This fifty-three-room hotel in the heart of the French Concession has many fans. It is certainly more intimate than the other high-end choices, but the service is a bit more limited. The décor mixes traditional Chinese furniture with contemporary pieces for a very chic Asian look. A small pool and room service are available, as are many rooms with kitchenettes.
A gorgeous property in an offbeat location with a unique origin story, Amanyangyun is designed for true Aman junkies and locals wanting a weekend getaway outside of Shanghai.
Fairmont Peace Hotel
The Art Deco Fairmont Peace Hotel was built on the Bund in 1929 by the Iraqi-British real estate tycoon Victor Sassoon. The grand hotel epitomized old-world glamor during the 1930s when Shanghai was nicknamed the “Paris of the East”. But following the Chinese Communist Party takeover in 1949, the hotel fell into decay. Eventually it was turned into a shopping mall with the property's glorious center-piece – a vast stained glass atrium roof which sits in an octagonal lobby – covered by a fake ceiling.
Now, following a $60 million restoration that took three years to complete, the newly named Fairmont Peace Hotel is back to its former glory. Fairmont Hotel & Resorts have gone to painstaking effort to preserve the hotel’s finest historical features. And it shows. As well as enjoying spectacular views across the Huangpo River towards the financial district of Pudong from the roof top bar, visitors can also sip cocktails in the ground floor in the quaint, old-world Jazz Bar. There, an octogenarian band who have played together since the 1980s (two members were in Jimmy King’s legendary 1940s jazz ensemble) only add to the charm.
Other highlights include the Dragon Phoenix restaurant located on the eighth floor. It is decked out in red, green, blue and gold, colors which are reminiscent of the Forbidden City. Rumor has it that hotel staff covered the elaborate ceiling motifs with paper during the Cultural Revolution to prevent them from being destroyed by Red Guards. **
Fittingly, rooms are designed in an Art Deco style. Although they harken back to a bygone time, modern comfort is the order of the day: rooms come with goose-down pillows, Illy espresso machines, iPod docking stations, and wireless internet, plus walk-in wardrobes. The Fairmont Rooms overlook an inner courtyard while the Deluxe Rooms offer the more impressive city views. Aside from enjoying dinner at the Dragon Phoenix, guests can have a sumptuous old world afternoon tea in the Jasmine Lounge. For adventurous types there is also the legendary Tea Dance, where professional instructors provide ballroom dancing lessons to the tunes of a live orchestra. For those after something a little more serene, the Willow Stream spa has all the usual massages and treatments set in luxurious surroundings.
Four Seasons Hotel Pudong, Shanghai
In a city as exciting as Shanghai, it adds a lot to the experience to stay in a hotel with a futuristic vibe, such as the Four Seasons Pudong. Opened in 2013, it is situated on the high floors of the 21st Century Tower in the business district. Standing in my Executive One-Bedroom Suite on the 33rd floor with two walls of windows offering sweeping views over the famous Pudong skyline, I felt like I was suspended in air in a glass cube. The 172 rooms and 15 suites are done in a masculine color scheme of taupe, chrome and chocolate with burgundy highlights and Art Deco-inspired touches. Throughout the hotel there are marvelous textural and design details: shagreen, velveteen, Macassar ebony, shiny lacquer. Even the low category Deluxe rooms are a spacious 500 square feet. Suites feature flat screen TVs, marble bathrooms with big soaking tubs and rainfall showers. Striped screens slide open to reveal floor-to-ceiling windows with sublime skyline views (request a room overlooking the Oriental Pearl Tower). On the first floor, Camelia restaurant has a sushi counter and a chic outdoor terrace that’s a delightful spot to meet for drinks on a warm night. The Shang-Xi restaurant serves superb Chinese food in either the intimate restaurant (just 22 seats) or one of five very stylish private rooms. The spa features four treatment rooms, a large 24-hour fitness center, and men’s and women’s lounges, each with a steam room and whirlpool. But the pièce de résistance is the sensational infinity pool overlooking the skyline, which is absolutely magical at sunset.
Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai
This lovely property, located close to shopping on Nanjing Road, has a residential feel that makes it a good choice for families. Unlike so many of the soaring grand lobbies you find in Shanghai, this one is arranged with lots of art and smaller pieces of furniture—the kind you might find in a home. Comfortable sitting areas invite guests to linger. Suites begin on the 6th floor, with the presidential suite occupying the 36th floor. Fabrics in sunny yellows or terra-cotta hues like those found in Chinese porcelain warm up the 422 guest rooms. Even the brass hardware on the TV cabinets replicates familiar Chinese shapes, and small iron sculptures and porcelain dishes on desks and tables in select suites add a reminder of the country’s great artistic heritage. There are five restaurants on property, including a steak house available for private use. Situated on the ground floor beneath a sunny atrium, Café Studio offers an excellent lunch buffet with Shanghainese specialties and views of the bustling street. The pretty indoor pool on the fourth floor has chaises both indoors and out for lounging.
Grand Hyatt Shanghai
One of the highest hotels in the world (occupying floors 54 to 88), this is a top choice of bankers due to its central location in the business area of Pudong. Views of Puxi across the river, especially the Bund are breathtaking from anyplace in the hotel: the rooms, the cocktail lounge, the restaurants, though first-time leisure travelers will most likely be based on the other side instead of gazing upon it from their rooms. Go for a drink or a meal instead, as the vistas inside (there is a 33-story atrium) and outside (of the sprawling city) are worth a visit. Warning: The tower was built to sway in high winds, so those who are motion-sensitive may want to avoid it in typhoon season.
J.W. Marriott Hotel Shanghai at Tomorrow Square
This skyscraper hotel with 342 rooms resembles an upright rocket ship. With views of People’s Square from many of its rooms, the hotel has interiors that feel as sleek and expensive as its exterior. Some of the bathrooms are fantastic, with bathtubs facing giant windows with views over the skyscraper-filled horizon. The jarring note is that some of the bedrooms have floral bedspreads and fussy armchairs that seem out of place with the otherwise modern aesthetic. The Sino Spa, which specializes in Asian treatments, is an exquisite haven, with carved wooden screens and doors and lots of Balinese fabrics used on pillow-strewn couches and treatment tables. * *
The Langham hotel, opened in 2010, is located right across the road from Shanghai’s popular Xintiandi complex near the former French Concession. Xintiandi (meaning “Heaven and Earth”) was opened in 2003 to house a series of buzzing bars, restaurants, and shops in heavily renovated traditional shikumen housing, the architectural style unique to Shanghai which combines Eastern and Western flourishes. The Langham is a product of the complex’s success. The hotel is a smart, slick operation with excellent service, comfortable rooms, a fabulous buffet breakfast, and a beautiful pool and gym.
Rooms combine Western and Asian décor and are the epitome of understated elegance with floor to ceiling windows, giant bathtubs and all the usual technologies, including iPod docking stations and wireless broadband. Diners at the Langham Xintiandi are spoilt for choice: within minutes they can find themselves ambling among any one of the upscale international eateries located in the Xintiandi complex. For those who prefer to stay within the hotel walls, restaurants include the Chinese Ming Court, the pan-Asian and Western Cachet (which also has an al fresco café and a martini bar) and a chic outdoor lounge terrace called XTD, which is perfect for whiling away summer nights.
Park Hyatt Shanghai
Occupying the floors from 79 through 93 in the Shanghai World Financial Center, the Park Hyatt is a study in minimalist chic. The understated entrance on the ground floor is a bit James Bond (you have to go through a metal detector before a long hallway leads through two sliding doors to the elevator dock). But once you arrive in the lobby on the 87th floor, the Zen-like interiors of New York–based designer Tony Chi take over with authority and innovation.
Every last space in the Park Hyatt—restaurants, bars, guest rooms, pool, gym—makes the most of the stunning panoramic views. The sleek lounge area that frames the reception desk resembles a chic living room, with low sitting areas, couches and romantic tables close to the windows overlooking the sprawling city (it’s particularly dramatic when you arrive at night). Each of the guest rooms has city views; the best are those that look towards the Bund whose Neo-Classical mansions look like Monopoly houses from this vantage point. Interiors in the rooms are understated and chic, with an earthy color palate (beige, grey, white, chocolate) and uber-comfortable king-sized beds. The rooms are well laid-out with a large day bed right by the window and a sleek writing desk, though I found the closet space a bit crammed. The roomy stone-clad bathrooms, with a huge bathtub-rain shower combination, feel like your own personal bathhouse. Suites are much more generously sized than the guest rooms, and some of the best ones have double ceilings.
