More and more hotels seem to spring up in Singapore and while the city has an enormous amount of luxury hotels, not all are made equal.
In an effort to compare them all and stack them up, I have been revisiting most of Singapore’s best hotels by simply staying there. Some of them I had already stayed at before, others were new for me and I had never stayed there before. This article is a review of my stay at the Hotel Fort Canning.
My stay at Hotel Fort Canning could not have been any more last minute. After a failed and very disappointing experience at the Intercontinental Singapore in Bugis, we decided to book the Hotel Fort Canning instead and had a very positive experience which, thankfully, saved the weekend.
History of Hotel Fort Canning
The hotel is located in a 1926 building which hosted the Administration of the British Far East Command HQ. The Japanese took over the building during their occupation of Singapore from 1942-1945 but it returned to British military hands after the war.
When Singapore attained independence, the Singapore Armed Forces took control of the building, and in 1970 it was used by the Singapore Command & Staff College. The building remained unoccupied from 1976 until 1995, when it reopened as the Fort Canning Country Club. But that didn’t last either. Eng Wah Global bought the property in 2002 and renamed the members-only club to The Legends Fort Canning Park which was turned into a luxury heritage boutique hotel in 2011.
Because of its protected heritage status, a lot of the interiors and facade had to be preserved and the rooms had to be designed to account for the building’s structure.
This is a win for guests as the balconies have been converted into white washed bathrooms which are literally flooded with natural sunlight. The floor to ceiling windows flanked by plants give the impression that the concept of indoor vs. outdoor is a flowing one. A great spot in Singapore for Instagram.
Arrival and check in at Hotel Fort Canning
Fort Canning Hotel is located in the park of the same name, in the heart of Singapore’s Bugis heritage neighbourhood. While the location is central, the fact that it is in the middle of a park, atop a small hill, gives the hotel an aura of peace and quietness hard to find in the city.
However, no matter how central it may look on a map and how close it appears to the nearest MRT station, it is not advisable to walk up the hill on foot with all your luggage as the walk is a bit hilly. Trust me, I did it (without the luggage) and arrived at the top pretty sweaty.
We arrived at the hotel by taxi and were dropped off at the lobby, located at the back of the hotel’s main stairs and garden area.
As soon as we came in we were greeted by a grand staircase and the smell of fresh roses. It was a nice touch. The reception is located on this floor and was pretty quiet when we arrived. Because we literally booked 5min before checking in there were a few last minute housekeeping checks that had to be done before we could get the room keys. The lady at reception was efficient, friendly and helpful and we were offered two drinks while we waited for the keys.
While we waited, I noticed the floor in the reception had a few glass squares looking down to what looked like artefacts. These Archaeological Pits are filled with 14th and 19th Century artifacts found at Fort Canning Park and are a nice reminder of the building’s and the park’s historical past.
As soon as the room was ready, she escorted us all the way and showed us how the main amenities in the room worked. Check in was personal and a far cry from the previous experience we had at the Intercontinental, despite the fact that I am a Gold member and have been Spire, Ambassador and even Royal Ambassador for years, even a decade maybe, with IHG Group and I was a nobody at the Hotel Fort Canning.
The rooms at the Hotel Fort Canning
There are only 85 rooms and suites at Hotel Fort Canning split into six category levels: Deluxe Rooms, Deluxe Garden Rooms, Premium rooms, Premium Luxe Rooms, Studio Suites and the Majapahit and Governor’s Suite.
The building design and floor plan very much determined the types of rooms and their sizes yielding four categories.
The Deluxe Rooms are in the main building on the second and third floors and you can read more about them below. The Deluxe Garden Rooms are located on the ground floors and come with their own small gardens with a daybed and seating area. Because the gardens are at the front, the free-standing bathtub is at the back.
The Premium Rooms at Hotel Fort Canning are fabulous, with extended frontage facing the park, both the bathroom as well as the working area, are located in their own enclosed verandahs with extra brightness and light. There is also a reading chair for when the laptop is not required. Premium Luxe Rooms are the same as the Premium Rooms but slightly bigger in size.
Studio Suites are larger with a decidedly studio feel, a separate living room area and a balcony. The outdoor space means you can open the doors to Singapore, a rarity in most city hotels.
Lastly, the two The Majapahit and Governor’s Suites are twice as big as the studios and feature a jacuzzi, a meeting room and a large living room space. These are perfect for extended stays or visits that require private meeting spaces.
I booked a Deluxe Room. The first thing I noticed the moment we walked into the room was the brightness and light that was coming through the windows. I was immediately happy to be there. The room’s cinnamon color wood and sleek lines contrasted with the brightness of the bathroom’s white giving it all a very warm and cozy feeling.
The bathroom had an elegant freestanding bathtub, a rainshower and a small sink facing the view outside with clean lines and a minimalistic design.
In the bedroom, a large sliding closet indicated some guests may be coming for extended periods of time. There were enough coat hangers and space to easily unpack the suitcase and feel at home. This was a bedroom I would like to have at home.
The bed was plush and with a high thread count, one could sink into it. An armchair provided ample relaxing opportunities and there was even a desk to work from.
In-room amenities included a Nespresso machine and some tea that could be served in a cute teapot. The minibar was stocked with the regular items.
There was also a large TV although, as with most other hotels in Singapore, this came with a grand total of three channels, something which still baffles me. Surely Netflix should be a given at any hotel these days? I have only seen it at The Sanchaya. To compensate, there was a nice Bose sound system to connect your Spotify app to.
