In search of a Shanghai surprise
A trawl of Shanghai business hotels to compare beds from business bespoke to boutique, a look at MICE venues, and dealing with that levitating Maglev train.
with additional photography by Vijay Verghese
SEE ALSO Shanghai shopping | Shanghai nightlife | Beijing business hotels | Beijing nightlife | Chengdu fun guide | Xian fun guide | Guangzhou | Sanya | Hangzhou guide | Shenzhen business hotels | Guilin | Inner Mongolia | Hong Kong business hotels | Hong Kong shopping | Tokyo fun guide | Seoul business hotels | China coast
Five-star palaces, designer boutique pads, corporate and budget chains – Shanghai boasts one of the most impressive hotel portfolios in Asia. And you can rest assured that any brands that are not yet represented (several with multiple properties) will be arriving shortly in this booming metropolis.
Monks enjoy the Bund/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Intense competition is pushing Shanghai hotels to continuously finesse their game. Consequently, contemporary luxuries like in-room Broadband, Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, laptop-size safes and rainforest showerheads are standard amenities in Shanghai’s four- and five-star hotels.
Premium properties go to even greater extremes to distinguish themselves: Vertiginous lobbies, rooftop bars with Jacuzzis, bathtubs in living rooms, evening ‘unwind’ rituals, tai chi courtyards, feng shui architecture, sunset yacht cruises and decadent day spas are just a few examples. The city beckons with top shopping and quaint Shanghai tea houses for a restorative break.
The budget sector is equally robust, with chains like Motel 168 and Jinjiang Inn proliferating throughout the city (and country), providing cheap rooms in convenient locations generally including free Wi-Fi. English is widely spoken in the following hotels – although not always understood so well.
Pudong Airport arrival and departure
Shanghai has two airports – Pudong International Airport in the east is the stepping off point for most international arrivals, while Hongqiao Airport in the west serves domestic departures and arrivals, plus some flights to Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. Local carriers include national airline Air China, plus Shanghai-based China Eastern and Shanghai Airlines. As long as you don’t expect much in the way of in-flight entertainment and alcoholic beverages, these airlines offer decent safety records and competitive pricing. Compare fares online at CTrip.
A Bund pose with the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in the back along the Pudong skyline/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Pudong Airport is located 30 kilometres from downtown Shanghai. It has two modern terminals and, as of mid 2014, five runways (and two new ones due to ease some congestion). Most China Eastern, Air France, KLM, Hainan Airlines, JAL and Korean Air flights depart from Terminal 1, with the rest leaving from Terminal 2. The airport ranked fourth (behind Beijing in third) on Airport Council International’s (ACI) list of best airports in Asia-Pacific in 2013.
Cashing in on the consumer passion of Chinese travellers, the airports have been steadily improving their duty free shopping experience. Airport prices in Shanghai may not be the cheapest but you can find pretty much all the major brands, plus a variety of Chinese cultural souvenirs, from loose-leaf teas to silk nighties and cuddly panda toys. A one-litre bottle of 12-year-old Chivas will set you back Rmb220, and a one litre bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label, Rmb192. SKII Facial Treatment Essence is Rmb678. Looking for perfume? Pick up Coco Chanel 50ml EDT for Rmb525.
Three strategically placed pathways allow you to cross between the two terminals in just 15 minutes, with easy access to the Maglev high-speed train and Metro Line 2 in between, plus a bus station and well-managed taxi queues. For arriving visitors, don’t be waylaid by the official-looking suited attendants at the arrivals gate asking if you need a taxi. Keep walking to the sign-posted exits where the official taxis are waiting. On a good day you can pass through Immigration and baggage and be on your way within 15 minutes of stepping off the plane.
If you’re peckish, there’s a Burger King and Starbucks outside the arrival gate. Other fast food outlets (KFC and several Chinese chains) plus a convenience store are available in the mini food hall beside the Maglev station.
The Terminal 2 Departures area mezzanine level (head up the escalators once you pass through security check) offers a tranquil Café Deco restaurant, Burger King, Famous Famiglia Pizzeria, Tian Xia Dumplings, Chatime and Ajisen Ramen.
Dancers on Nanjing Rd/ photo: Vijay Verghese
The older Terminal 1 is undergoing expansion, with a new satellite terminal and updated facilities scheduled for 2015. Travellers can look forward to Starbucks and Yogo Juice among the improved snacking options, plus there’s a Muslim restaurant beside Check-in on the third floor.
The high-profile Maglev (magnetic levitation) train makes an eight-minute, 431kph dash between Pudong Airport and Longyang Road Station (out in the Pudong suburbs). Trains run daily between 6.45am and 9.40pm at 15 to 20-minute intervals. A one-way ticket costs Rmb50 or Rmb40 if you can show a same-day airline ticket. The roundtrip is Rmb80. From the station, it is a 12-minute subway ride to Pudong’s exhibition centre or 25 minutes to downtown. This option is much faster than taking Metro Line 2 directly from the airport, which can also be done if you have time to kill and only Rmb8 in your pocket.
A taxi from Pudong airport to Puxi (on the other side of the Huangpu river) costs Rmb200 for a 50-minute ride along crisp, four-lane highways. The Metro Line 2 (green) conjoins both Shanghai’s international airports via a two-hour subway ride. A single fare to travel the full distance by metro line 2 costs Rmb8. The renminbi (“people’s money”) is a little stronger than the Hong Kong dollar (US$1 = Rmb6.89).
Hongqiao Airport is closer to the city centre and its new Terminal 2 is conveniently integrated into the vast Hongqiao Transport Hub. Covering 1.5 million square metres, this transport intersection connects the airport with the Shanghai metro system (about 30 minutes to People’s Square), plus high-speed trains to Beijing, Nanjing, Hangzhou and beyond, and long distance buses. Terminal 1 is accessible via metro line 10 or a courtesy bus. The terminals are a long way apart – opt for the metro if you need to dash as it’s the easiest to locate and quicker than the bus or waiting for a cab.
Iconic JW Marriott/ photo: Vijay Verghese
In Terminal 2, opened in 2010, KFC and Taiwanese noodle shop Yonghe King, do a roaring trade and offer comfortable booth seating at either end of the arrival hall. Upstairs, you can get a decent cup of coffee at Costa. Through customs on the airside, there is a Starbucks and Subway among a pack of Chinese and Muslim cafes.
The old Hongqiao Terminal 1 now services budget airlines Spring and Eva Air plus some flights to Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taipei. A McDonalds and decent Chinese noodle shop at the entrance are your best options for pre- or post-flight fuelling.
Getting around the city
Shanghai is a vast metropolis straddling both sides of the Huangpu River. Puxi, the stately and lived-in Shanghai heartland, is literally “West of the Pu (river)”. “Xi” means west in Mandarin. This area is home to the former French Concession, lined with imported platane trees and historic residential laneways. The former British Concession bordered by the Puxi riverfront includes the colonial stretch of the Bund, one of Shanghai’s most iconic sights since the early 20th century.
Facing off against the Bund on the opposite riverbank, is the soaring, brash skyline of Pudong (“dong” means east) – its sky-scraping towers filled with heady “new China” ambition. The Oriental Pearl Tower with its crimson, spherical bulbs and spindly legs, was one of the first to sprout in Pudong’s Lujiazui financial zone. Just behind it, the pagoda-inspired 88-storey Jinmao Tower (which houses the Grand Hyatt) and the 101-storey Shanghai World Financial Centre, nicknamed ‘the bottle-opener’ and home to one of the world’s highest hotels (Park Hyatt Shanghai), soar gracefully side-by-side. The third, and tallest, of Pudong’s triumvirate of super-towers, the Shanghai Tower stands 632m tall and rolled out in 2016 in fits and starts. The fate of a new luxury hospitality brand to make its global debut stretching from the 84th to 110th floors, remains a mystery.
Le Royal Meridien Shanghai / photo: hotel
Taxis are plentiful in Shanghai – except when it is raining or during rush hour. The Dazhong and Ba Shi companies tend to be most reliable. Always have your destination (including the cross street) written in characters and ask hotel doormen to explain directions in Chinese. An average taxi ride within the city centre is Rmb14-Rmb50.
As traffic gets increasingly gridlocked, the metro and light-rail systems are often a faster option. From just three lines a decade ago, Shanghai’s ‘di tie’ (pronounced: dee-tee-air) is now the world’s longest metro network with more than 550km of track and 14 lines, meaning that you’re never far from an underground station.
Tickets cost Rmb3-Rmb5 and can be purchased from the coin-operated machines in the subway stations. Or you can get an electronic transportation card for easy swipe payment on trains (including the MagLev), buses, taxis and ferries.
But on with our Shanghai business hotel guide and some quirky options. Puxi first.
Puxi, Jing An, Xintiandi, French Concession
Opened in the relative mists of time in 2003 but slowly introducing a slew of soft refurbishments, the JW Marriott Shanghai at Tomorrow Square is the chain’s China flagship. Opposite People’s Square and the Shanghai Art Museum, this popular and busy business traveller hotel is set in a space-age, crystal-shaped needlepoint tower with jaw-dropping views that hit you as soon as you step in to the lobby on the 38th floor.
Play and work at JW Shanghai/ photo: hotel
It is an iconic structure, easily spotted, even on one of the city's notoriously hazy days. The hotel soars up to the 60th floor, home to the world’s highest library-cum-boardroom. All guestrooms feature massive picture windows and the wraparound views take in the entire city. In-room Broadband is available for a fee (sign up for Marriott Rewards and get internet at no cost) and there’s WiFi in public spaces.
A Suite serves up two large flat-screen TVs, iPod dock, multi-pin electric socket for your laptop, wood-panel walls for a clubby feel, and beds set on speckled green carpets. The 49sq m Executive Rooms have cherry-wood walls with cream wallpaper, a large single master switch to end those lighting headaches with one simple flick of the fingers, work table by the window, flat-screen TV, flat laptop-friendly safe, iron and ironing board, a wired-to-the-wall hairdryer and a compact bath with tub and hand shower.
Other excellent on-site facilities include a luxurious Shanghai-style Mandara Spa, indoor and outdoor pool, a funky gym, and a JW California Grill. Dim sum lunch is served at Wan Hao or grab some bubbly in the Lobby Lounge with vertiginous views for company. Slow and steady, the JW Marriott is a solid performer with excellent service and a location that works splendidly for business or leisure.
On the opposite side of People’s Square, in a 66-floor tower marked by two throbbing antennae, Starwood’s Le Royal Meridien Shanghai is the brand’s Asia flagship. The glam contemporary behemoth resides right above People’s Square metro station. Its 770 rooms come with full floor-to-ceiling windows to enjoy the cityscapes, glass bathrooms, 42-inch plasma TVs that you can spin around 360 degrees and DVD/CD players. Meetings facilities cover anything from small board meetings to large conferences in two light-filled grand ballrooms, while its food and beverage options include a good French haute restaurant and three-storey bar 789 across the uppermost levels.
Shanghai Marriott premier/ photo: Vijay Verghese
In keeping with Le Royal Meridien’s focus on the ‘creative individual’, its artist-designed room keys can also be used to ‘unlock’ a local contemporary cultural experience – in Shanghai this translates to free admission at the nearby MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) Shanghai.
Nearby, the tall building that looks as if a spacecraft landed on top of it is the Radisson Blu Hotel Shanghai New World mother ship. The interiors are exuberant and – in the spirit of the eastern end of this infamous strip – tacky and inexplicably popular. There is an enormous safe and free Broadband in the rooms and Wi-Fi in public areas. But the best thing about this hotel is its super central location.
