Occupying a beautifully conserved structure that once housed British artillery troops, this 40-room boutique hotel brings history to life through its original architecture and colonial-style decor.
“We used to wake up at 5 a.m. daily to do 5BX (five basic exercises) in the parade square. These days, they just work out in air-conditioned gyms, right?” chuckled our guide Khor Sing Hong, who fondly remembers the days he served as a combat engineer between 1968 and 1972. Fast forward to today and these same grounds are manicured and lush, lined with swaying palm trees surrounding The Barracks Hotel in Singapore’s island resort, Sentosa.
Constructed in 1918 as lodgings for a British artillery garrison, the restored colonial building has found new life as a 99-room boutique hotel designed to evoke the golden age of travel. Though repainted to alabaster white, the original columns with moldings remain, as do the traditional timber louvered windows. Wander around and you’ll even spot distinctive black boot scrapers in some corridors—a reminder of a bygone era.
Spread across two stories, the rooms come in just two categories: premier and suite. Ground floor rooms offer direct pool access, while those upstairs come with a spacious balcony. Depending on which end of the building you’re staying in, you might just wake up to shrieks of joy, as theme park Universal Studios Singapore is just a short distance away. The beautiful peaked roof, said to improve air flow, was a highlight of the premier king room in which I stayed.
Designed by architect Laurence Liew of Arc Studio Architecture + Urbanism and interior designer Kunio Iwata of KKS International, the rooms combine old-world charm with modern amenities. Bedside tables resemble neat stacks of antique trunks, while the bed frame and study chairs sport an aged leather look. The color palette of sage green and browns is comforting to the eye, and the use of brass, marble, and rattan add textural interest. Modern comforts like a freestanding Apaiser bathtub, Marshall speakers and a Smart TV are par for the course. Meanwhile, photo prints of the barracks in past decades are also showcased in vintage gold frames.
Within the hotel itself, there’s just The Living Room, a relaxing lounge that serves breakfast, all-day refreshments, afternoon, as well as evening cocktails and canapés. The high tea session, which happens between 2 to 4 p.m. daily, comes with a three-tier tea set of traditional nonya kueh and savory items like mini pies and sandwiches. The morsels of ondeh ondeh (sweet glutinous rice balls), which burst with flowing gula melaka (palm sugar), is especially moreish. Accompanying the tea set is a tea tailoring experience where guests can create their own unique tea blends with the help of local brewing company Pryce. For more dining options, take a stroll to the Mess Hall. Originally a military recreational club for soldiers built in 1904, the building is now home to a handful of restaurants, including contemporary Japanese venue Hidemasa by Hide Yamamoto and Eurasian eatery Quentin’s. Guests can also enjoy meals at the hotel’s sister properties The Outpost and Village Hotel, located right next door.
Other hotels offer butler service and The Barracks Hotel Sentosa has what it calls the Equerry service—a term that originated from officers of the British royal household who assist members of the royal family. This basically means that guests can make requests to book unique experiences, such as a sunset yacht cruise with Ximula Sail, or even have midnight supper delivered from their favorite local hawker stall in the Lion City. The only caveat? Purchased items are chargeable, and so is transport.
Guests should also join the hotel’s complimentary heritage tour, which takes place twice daily at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The walking tour delves into the rich history of the land and buildings that the hotel occupies, and comes peppered with anecdotes on topics ranging from the soldiers’ living conditions to the architecture.
More information here.