The room was incredibly welcoming, comfortable and a place I would be happy to book myself for a longer period of time.
Dining at Hotel Fort Canning
As a small boutique hotel in a foodie metropolis like Singapore they made the right decision to minimise the risk of flop and concentrated their dining efforts on one breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant, The Salon, spread between inside seating and an outdoor garden with a small kids play area.
There is also a lounge bar, Tisettanta, with a roster of changing offers for afternoon tea, drinks and bar snacks. For those who prefer to enjoy their meals in the privacy of their room, a room service menu is also available.
If you are coming to relax and enjoy a staycation or small vacation, the pool is a quiet place to escape Singapore’s permanent heat. While you will not find a fancy pool bar, there is a phone and a menu poolside from where you can place a food and drinks order. And we tested it out.
I was positively surprised by the food we got. We ordered a club sandwich and a burger and they both came in a picnic basket and served inside pretty tiffin style, three-tiered, bamboo boxes which were not only a cute nod to Singapore’s and Fort Canning’s past, but also a clever way to serve food by the pool without making it messy or making it look like cheap take-away.
The food was also remarkably tasty and well done and we both enjoyed the homemade treats with a side of pool relaxation.
We also ate breakfast at the hotel and this was quite enjoyable. The spread included the usual suspects: cereals, breads, pastries, fruits, hot items and then a made to order station where you could order the usual eggs, pancakes and waffles but also a paratha with curry, which I tried. It was a success.
The paratha came both flaky, crisp and fluffy and the curry served on the side was not spicy, maybe adapted to my Western looks. Perhaps the only downside was that the juices were not fresh, but there were plenty of good looking fresh fruits like ripe strawberries and blueberries which more than compensated for the canned juice.
Hotel Fort Canning has free canapes and wine every evening for an hour from 6-7pm for all its guests enjoyed by the lobby and outside garden areas. All guests congregate at this time and you can meet different people or just have a glass or two of Chilean wine. I thought this was quite a nice touch and welcomed considering how expensive wine is in Singapore.
The facilities at Hotel Fort Canning
Since this is a small hotel the facilities should be expected to reflect its size. However, I found them to be more than adequate.
The hotel has two mineral pools with very special water. Their water is treated by a system from NASA used for the astronauts’ drinking water and a system developed for European Aerospace. These systems eliminate the smell and the health problems associated with chlorine.
The main pool is rounded and surrounded by some sun loungers and some cabanas and lots of greenery, like it’s in the middle of Gardens by the Bay. The second pool is a longer olympic size one ideal for long strokes located and on an adjacent second tier below. The first pool has a smaller shallower kids area while the second one is perfect for swimming.
Aside from the pool there is also a remarkably well equipped gym with professional TechnoGym Black Series equipment and advanced machines. I was quite surprised by the level of the gym. Yoga classes are offered on Sunday morning in the garden for S$5 per guest. There is also a spa which I did not test but which seemed to be able to provide all the traditional treatments.
Hotel Fort Canning is a well loved destination for couples to tie the knot and there are weddings practically every weekend. There was one when we were there. For this reason, there is a permanent tent on the lower garden level and several banquet halls and meeting rooms.
This is not a resort type of hotel but rather a place to retire to for a break from Singapore’s craziness and constant buzz. While there are limited activities offered by the hotel, Fort Canning Park is just outside its gates and filled with nature walks, free walking tours, spice gardens and other sights like a WWII bunker, the Battlebox which is right by the entrance to the hotel. The hill was the location of one of Britain’s most remarkable surrenders against the Japanese and this was a major sight in WWII, so well worth a visit.
Of course, the rest of Singapore is a stone’s throw since the hotel is right in the middle of the city. Dhoby Ghaut MRT is just 10min away (easily reached on the way down) and you can explore a lot of Singapore’s colonial district on foot. The river is also nearby.
The only activity directly offered by the hotel are the heritage walks in the park to learn more about its origins and its role in Singapore’s history.
The service at Hotel Fort Canning
I found the staff we interacted with to be friendly, helpful and diligent, a breath of fresh air, especially considering the terrible service at the bigger and much more expensive hotels. Everyone was courteous, willing to help and efficient.
Check-in was diligent, the evening drinks hour was well tended to, despite being complimentary, and drinks and food were constantly replaced. We were even advised when the hour was coming to an end and our glasses were willingly refilled. At breakfast the staff was again helpful. Although we did not have to make any special requests, everything ran smoothly and well.
Hotel Fort Canning – The verdict
I very much enjoyed my stay at Hotel Fort Canning. The rooms were beautifully bright and modern, the staff were friendly, the location was peaceful while central and I enjoyed the unassuming heritage value of the building and the few subtle touches that added to its historical value.
I also found the price to be excellent value for money. When compared to the Intercontinental Singapore, where we were going to pay upwards of S$500 for the night, or the similar amount we spent at the W Singapore on Sentosa Cove, I found the S$280 for Hotel Fort Canning to be a steal in Singapore. In fact, I thought the hotel was nice enough to become my next recommendation for visiting friends. In a city like Singapore with so many heartless and cookie-cutter hotel chains, Hotel Fort Canning was a welcome change. Here are some other luxury boutique hotels in Singapore I would recommend to avoid the cookie cutter.