Opened in 2011, the 720-room Shanghai Marriott Hotel City Centre is a flagship Marriott property with enough bulk and brawn to impress the most jaded MICE or meetings planner (will an 800sq m ballroom suffice?) yet enough beauty and brain to entertain leisure trippers and in-and-out business travellers too. Housed in a new 37-storey tower just behind People’s Square, this is a breezy and functional construct with plenty of light streaming in through vast sheets of glass frontage, enlivening daubs of colour – as in the Lobby Lounge – and brisk staff who step about with great purpose.
Fresh and functional rooms feature a 42-inch LCD television with plug-and-play MP3 and laptop connectivity, iPod docking station, high-speed WiFi and Marriott’s ‘Revive’ beds. A Premier Room is a tad compact – compared to peers – at 30sq m to 35sq m but well designed and kitted out with bright orange-russet bed runners adorning plump white beds, cherry wood walls, large tactile light switches, three-pin multi-plug sockets, several computer cables to hook up a camera or computer to the TV, tan leather sofa, and an oval glass desk by the window with city views.
Comfy Four Seasons/ photo: hotel
The glass partition separating the bathing area offers extended visual space. Expect a bathtub, rainshower and Aromatherapy Essentials (with Ferragamo toiletries in executive rooms). Also find a laptop safe, Nespresso machine, and iron and ironing board.
Upgrade to the executive floors for access to the 37th-floor Executive Lounge, which boasts commanding views over Shanghai’s impressive night skyline. Dining options include Man Ho for stylish Cantonese and local Shanghainese cuisine, and the first Shanghai branch of century-old Japanese restaurant Inagiku. While no Marilyn Monroe, this is an average businessman’s wet dream – functional, faithful and easy to comprehend, forever.
People’s Square was also home to some of the Far East’s ritziest hotels in the roaring 1930s. While many of these historic icons are now faded ghosts of past glories (note the Park Hotel next to the Radisson New World), the 1934 Yangtze Hotel has been revived as the Yangtze Boutique Hotel Shanghai with a residential feel that brims with vintage glamour. After a brief stint as a Langham hotel, it is currently under independent management.
Step through the whitewashed art deco façade, and Yangtze Boutique is an intimate den, reminiscent of a lush opera house replete with maroon velvet curtains, stained glass panels, soft pools of light and tiny lifts. The hotel boasts 96 rooms – some with balconies – adorned in striking chocolate and crimson deco patterns and luscious textures.
Latest mod-cons include 42-inch TVs, DVD players, iPod docks, Nespresso machines, flat notebook safes, bazooka-size hairdryers and whirlpool tubs. The overall mood is understated and dark. This is either cosy, or maddening, depending on your point of view, especially if trying to shave or apply makeup. WiFi is charged. This is a retro retreat and there is never any rush. Things are civilised and slow. Even the hot water arrives slowly to the shower. So do slow down and enjoy the place. There are a few restaurants and spa services too. Friendly, if erratic, service, but great location.
Portman Ritz-Carlton Club/ photo: hotel
The Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai maintains, as expected, a very corporate stamp. While it doesn’t quite compare with its sister properties in other parts of the world, it is still very popular with business travellers. Situated on a side street near Nanjing Lu, the property has a plush, airy lobby plastered with paintings, lampshades and something that has invaded Shanghai hotels in a big way – palm trees.
If you don’t wish to go the whole hog for the luxurious Executive Club Rooms, you can simply pay an additional Rmb500 plus 15 percent on top of any room category for access to the 37th-floor Executive Club Lounge, including an hour’s free use of a meeting room. You don’t have to go far for excellent dim sum – Si Ji Xuan Chinese restaurant on the second floor is a weekend favourite with Shanghai locals. Qin The Spa offers an alluring range of wellness treatments with a Chinese touch, like the 90-minute Qi Balancing that includes guided breathing exercises and stretching movements followed by a traditional pressure-point massage designed to harmonise the flow of vital energy. Photography enthusiasts can sign up for the unique Shikumen Photography Tour around the time-warp heritage laneways just a short walk from the hotel. Guided by a well-known Shanghainese photographer-historian, the tour takes you right into the old homes and includes a sampling of the local street food. There is a convenient ATM that takes Visa in the lobby. This is a well-run and convenient Shanghai business hotel.
Directly opposite the Four Seasons, the Howard Johnson Business Club Hotel Shanghai serves up 150 suites with handy mini kitchens, free Internet and flatscreen TVs. There’s also a floodlit tennis court, indoor and outdoor meeting spaces, a health club and swimming pool, all just steps away from Nanjing Road.
Dominating the western end of Nanjing Lu, right next to Plaza 66 shopping mall with its designer brands and opposite the Shanghai Exhibition Centre, is The Portman Ritz-Carlton Shanghai. The hotel is tucked away in the Shanghai Centre – an expat haven incorporating a foreign supermarket, consulates, restaurants, bars and cafes – and offers a boutique feel with its hideaway nooks and sumptuous lounges. The pioneering luxury property completed a multi-year overhaul of its rooms, restaurants and public spaces in 2010, and its lobby in 2014.
The gymnasium and business centre run 24 hours, the executive lounge serves an extravagant spread of refreshments throughout the day, and slick service standards extend to an on-call “technology butler”. All in, this is among the top Shanghai business hotels. Their Palladio restaurant is one of the city’s finest Italian eateries.
Modern Jing An Shangri-La/ photo: hotel
Shangri-La marked its return to Jing An (it had an earlier fling with The Portman, now a Ritz-Carlton) as the towering and contemporary Jing An Shangri-La Hotel (June 2013) right opposite the PuLi. A key anchor of the Jing An Kerry Centre, the 508-room property has four restaurants, including a two-level cafe designed by Super Potato, an excellent steakhouse and a suave cocktail bar that feels oh so ‘Mad Men’. Calypso Restaurant and Lounge is a stylish standalone Mediterranean restaurant in the hotel piazza with a rooftop terrace bar. It stands beside an old house that was once supposedly lived in by Mao Zedong, and has now been preserved as a museum.
Designed by Hirsch Bedner, the hotel is a steel-and-glass high-rise with an unremarkable but functional lobby fronted by a large green impressionist painting depicting, unusually, thorns, which we assume the hotel will metaphorically dispel for business travellers in the know. Staff wear bright crimson uniforms and the Shangri-La fragrance is unmistakable.
The cheery and bright rooms range from 42sq m to 62sq m, while suites stretch from 93sq m to 311sq m. Bronze etched lifts with inlay floors whisk you up to the 55th floor Horizon Club Lounge and executive rooms. The club lounge has several nooks and crannies for informal meetings, paintings and art (mainly from China), meeting rooms (guests get two hour free use) and wraparound views.
Deluxe Rooms are dressed in pale wood with white marble floors and mint-blue carpets. Expect a flat-screen TV, silver-grey patterned pillows, a classic bedside clock, simple easy-to-use switches, a work desk with data-port (two three-pin multi-plug sockets), goldy textures, a laptop safe, and an iron to winkle out those creases. The bathroom features under-heated floors – that's right! – an LCD TV in the mirror, a tub and separate rain shower.
Jing An Shangri-La Club Lounge/ photo: Vijay Verghese
A Grand Premium at 62sq m serves up an additional living room with grey carpet and a Nespresso machine. All rooms have 3-D television (with glasses for your eyes to pop out watching movies). With the hotel rooms housed in the top 29 floors of a 60-storey tower, on a clear day you will see forever... well, maybe.
The hotel also hosts one of the biggest ballrooms in Puxi at a generous 1,743sq m, plus a separate Suite-styled function venue called The Residence. This MICE muscle will be put to good use as it positions itself as a major Shanghai conference hotel venue for all occasions, and the free WiFi won't hurt either. The hotel connects with two metro lines in the basement and a spectacular array of shopping, dining and entertainment available in the Kerry Centre. You’re right in the heart of the Shanghai action.
Within steps of Nanjing Road and the Shanghai Exhibition Centre, and overlooking the greenery of Jing’an Park, The PuLi Hotel & Spa raises the bar for independent hotels in Shanghai. A sleek contemporary design of dark wood, rattan and bolts of Jim Thompson silk is offset by rustic Chinese antiques, local grey brick and dramatic lighting installations. In a city where multi-hued lights bathe show-off architecture on steroids, there’s nothing loud about this construct. This will endear it to many.
Amenities in the 209 guestrooms include multiple flat screen TVs, DVD player, MP3 docking point, free WiFi, Nespresso machine, free minibar and a GSM portable phone with dual SIM card slots and citywide coverage. Handy. The tone is dark, minimal, with clean lines and no clutter. The grey stone walls mimic the Shanghai shikumen lodgings and bathtubs by the window cry out for long soaks. Expect twin vanities, tall stand-up basins, and a huge square safe that will house all your prized possessions short of the Porsche. High-floor Club rooms ratchet up the service with butlers and boardrooms.
PuLi Long Bar/ photo: Vijay Verghese
There is just one restaurant – but Jing’An is one of the city’s best. The 32-metre Long Bar is an ideal spot in which to chill out. Look out over tranquil water features or, weather permitting, sit outdoors on a resort-style divan and enjoy an alfresco moment. Don’t miss a massage at Shanghai’s first Anantara Spa, which has been designed around the therapeutic benefits of Chinese tea. This is a Shanghai boutique hotel with a difference and a genuine sense of independent style.
Just down the road, near Jing’an Temple, is the Swissôtel Grand Shanghai. The 467 airy rooms are enhanced by windows that open to let in the breeze (a rare treat in high-rise Shanghai) and views of the park or bustling Jing’an district, whose street map features on the enormous cut glass relief by Chinese artist Yang Jiu Sheng in the lobby. While many of the design elements are modern Asian in style (lots of gold and marble), there’s a tasty Swiss influence in The Chocolate Shop and European spa.
For those who like their accommodation with attitude, Shanghai boutique hotel Cachet Boutique is housed in a Twenties-era neoclassical building wedged between bustling Nanjing West Road and Wujiang Road right nest to a train station. Behind dark glass doors, Cachet Boutique sets a standard in terms of refined designer lodging. The 45 quietly theatrical guestrooms range from 35-160sq m and feature dark timber floors, Bisazza mosaic bathrooms and signature pieces by the likes of Knoll, Minotti and Hans Wegner.
A techno kit supplies free Broadband and VGA cables so you can link your computer to the TV. There’s also 42-inch flat screen TVs, DVDs, Nintendo games, MP3 link-ups to a surround sound speaker system and if all that sounds too techno, a stash of old-fashioned board games. Kitchenettes come stocked with refrigerator, electric stove, microwave and dining ware. Guests also have access to a small business centre, gym and a residential lounge/bar, where the trendy clientele mingles over breakfast, afternoon cake and evening wines. The Cachet Lounge on the third floor with its informal seating, tea and snacks,also has a tucked away meetings room for 10 persons. Now also look forward to a nightclub on the second floor.
Cachet exterior/ photo: hotel
An 83sq m Balcony Suite offers a soaking marble tub, a single vanity, rain shower, and gold tile inlays. The bedroom has a black-wood floor underfoot with geometrically stitched calf-skin rugs, a large flat screen television, gold leaf head wall, a laptop-friendly safe, and stylish hanging lamps with old-world glowing 'valve' bulbs. The electric sockets are narrow two-pin and three-pin crow's feet plug points aimed at domestic travellers. Also find a four-seater dining table, wall art, more calf-skin throws, and a mirror wall to tretch visual space. For more rumpus room, head up to a 160sq m POSH Suite with its orange disc carpet and circular tub.
Another popular Shanghai boutique hotels pick is Urbn, also by the Cachet group. Claiming to be China's first carbon-neutral hotel or (perhaps, “crbn ntrl”) the 26-room hotel north of Jing’an Temple uses eco-friendly solutions like passive solar shades and rainwater retention basins.