The clientele of the Park Hyatt is mostly business travelers, due to the hotel’s location in financial Pudong. If you’re in Shanghai to sightsee, getting to the Bund, Xintiandi and the French Concession is a taxi ride across the river. However, the restaurants, cafés and multiple bars at the Park Hyatt are worth making the journey even if you’re not staying here. It’s a particularly good option if you’re traveling with a group, thanks to several private dining rooms, with stunning views and gorgeous décor. If you’re coming just for drinks, you can either join the party on the 92nd floor or have a quieter, romantic cocktail in the Living Room on the 87th floor. The food at the Park Hyatt is not inexpensive, but for a splurge, 100 Century, on the 91st floor, gets consistently good reviews. The restaurant concept occupies the entire 91st floor and has different stations (including a Western steakhouse, a Chinese wok and Japanese restaurants), so that everyone will find something to their liking on the menu.
Considering the business-heavy clientele, the stunning swimming pool and lounge area feel sadly underused. The dramatic infinity pool (elevated so bathers can take in the city views) is lined by a row of comfortable day beds, surely one of the most serene spaces for contemplating Shanghai.
Portman Ritz-Carlton Shanghai
I stayed here, and despite its slightly off-putting entrance—the lobby is set back from a commercial complex containing a Tony Roma’s rib restaurant and a Starbucks—it is very comfortable, with superb service. Guest rooms were clearly designed to cosset business travelers, with rosewood furniture and neutral fabrics. They feature all of the expected modern conveniences, like well-stocked mini-bars, high-speed Internet, safes and marble bathrooms, but I would have liked more Chinese touches. The 598-room hotel has a 24-hour gym, excellent concierge service and six restaurants (including Chinese, Italian and Japanese). The club floor has a lounge where food is served all day. The gift shop is small but artfully stocked with finds from some of the more interesting local artisans—not just Ritz logo-emblazoned items.
The Middle House
In a city often defined by its colonial past, The Middle House is a refreshingly modern—and undoubtedly stylish—addition to the hotel scene.
The Peninsula Shanghai
Shanghai’s golden era comes to life at The Peninsula Shanghai, an art-filled cocoon that’s centrally located but feels apart from the city’s bustle.
The PuLi—which opened in 2009, with 229 rooms in a 26-story tower—is a downtown hotel with an uptown address, a boutique hostelry with more than design going for it, and an urban lodging that can feel like a resort. Like the Chinese pavilion at 2010's Shanghai Expo—an inverted pyramid balanced on its point—the PuLi reflects, though more subtly, the topsy-turvy, Wonderland city around it, where the sky is full of buildings, not clouds, the “Old Town” is mostly new, and the super-charged capitalist economy is the work of a Communist government. The front entrance? It’s not located on the front at all, but on the side of the hotel, down a long bamboo-lined driveway that’s virtually unmarked. Reception desk? It’s literally part of the lobby bar—you could register and order a drink at the same time, if you wanted. Concierge desk? That would be next door, in the library.
But once you’ve checked in, you’ll hardly notice the deliberate disconnects and inventive fusions, so coolly efficient is the hotel, which was created by veterans of the Peninsula and Oberoi chains for a Taiwanese owner. Settle in for a minute on one of the low-slung sofas in the lobby, which is lined with backlit panels of Jim Thompson silk, and a waiter will likely serve you a glass of water, without your asking. Stand in the shower in your room, whose outer wall is all glass, or sink into the adjacent 2-foot-deep tub, and it takes only a few seconds to go from thinking, “Why put the tub right against these huge windows?” to… “This is a great view, and I’m going to enjoy it!” (In case you don’t feel the same, however, or worry the neighbors won’t, there are push-button floor-to-ceiling blinds.)
Designed by Jaya Ibrahim and the Layan Group, who are responsible for the Aman group’s extraordinary Summer Palace outside Beijing, the PuLi is small for Shanghai, yet everything about it is spacious. That bar in the lobby is over 100 feet long, and so is the 2nd-floor restaurant above it. Likewise, the smallest guest room (there are 7 categories) is almost 500 square feet. In addition, the majority of the streamlined accommodations, which in their neutral palettes and dark wood furnishings owe obvious debts to early Christian Liaigre and late Armani Casa, are open plan; in most there are no doors to separate the sleeping areas from the bathrooms. On the plus side, you’ll never feel hemmed in here. On the con: Even in the 1-bedroom suites, which have a large living room with a dining table, plus a small wet bar and extra half-bath, you’ll always know exactly where your bedmate is, and you might not want to know every time he’s brushing his teeth. When you’re brushing yours, though, you will notice that one good splash from the tap into the tall, vanity-less freestanding sink and—oh gosh!—you’ve gotten water on the beautiful floor. Minimalist perfection isn’t always practical, but it’s pretty.
