Inside Raffles Boston: the Singapore icon’s first US opening

By Nick Scott 3 July, 2024

The city’s Back Bay neighbourhood plays host to a dazzling new jewel in the hospitality giant’s crown

When Stamford Thomas Raffles planted his flag into the soil of a speck of rainforest-coated land at the foot of the Malay Peninsula, in 1819, it’s unlikely he harboured an accurate picture of Singapore today: a metropolis hub whose 5.5 million-plus denizens mingle amongst cloud-nudging buildings and capacious malls. Neither would he have entertained the idea that a modest 10-room beach bungalow, opened in 1887 and named after him, would go on to become a global hospitality entity whose own flag is now planted in 18 global hotspots, from Bali to Britain via the Middle East and mainland Europe.

Now, 120 years after one British newspaper described the original Raffles as “the most magnificent establishment of its kind East of the Suez”, Raffles Hotels & Resorts (now a part of French multinational Accor) has opened its first ever US property: a US$400 million-plus new-build on the corner of Stuart Street and Trinity Place (just over a mile west of where Boston’s famous ‘Tea Party’ – a huge milestone in America’s severance from the UK – took place, just four decades before Raffles’ flag penetrated the mudflats literally half a world away, for those who relish a little historical context).

The view of the skyline from the Raffles Ballroom. Photo by Raffles Boston

Within its 35 storeys – from the higher echelons of which guests enjoy views over the Charles River, as well as the city skyline and the gorgeous brownstone neighbourhoods at its fringes – there are 147 guestrooms and 146 branded residences. New York design firm Stonehill Taylor is behind a design aesthetic inspired, as well as by the building’s historic cultural surroundings, by Massachusetts’ Emerald Necklace: a 1,100-acre chain of parks linked by parkways and waterways (a nod, perhaps, to Sir Stamford having been a distinguished amateur botanist).

Guests are greeted at street level by a hand-blown glass chandelier resembling falling leaves. Photo by Raffles Boston

As such, biophilia calls the shots, literally from the ground up. Guests are greeted at street level by a hand-blown glass chandelier resembling falling leaves, before whizzing upwards to the Sky Lobby on the 17th floor – the hotel’s nerve centre, and a zone where abundant flower displays and copper shelving festooned with plant life compete for visitor attention with an imperious spiral staircase ascending an iron and glass atrium, and that weapons-grade bonhomie we all expect from American five-star hospitality.

The Signature One Bedroom Suite Living Room, decked with locally created artworks and conservatory-like flourishes. Photo by Raffles Boston

There are 21 Signature Suites and eight Premier Suites, replete with high-gloss lacquer walls, locally created artworks and conservatory-like flourishes, whilst the presidential, 2,000 sq ft Raffles Suite features a fireplace, baby grand piano and 10-seater dining zone. All quarters boast moody, warm and muted colour schemes which sing in soothing harmony with sweeping, curved forms, elegant hardwood floors, myriad textures and striking marble bathroom fixtures.

On the 17th floor, the Raffles Writer’s Lounge is a signature Raffles space made famous for the esteemed writers and poets. Photo by Raffles Boston

There are 16 public spaces in all, including conference zones, function rooms, lounges, cosy hideaways such as The Writers’ Lounge and five food and beverage outlets (indulging in lobster rolls with a glass of rosé at The Long Bar & Terrace is possibly the finest way to spend an early evening on the Eastern Seaboard). When it comes to post-prandial drinks, the biophilia theme goes into overdrive (in a good way) at the Blind Duck speakeasy, where customers sip cocktails – often Boston Slings, which see apple and cranberry added to the Raffles staple with which we’re all familiar – amongst botanically themed wallcoverings, six-metre-high columns of green-stained oak and metal chandeliers.

Guerlain Spa with three private treatment suites (with hydrotherapy baths) and a fitness centre. Photo by Raffles Boston

One of many other factors keeping guests ensconced within the hotel’s confines is the Guerlain Spa – a pulse-slowing subterranean zone with 20-metre indoor pool and jacuzzi, three private treatment suites (with hydrotherapy baths) and a fitness centre packed with Technogym gear. Another is the room service menu – which continues the New England cuisine theme (the fried Judith Point calamari with smoked chili aioli is heartily recommended).

Within the Guerlain Spa, a 20-metre indoor pool and jacuzzi. Photo by Raffles Boston

Then there are the small touches: such as returning to your room, after dinner, to find your room graced with nightcaps brought by a 24-hour butler who has troubled himself to find out your drinking preferences from the bar staff, as well as beautifully printed excerpts from literary works by authors, such as Somerset Maugham, with connections to the brand (Maugham once referred to the hotel’s Singapore progenitor as an establishment which “stands for all the fables of the Exotic East”).

The newish London Raffles outpost, a year or so after its official opening, is hogging most of glory right now: and not surprisingly, given its abundant talking points (the Grade II-listed property in which it is housed, The Old War Office, was Winston Churchill’s headquarters during World War II; Lawrence of Arabia also worked there, as did James Bond author Ian Fleming). But, with new Raffles properties in the planning including, as well as Jaipur and Jeddah, one on Sentosa, where 62 contemporary private pool villas will be surrounded by exuberant tropical gardens and an emphasis on nature will prevail throughout, the Boston outlet may offer more tantalising clues as to what we might expect.

Expect the unexpected. We won’t be quite as surprised as the man after whom the hotels are named would be, were he to set eyes on the Raffles empire today: but they’ll do their best to make us so.

Rates begin at $810 per night

Raffles Boston