It tracks the energy it consumes and purchases United Nations-approved credits to neutralise its carbon footprint by investing in green energy development and emission reduction projects in China. Hotel guests can also choose to purchase carbon credits from the program to offset their flights.
The contemporary Asian-styled hotel wins points for design and amenities too – free WiFi, iPod ports and in-room spa treatments are some of the little luxuries offered. A 2014 design update by New York based celebrity designer Jay Godfrey added a luxe touch in minimalistic monochromes. Breezy café, Downstairs, spills into the high-walled courtyard by the entrance.
A quick stroll from Cachet is the smart tan tower of The St Regis Shanghai Jingan (May 2017). This marks the second coming of this storied hotel brand. It launched briefly several years back on the Pudong side but then thought the better of it and withdrew. The current location includes an office tower (in what was earlier visualised as a Sofitel), and a whopping 2,900sq m of function space in versatile designs for anything from small corporate meetings to a Shanghai MICE extravaganza in the 1,400sq m (800 pax) open-plan ballroom. The 491-room luxury hotel will eventually serve up its signature Iridium Spa, an Athletics Club, and a breezy pool.
St Regis Shanghai room/ photo: hotel
The large rooms are typically St Regis with marble trim, black-outlined cream furniture with bright cushions, oversized beds, and pale walls. The hotel occupies the fourth to 37th floor of the building but, even so, higher floor rooms are welcoming of light with open city views.
Also think butlers, sauna, and yoga. It's a mix designed to galvanise business travellers and leisure trippers alike.
Right on the pedestrian stretch of Nanjing Lu, the 401-room Sofitel Hyland Shanghai is less showy than the competition but location (equidistant between People’s Square and the Bund), facilities and friendly service are a huge plus. For business travellers, it offers 180 smart chocolate-toned Sofitel Club rooms, along with a gym, sauna, health club and complimentary usage of high-speed Internet. The hotel has been through renovations and the Club Lounge on the 30th floor with sweeping views is a welcome addition.
Situated in the heart of the city’s bustling entertainment district, The Langham, Shanghai, Xintiandi is only a stone’s throw from an atmospheric collection of shops, restaurants, cafes and bars in renovated traditional ‘shikumen’ residences. The iconic 24-storey hotel features 357 rooms and suites, starting at 40sq m. Expect elegant decor with dark wood furnishings, natural, warm shades and fabulous views of Xintiandi’s heritage rooftops. In-room amenities include a 40-inch flatscreen TV, iPod docking station, Broadband Internet, twin basins and a generous bath. Wellness offerings include a 25m heated indoor pool and a signature Chuan Spa in a Zen garden setting in the basement. The Langham Club is a relaxing escape for execs.
Langham Xintiandi convivial patio/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Welcoming guests right outside the lobby are flagship stores from Harry Winston and Chopard. The hotel’s location close to designer stores on Huaihai Road and nearby museums will please leisure travellers and shoppers in a hurry, while business facilities include eight meeting rooms and a 2,000sq m ballroom. The convivial outdoor 'plaza' is a great meeting spot and a place for afternoon coffee when the weather is agreeable.
Other trademark facilities include T’ang Court, serving Cantonese and Shanghai cuisines, a martini bar, a 24-hour health club, and a Latin-themed open-air chill-out lounge. This is a classic but hip address with lots of nice flourishes, top notch service, and good nosh. A winning combination in a lively party zone that never sleeps.
Hyatt snagged the striking twin tower across from the Langham for its flagship Asian Andaz Shanghai (late 2011), an informal lifestyle brand designed to make guests feel like they are in their “best friend’s home”. Slick brand execs describe it as a “story-telling” brand where people swap experiences and are assisted by “hosts” not cookie-cutter GROs (guest relations officers).
The 28-storey hotel offers 307 contemporary rooms and suites ranging from a standard 41sq m to a more-than-briefcase-swinging 80sqm to 409sq m. Walk in through the iconic honeycomb exterior with its blue reflective glass to find a hushed lobby with a bar-lounge and people quietly poring over their laptops. A wooden ribbed birdcage construct separates the reception to your right with a mood-light perspex crystal that emanates a soothing, if eerie, flow of blues, greens and purples.
In-room, wall-mounted LED screens enable guests to switch colours to match their mood, or romantic intention, all the while perusing fine views through full length glass windows over Xintiandi, the city’s nightlife heart. A starting category room will serve up cool timber underfoot in light and dark stripes with a small round glass table by the window hosting some bright red apples and perky panoramas.
Bright Andaz street cafe/ photo: Vijay Verghese
This can double as your desk, though it is not really a working spot in any conventional sense. There is a data port set in the TV sideboard a short hop away with two three-pin electric sockets. There is an iPod dock, too. The highlight, though, is the immense flat-screen TV.
A plump white bed beckons set against an embroidered fabric headboard in crimson with blue accents that offers more texture for touchy-feely sorts. Woody walls lead past the wardrobes and a flat laptop-friendly safe, to the washroom with its Japanese electric potty and a bathtub that glows with mood lights. The washbasin glows too, so you won't miss either. Change colours at will but don't forget to brush your teeth and bathe. The rain shower is large with grey, rough-hewn stone walls that make a change from your average hotel bathing area. Non-alcoholic drinks, snacks, local calls and WiFi are free so get binging and call everyone you know. There are 11 meeting venues and the Spa@Andaz occupies 2,200sq m. That’s a lot of rubdown room. In the basement is a very cool heated pool – glowing deep blue in the ethereal light – next to a spacious gym. Expect snappy service, mod flourishes, art and an understated approach.
For the executive elite, the boutique 88 Xintiandi, taken over by Langham in September 2011, offered style and technological savvy in its 53 exquisite “residences” in the popular Xintiandi precinct. The hotel has gone quiet was unlisted mid 2017. For those in the know, the design was spare and mod, with touches of traditional Asian whimsy. All rooms featured lake or plaza views, complimentary Broadband and kitchens equipped with a microwave, fridge and dining ware. A revamp saw the addition of a private gym, spa and indoor swimming pool. There were also countless bars, restaurants and shopping outlets right at your doorstep in this jazzy historic quarter.
Twelve at Hengshan style/ photo: hotel
Not far from Xintiandi, Pudi Boutique Hotel beside Fuxing Park offers 52 generously sized rooms adorned with original works by contemporary Chinese artists. Nice touches here include in-room check-in, a pillow menu featuring green tea and buckwheat varieties, and a rooftop bar and Jacuzzi. Pudi is also Shanghai’s only pet-friendly hotel. Mark it down for that dog day afternoon.
Out of the Starwood blocks is Luxury Collection gem Twelve at Hengshan (opened November 2012) with a mod, angular red Italian terracotta façade that perpetually seems like you are viewing it through a fish-eye lens. Set on a quieter tree-lined residential street dotted with cafes, the hotel offers a residential feel with several surprises, including a green "Secret Garden" courtyard for contemplation, and breezy outdoor sunning patios. Expect huge dollops of space, high ceilings, and an uncluttered museum-like quality to the place. Slim-line contemporary furniture beckons from various corners kitted out in pale mustard or powder green but never intrudes.
Neatly arrayed around the eye-shaped brick courtyard of this lowrise building are 171 rooms – not a crowd by any means – with 46-inch flatscreen TVs, iPod docks, Nesspresso machines and free WiFi. Courtyard-facing rooms offer small balconies for a snatch of blue sky. In 85sq m open-plan Suites expect light wood walls, beige tones, and a muted colour palette modestly offset by the faded rose bed runner. It is a tasteful ensemble with butler service and Hermes toiletries along with a luxe overflowing cornucopia – iPod dock, flat-screen TV, DVD, BOSE sound, data-port with three-pin multi-plug socket, free WiFi and a HUGE vertical safety deposit box (to house testy mothers-in-law). A 55sq m Courtyard King offers silk-glass screens to shield the bathtub from the bedroom, twin vanities, and a flat top-loading safe for laptops. The Spartan lines will appeal to the business set while the generous 712sq m spa will generously tickle feminine fancy.
Twelve at Hengshan space/ photo: Vijay Verghese
A vast 906sq m of MICE space awaits pinstripers in need of a quality small corporate meeting venue in Shanghai far from the madding crowds. The basement also houses a large and inviting bright-as-day blue pool with separate areas for kids, hot and cold dips, and a Jacuzzi with the comfort of skylight slats above for that natural feel. The pool is open 24 hours but no staff is in attendance 10.30pm to 6.30am. Well, you don’t need a butler to help you swim.
Dining ranges from Asian and Chinese to Mediterranean, and includes a cool open-air rooftop restaurant and lounge with views over the heritage rooflines and greenery of the former French Concession. Twelve at Hengshan effortlessly blends the best of mod chinoisserie with urban chic to create a quiet retreat that will appeal as much to business travellers on the go as to the bespectacled cognoscenti carting big musty books for a leisurely trawl. This is a stylish offering from Starwood that will not disappoint.
Also in the storied French Concession area with its lived-in residential feel, eateries and tree-lined streets, is the Capella Shanghai Jian Ye Li (June 2017) a delightful restored 'shikumen' townhouse development (dating back to the 1930s) with its own vintage brick-wall alleys with narrow two and three-storey 'homes' lining the narrow lanes. There are 55 independent villas and a further 40 residences (the latter with lifts to help the elderly, or the lazy, up the corkscrew stairs) towards the tiny doll's house patch of green with views over the shingle red-tile roofs.
This is a hideaway that unabashedly and handsomely capitalises on Shanghai's nostalgia trip. It is dripping with authentic touches. Once past the doorway brass knockers, the decor is minimal in simple earth tone pastels. The living room and kitchenette are on the ground level with bedrooms and toilet upstairs (though there is a small loo downstairs). The TV room is on a mezzanine level with a large flat screen facing the seating. Electric sockets throughout are of the slit two-pin and three-pin crow's-feet local variety aimed at domestic travellers. The main bedroom sports the bed smack in the middle, resort style, with a black wood desk running behind the headboard. There's 116sq ft of stretch space with a flip-out TV and large grey cushions for tossing around. The overall effect is neat but it lacks colour and punch to keep guests visually engaged.
Capella Shanghai Jian Ye Li/ photo: Vijay Verghese
The toilet is a half flight up and it is a splendid retreat, large, with a soaking tub, a single vanity, Aqua de Parma toiletries and a rain shower cubicle. Another half flight up is the roof, this not for the faint hearted or flat footed. The roof is an ideal spot for tea or a newspaper or a Mary Poppins impersonation when the wind picks up.
The smart French brasserie and bar sports black patterned floor tiles and marble and can double as a small event space for a posh gathering. Tip: the best view is to be had up the vertiginous water tower.
A Shanghai boutique hotel with strong historical overtones is the China Mansion Hotel on Xinle Road in the heart of the old French Concession. Originally built in 1932 for Shanghai mob boss Du Yue Sheng, the mansion has since hosted various, less notorious luminaries. The place will please heritage hotel buffs with its classical lines and décor. Walk in to a period fantasy filled with ancient clocks, gramophones, silken sofas and turn-of-the-century armchairs.
The 32 rooms each feature 15ft ceilings and unique layouts. Expect king-size beds, plush armchairs, ottomans and gas fireplaces, along with all the usual mod-cons associated with the frenetic 21st Century – Bose iPod docks, 42-inch flat-screen satellite TVs, printer/scanner/fax, CD/radio, free high-speed WiFi, Jacuzzis and even Japanese-style bidets that spray, squirt and blow-dry.
The sprawling 150sq m China Mansion Suites come with private stone terraces overlooking the onion domes of the Russian Orthodox Church and bathtubs the size of small swimming pools. And for small corporate meetings and private events there are seven function rooms to choose from. Although service can be spotty, the China Mansion Hotel is an inspired Shanghai boutique hotel where you can be utterly wired or gloriously disconnected. Just pick your century.