The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai Pudong
The rapid development of Pudong into Shanghai’s financial center brought with it a bevy of luxury hotels, most notably the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai Pudong, which occupies the top floors of a 58-story skyscraper just a few blocks from the iconic Oriental Pearl TV Tower (from the rooftop bar, you feel as though you can touch the Disney-esque structure). In fact, the hotel seems to draw inspiration from the monumental buildings that surround it; each room boasts spectacular views, an Art Deco décor in a nod to Shanghai’s historic Bund and thoughtful touches like shimmery pink accents, which draw out the Pearl Tower’s subtle pink sheen.
Opened in 2010 during the World Expo, the Ritz-Carlton Pudong welcomes guests at its 52nd-floor Sky Lobby, where the cocooning experience begins. The exquisite lobby boasts the requisite city views and the Aura Lobby Lounge is available for those who wish to linger upon arrival, perhaps for afternoon tea, when pastries in the shapes of the city’s iconic monuments are served with live jazz. The rooms all feature elements of Shanghainese Art Deco elements, an interpretation of the style that came to the city in the 1930s. Everything from the room numbers to antique phone boxes and marble and onyx furnishings recalls the early 20th-century design trend, giving guests a hotel experience that is intrinsically tied to the destination. But not every detail is a nod to the city’s history—each room sports state-of-the-art technology, with a user-friendly panel of buttons to control the lights by each bedside, ample outlets and cushy mattresses with Frette linens. The club-level rooms have special access to the Club Lounge, which is open 24 hours and offers light bites and meals.
On-property dining and pampering amenities abound. The Italian restaurant, Scena, is open all-day serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. To stay with the local cuisine, guests can opt for Jin Xuan Chinese restaurant on the 53rd floor, which serves Cantonese and regional favorites. On the topmost floor is Flair Bar, a destination in itself thanks to the memorable design (done by star interior firm Super Potato) and views—the Pearl Tower seems almost close enough to touch from the al fresco terrace (the highest outdoor dining venue in Shanghai). The hot spot attracts stylish locals and visitors, with fun cocktails and its menu of Southeast Asian bites and sushi. The 53rd-floor gym and pool are worth a look even if you’re not going to exercise: both afford great views of the city. There is a wonderful spa on 55th floor, which uses ESPA and Valmont products, and boasts an indulgent relaxation room for relaxing before or after your treatment.
The Waterhouse at South Bund
The Waterhouse Hotel began its life as a 1930s warehouse in Shanghai’s old docklands. Today it has morphed into a hotel with industrial chic interiors. There are only 19 rooms, giving it an intimate feel. The achingly cool rooms are stocked with designer furniture such as Finn Juhl and Hans Wegner and have plenty of technological touches, including iPod docking stations. For those who do not manage to book a room with a view of the Huangpu River, the hotel’s terrace bar on the fifth floor offers impressive skyline vistas. Another highlight is the excellent Table No 1, which serves world class European cuisine in a funky setting and is frequented by Shanghai’s fashionable crowd.**
Waldorf Astoria Shanghai
This property, opened in late 2010, occupies one of the Bund’s most historic buildings, which used to house the tony Shanghai Club at the turn of the last century. Painstakingly and beautifully restored, the Neo-Classical building now is part of the Waldorf Astoria’s first hotel in China. The river-facing heritage building houses twenty suites and several breathtaking ballrooms; it connects to a modern tower in the back of the building, which accommodates the bulk of the rooms (269) with sweeping views across the city.
Traditionalists will love the refined feel of the heritage mansion, with its original Art Deco detailing, imported marble floors, chandeliers and supremely elegant vibe. The interiors of the suites are stylish but not over-the-top, and such design details as four-poster beds, sumptuous textiles and original art create a comfortable, relaxed backdrop. Technology is top-notch in the rooms, and the best suites come with spacious sitting rooms and views of the river. Personal butlers are assigned to each of the suites.
Even if you’re not staying here, a drink at the famous Long Bar is a must. Rebuilt to the original specifications when this was a hot spot in 1911, the polished structure clocks in at 110 feet and serves as the centerpiece of a dark wood–clad space whose leather club chairs, ceiling fans and masculine vibe would surely have won Ernest Hemingway’s approval. Across the lobby, a red-hued drawing room with plush velvet couches and afternoon tea, accompanied by live harp, serves as a more feminine counterpart. If you’re not staying here, come for a tea or cocktail to marvel at the property’s seriously successful restoration.