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Editor’s note: TPG was provided a complimentary stay at the hotel, along with some on-site meals and experiences. This story was not subject to review or approval by the resort or any other entity. Opinions expressed are the author’s alone.
Bostonians can be very picky about their luxury hotels and very loyal to their favorites.
A winter staycation in a suite with a fireplace at XV Beacon is a decadent way (and a local favorite splurge) to endure Boston’s brutal winters. The Four Season Hotel One Dalton Street, Boston‘s candy- and snack-filled “Vaults” are a playful, joyous way to indulge in some guilty pleasures while kicking back at one of the city’s finest hotels.
But people can get prickly over the Four Seasons Hotel Boston — the original Boston Four Seasons — since the property’s famed watering hole, the Bristol Lounge, never reopened following the coronavirus pandemic. While the Four Seasons One Dalton might offer sweet treats, it might be seen as too flashy for some. And there is still a swath of people who wouldn’t dare step foot in the Ritz-Carlton after it moved to new digs across Boston Common from where its original building — now The Newbury Boston — still stands.
When Accor first announced it was bringing its ultra-luxurious Raffles brand to Boston — the first new hotel project for the brand in North America — there was all kinds of chatter around town about how the hotel would be received. Sure, out-of-towners would likely fill the rooms, but locals typically buy the condos and love to see and be seen in the bars and restaurants of a glitzy hotel.
Boston has plenty to be proud of with its new Raffles hotel. The Singapore-originating brand known for creating the Singapore sling clearly did its homework in researching Boston and New England before opening for business: There’s even a cranberry-forward Boston sling on the menu alongside the original libation.
It’s a local flourish that says a lot about how the new Raffles fits into this historic U.S. city.
What is Raffles Boston?
The 35-story Raffles Boston is a new fixture on the Back Bay neighborhood’s skyline, tucked next to the city’s tallest building, 200 Clarendon Street (better known by its former John Hancock Tower moniker). The Raffles comprises 147 guest rooms and suites, as well as 147 condos.
The hotel features butler service, a planned panoply of food and beverage options (though only Long Bar & Terrace and the high-end Portuguese restaurant Amar were open at the time of my stay), a soon-to-open Guerlain Spa and incredible views from its 17th-floor lobby.
How to book a stay at Raffles Boston
My two-night stay in a Premier 1 King room, dinner at Amar and breakfast at Long Bar & Terrace were complimentary.
However, the starting cash rates at the opening were a hefty $1,330 per night for a Premier room, making Raffles Boston the priciest stay in town at the moment. You can find rates on the Accor or Raffles Boston website starting at $1,095 (and occasionally below the $1,000 mark) per night for a slightly smaller Deluxe 1 King room over the next few weeks.
Raffles Boston’s location
Raffles Boston’s Back Bay location places the property within walking distance of Back Bay Station (a stop on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor route), the Boston Public Garden, Boston Common and Copley Square.
The property is a new, gleaming glass tower amid some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, with the John Hancock Tower, Boston Public Library’s McKim Building, the Old South Church, the Trinity Church and the Fairmont Copley Plaza all mere steps from the front door. It’s also just blocks away from the upscale shopping thoroughfare of Newbury Street and the French boulevard-inspired Commonwealth Avenue Mall.
If you are checking into the hotel, try and score a room on the side of the hotel facing Back Bay and the Charles River. Otherwise, you’re likely looking onto the roof of the Back Bay Station parking garage. This is due for a major glow-up in the coming years, as the station is getting an overhaul and redevelopment plans are wending their way through Boston’s planning and development process.
The big question hovering over Raffles Boston ahead of its opening was whether or not the Bristol Lounge crowd — from the Four Seasons Boston’s heyday as a hub of Boston Brahmin power-boozing — would migrate over. The hotel appeared to be a magnet for just those folks when I popped in for drinks a few times during its quiet first few days of opening: Air kisses, the occasional Birkin bag and a general hushed air of fabulosity at the Long Bar’s 17th-floor outdoor terrace dominated.
During my stay, much of that held true, and it has now expanded to include a mix of international travelers visiting for a weekend (based on a few conversations struck up at the bar). Refined by day, however, Long Bar does get raucous by night (as evidenced by the doors to the guest room elevators being shut during the later evening hours, presumably to keep the noise down).