Pei Mansion classic/ photo: Vijay Verghese
The Pei Mansion Hotel opened in early 2010 at 170 Nanyang Road, not far from the Portman Ritz-Carlton and smack in the middle of a charming residential, shopping and restaurant district dominated by low-rise buildings. This is an intimate restored setting in a small, classical three-storey stone building dating back to 1934 with an ornamental garden. It was one of architect I M Pei’s family homes and many heritage touches remain intact. Pei designed the jagged diamond spires of the Bank of China building in Hong Kong and Glass Pyramid at the Louvre. Walk into the lobby to find old photographs adorning the walls, wood-and-glass cabinets showcasing old Shanghai memorabilia, velvet sofas, lattice screens, ancient gramophones and creaking wooden floorboards.
There are just 25 rooms in semi-classical mould with Shanghai contemporary chic flourishes, patterned tile floors, deep-seating leather chairs, velvet divans, and assorted memorabilia in a faux-Euro setting. You’ll spot ancient wooden radios – that work – small balconies looking onto the garden, old cupboards and almirahs with glass frontage, free WiFi, crow’s feet three pin plugs (that will need an adapter), and a huge swoon-worthy bathroom. Think electric Japanese toilet, posh marble bathroom, soaking tub, Jacuzzi, rainshower with massage jets for your back, a classic sink and large mirror. The inroom safe may house a small notebook at a squeeze but no more.
The Hilton Shanghai is one of the city’s pioneering international five-star business hotels and has a loyal following and welcoming feel. The recently revamped and expanded executive floors include a Club Lounge on the 38th level and striking red and black ‘Top of the Hilton’ meetings venue across the 40th floor, which carries the international Hilton Meetings “100 per cent guarantee” of a successful event. The Atrium Café in the sunlit lobby also got a facelift in 2012. In keeping with the hotel’s healthy approach, it has eliminated trans fats from restaurant menus, offers organic breads in its excellent German bakery and pumps “ozone-enriched” air through its gym and spa.
Among Shanghai conference hotels, the Hilton is perhaps one for the diary. Right next door is a large pink slab called the Hotel Equatorial, with a lobby plaque announcing, “The best hotel for exterior design”. You be the judge. Its rates are a lot more affordable than its neighbour’s.
Art deco Pei Mansion/ photo: hotel
Not too far from here, the neoclassical Okura Garden Hotel Shanghai stands in a green garden compound just off Huaihai Road. This property was a private French Club in the 1930s before becoming Chairman Mao’s revolutionary headquarters. It’s now an elegant Japanese-run hotel with spacious, renovated rooms and a popular Japanese restaurant, Yamazoto.
Check out the ballroom with its original sprung wooden floor and stained glass windows. The highlight of the bathrooms is a Japanese-style loo with all the trimmings – press-button bidet, spray, and all manner of devices to keep your bottom shipshape. This is very much a classical Shanghai business hotel.
The neighbouring Jin Jiang Hotel (not the nearby ‘New Jin Jiang’ tower) is a beauty with its historic dark-brick structure and white-frame bay windows. The hotel is spread across five classical buildings in manicured grounds. Unfortunately, past room renovations have been less than sympathetic and only some of the original detailing has been preserved in the lobby of the main Cathay Building.
A better option is the art deco Cathay Garden across the courtyard, which was rebuilt in 2005 and has 208 slick executive rooms with spacious bathrooms for only a fraction more than those in the original block. Ask for a garden view. Don’t miss Jimmy’s Kitchen in the main Cathay Building, which claims to be the oldest continuously run Western restaurant in China. The charming diner serves its original menu of classic Continental dishes in a relaxed, family-friendly environment. Old school favourites include Lobster Bisque, Corn-fed Chicken Kiev and a classic Sunday Roast.
Singapore-based travel agency CTC Tourism Holdings has acquired a 1930s art deco gem on Hengshan Road and created a cosy, 39-room Shanghai guesthouse, @Gallery Suites. The boutique hotel features stylish period décor, free-standing bathtubs and high-tech amenities. We love the flamboyant art deco suites, WiFi-enabled gym and next-door Annexe building with an art gallery and teahouse.
Parked in a historic neighbourhood of the French Concession, amidst villas, and tucked behind well-guarded gates, Hotel Massenet is arguably Shanghai’s most exclusive (and expensive) boutique lodging. Part of the Sinan Mansions dining and shopping precinct, the hotel comprises 15 free-standing mansions that are rented en-bloc for a cool Rmb38,000 a night.
The spacious Okura/ photo: hotel
Each of the three-storey houses comes with a 24-hour butler and chef, and features four en suite bedrooms, living and dining rooms, a study and kitchen, private garage and a large walled garden. Guests can choose from classic, contemporary or chic design styles. The hotel also has a Chinese and French restaurant and a clubhouse with indoor pool and gym. Mark this down on your list of the best Shanghai boutique hotels.
InterContinental Shanghai Ruijin is housed in a former state guesthouse occupying a 100-acre historic walled garden estate not far from Xintiandi and Huaihai Road shopping. Occupying a series of red-brick classical buildings, the hotel features more of old Europe than you can shake a stick at, from richly veined marble, velvet and mahogany furniture, to deep carpets, chandeliers and private garden terraces. There’s also modern elements, such as glassed-in rain showers, bathtubs and BOSE sound. Most of the 238 rooms are housed in two newly built buildings, with an entire building dedicated to Club InterContinental, featuring demure tones with plenty of rosewood and a dedicated Club Lounge. The high-rise Reception Building ups the dazzle, with a nine-storey oval atrium illuminated by two 1.5-tonne crystal chandeliers. Hello bling. Rooms in the tower are decorated in soft jade tones, and feel somewhat brighter than their Club counterparts.
For Disneyland-meets-Gothic-horror-gabled-mansion, look no further than the Hengshan Moller Villa Hotel. The story has it that an expatriate businessman built it exactly as his daughter saw it in a dream. The ensuing construction is alternatively pleasing, astonishing and spooky. A major makeover in 2008 moved the 28 guestrooms into Building 2 at the back of the property, adding flat screen TVs and other updated amenities.
The original castle-like building now contains pricy restaurants and overblown function rooms leading out to a pretty garden. The hotel is popular with government officials who often book it out for months at a time. This is definitely an offbeat Shanghai hotel choice.
Pullman Skyway tower/ photo: Verghese
The four-star Regal Shanghai East Asia Hotel is actually “within” the Shanghai Stadium. No kidding. This may be too much for some but the Sports Bar does in fact overlook the stadium, which is a novel way to end the day.
A short drive away, the Regal International East Asia Hotel continues the athletic theme. It features eight outdoor tennis courts and two indoor courts. There’s also billiards, a gym, vast fitness facilities, a 12-lane bowling centre, simulated golf driving range and squash. If you’d rather work on your beer belly than your six-pack, there’s the infamous Hengshan Lu bar strip not far from here.
And in case you have any time left for business, there’s the Regal Club Lounge and Business Centre on its fourth and fifth floors. A handful of Regal Club Rooms have been styled just for ladies. These feature a "feminine touch" in the decor and special amenities including satin hangers, humidifier, hair-curler and manicure set.
The 545-room Hotel Pullman Shanghai Skyway is in the Huangpu District. This is a 52-storey tower block with meeting space of 3,000sq m, fitness centre, spa and pool. A white marble lobby with "grape" cluster chandeliers and a few palm trees awaits visitors. It's all a tad bling but things are brisk. The Pullman brand identity arrived March 2009 (prior to this it was simply Skyway). Rooms starting at 48sq m offer cherry wood walls, cream carpets, brown silk cushions, large switches, flat-screen television, large flat safe and iPod dock.
The Radisson Blu Plaza Xing Guo is set in 15 acres of garden in the former French Concession. It’s a smart choice, with ample business facilities, a pool, squash court and bowling alley.
The rapidly developing Putuo area has seen an influx of new hotels. The 32-storey, 501-room Marriott Shanghai Changfeng Park is sited in this district. And with the Changfeng Park and Suzhou River at its doorstep, there certainly is no shortage of scenic views. Business and pleasure go hand in hand as the hotel is home to seven bars and restaurants, in addition to more-than-adequate meeting facilities. Besides the usual amenities (42-inch flat screen TV, tea and coffee, work table, Internet access, iron, safe, mini bar), rooms also come with iPod docking stations. Interesting places to explore nearby include the MGM Studio World.
Renaissance Putuo/ photo: hotel
Opened in May 2010, the Renaissance Shanghai Putuo Hotel leans towards a boutique feel with its clean, contemporary interiors. Located along Tongchuan Road, the 20-floor, 330-room hotel is very much in the business buzz with good shopping next door along with a few museums. Dine international, Chinese or Japanese. With versatile function space including eight meeting rooms and 5,619sq ft of conference space in the ballroom (for up to 520 persons), setting up meetings is a snap.
Along Yan’an West Road, the 342-room Merry Hotel Shanghai (formerly Rendezvous Merry Hotel) has refurbished its guest rooms and women travelling alone may appreciate the ladies floor. If you’re sensitive to noise, avoid rooms near the lifts, which make an exuberant “pinging” noise all day and night. Get to breakfast early to avoid the queues but don’t get your hopes up, the buffet is distinctly average. Rooms are small but compact, clean and comfortable with neutral decor. Facilities include a writing desk with fax machine, flatscreen TV, small bath and separate rain shower, coffee facilities, iron and ironing board and laptop-size safe. Its proximity to subway stations, Jing’an Temple and Nanjing West Road is a bonus.
Stays along and near the historic Bund
On to some Shanghai business hotels near the Bund, not far from People’s Square. The Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund comprises the 20-suite Waldorf Astoria Club in a riverfront heritage building that formerly served as the exclusive gentlemen’s Shanghai Club in the 1920s, plus the contemporary Waldorf Tower.
Strut like a lord or lady around the stately English Renaissance-style building admiring the palladium columns, detailed gables, cosy deep-seating snuggeries for post-prandial discourse, and sculpted rooftop cupolas. Club Suites are an essay in elegant space resembling a home rather than a hotel room, with living, study, dressing and bathing areas. Suites are grandiose with white plaster walls, timber floor panelling, dramatic chandeliers, tasselled silk, velvet cushions and dark mahogany period furnishings.
The centrepiece is a large invitingly plump four-poster bed with two pipe lights for reading. Three televisions stream news and music wherever you wish (with a small LCD facing the bath as well) while a handy wireless keyboard enables Internet access on the TV.
Stately Waldorf/ photo: hotel
The roomy toilet is in bright white marble with a free-standing bathtub. The adjoining dressing room lights up automatically as you walk in. The toilet is classic with a wooden seat cover (unlike the sleek modern Japanese-friendly ensemble in the tower wing that rears up in welcome and whirs to life as you enter the cubicle with enough buttons and bidet functions to keep your booty beautifully groomed). You’ll also find Hermes toiletries, a Nespresso machine, a flat laptop-size safe, a classic clock, and a hairdryer that plugs into a somewhat fiddly hidden socket behind the handsome dressing table mirror. Step into the rain shower for a soft sprinkle or use the more forceful hand-shower, but expect hot water to arrive at a civilised pace. What’s the rush? The Club wing offers supreme in-room indulgence and animated butlers, which more than compensate for the lack of views.
The newer Waldorf Astoria Tower houses another 240 rooms and suites and is connected to the Club via a grand corridor of restaurants and lounges. The guestrooms here are more contemporary with cool muted shades, powder blue accents and sleek lines. Expect a flat-screen TV, Nespresso machine, classic clock, and a hairdryer with an easy socket at one side of the bath mirror. A quaint porthole mirror linking the bath with bedroom fogs up at the flick of a switch.
