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When I stepped into the Raffles Singapore for the first time on a recent visit to Singapore, I not only checked an item off of my travel bucket list, but I also found my high expectations surpassed in every possible way. This hotel is rightly an icon, and not just as an impeccably preserved souvenir of Singapore’s British colonial past. The Raffles Singapore is one of the world’s few grand old 19th-century hotels still operating as high-end luxury hotels and delighting guests with an effortless mix of period charm and modern amenities.

The hotel sits amid the hustle and bustle of modern Singapore, holding its own among the towering glass and steel skyscrapers with its white-columned façade and lush, tropical landscaping. Opened in 1887, the Raffles Singapore has been a witness to Singapore’s growth from a burgeoning colonial trading center under the British Empire to a modern commercial powerhouse as a proud independent state in an era of Asian economic ascendency. Through it all, the hotel has remained largely the same, serving as a luxury escape for celebrities, statesmen and other travelers who find themselves in Singapore and heed the advice of those who insist that a visit to the island is not complete without a stay at the Raffles.

The bright and spacious lobby, which rises for three balconied stories under a glass atrium, was enough to take my breath away upon arrival. The polished, white marble floors, white columns and elegant colonial-style furniture, combined with dark polished teak woodwork on the balconies above, establishes a sense of both luxury and place. The Writers Bar, right off the atrium lobby and with large windows overlooking the hotel’s grand Palm Court, pays homage to the many celebrated literary figures who have visited the hotel, among them Rudyard Kipling, Noel Coward and Joseph Conrad. Other celebrity guests, of the Hollywood variety, include John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor, Charlie Chaplin, and many others.

The rooms at the Raffles Singapore are everything the modern luxury traveler would expect, with elegant yet comfortable furnishings and polished wood floors, keeping with the hotel’s heritage while still feeling fresh and modern. Outdoors, the lush green courtyards and pool area provide a soothing atmosphere in which you might forget the modern city that lies just outside the walls.

Of course, like any full-service luxury hotel, the Raffles Singapore ensures you don’t really have to leave the property if you don’t want to. A shopping arcade at the hotel features many high-end shops where you can purchase anything from fashions to fine jewelry, and a variety of restaurants and bars serves a variety of cuisine and cocktails, including the famous Singapore Sling that was invented at the hotel’s Long Bar in 1915. The hotel is in fact so comfortable that a favorite story among staff and guests alike is of the tiger who wandered into the hotel and spent the night under a billiards table back in 1902. Now that I’ve visited the Raffles Hotel, I completely understand its irresistible charm.

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