Elsewhere, the hotel is clearly aiming for the urban oasis vibe. The terrace portion of Long Bar & Terrace never felt scene-y and appeared to be more a place where you go for a power breakfast or a leisurely afternoon catch-up. The Writer’s Lounge was actually a public space worth spending time in thanks to its comfortable, intimate seating areas and occasional check-ins from staff members asking if they could bring over some water, coffee or tea.
The overall design and style are meant to have subtle nods to Boston: Copper accents throughout are a nod to Paul Revere’s copper plating company, while the greenery and lighting are meant to bring the greenery of Back Bay downstairs into the sky.
Checking into Raffles Boston is more like what you’d expect from a high-end vacation resort than a city hotel. If the skyline views don’t do it for you, there’s a sweeping staircase winding around a cluster of orchids directly in front of the elevators arriving from the ground level. Rather than walking up to a check-in desk, a team member greets you at the elevator once you arrive on the 17th floor and walks you to the Writer’s Lounge (a small seating area to the side of the sky lobby) to handle all the paperwork and check-in.
The Writer’s Lounge is among the quieter public areas of the hotel to lounge in with a book and a cup of tea (or just wait for your room to be ready). Orchids, art deco furnishings and a mix of velvet and houndstooth upholstery pull together for a cozy way to start your stay or just take a break before dinner at Amar across the lobby. Books lining the bookshelves include an array of fashion photography coffee table books, but there are some local acknowledgments as well, like multiple copies of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” (Alcott grew up north of the city in Concord, Massachusetts) and Boston Marathon winner Des Linden’s memoir “Choosing to Run.”
One of the signature Raffles butlers met me in the Writer’s Lounge and then took me to the guest room bank of elevators (which also go down to the first floor so you’re not doing the disjointed sky lobby maneuver all the time) to show me to my Premier 1 King room on the 11th floor.
Despite the newness of it all (I could still smell fresh paint, wood and leather throughout the guest room and public spaces), Raffles Boston also manages to feel more like a stay at a smaller, luxury residential building than some hulking hotel. Corridors are compact and feature soft lighting, art and fresh flowers.
High-end details abounded in the spacious 450-square-foot Premier guest room. There were freshly cut orchids in the bathroom, on the nightstand and on the table in the seating area. The glass-doored closet lit up when opened and featured ample storage, as well as bathrobes that were moved into the bathroom by housekeeping during evening turndown service.
The decor was significantly more thought out and refined than other luxury hotels I’ve seen in the city (no stock imagery of the Freedom Trail hanging on the walls here). The two-poster bed and framed artwork, including one watercolor piece that appeared to be a subtle nod to Boston Harbor with sailboats moored in the water, were elegant touches that again made me think of this more as a Beacon Hill townhouse in the sky than a brand-new hotel. The company’s roots in Asia play out in the design of the black-and-brass nightstand and gray carpeting in the seating area.
The king-size bed was cozy and featured one nightstand with the safe built into a sliding drawer, plus another nightstand with a more ornate marble look and fresh-cut orchids.
The seating area included a couch, a chair and a table with a welcome Boston sling cocktail (gin, pomegranate liquor, Drambuie, amaro, cranberry compote and a housemade apple shrub), fruit and macarons. Evening turndown service refilled these treats throughout the stay with fruit gummies one night and scrumptious peanut butter cookies the second evening. While the parking garage roof in the foreground through the windows wasn’t necessarily the most luxurious panorama, it was fun to look out on the South End neighborhood I call home. Guests staying on the Back Bay/Charles River side of the hotel certainly win out here.
The local touches extended from the welcome drink to the minibar housed in a glass cabinet with offerings like an old fashioned from local Bully Boy Distillery ($28) and a small bottle of South Boston Irish Whiskey ($25). A kettle and Nespresso machine were also in the minibar for the complimentary tea and espresso.
The marble bathroom was a tranquil space to freshen up, with a soaking tub complete with floral-themed backsplash, a walk-in rain shower, dual vanities and Guerlain products. The tub included a loofah glove and a nozzle for rinsing off, while the vanity was stocked with necessities like mouthwash, washcloths, Guerlain body lotion, a sewing kit and a shower cap. It’s a small detail, but the large bath towels were a plus, and I wish more hotels would provide these. A fresh orchid on the vanity as well as the floral accent wall were additional signals of the extra design detail that went into this hotel.