At least half of the rooms offer unobstructed, panoramic views of the Shanghai skyline along the Huangpu River. Don’t miss a classic cocktail at the legendary Long Bar, whose impressive 34m marble bartop and oyster ice-counter have been restored from its Shanghai Club days, or enjoy afternoon tea served with red velvet cupcakes at Salon de Ville.
Also discover four restaurants (Pelham’s, Grand Brasserie, the atmospheric Wei Jing Ge Chinese Restaurant, and Peacock Alley), six meeting rooms, a business lounge, spa and fitness centre. This is a Shanghai luxury hotel that stands out, all the more so for its refined quiet. The silence is eloquent. The latest in pampering at this address is the Waldorf Astoria Spa on Level 3 with its artful blend of Chinese medicine and contemporary healing, including oxygen facials to rejuvenate the skin. Expect eight luxe treatment rooms, each with a private steam room, and a 1,000sq ft VIP suite for more elaborate rubdowns. Check if the 'Spa Party' package is available with its afternoon tea and bottle of champagne.
8 Art Hotel, a budget boutique hotel pick with a grunge feel/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Superbly sited, just across the road from here at the southern fringe of the Bund where the imposing blocks taper off, is the charming 8 Art Hotel, a boutique digs with dollops of art, grunge interiors, creaking floorboards, and enough scabrous exposed cement ceilings to delight or dismay depending on your age and attire. It’s a steal at US$80 a night with breakfast and a super location. You’ll also get endless scratchy renditions of “I left my heart in San Francisco”. No views alas, of either San Francisco or the Bund. In-room expect bay windows (with no view), reading lights, classic clock, easy master switches, a medium soft bed, a long wooden desk, an electric water heater for coffee or tea, exposed hooks for wall hangers and clothes (there are no cupboards), and a blower heater for the cold winters. The bathroom serves up soap, shampoo and a hairdryer and, downstairs, breakfasts are served on rough hewn wooden tables. And yes, they can rustle up an omelette or scrambled eggs. WiFi is free but seems to work best in the ground floor public spaces for mobile phones.
A historic eight-decade Bund veteran returned as the Fairmont Peace Hotel following a dramatic remodelling and facelift. Polished splendour has replaced the musty corridors of the old Peace Hotel with a rollout of 270 deluxe rooms and suites, plus six restaurants and lounges, including the popular bolthole Jazz Bar (still home to a geriatric but splendidly entertaining band along with the more lively Theo Croker Collective and visiting jazz stars from the global circuit) and The Cathay Room, offering grand views of the Bund from the terrace.
Old is gold they say but creaky and erratic service will be a niggle for top-drawer visitors who will spot a variety of idiosyncratic responses from doormen and waiters, several of whom belonged to the old regime and are not as yet fully versed in the art of modern service.
Fairmont true colours/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Walk in to the lobby to find a set of beaten metal murals depicting the original hotel from various angles. Other historic memorabilia can be found in the lovely Peace Museum, hidden up a narrow staircase from the lobby.
The redone hotel has gone through substantial remodelling – too much, say purists – but the new rooms feel fresh and welcoming, combining 1930s period flourishes and richly textured fabrics with flashes of edgier contemporary design. Deluxe rooms start at 45sq m and feature an inviting marble bath, 37-inch plasma stereo TV, Blu-ray DVD, Illy espresso machine, MP3 docking station, plump goose-down pillows and 400-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets.
The famed Nine Nations Suites are a hangover from the original hotel with magnificent themed interiors based on different country styles. The one-bedroom Japanese Suite throws in a Bund-view bathtub, a living area with bright sofas and silk cushions, floral carpets, and a generous wooden desk. The large flat-screen TV is concealed in a cabinet. Also find a well-equipped data-port, a large black marble toilet with twin vanities, bright lights for makeup or a shave, a big rainshower, and a generous dressing area with iron and ironing board. Executives can pop their laptops in the large in-room safe. In other rooms, the bed is on a raised plinth with pink-stem glass lamps at either side.
Throw in a bit more cash and upgrade to the 89sq m Grand Suite, which gives you those all-important views of the Huangpu River (despite the prime location, most rooms don’t have Bund views but rather look into a drab inner courtyard) plus your own private dining area for up to eight hungry guests. A new extension houses the swimming pool and Willow Stream Spa that offers beauty treatments with a glamorous twist.
Fairmont also doubles as a Shanghai conference hotels choice with its atmospheric Peace Hall holding 250 for dining. The hall also has an original spring-set wooden dance floor to aid in those quick moves. What more could you ask for?
Westin Bund Grand Deluxe/ photo: hotel
An excellent choice close to the Bund is the tiara-topped Westin Bund Centre Shanghai. The twin-towered hotel is fun and functional with a busy vibe and mischievously playful bronze statues of plump ice skaters. The younger 269-room Grand Tower provides crisp executive comforts including concealed fax, DVD player, window-side bathtubs and evening “unwind rituals”. There is an iron and ironing board to ensure crisp creases. Grand Tower rooms are far brighter than the old wing, with pale wood replacing the dark wood, and pastels dominating. Rooms in the Crown Tower wing have come through a fresh refurbishment with a crisper feel.
Crown Studios are compact but well planned featuring a foyer/living area with a large flat-screen TV and oval glass working desk with free WiFi, one multi-pin electric socket and a traditional two hole outlet (there are two more three-pin plug points elsewhere). Wood panelling keeps things dark and clubby with the bathrooms (separated by sliding doors) occupying a quarter of the entire unit space.
The bedroom has its own flat-screen TV with big glass windows to one side fronting cityscapes and buildings close by. Wall mirrors provide that little extra something. This is a room with woody textures that doesn't strain to be too clever. It is functional, neat and workmanlike with appeal for business travellers on the go. There is no devious hi-tech toilet here, just one handle for the hot water and one for the cold – it's the easiest shower we've come across in China.
A hot spot on the mirror avoids fogging and there's plenty of light and hairdryer is on hand. There is a plug in the cabinet recess; or try the bedside socket conveniently set against the wall mirror. Suites going up to 72sq m are airy with plenty of windows and light and pastel tones to soothe the eyes. Or pick a Grand Deluxe, again in lighter tones and contemporary touches.
Westin Bund Lobby/ photo: Verghese
The atrium lobby is crammed with Hirsch Bedner designer palm trees surrounding a red blown-glass centrepiece that represents the Biblical "burning bush". It manages to hold things together nicely and the lobby lounge is a busy and chatty space. Underlit glass staircases climb up a few floors to large, versatile function areas.
There’s a 24-hour business centre, two-storey WestinWORKOUT gym and a spa for after-hours de-stressing. Prego Italian restaurant does great pizzas and convivial evening Aperitivo hours, and The Stage restaurant hosts one of the most popular Sunday brunch buffets in town.
Making a triumphant return to the city where it all began, The Peninsula Shanghai opened in October 2009 in the first new mansion to be built along Shanghai’s historic Bund in more than 60 years. The luxury, art deco-inspired interiors, river views and winning service make this a first-rate Shanghai accommodation choice. Dining highlights include Cantonese restaurant Yi Long Court and rooftop Sir Elly’s bar and restaurant. Classic Peninsula high teas accompanied by a string quartet are available in the celadon-hued high ceiling lobby lounge.
Savvy services for business travellers staying in the 235 rooms (starting from 56sq m) include a Nespresso machine, iPod dock, 1,000-channel Internet radio, card readers enabling digital photos and presentations to be viewed on the large TV screen, nail dryers and a six-hour guaranteed laundry service. Heat-sensing panels light up as you pass your hand over the controls and the weather readout is a nifty addition.
Ornate plaster walls adorn the bathroom. Several rooms offer Bund views while the bright and airy garden-view accommodations look on to the verdant grounds of the former British Consulate (a vintage guesthouse dating back to 1871, and event space, managed by The Peninsula).
Peninsula Shanghai suite/ photo: hotel
The safe is vertical, large and can easily manage a laptop plus jewellery. Colours are muted and pastel with a preponderance of white. The bronze art deco lift doors open to whisk you down to the indoor pool with skylight. Among the 25 luxury brands featured in the downstairs shopping arcade, are Chanel’s China flagship, Armani, Prada and Valentino.
Right across from The Peninsula on the banks of one arm of the Su Zhou River, is the mid-rise Bellagio Shanghai (mid 2017) managed by Diaoyutai MGM Hospitality at 1 Zhapu Road. While not on the Bund proper, the hotel affords a nice view and is the first Bellagio branded hotel outside North America. The Deluxe Rooms range from 60sq m to 70sq m ranging in decor from beige tartan in earth tones to some with grand river views, and Suites with flashes of burgundy and walk-in marble bat5hrooms with twin vanities. Think butlers, 55-inch flatscreen televisions, and high speed Internet access.
The Renaissance Shanghai Yu Garden Hotel is located beside the city’s famed Yu Gardens and Disney-style tourist bazaar, with spellbinding views over the winged rooftops. The brand’s trendy flagship is specifically designed to appeal to 25 to 40-year-old travellers. The 341-room hotel designed by Czech glass artist Borek Sipek is decked out in bold carpets and quirky blown glass, and rooms feature glass bathrooms and tubs in the living area in some cases. There’s a rooftop indoor pool with a terrifyingly cool glass infinity wall, plus a bar with a sprawling outdoor roof terrace.
Also in the Bund area is the 23-storey Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel. The comfortably appointed hotel is close to shopping and the metro and offers high-speed Internet access in its rooms, along with standard amenities. The 353-room Grand Central Hotel Shanghai is another option overlooking the Bund with plenty of MICE facilities, palatial gold fittings and, yay, palm trees.
Hyatt on the Bund/ photo: hotel
Its sister hotel, also part of Worldhotels with a similar name and located right next door, is Central Hotel Shanghai. Emerged from US$27 million renovation in 2012, it offers fresh rooms and facilities in a very convenient location, within walking distance of the Bund, People’s Square and Nanjing Road. There are 313 rooms, including an Executive Floor, with newly added non-smoking floors and WiFi Internet throughout.
The hotel has also added a Continental Bar and upgraded the conference facilities, One Fine spa and beauty salon and the Recreation Centre, which sports a mini-golf facility. One iconic hotel institution remains – The Shanghai Restaurant, the go-to place for celebrated Shanghai hairy crab feasts known as “Wang Bao He”. Be sure to book ahead during hairy crab season, from September to late November.
Hyatt on the Bund is not quite – it’s actually around the bend of the Huangpu River in the upcoming North Bund area, near the cruise ship terminal. The 631 rooms across two towers (the entire east wing is an Executive Tower) have each been angled to take full advantage of the stunning views straight down the Huangpu River, taking in both the east and west banks. Rooms feature iPod docks, open bathrooms and safes that allow you to store and charge a laptop. A wonderful Yuan Spa occupies 3,000sq m across the entire lower level. Dining options are typically strong, especially the part-alfresco Chinese restaurant specialising in Peking duck from its own custom-built clay oven.
For more unusual surroundings try the imaginative Vue Restaurant (the creation of hot Japanese designers SuperPotato) with its bachelor-pad theme. You can choose to eat in “his” library, kitchen or living room surrounded by collections of model cars, smoking pipes and vintage corkscrews.
W Shanghai room, bright/ photo: hotel
For really smoking views of Shanghai, head to Vue Bar on the 32nd and 33rd floors. The best time to visit is sunset when The Bund begins to light up. Grab yourself a delicious lychee martini and make your way upstairs to the open-air rooftop bar. There can be a door queue and entrance fee in the evenings.
