An easy entry-point for first-time visitors to Southeast Asia, the absorbing city-state of Singapore has evolved from a colonial port into a slick shrine to wealth and consumerism. With fascinating Chinese and Indian quarters, excellent museums, world-renowned restaurants and great shopping, there’s plenty here to keep you occupied for days.Rough Guide to Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Get your bearings first with our online guide here.
Little India, Lavender Street and Arab Street
Little India proper and beyond – the zone extending up to Lavender Street, reachable via Farrer Park or Lavender stations – is the best place to find budget accommodation, although hotels are hit and miss. The area around Arab Street also has a few good places to stay.
For boutique on a budget: Moon 23. A boutique-hotel experience that won’t strain your wallet, with stylishly kitted-out rooms boasting snazzy wallpaper and iPhone docks.
For flashpackers: [email protected]. A sprawling place, its size matching its ambition to be a “flashpacker” hostel taking the concept of comfort on a budget to new heights.
Bras Basah Road to Rochor Road
The grid of streets between Bras Basah Road and Rochor Road has been rendered a bit sterile by redevelopment, which has also wiped out nearly all the cheap accommodation that once packed Bencoolen Street; now it’s mostly modern mid-range hotels that remain. The area remains a good choice if you can afford it, as it’s within easy walking distance of the Singapore River, Little India and the eastern end of Orchard Road.
For a memorable dorm bed: [email protected] Emily. Owned by the company behind the historic Cathay cinema at the foot of Mount Emily, the Hangout is an impressive designer guesthouse with a breezy rooftop terrace.
For industrial chic: The Big Hotel. This excellent new hotel occupies a converted office building, reflected in the lobby decor – all artfully exposed ducting and pipes.
We hear, Life is a climb for you to ascend further up, further far. We say, Life is about seeking #BIGexperiences – merely steps down these staircases. Strut down in style when you walk into #BIGHotelSingapore, expect BIG things to happen. Be brave.
A photo posted by BIG Hotel Singapore (@bighotelsingapore) on
The Colonial District
There are only a few places to stay among the grand Neoclassical buildings of the Colonial District, the area immediately north and east of the Singapore River that forms the core of downtown Singapore. If you’ve got deep pockets, however, there are two places worth seeking out.
For colonial splendour: Raffles. Colonial-era charm in spades, especially evident in the opulent lobby and the courtyards fringed by frangipani trees and palms.
For great views: Swissôtel The Stamford. Not for those with vertigo, though the views are as splendid as you’d expect from one of the tallest hotels in the world, with over a thousand rooms.
Image courtesy of Swissôtel The Stamford
Chinatown and Boat Quay
Chinatown runs a close second to Little India and Lavender Street in its selection of guesthouses, and also boasts a good many upmarket and boutique hotels. Boat Quay, right on the south bank of the Singapore River, is dominated by restaurants and bars, but has two worthwhile places to stay, including the splendid Fullerton hotel.
For a budget bed: Wink. One of the best designer hostels in town, with hi-tech capsule beds inside flower-themed rooms with colour-coded lighting to match.
For Art Deco opulence: The Fullerton. Nearly as impressive as the Raffles, with a stunning Art Deco atrium propped up on massive columns like an Egyptian temple.
Marina Bay accommodation is synonymous with modern four-and five-star affairs, all located at the rather bland Marina Centre district next to Beach Road, with the obvious exception of Marina Bay Sands.
For five-star service: Ritz-Carlton Millenia. Arguably king of the pricey hotels in Marina centre, with magnificent views across to the financial District, even from the bathrooms, where butlers will fill the bath for you.
For a night in a landmark: Marina Bay Sands. Not just one of the island’s most famous buildings but also the largest hotel in Singapore, with an astonishing 2500 rooms: stay here for the architecture and that infinity pool.
You generally pay a premium to stay in the Orchard Road shopping area, though it’s hardly the most interesting part of downtown, and now that many stores have branches across town, only the sheer modernity of the district lends it any edge.
For boutique comfort: The Quincy. A 10min, slightly uphill walk off Orchard Road, this is one of Singapore’s more endearing boutique hotels, melding contemporary aesthetics with comfort.
For a taste of a bygone era: Goodwood Park. Built on a leafy hillock and designed by the architect responsible for the Raffles, this is a genuine landmark in a cityscape characterized by transience.
Staying on Sentosa isn’t such a bad idea, especially if you have young children. On the downside, heading back to your hotel for a short break from sightseeing on the “mainland” is a bit of a drag unless you catch a cab.
For a convenient base: Hotel Michael. The main reason to stay at Resorts World is to tap into regular packages with admission to Universal Studios and so forth; Hotel Michael is more interesting than the rest.
For contemporary elegance: Mövenpick Sentosa. A splendid hotel housed partly in former British barracks dating from 1940t the most impressive rooms are the pricey onsen suites with their own large outdoor Japanese hot tub.
Explore more of Singapore with the Rough Guide to Singapore or the Rough Guide to Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.
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