rooms. Six of those are suites, all of which include butler service. (Perfect for product junkies, these suites are also the only accommodations whose bathrooms have double sinks.) With separate living and dining areas, a lounge and game room, and a study, the art-filled Presidential Suite is the cream of the crop. Premier Bay View Rooms with Jacuzzis are the most popular picks in general, as well as the most booked by couples. And, no matter which room or suite you book, you’ll get a bathtub. To make a reservation, contact director of business development Bobby Seah ([email protected]; 011-656-877-8019). Peak occupancy periods include Chinese New Year, Easter, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Grand Prix, National Day (August 9) and public holidays, so book at least two months in advance for a stay then. Be sure to let Seah know if you’ll need an airport transfer in one of the hotel’s vintage Rolls Royces or modern Mercedes vehicles.  

Capella Singapore's Two-Bedroom Villa has 2,002 square feet of space and, just like the other 37 villas of the hotel, it has an outdoor terrace with a private plunge pool.  

Given the hotel’s location in the vibrant financial, arts and cultural precinct, you’ll have Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, Chinatown, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, National Gallery Singapore, Singapore Art Museum and other cultural highlights right outside your doorstep. Traveling with family? Guest services and concierge manager Ali Alsagoff ([email protected]; 011-656-597-5212) can arrange a VIP experience at private Night Safari or Bird Park tour, and other fun activities. If you enjoy the outdoors, ask Alsagoff to arrange a walk along the Southern Ridges trail in the company of a naturalist. We loved spending a few hours spotting birds, fruits and flowers among the lush landscape just minutes from the city center.

Note that, although the Fullerton Bay Hotel doesn’t have its own spa, guests have access to the spa at sister property The Fullerton Hotel, a five-minute walk away via a designated under-pass. The spa has five single suites, two couple’s suites and steam and sauna facilities. We hear that The Asian Heritage Signature and The Ultimate Aromatherapy Experience are two of the most requested treatments. Contact any member of the spa’s reception team ([email protected]; 011-656-877-8182/8183), or assistant wellness manager Julian Lim ([email protected]; 011-656-877-8182) to book treatments.

The Arc by French artist Bernar Venet is a prominent sculpture at Capella Singapore. 

If you want to have a bite at the hotel, head to the elegant Clifford Pier for a juicy lobster roll, laksa or Wagyu Beef Rendang served with traditional achar pickles. La Brasserie serves French bistro-style fare and the Lantern rooftop bar serves lighter snacks, cocktails and wine. If gin is your drink of choice, head to Gin Parlour by the Bay. It has more than 160 labels of gin from around the world, and guests can create their own G&T. Hotel insiders say the best way to make restaurant bookings is to contact its dedicated reservations team ([email protected]; 011-656-877-8911/8912). 

Located off the southern end of Singapore and accessible via the Sentosa Gateway highway, Sentosa is a playground for Singaporeans. With its theme parks, restaurants, bars, beaches and green spaces, it gives travelers a taste of a different side of Singapore and caters equally well to couples and families. There, check in to Capella Singapore, which has 112 rooms, suites, villas and colonial manors. The two colonial manors are the top offering, each with three bedrooms, garden views, an outdoor terrace and a private lap pool. If you’re traveling with family, book a one- or two-bedroom villa with a private plunge pool. Great for guests who don’t need quite as much space, Premier Seaview Rooms, Sentosa Suites and Capella Suites all overlook the South China Sea. Senior sales manager Royce Ng ([email protected]; 011-656-591-5008) can help make sure you book the best room for your needs. Note that, if you book a colonial manor, Ng can also assist with arranging a butler.

Capella Singapore’s accommodations have balconies, some with private Jacuzzis, from which guests can enjoy the tranquil views of landscaped gardens or South China Sea. 

Options for activities and experiences both on and off property are practically never-ending, and Capella Singapore’s team of Capella Culturists will make sure guests see it all their way. Talk to Arjay Pamintuan ([email protected]; 011-656-591-5034), manager, Capella culturist and concierge, to plan a just-right itinerary. Pamintuan can schedule a cooking master class or heritage and art tour at Capella Singapore, visits to the island’s adventure attractions and entertainment venues, including Universal Studios, and meetups with local artisans. 

Simply relaxing is another way to enjoy the island, whether you snooze by a pool at Capella Singapore or spend a day on the beach. For full-on pampering, book a post-sun treatment at Capella Singapore’s 12,000-square-foot Auriga Spa. Its popular Signature Moon Treatments align to the varying energies of the lunar cycle and combine a variety of massages techniques, oils and aromatherapy. Whichever service you choose, be sure to take advantage of the spa’s nine experience rooms with private outdoor gardens, vitality pools, herbal steam baths and experience showers. Spa treatments should be booked by contacting a reservation specialist ([email protected]; 011-65-6591-5075). You can also contact director of spa and wellness Cassandra Forrest ([email protected]; 011-65-6591-5023).

Capella Singapore’s 829-square-foot Premier Sea View Room has a spacious balcony with sunbed.

Getting to Singapore

Changi Airport serves Singapore and is roughly a 25-minute drive from the city center. Its elite JetQuay CIP Terminal offers a range of VIP services, including on-arrival greeting, luggage collection and customs clearance, as well as limousine transfers straight to passengers’ aircraft. Contact JetQuay directly (011-65-6262-2220), or, when booking hotel rooms, let your hotels’ reservations contacts know that you’d like to utilize JetQuay’s services; advance reservations are required. Singapore’s Seletar Airport serves helicopters and private jets.

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