Set farther up in a newly developing area and farther inland, a bit away from the waterfront, is the mixed-use development of the W Shanghai - The Bund (28 June 2017). Guests can expect 55-inch LED televisions, a W Pet Bed on demand (not for him or her but for the pooch if one is tagging along), twin vanities, pillow menu, see-through bathing areas, and whirlpool baths. There is an iron and ironing board for winkling out those creases as you take in some excellent views from high floor rooms decked out in bright reds, pinks, and yellows. Blink and continue. The meetings bound will be chuffed to find a generous 5,800sq m of conference and MICE space with the ballroom running up to just over 2,000sq m, enough to swing an elephant by the tail. The hotel is set some distance from the normal action and taxis are not as yet plentiful in this neighbourhood but there's more than enough enough to do here.
Farther up the river bend in a developing residential and commercial neighbourhood is the Banyan Tree Shanghai, On The Bund. This futuristic grey-slate green-glass low-rise is partially shielded from distant construction and new apartments by swaying bamboo fronds, with water coursing throughout the complex along dark stone channels.
With just 130 rooms, the accent is on luxury, space and grand vistas at this urban resort without the floor-thumping din of conventioneers and eager salarymen racing about the lobby. This is not to say business travellers are not catered for. They certainly are. But differently. Banyan Tree is all about texture and the elements, with water, wood and stone woven into a contemporary blend to lend things a more gracious and measured pace with equal appeal for leisure trippers like honeymooners or shoppers in search of some serious spa pampering, and urbane suits.
Banyan Tree pastels/ photo: Verghese
Rooms start at a generous 60sq m to 70sq m with straight clean lines defining pastel and grey interiors clad in wood and fabric. Expect pale timber floors, carved headboards, dark wood wall panels and stretch-out cream divans, all serving to frame large windows with BIG views of the Huangpu river looking out over at the architectural acrobatics of Pudong.
Guests will enjoy a large flat-screen TV recessed into the wall, iPod dock, round black marble desk with dataport (two three-pin multi plugs) and complimentary WiFi. All rooms face the river, a thoughtful design feat, so no one is left out.
But not everyone will bag a romantic dipping pool in the bedroom set by the large window. There is the consolation of a bathtub with a view for others though and this is hardly a comedown. Corner Bund Retreat rooms offer more stretch space at 90sq m with larger working desks (still in black marble), rain showers, twin vanities, and endless views along the length of the river. No pool here but a nice soaking tub.
The rooftop viewing deck offers Cinemascope views with wind in the hair while the less adventurous can dive into the indoor pool or work out at the gym. A hotel London Cab will deposit you at no charge at The Bund to sample its ever-beckoning delights.
Looming above the exit of the Bund tunnel, the new Hotel Pravo has a refined art deco look and feel with ultra-elegant rooms in soft pastel tones and smart dining befitting its Preferred Hotels status. The tunnel beneath whizzes you to the Bund or Pudong in mere minutes.
Positioning itself very much in the boutique hotel category, Les Suites Orient, Bund Shanghai is a smart Shanghai business hotel with a stellar Bund location. Similar in style and philosophy to its trendy sister property in Taipei, it has the hushed air of exclusivity – partly as a result of its residents-only policy.
Les Suites rustic chic/ photo: Verghese
Blending art deco design with Oriental allure, the 23-storey hotel (housed in a 50-year-old building) features 168 rooms, including 43 suites, many of which gaze out over the Bund.
The hotel is hushed and hard to spot, mercifully lacking the garish signs and outdoor bling of some of its competitors. You head a block south from Waldorf and cross the road to step into a quietly unassuming all-stone corner building and walk past some casually arrayed 19th century travel suitcases and trunks to take the lift up to a quiet lobby where black-uniformed staff spring into action as the elevator doors open.
Soft classical music drifts through the air, pastel tones sweep across wide-open spaces and simple white vases punctuate minimal décor, the centerpiece of which is an 1815 Alois Kearn piano, its keys unveiled for guests in the mood to tinkle some vintage ivory.
The rooms are contemporary and unfussy, perhaps best described as “rustic chic” with a huge amount of attention to detail. A 45sq m Bund Deluxe serves up a bedside radio with iPod dock, Illy coffee machine, an authentic porcelain Chinese tea set from Jiangsu province, slim straight-line furniture that is easy on the eye, and a remarkable fold-out cabinet affectionately termed “the transformer” that houses a minibar with Tsing Tao beer for Rmb8 (same as the street retail price).
This is not the only remarkable thing about this address. Find a wooden working desk with free WiFi and two three-pin multi-plug sockets, flat-screen TV, DVD player, rocking chair for lazy Bund views, parquet floors and a pleasing pastel palette enlivened by large black and white old Bund photographs.
Hotel Indigo tones/ photo: Verghese
Business travellers will appreciate the flat laptop-friendly safes tucked away in the desk, the iron and ironing board, and custom-made mattress, while ladies might enjoy the bathtub (with LCD television screen and neck massage water jets), large shower, and the instantly warm Japanese-style electric toilet seat. The hotel’s 24-hour amenities include a business centre, fitness centre, and a mobile concierge service called Les Suites Mobile Life, available in all rooms.
Guests are also entitled to complimentary two-hour use of the hotel's three meeting rooms. End a hard day in the jazzy Cigar Bar or feast on free coffee and cookies in bright and comfy Le Lounge. Les Suites works on the principle that less is more. The design is simple and economical, light and airy. This is another one to mark down in your Shanghai boutique hotels selection.
At the southern end of the Bund, beside the renovated Shiliupu dockyards, is the first Asia Pacific property of InterContinental’s boutique brand, Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund. Rising 30 storeys on the banks of the Huangpu River – so close to the water that it feels like you’re floating – the 184-room hotel stands out for its sweeping city views and smart localised touches. We love the Shanghai White Rabbit candies to chew on, goji infused bath products by lush local brand Bayankala, and breakfast items delivered in traditional wooden baskets. Walk in to the lobby, an Alice in Wonderland escape of yellow bicycles, red rickshaws, art, rusting ship metal walls, and an intricate wooden “wave”, all mimicking the hotel’s dockland roots. The mood is playful and mischievous, unrestrainedly so. And it is this that will engage the upwardly mobile set and offset somewhat the hotel’s modestly awkward location well beyond the main Bund area.
Indigo’s funky Shanghai-chic design extends to the spacious rooms with hardwood floors, hanging lanterns and black and white murals of Yuyuan behind the bed. Relax at Quay with pod lounges, massage chairs and Mac screens; take a dip in the infinity pool above the river; or dine and party at the excellent CHAR Grill and Bar on the 29th and 30th floors, featuring a breathtaking roof terrace, a large spotted ceramic cow and porcelain figures with telescopes eyeing the views.
Renaissance Yu Garden/ photo: hotel
There are also four meeting rooms, for between 10 and 70 people with river-facing windows and beanbags for more relaxed sessions. The sixth-floor Library offers iMacs for hard-pressed pin-stripers on the go. This is a fun Shanghai hotel, distinctive, cool, and far from cookie-cutter.
Still farther south, in a 1930s dockyard factory beside the Huangpu River, is the 19-room Waterhouse at South Bund. The designer pad by Singaporean hotelier Loh Lik Peng (of The New Majestic and Wanderlust in Singapore) has been snapping up global hotel awards on account of its industrial-glam interiors and excellent mod-Mediterranean resto, Table No. 1, by Michelin-starred British chef Jason Atherton.
Each of the bright white-and-wood rooms has a slightly different layout and latest hi-tech amenities, including free Wi-Fi and mini-bar. Some rooms also come with walled terraces and river views. There aren’t many extra facilities on offer (unless you happen to require an 800-person neighbouring event space). It is a short taxi ride to the action of the Bund or Yu Gardens, but if you appreciate designer fancy and fine dining, you’ll be happy to wash up at The Waterhouse.
Just outside the city centre, Club Rooms at the Crowne Plaza Shanghai are bold and spacious with a flatscreen TV and a solid safe that, alas, is not laptop size. The club lounge is split-level with meeting rooms along with a business centre. Club Room guests are entitled to complimentary garment pressing and free beer and soft drinks from the mini-bar. Drink up.
Ritz-Carlton Pudong/ photo: hotel
Rooms are compact but sassy, with colourful hot pink or green highlights, semi-open bathrooms and flat-screen TVs. You’re right against the Yan’an elevated highway which is convenient, if not terribly inspiring. All in all MetroPolo is big on flair and functionality without the fluff and inflated prices.
The Longemont Shanghai – formerly known as the Regent – occupies a rather lackluster location, squeezed up against the Yan’an elevated highway. Although hardly tourist central, it’s right next door to the growing business district of Zhongshan Park and just a short drive to both Nanjing Road or Hongqiao. The 53-storey building boasts a cutting-edge design with an easily recognisable electric blue stripe running down the outside, an airy lobby, funky white pod chairs and sleek cherry woods. All rooms feature 42-inch plasma TVs and many of the bathrooms have retractable glass walls or floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the city lights. There is free WiFi in public spaces (except the business lounge) and complimentary Broadband in all rooms. There’s also a spa and 30-metre infinity pool.
In the satellite business district of Zhongshan Park, the Renaissance Shanghai Zhongshan Park Hotel (2008) is the world’s tallest Renaissance. It stretches from the 25th to 60th floors of the Cloud Nine Shopping Centre, with Zhongshan Park subway station in the basement that allows easy connectivity to Pudong and downtown.
Targeting the upwardly mobile “pleasurable business” traveller, the 684 rooms are decorated in striking crimson tones with fun lounge and dining concepts offering healthy lunches, casual meeting spaces and chill-out after-work drinks. The building also contains a shopping mall, cinemas, spas and office tower.
The Four Points by Sheraton Shanghai, Daning is in the city’s northern Zhabei district, near the main railway station and around 20 minutes by cab from the CBD. The hotel makes up part of a young integrated complex called the Daning Life Hub and boasts plentiful business facilities. Among these are vast swathes of meeting space, seven function rooms, a business centre and a Grand Ballroom.
Modern Cordis Shanghai Hongqiao/ photo: hotel
The 326 contemporary guestrooms come with flat-screen TVs and jet showers. The hotel is close to the university district and Circus World, home to the excellent Era acrobatic show. This is a useful Shanghai conference hotels choice.
Also in Zhabei district, around a 15-minute drive north from People’s Square, the Shanghai Marriott Hotel Parkview opened in early 2014 overlooking the green expanse of Daning Lingshi Park. Its 317 rooms and suites have serene park and lake views. Dominating the smartly styled white-and-silver guestrooms by Hirsch Bedner Associates is a Chinese painting of branches and dragonflies behind the bed. In the grey marble bathrooms, body products by natural Thai skincare brand Thann add an indulgent touch.
Around 2,800sq m of meeting and events space includes two pillarless ballrooms (1,400 sq m and 1,000 sq m) plus five function rooms, all on the same floor. Among the four dining venues is a branch of Marriott’s Man Ho Chinese restaurant and the tucked-away Tatsumi for contemporary Japanese and Korean. You can work off those calories at the 24-hour fitness centre, go for a dip in the indoor swimming pool, or practice your swing at the golf practice green or tennis court.
Hongqiao Airport and business district
Further west of the city, the Shanghai Marriott Hotel Hongqiao is part of a large business centre block and close to the Shanghai Mart. This is an exhibitions area. It is easily accessible from Hongqiao Airport high-speed railway station and a ring road (and upcoming rail link) provides reasonably quick access to Pudong. Executive rooms offer a steam iron and a notebook-size safe. Being a long-time expat enclave, the area is also well serviced with global restaurants, cafes and supermarkets.