The heavy blue door to the bathroom provided welcome privacy in an age where it seems like so many hotels are — tragically! — moving in the direction of open-concept bathrooms or offering privacy via frosted glass doors that don’t do much in the way of soundproofing.
The room was very tech-forward, too, with consoles for lighting, drapes and even housekeeping throughout the bedroom, bathroom and over the nightstand. Electronically lowered blackout shades made for a night of uninterrupted beauty rest. The Raffles butler service entailed morning text messages about the weather (and a friendly reminder to bring a light jacket if walking outside) and checkout information. I didn’t really test the butler service too much beyond texting to ask for a 30-minute delay in our dinner reservations at Amar, which they were quick to fulfill. One could request other services like luggage assistance, morning coffee, reservations and even a refresh of flowers for the room. Housekeeping occurs twice a day, including an evening turndown service.
My favorite small touch was the green leather writing box, complete with notecards, postcards and Raffles-embossed stationery. It and the Writer’s Lounge upstairs are a nod to the literary heritage of the original Raffles Singapore, which saw authors like Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad pass through over the years. Don’t tell my mom, but she has a Raffles Boston postcard coming her way.
The dining scene is in progress
The drinking and dining scene at Raffles Boston is currently limited to Amar, chef George Mendes’ high-end Portuguese concept, and the Long Bar & Terrace, which is where guests go for breakfast in the morning. Long Bar (named for the Raffles Singapore bar that invented the Singapore sling rather than Oak Long Bar + Kitchen at the Fairmont Copley Plaza across the street) also serves food throughout the day but definitely skews more toward cocktails in the evening.
Amar is a beautiful space on the 17th floor overlooking Back Bay and the Charles River, and Mendes — who helmed the now-closed one-Michelin-starred Aldea in New York — has made it abundantly clear in the press that he wants this to be Boston’s first Michelin-starred restaurant. It’s another way Raffles is nodding to the local community, as Greater Boston is home to a sizable Portuguese population. While a tasting menu is in the works, Amar now serves an a la carte mix of seafood, meat and vegetable dishes meant for guests to assemble their own tasting menu of about three plates apiece in the meantime.
My husband and I shared cod croquettes ($12) and sea urchin uni toast ($21) to start before moving on to grilled squash and zucchini with pesto ($27) and bluefin tuna with tomatoes ($26). The tuna was a particular highlight of the early courses. Arroz de mariscos — a $72 rice dish for two with an abundance of shrimp, lobster, mussels and clams — was a mouthwatering main course. Given how Contessa, the rooftop restaurant at The Newbury Boston, has become a cutthroat affair to score a dinner reservation for, it’s easy to see Amar rising to that rank in Greater Boston. Based on the late turn of tables we saw toward the end of our visit, it likely already has.
Long Bar & Terrace is one of the most beautiful bars in Boston. Its soaring limestone walls, a mix of recessed and pendant lighting, intimate jade-green banquettes, coral-hued booths and a surprisingly spacious terrace are all gorgeous stand-alone spots for a cocktail with a view (even the bathrooms have a skyline view here). There’s something almost secretive about the tucked-away booths, making Long Bar a place where you can be as flashy or clandestine as you like.
The breakfast menu includes a mix of lighter fare and filling options served by attentive waitstaff. The smoked salmon bagel ($23) came with juicy heirloom tomatoes, briny capers and dill pickles with whipped cream cheese, while the rolled omelet ($24 plus an additional $7 for bacon) included Harbison cheese, tarragon, chives and a side salad. I went back for avocado toast ($20) before checkout on the last morning, and it was enormous to the point where I wondered how many avocados went into the making of it.
The hush over the dining area and terrace during daylight makes this easily a contender for the best hotel bar in Boston, and it would be the kind of place where you can imagine going for a daytime cocktail or two with a book. Nighttime is a different story. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Long Bar at night during my stay was not exactly where you’d go for a quiet nightcap (that’s what the nice minibar is for). It’s still a fun place to kick back with a cocktail and people-watch (and safely assume that many outfits you’ll see here cost more than a monthly mortgage payment). Don’t forget to imbibe either the signature Singapore sling ($17) or its localized sibling, the Boston sling ($16).
