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. Here's our guide to where to stay in Singapore.
While prices may disappoint, the range of accommodation in Singapore will not. The island has a plethora of luxury hotels plus competently run, no-frills and mid-range establishments. There are also plenty of upstart boutique hotels, hostels and guesthouses. Many are in refurbished shophouses and practically all offer air-conditioning, a comfy communal lounge and breakfast.
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 some historic gems worth seeking out.
Best for period splendour: The Capitol Kempinski
Occupying two period buildings, the Capitol and Stamford House, this 150-room hotel prides itself on being both luxurious and intimate. Everything is suitably plush, with tasteful dark wood and marble. Facilities include a small rooftop pool where built-in recesses serve as jacuzzis, plus a gym and spa.
Best 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. Perhaps even more impressive is having a MRT station (City Hall) in its basement.
The grid of streets between Bras Basah Road and Rochor Road has been rendered a bit sterile by redevelopment, but remains a good choice to stay in Singapore. It's within walking distance of the Singapore River, Little India and the eastern end of Orchard Road. Hotels here tend to be either upmarket or, especially around Bencoolen St, budget affairs.
Best for breathtaking architecture: Marriott South Beach
One of the most architecturally arresting entrants to Singapore's hotel scene in recent years, this is both a prestige commercial development and a conservation project. The lobby – all individually styled chill-out spaces, some featuring the work of local artists – makes a statement. The 650-plus room are über chic.
Best for industrial chic: Hotel G
This excellent hotel occupies a converted office building, reflected in the ground-floor restaurants – all artfully exposed ducting and pipes. The functional rooms are snug, soundproofed and feature pale wood floors and furniture.
Accommodation in Little India and nearby tends to be slightly cheaper than elsewhere. The hotels can be uninspired, but there's a good selection of guesthouses in Little India in the zone from Rochor Road up to Lavender Street, and with an excellent public swimming pool not far away. The area around Arab Street also has a few good places to stay.
Best for hostel hospitality: The InnCrowd
Perennially excellent hostel with dorms and a range of rooms, each with TV. Shared showers and toilets are spotless, and there's a comfy lounge, cheap beer and free internet access. They run tours too.
Best for gadget lovers: The Pod
Ultra-slick design hotel where you check yourself in using an electronic kiosk. Their slogan is "pay for the stay, everything else is free" – and that includes use of their laundry and laptops, plus a cooked breakfast. As the name suggests, all beds are capsule-style.
When it comes to guesthouses, Little India's main competitor is Chinatown, which also boasts a good selection of boutique hotels. Boat Quay, on the south bank of the Singapore River, is dominated by restaurants and bars, but has one spectacularly worthwhile place to stay, the Fullerton Hotel.
Best for a budget bed: Wink
Deservedly popular for several years now, this hostel was one of the first with hi-tech capsules (including some doubles).
Best for Art Deco opulence: The Fullerton
The Fullerton has a stunning Art Deco atrium propped up on massive columns like an Egyptian temple. Rooms and bathrooms are spacious and feature contemporary styling. Amenities include a gym, spa and pool.
Marina Bay is the blandest part of downtown to stay in, but is worth considering if you're after four- and five-star comforts – best epitomized by Marine Bay Sands.
Best 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.
Best 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 on or around Orchard Road, even though its mall have lost some of their shine. Most of the area's hotels are luxury affairs, with a couple of more reasonably priced options.
Best for anonymous comfort: Yotel
This upstart international chain wants to make the hotel experience rather like flying. You can largely check in by yourself, mattresses are custom-made foldable affairs so you can have the bed flat or partially reclined, like an airliner seat, and clothes hangers and a desk surface slot out of the walls like a food tray.
Best 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 is more feasible than ever thanks to improved transport links. Even so, returning to your hotel for a short break from sightseeing downtown can still be a bit of a drag.
Best 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.
Best for contemporary elegance: Le Meridien Singapore Sentosa
A splendid hotel housed partly in former British barracks dating from 1940. All rooms feature elegant contemporary fittings, but the most impressive are the pricey
suites with their own large outdoor Japanese hot tub.
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Top image: Gardens by the Bay © Shutterstock