Sofitel Hongqiao suite style/ photo: hotel
Newcomers to this fast-developing zone include the modern 396-room Cordis Shanghai Hongqiao (2016) from Langham, with sleek woody-tone pastel rooms, a cool rooftop pool, spa, and function space for corporate meetings and banquests for up to 330 people; and the 240-room and futuristic smoke-free Le Meridien Shanghai Minhang (early 2017).
At Le Meridien Minhang expect signature LM Beds, 42-inch flat-screen televisions, and sensible grab-bars in the bathrooms, plus a whopping 2,500sq m of function space including a 950sq m ballroom for conferences, small meetings and weddings.
The Sofitel Shanghai Hongqiao just five kilometres from the airport (the railway station is close by too) with its plush Millesime Suites from 68sq m, Lanvin toiletries and 48-in-screen TVs, and extensive and elegant meeting spaces with the Grand Ballroom holding 920 persons.
The Millennium Hotel Hongqiao Shanghai has 369 exuberantly styled rooms that are comfortably spacious and feature floor-to-ceiling windows, flat screen TVs and peek-a-boo bathrooms. There is a selection of Chinese and Western restaurants on site and free shuttle buses into town.
Moving back towards downtown you’ll find the semi-circular Sheraton Shanghai Hongqiao Hotel. The interior is extravagantly old world. Grand marble pillars, burgundy carpets, chandeliers and Chinese artefacts adorn the lobby, while the 587 guestrooms continue the classical look with lush woven carpets and period furniture, but rather compact bathrooms. Right around the corner is the Renaissance Shanghai Yangtze Hotel. Club Rooms decked out in pinewood and burgundy are bright but a tad small.
Pudong hotel choices
Mandarin Oriental Deluxe/ photo: hotel
Crossing over to Pudong, on the eastern side of the river in the general vicinity of the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone and Shanghai New International Expo Centre are a clutch of excellent business addresses.
Shaking things up on this side of the shoreline, just north of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, is the Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai (opened mid 2013), a sleek and contemporary two-part mid-rise combining a hotel and a residential long-stay wing with the usual manor-born reserve characterising this group's design forays that will instantly appeal to discriminating wallets. Set in grey-stone zen surrounds, the separate steel-and-glass twin buildings form an L-shape, linked via basement corridors to open-kitchen food outlets, versatile conference space, commodious 2,900sq m spa with suites large enough to swing an elephant by the tail, gym for hi-tech calorie burning, and a 25m indoor pool that is open to guests 24 hours a day – this last a small step for man and a giant leap for hospitality. Expect inviting 38C water temperature and alert staff on hand should a surfeit of lager interfere with your laps.
Spread along an as yet undiscovered corner of the Bund – where the old ship yards will slowly give way to a Harbour City development in the mould of Hong Kong – the views are large and uncluttered, with 5,000sq m of river-fronting alfresco event space to add to the 500-capacity basement ballroom that comes with a soaring entrance foyer embedded with stained glass giving it a cathedral-like aura. The hotel in all encompasses 23 generous hectares. This is all manna for MICE planners but don't expect a cookie-cutter conference hotel with jabbering hordes. Think 4,000 art pieces, porcelain "wall paintings", a lit-up glass-tile lobby mural, richly veined black marble, and textures from wood to stone to fabric.
Mandarin Oriental riverfront/ photo: hotel
A typical 61sq m city-facing Mandarin Room serves up pastel surrounds with just enough colour tinge and texture – as with the floral blue splash bed runners – to keep you visually engaged. Expect a large 46-inch flat-screen TV, iPod dock, lots of three-pin multi-plugs, large working desk, Illy coffee, Frette linen and goose down pillows, all set in a unique layout with long bathrooms running parallel to the bedroom ensuring both spaces have ample breathing room. Bathing areas feature twin vanities, bathtub, LCD television, large rain shower, and classic Ormonde Jayne toiletries for a whiff of British flair. No French frou frou here. In river-facing rooms spot a huge circular white tub by the window next to vertical wooden louvre blinds. Also find a laptop-friendly safe with power socket inside, as well as that other solid British staple – an iron and ironing board for a crisp colonial crease. All rooms feature valet boxes for quiet retrieval of laundry and shoes.
A multiple-plug three-pin socket is set on either side of the bed and a well-featured data-port – with TV hook-up – is embedded in the work desk with its classy slim-line leather chair. Set apart from the Pudong scrum in a fast-developing area that is becoming a banker's haunt, the hotel is a quick 15-minute hike along the river boardwalk to the TV tower. Stretch your legs, jog, or grab a hotel Segway. Enjoy buffet spreads at Zest, some of Shanghai’s finesse local cuisine at elegant Chinese restaurant Yong Yi Ting, or simply retire to the cigar corner at the Qi Bar. And for water babies, the Shanghai Metropolitan Marine Yacht Club has its jetty on the premises for a fast river cruise should the occasion so demand.
Those staying in the top suites can enjoy a free sunset yacht cruise taking in the signature river sites, complete with pre-cruise Champagne and an on-board butler. The Spa is another highlight, a sprawling subterranean oasis with butterfly artworks and spacious private suites where you begin your spa ritual with a complimentary body scrub and steam shower. As well as a comprehensive wellness menu inspired by Chinese ingredients – think: moxibuxtion, pressure point massage and healing baths infused with Chinese mulberry and night-blooming jasmine – there’s also a ‘Beauty by Mandarin Oriental’ salon offering super-tech, non-invasive skincare, anti-aging and slimming therapies, along with vegan manis and pedis. After your treatment you can chill-out in the relaxation salon and rehydrate with a selection of Chinese wellness teas, nuts and snacks.
Grand Kempinski pool/ photo: Kempinski
Club guests get the run of the excellent Club Lounge, which makes up for ordinary low-rise views with an interesting book library and abundant ‘happy hour’ food and drink selection. Tip: don’t miss the Club’s special Champagne cocktail menu – the perfect way to kick start a Shanghai night. Mark this address down as one of the new Shanghai business hotels to watch. Just one niggle. You’ll have to pay for WiFi unless you are in a Club room or book online as a registered MOHG guest, in which case you have complimentary access to high bandwidth internet access for any amount of file transfers. There are the inevitable calls to compare Mandarin Oriental Pudong vs Peninusla, Waldorf Astoria, or even Park Hyatt. While a relative newcomer, this is a bright and roomy addition to the cityscape and well worth a stay. The public ferry right next door runs till 7pm to the other side and drops of motorcyclists and pedestrians next to the Banyan Tree. The ride is just 2Rmb and the ferry runs every 20 minutes.
The stately Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong (opened in 2010) is a modern construct atop the IFC tower housing 285 spacious rooms, a stunning spa and over 1,700sq m of conference and meetings space. Rooms (go for a Bund view if available) serve up iPod docking stations, 42-inch flat-screen TVs, Blu-ray DVD players, Bose sound and spoiling toiletries. Later, soak in that high-back Viking boat of a tub.
The in-room safe can house a laptop. The rooms are surprisingly bright and airy with nary a sign of dark corporate tones. Expect floral oranges, muted pastel greens, and a fair bit of ornamentation with 50sq m of stretch space. It’s more than ample elbowroom. Smart energy-saving motion detectors and heat sensors will switch off the power if you exit – or happen to have a serene out-of-body experience.
Reception on the 52nd floor is all red satin and shimmering pearl, glowing white jade pillars, and flashes of elegant art deco. This area is intimate and with soft lighting, a far cry from the brash lobbies across the Bund.
Park Hyatt room/ photo: hotel
Follow the brassy murmurs of jazz into the nearby Aura Lounge and watch a live trio dressed in pork-pie hats and braces play everything from Ella Fitzgerald to Duke Ellington. Order some afternoon tea and sit back while female servers glide around dressed in sparkling white cheongsams and black kitten heels.
Don’t miss a sunset cocktail on the rooftop terrace of Flair – one of Shanghai’s finest vino vantages with HUGE views of the TV Tower across to the Bund from end to end. Sip wine indoors or brave the elements and whip out your ring – and camera. Nibble on exquisite Kaluga Caviar, locally sourced, and served of an evening in the club lounge with panoramic views of the city below. Later hop over to Puxi if you need to in Line 2 (catch it below the adjoining IFC Mall) and be across in 10 minutes.
Just north of here is the rebranded 678-room Grand Kempinski Hotel Shanghai (since May, 2013, formerly Gran Meliá Shanghai Hotel) with several restaurants, an inviting light-filled pool deck, rooms with large flat-screen TVs, marble bathrooms with separate tubs and showers, iPod docks, and free WiFi. The lobby is a very grand construct with beige marble floors with white ripple inlay, cloud-cluster chandeliers atop soaring columns, and a sparkling red-lit Murano crystal work at the curving staircase at the far end where many a couple will stop to take pictures. The entire hotel is pretty new as the former Gran Melia only opened in 2010. At 678 rooms this property weighs in as perhaps the largest Kempinski around.
A Superior City View spans 43sq m with a tan patterned carpet, large flat-screen TV, sofa, two crow-feet three-pin plug points, dark cherry wood decor, iPod dock, large tactile room switches, twin vanities, a tub and a shower, iron and laptop-friendly safe. In-room decor is woody with pastels and fabric textures. The hotel is a short walk to the Oriental Pearl TV tower and riverside promenade. The large Club Lounge does a great coffee and morning breakfast spread, with looming TV tower views.
Towering over everything is one of the world’s highest hotels, the Park Hyatt Shanghai. The hotel soars from the 79th to 93rd floors of the vertiginous Shanghai World Financial Centre, nicknamed the "bottle opener” on account of its sleek design and signature hole at the top, spanned by a glass-bottomed observation bridge on the 100th floor.
Grand Hyatt, Jin Mao/ photo: Verghese
Crisp, friendly and minimalist, the understated Park Hyatt is designed as a “contemporary Chinese residence” and features soaring ceilings, expansive views, Asian modern artworks and natural textures of bare blonde wood and cool granite at every turn.
These natural elements continue in the 174 guestrooms, where you can also enjoy the latest luxury mod cons like espresso machines, CD/DVD players, complimentary wireless Internet, flat-screen TVs, iPod connectivity and hi-tech Japanese toilets. The large walk-in Oriental bathing areas are a highlight, with heated granite floors, an “overflowing” soaking tub and some of the biggest rain showerheads we’ve ever seen. Female floor butlers service all rooms.
The property also boasts an aerial tai chi courtyard, stunning sky-top swimming pool and Water’s Edge Spa (you can also choose to have spa treatments in most rooms). The top three floors are capped by the world’s highest restaurant, bars and event space, called 100 Century Avenue. On the 91st floor is a very cool and convivial tavern with Western, Chinese and Japanese show kitchens and a 750-label cellar. Move on to the 92nd floor jazz bar or Oriental lounge with a small dance floor and ballroom dancing four nights a week.
The uppermost floor is a private dining space for 100 people adorned in modern Nordic style with mischievously random fixtures, like the ceramic moose heads in the meeting room. Wraparound views throughout the hotel are dominated by the jagged crown of the 88-storey Jinmao Tower right next door. All in all, this is a truly iconic statement among the contemporary crop of Shanghai business hotels.
The Jin Mao Tower is home to the Park Hyatt’s sister property, and again one of the world’s highest hotels, the Grand Hyatt Shanghai, which is located on the 53rd to 87th floors. Over a decade old but barely showing its age, largely through a visionary floor-by-floor refit that has freshened up and brightened the 548 rooms, this is a versatile address for corporate suits as well as the hip and well-heeled tripping the light fantastic or those in search of a gastronomic adventure. The new rooms are contemporary and welcoming of light with the signature sweeping views of the river and the Bund on a clear day. Corner suites are a real knockout. A nice feature of all rooms is the hand-engraved Tang Dynasty poem in the cherry wood headboard and nifty double-side wardrobes that can be accessed from both the bedroom and bath. Rooms are also designed so that you can’t see the bed from the front door. A nice private touch.