The rambunctious energy was likely due to the newness of the hotel (after all, this is the city that had the fire marshall shut down the opening of a Restoration Hardware), and there’s likely to be something for everyone with the upcoming openings at the hotel, including a speak-easy, Blind Duck, and an Italian concept by local celebrity chef Jody Adams.
It’s nice to see ultra-luxury hotels let their hair down when it comes to service. This doesn’t mean the team at Raffles Boston is any less attentive; instead, it helps the hotel knit in better with its surrounding neighborhood. Over my stay and even when just popping in for a drink after work when I’m not staying at the hotel, there were jovial greetings in the welcome area on the ground level while staff members clearly communicated upstairs about the purpose of a visit.
The welcoming team members and the butlers are more formal, but that’s also what makes a stay at a hotel like Raffles Boston so fun: feeling like royalty for a night or two. Bartenders at Long Bar and the servers at Amar strike a more fun note, swapping recommendations for travel and restaurants around the world. It’s this nuance and knowing what key to play at just the right time that made me a fan of Raffles, both at its new hotel in Boston as well as other properties I’ve visited in Dubai and Singapore.
Fitness (and a soon-to-open Guerlain Spa)
The hotel’s swimming pool and Guerlain Spa weren’t open at the time of my stay, but the Raffles gym was available to guests. It featured a mix of cardio equipment, Peloton bikes, strength-training machines and several areas for stretching or core work.
The high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and pop of color thanks to a living green wall make this a gym worth waking up for rather than some of the basement gyms found in other hotels.
Why Raffles Boston might be a good fit for you
- Its ultra-luxurious accommodations are imbued with a local vibe that will leave you feeling like you’ve had a magical moment in Boston.
- Back Bay is one of Boston’s most upscale areas, and Raffles Boston is within walking distance from the designer shops of Copley Place and the first block of Newbury Street.
- Service with a smile is the baseline at this hotel. The Raffles Boston staff is considerate and friendly without being stuffy or overbearing.
Why Raffles Boston might not be for you
- Travelers looking to be right on the water will likely want to avoid Back Bay and instead look at a hotel downtown or in the up-and-coming Seaport neighborhood.
- The nightly rates are astronomical, even for Boston, which has an expensive hotel market.
Raffles Boston is accessible for wheelchair users, with wide doorways and spacious elevators to get from the first-floor welcome area to the 17th-floor lobby and other areas throughout the property. Select guest rooms and suites feature mobility-accessible features like tubs with grab bars, roll-in showers and hearing-accessible features.
The soon-to-open swimming pool and hot tub will both feature chair lifts.
- Four Seasons Hotel Boston: The queen of Boston’s luxury hotel scene overlooks the Boston Public Garden and recently underwent a renovation to public spaces and guest areas.
- Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street, Boston: The newer of Boston’s two Four Seasons hotels, this towering property in Back Bay features luxurious, modern accommodations with glitzy public spaces like a local outpost of the high-end Japanese restaurant Zuma.
- The Ritz-Carlton, Boston: Boston’s Ritz-Carlton is nestled just off Boston Common in the city’s Theater District. The downtown location makes it a must-stay for both out-of-town tourists and high-end business travelers.
- The Newbury Boston: What was once the city’s original Ritz-Carlton emerged in recent years from a gut renovation that resulted in luxurious, updated rooms and suites, as well as one of the toughest tables to reserve in town at the rooftop Contessa restaurant.
- Boston Harbor Hotel: The hotel’s waterfront location overlooking Boston Harbor is as decadent as the updated guest rooms and suites inside.
- XV Beacon: One of the city’s most historic hotels is also one of its most luxurious — fitting that it resides in Beacon Hill, Boston’s toniest neighborhood.
While not everything at Raffles Boston is open yet, it’s clear this hotel is set on becoming one of, if not the, poshest hotels in town.
Service excels, the public spaces are gorgeous and the guest rooms are places one can kick back and unwind rather than just serve as places to sleep before a day of sightseeing.
It’s a pricy place to visit, and it might get a little boisterous at night, but Raffles Boston is a clear acknowledgment that New England’s largest city has a seat at the table for global luxurious hospitality.