Good for: living in a Wes Anderson-esque world
Three words: prepare to swoon. The Great Madras in Singapore's Little India distrit is so Instagram-worthy that you'll likely wear out your photo thumb by the time you check out. The exterior is a gleaming white art deco dream, while the inside reflects more of a 1950s vibe (think patterned wallpapers, geometric-print floors and lots of greenery). The rooms are just as delightful, with pops of pastel colours and plump double beds. The pool and Catalan restaurant are just the icing on the cake.
Good for: a secret hideaway
First established in 1927, this boutique hotel opened its doors once again in 2012 with retro furnishings and nostalgic fittings from the early 1900s. Sitting on vibrant Jalan Besar Road, Kam Leng Hotel provides free local calls and wifi. Decorated in soothing pastel colours, the air-conditioned rooms are equipped with a flat-screen TV, personal safe and free bottled water. En suite bathrooms come with a shower and free toiletries. Kam Leng is a short walk from colourful Little India and the 24-hour Mustafa Shopping Centre.
Good for: eclectic chic
Live it up like a G in this snazzy offering. Taking its cue from the surrounding arts and cultural district, Hotel G sports an unorthodox mashup of industrial, vintage and bohemian elements – even the gym looks like a vintage bachelor pad. The rooms are intimate, but cleverly planned and, thanks to the quirky details and the pampering Metis bath amenities, it really feels like a boutique stay. For the food-obsessed types, the F&B perks here are a real boon, too. You get dining credits to redeem at either Ginett – one of the most affordably priced wine bars around – or at American burger bar, 25 Degrees (so-called as that's the difference in temperature between a rare and well-done burger).
Good for: minimalist vibes
This Orchard Road address puts Lloyd's Inn just a little beyond the perimeters of the famous shopping district, and less than 100 metres from the infamous Oxley house (once home to the former PM Lee Kuan Yew). The concrete-clad structure looks avant-garde next to the surrounding older, conventional architecture, but step inside and you’ll find it lush and welcoming. The rooms have eight style varieties, bathed in soft natural light and with a Nordic minimalism, which make you feel like you're being whisked away to a cosy Airbnb in Europe. The facilities aren’t grand, but the roof terrace and foliage-lined dipping pool are idyllic enough to lull you into serenity – if you can stop Instagramming, that is.
Good for: a dash of millennial
The achingly cool M Social is all futuristic neon colours, steel and mirrored furnishings in the distinctive, flamboyant design style of Philippe Starck. The ceilings are all double height, which means that even the smaller lead-in rooms (industry jargon for a hotel’s most affordable category) feel plush and not oppressive. The space is tight but well thought-out, and the bed’s too comfy to leave. There’s a small pool and gym you can hit up, but the appeal of a stay around Robertson Quay is to bask in the breezy laidback charm of its riverside restaurants and Aussie-styled cafes.
Good for: a collision of heritage and colour
Each Indigo hotel around the globe reflects the neighbourhood in which it’s situated, and in storied Joo Chiat, lined with heritage buildings, the boutique space offers a culturally rich experience. A rooftop infinity pool and a 24-hour fitness centre are the basics everyone expects, but what sets this particular hotel apart is the Indigo Pavilion. Perhaps in a bid to invoke the ‘kampong' (village) spirit that once flowed through the district, the pavilion is a communal space designed to mimic a living room. It’s set with water jars, a lantern-inspired chandelier and a ‘mama shop’ hawking literature from local brand BooksActually, traditional baju (clothes) and other bits.
Good for: tiny but comfy
We’ll be frank. Hotel Clover The Arts has the most compact quarters compared to other hotels on this list. But it is comfortable and clean, and the colourful murals that adorn every room – each one is painted by a local artist or art student – give it a cheerful countenance. And of course, the location is superb. It’s right next to the Civic District and the watering holes that line Boat Quay, steps away from 28HKS – the hottest speakeasy in Singapore – and minutes from the clubs at Clarke Quay. Guests have access to the dipping pool at the sister hotel around the corner, too.
Good for: a fully-fledged business hotel
As far as budget stays go, Mercure Singapore Bugis ticks all the right boxes. It’s centrally located and close to three MRT stations: Bugis, Bencoolen and Bras Basah. The rooms are fairly spacious and even loft rooms are available for under $200. As for facilities, there’s a small business centre and a good-sized infinity lap pool, jacuzzi and gym. What we particularly like is that there are numerous pockets of space – a breezy courtyard, roof terrace and a lobby lounge. The Albert Court Market & Food Centre is also right behind for some superb and wallet-friendly hawker fare.
Good for: an authentic look at Chinatown
Set within six historical shophouses, this minimalist joint is not only a well-kept secret, but effortlessly chic. The contemporary design is clean and almost futuristic, giving the rooms a spacious feel that cramped budget hotels sometimes lack. Besides which, there's an air of tranquillity thanks to the lack of clutter – allowing for total rest and recuperation after you've schlepped round the Singapore sights. Our only gripe is that several of the rooms' windows merely open into an airwell, but at least you get some natural light (or switch on the sleek lightning bars to artificially amp up the brightness). If you're booking online keep an eye out for Hotel Mono's special promotions that run at various times throughout the year.
Good for: quiet charm
Getting to Nuve Urbane feels a bit like going back in time. It’s pretty central, but in a sleepy part of Lavender where industrial buildings and old residential estates intersect. Space is sparse but there’s a lap pool and day beds to lounge around on. What it lacks in space, the hotel makes up for with very friendly service (and a complimentary snack bar). You can easily walk into Little India or café-hop at some of our favourites, like Creatures and The Bravery Café. It’s also close to Druggists, the city’s coolest pharmacy-turned-pub with dozens of draft beers on tap.
Good for: a taste of local flavour
The Ramada’s Balestier suburb is rarely top of the list for travellers, much less for staycationers, but it makes perfect sense. It’s a bit of a heartland Singapore – flanked as it is by public housing and kopitiams (traditional coffee shops) – but still only a short drive to Orchard Road (take the complimentary hotel shuttle) and Little India. Balestier is also one of Singapore’s most cherished supper streets, teeming with big-name bak kut teh (pork rib soup) and chicken rice shops. The rooms are generously sized and the swimming pool terrace is spacious, inviting and really quite beautiful in the evenings. The perennial Room 'n' Zoom package comes with pre-loaded limited edition EZ-link transport cards and the hotel also offers complimentary use of kick scooters for exploring the nearby heritage sites – but reserve one early as these go quickly.