Steeped in historical provenance and maritime intrigue, The Barracks Hotel Sentosa transports holidaymakers to the golden age of travel — one that’s filled with mystery, romance and discovery. From premium bespoke services by its personable staff to the luxurious leather-bound décor and artefacts that evoke a bygone era, a stay at this island getaway promises to satiate your wanderlust and rekindle your love for history.
Built in 1904, the hotel once served as a military outpost for British soldiers during the colonial period. It was then known as Blakang Mati Artillery Barracks. Over the years, the property has been utilised for various purposes, most notably as a training centre for the Singapore Tourism Academy. Today, it is one of three hotels by Far East Hospitality, sharing facilities with the adjacent family-friendly Village Hotel Sentosa and adults-only The Outpost Hotel Sentosa.
The refurbished boutique hotel, which opened in late 2019, takes up two out of six conserved heritage buildings. The Mess Hall (just a stone’s throw away) is now occupied by three blocks of eateries such as Japanese restaurant Hidemasa By Hide Yamamoto, Eurasian restaurant Quentin’s, and French bistro Le Faubourg. The last block is dedicated to weddings and other events.
Past meets present
Majestic palm trees line the front of the two-storey hotel, an architectural wonder that has stood the test of time, now home to 40 lavishly fitted rooms and suites starting from $700++.
This place is a history lesson in itself, offering a peek into Sentosa’s storied past with framed photos of post-war artefacts and maps displayed along the corridors. The main structure of the beautifully restored building remains untouched, including the louvered windows, timber doors and moulded columns, and most of the refurbishment was relegated to the hotel’s interior. All the living areas are designed to look extremely dapper and unapologetically masculine, accented with richly textured dark wood grains, warm brass, leather furnishings and vintage-looking props.
The rooms expertly blend old world charm with modern fixtures such as smooth marble flooring, a freestanding bathtub by Apaiser and Eclipse basins from Hansgrohe. Other creature comforts include complimentary Nespresso, tea and soft drinks in the mini fridge.
At the heart of the hotel is the Living Room, a cosy dining hall where guests can enjoy a continental breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails, or just laze on the spacious couches and tuck into complimentary snacks and beverages from the snack bar. The floor-to-ceiling glass windows offer views of the 30m lap pools on each side. The calm bodies of water are complemented by lush foliage to give a sense of openness while maintaining the exclusivity of a private sanctuary.
The ground-floor rooms and suites all have direct pool access from the bathrooms, with a patio and semi-private jacuzzi. The larger corner units have an outdoor dining area for groups to enjoy dinner under the stars, after which they can adjourn for a dip into the pool just a few feet away.
To fully enjoy quintessential colonial architecture, head to the second-floor rooms, which all feature double-heighted ceilings that expose renewed timber beams, dramatically enlarging the serene space. There is also one duplex that can easily accommodate a family of staycationers.
Travel back in time
Part of the hotel’s charm is its staff whose level of service and attention to detail is second to none. The personalised, round-the-clock butler service helps guests with tasks such as making dinner reservations, collecting laundry, ordering takeaways, and customising the in-room dining menu. We highly recommend the laksa!
The concierge can also facilitate tours, one of which is the complimentary Barracks Heritage Tour guided by actual post-war veterans who used to serve at this former military barracks in the late ‘60s. Curated by heritage specialist Jerome Lim, the one-hour walking tour covers the history of the barracks, how and why the buildings were constructed, and their uses pre and post-war times.
Passionate raconteurs Winston Wong and Khor Sing Hong, both 75, are on-site every Saturday to take guests for a walkabout around the premises. Wong tells us about Sentosa’s lines of defences and the building of its four appointed forts — Siloso, Connaught, Imbiah and Serapong. Khor shares more light-hearted stories about the daily breakfasts of tasteless beehoon and bread made by prisoners, and the lonely wives of British officers who live in the married quarters cheekily called “birdcage lane”. We also learn that the front lawn of The Barracks Hotel used to be a sacred parade square for soldiers of the First Singapore Regiment Royal Artillery in 1947.
The Barracks Heritage Tour is only available on Saturdays at 2 pm and 3.45 pm. On other days, guests can enjoy a complimentary self-guided audio tour upon request.
For history buffs eager to learn more about other heritage buildings around Singapore, the hotel has introduced The Colonial Charm Tour — a half-day bus excursion to areas built and occupied by the British armed forces in the 1800s–1900s, including Fort Siloso, Mount Imbiah, Dempsey, Gillman Barracks and Seletar Estate. If you go, make sure you wear comfortable shoes and lightweight clothing: there is plenty of walking — sometimes at an incline — at Fort Siloso and Mount Imbiah, but a spectacular view awaits you at the top!
For an additional $100 per person, the tour may also include a four-course lunch or dinner for two at Wheeler’s Estate, the perfect place to enjoy the sunset and recap your memorable walk through history.