Four Seasons Pudong/ photo: Verghese
Soaking tubs have great views and the shower cubicles sport side massage jets. The bathrooms also offer dimmers for lights in case you’re feeling romantic, in which case dump the Broadband and head for the bathtub. For a caffeine hit in a rather spectacular setting head to the Patio Lounge which serves delicious coffee and cake at the base of an impressive atrium that spirals 33 floors up to the building’s crown.
The Grand Hyatt's real muscle comes in the form of extensive and customisable corporate meeting facilities that regularly rank it among the top Shanghai conference hotels. The Shanghai International Convention Centre is also just minutes away.
A swank new contemporary address right behind the Park Hyatt is the new Four Seasons Hotel Pudong, Shanghai (opened September 2012). Walk into a zen lobby with clean straight lines ruffled by the occasional wall art or metal sculpture. There is an abundance of texture. A 46sq m Deluxe with its backgammon carpet is easy on the eye with floor-to-ceiling windows extremely welcoming of light. Hit a button for blackout drapes that whir down to set up laboratory conditions for sleep on a plump white bed.
Expect an iPod dock, a large work desk with a data port (including four three-pin square electric sockets), free standard WiFi (there is a charge for higher speeds and greater bandwidth), grey decor with burgundy-tan leather finishes on a variety of surfaces including atop the flat laptop-friendly safe. There's an Illy coffee machine, large flat-screen TV for insomniacs, and a grey-white marble bathroom with twin vanities, bathtub, rain shower, and a good hairdryer. Find a small LCD TV in the mirror too to distract you from all the unnecessary details of that morning after.
A one-bedroom Executive Suite runs to a spacious 88sq m but the bedroom is more compact than some might like. The Deluxe works better with the available space diverted to the bedroom area. The suite serves up an extra TV in the living room and all rooms have large tactile light switches that are idiot-proof for 2am lunges in the direction of the toilet. Hi-tech here is friendly, not microscopic or mind-boggling. A splendid touch is the recessed disc reading light that pops open from the headboard behind the bed with a press of a finger. Look forward to attentive staff at the front office desk and switched on doormen who will find you that hard-to-get cab and make sure the driver knows where to take you. A life-saver that. Later, opt for the Guerlain co-branded FLARE Spa or the high-floor indoor infinity pool.
Pudong Shangri-La/ photo: hotel
A member of Leading Hotels of the World, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the opulent Chateau Nouveau Pudong belongs on a Mediterranean hilltop rather than the throbbing heart of Lujiazui. Styled to resemble a European castle, the palatial butter-hued hotel hugs a resort-style outdoor lagoon swimming pool (a rare luxury in central Shanghai). The 273 classically designed guestrooms and suites spread across 21 floors. The complex also offers a 40,000sq m health centre; four mini-golf courses; badminton and tennis courts; an indoor pool; table tennis, billiards and squash rooms; a fitness centre and a dance studio. Six meeting and banquet rooms are available for conferences and events. Gourmet options include a private-dining Imperial Kitchen and The German Bar for hearty bites and brews in relaxed garden surroundings.
The riverfront Pudong Shangri-La East Shanghai remains Shanghai’s biggest five-star, with 952 rooms across two towers. The original tower is styled with classical European opulence while the newer Grand Tower is more sleek and contemporary. There is free WiFi throughout the hotel. The 375 Grand Tower rooms and suites offer premium comforts and access to the Horizon Club Lounge. All rooms come with LCD flat screen TVs, DVDs, complimentary Internet, Nespresso machine, in-room fax and great views of the Puxi skyline. Added luxuries available to Grand Tower guests include a pillow menu with the option to have your initials embroidered on the pillowcase to take home, in-room tailoring services, plus 24-hour dining on demand room service from any hotel restaurant and homemade pralines on the pillow at turndown.
The Grand Tower also has a second ballroom and health club, an 800sq m CHI spa with over 35 specialist treatments, and an array of drinking and dining venues, including the classy Japanese Nadaman, gorgeous Jade on 36 French restaurant and penthouse bar with 36th-floor views, and Yi Café (given a vibrant refresh in September 2013), a lively all-day restaurant evoking a gourmet marketplace with 11 open kitchens presenting cuisines from China, Japan, India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America. Situated by the Pudong riverfront and next door to the mega shopping complex Super Brand Mall, the Shangri-La is one of the front-runners in our Shanghai business hotels review and a popular conference and meetings venue. It is commonly found on MICE diaries and features 7,600sq m of indoor and outdoor event space – the largest in Shanghai, including two pillar-free ballrooms accommodating 1,500 and 1,700 guests respectively for cocktail receptions. The 360sq m Summit Room, added at the end of 2012, is a residential styled option composed of a living room, 18-seat boardroom, 18-seat dining hall and a built-in terrace with natural sunlight.
Kerry Hotel Pudong/ photo: hotel
Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts debuted its latest brand with the opening of the Kerry Hotel Pudong, Shanghai in early 2011 opposite the Shanghai New International Expo Centre, Shanghai’s largest exhibitions venue. Soaring 31 storeys over the Kerry Parkside shopping complex, the hotel has 574 rooms ranging in size from 42sq m to 168sq m and offering views of the city or Century Park. In addition, 182 serviced residences are available for long-stay guests.
Furnishings are sleek and contemporary with amenities such as 40-inch flatscreen TVs, iPod docks and complimentary Broadband and Wireless Internet. Sliding wall panels lead to a separate bath and shower area. Seven floors are devoted to Club accommodation, including 33 suites. Put your laptop down, and your feet up, in the bright and airy Club Lounge while being pampered by round-the-clock butlers. Groovy craft brewery, The Brew, offers boutique ales and live music, while The Cook has 11 designer theatre kitchens preparing different international cuisines. The Patio, opened in 2013, is a chic place for alfresco drinks and nibbles.
Sporty guests can burn off calories at the three-floor sports club that includes a 24-hour gym, 25m swimming pool, tennis court, outdoor jogging track, Pilates and hot yoga. Kids can plunder an indoor playground. The day spa has a menu of massages, beauty packages and Chinese medicine treatments. The MICE market will find all their needs catered for with two ballrooms, 26 multi-function rooms, a business centre and 16 serviced offices.
Right opposite, the Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel opened in early 2011 in the architecturally arresting Himalayas Centre, a new cultural nexus comprising the 1,100-seat DaGuan Theatre, Himalayas Art Museum and a mall.
Jumeirah pastels/ photo: Verghese
Step into a ‘ancient China meets bold new world’ setting packed with wooden filigree, low wooden furniture set around a large square 16m-high-ceiling lobby with a raised Ming dynasty performance pagoda at its centre and a vast video ‘sky’ above with changing images, like floating clouds, stars and a waxing moon. The effect is psychedelic and quite relaxing unless you need more light for all that paperwork – or jetlag. A Sunset Incense Ceremony every weekday evening at 5pm in the wooden pagoda is a stylish segue into the evening. Jumeirah’s first hotel in China features 401 feng shui-inspired guestrooms, including 62 suites, with mod-Oriental furnishings, cutting-edge in-room amenities (high-definition LCD TV, Illy coffee machine, complimentary Wi-Fi), and moon bathtubs by the windows in some rooms. In regular rooms expect Nespresso, good size rainshowers, spa products in the bath, a laptop-friendly safe, and Japanese potty.
Guestrooms look out over Pudong or into the circular Jade Atrium and Zen garden. There are five restaurants and lounges including teppanyaki and sushi restaurants, a prime steakhouse and Shang-High Cuisine, which serves traditional local fare given a contemporary twist. This last cannot be overemphasized in a city where Shanghainese food is hard to come by as hotels prefer to dish out Cantonese, Japanese and Italian. Wandering around the hotel you’ll find a museum-like display of art and antiques, many of them from the owner’s private collection. To find out more, you can take the hotel’s iPod art tour.
Capitalising on its position right opposite the Shanghai New International Expo Centre, Jumeirah offers extensive meetings, conference and event facilities, including two ballrooms and a rooftop Infinity Garden with BBQ pits. There’s also a 24-hour Fitness Centre and indoor swimming pool. A boutique spa with lush organic treatments opened in mid 2012. In 2014, the Club Lounge and impressive several duplex suites – one with a double-storey wall of windows – were also added.
InterCon Expo / photo: Verghese
The InterContinental Shanghai Pudong is located in the eastern heartlands, but convenient to the metro line 2. The Club Floor rooms feature crisp white beds with China-red silk bed runners, along with traditional Chinese paintings and black wood cabinets. Some bedrooms and bathrooms (with Aigner toiletries) are separated by just a glass partition.
On the same side along the waterfront skirting the Expo site is the brisk InterContinental Shanghai Expo or, more correctly the Shanghai Expo, An InterContinental City Hotel. Confused? Don’t be. This is a spacious and modern construct in a quiet residential neighbourhood bounded by old 1930s brick villas (one housing the hotel’s Liquor Factory outlet) and a generous park for jogging or evening strolls. The long carpet running down the length of the lobby depicts the Huangpu River with Puxi on one side and Pudong on the other.
From the bright, spread out lobby with its grey marble floors and high glass windows, zip up to a room with a seriously good river view, say a Deluxe King weighing in at 42sq m with flat-screen TV, DVD, dataport with one three-pin multi plug socket, and blonde wood walls that liven up the otherwise simple and functional set-up. Expect a leather easy chair, burgundy bed runners, iPod dock, big tactile switches, a laptop safe and pillow menu. The bath is compact if friendly with an oval tub somehow shoehorned between a hand-shower cubicle and the mirror, WiFi is charged.
Not far from here in a cigar-coloured building owned by a cigarette company, the former St. Regis has been rebranded as The Hongta Hotel, Shanghai and has joined Starwood’s Luxury Collection. Its lacklustre locale aside, this is a custom-built dream for top-end business travellers. Rooms are chic with funky opera-inspired touches, right down to velvet covers and satin drapes, and come with 24-hour butler service for every guest. Executive touches extend to the Herman Miller mesh “Aeron Chair”, complimentary Broadband and unlimited coffee and tea freshly brewed by the butler.
Dorsett style / photo: hotel
For Accor aficionados there is the far-flung 446-room Sofitel Jin Jiang Oriental Pudong Shanghai with good facilities and smart rooms. As well as smart contemporary furnishings and high-speed Broadband, there are also good conference facilities (for up to 450 people), a health club and spa.
The rebranded Dorsett Shanghai (formerly Yue Shanghai) is located beside the vast green belt of Century Park, with balconies in 80 percent of the rooms to take in the bucolic views. It’s also a 10-minute stroll to the Shanghai International Expo Centre and right beside the Line 2 metro. This Worldhotels member is great for business folk on a budget, and boasts a whole lot of flair for less. The 264 rooms, starting at 35sq m, feature high-speed Internet access, voicemail, iPod dock, a 32-inch LCD TV and rainforest shower. Colourful accents and large windows make them bright and inviting. There’s also an Executive Floor and several groovy restaurants with both indoor and parkside seating.
The Grand Mercure Shanghai Century Park (formerly Radisson Blu Pudong Century Park) is quite a surprise. The 362-room hotel was actually conceived as an “art” hotel complementing the neighbouring Zendai Museum of Modern Art by the same owners. The trendy white-on-white design by Australian firm Hassel provides a fantastic canvas for specially commissioned artworks and sculptures by high-profile Chinese artists.
There are creative solutions for the business traveller too: some of the guestrooms adjoin private meeting rooms and there is free Broadband and WiFi in public spaces. Recreational options extend to an outdoor pool and tennis court. Radisson Blu Pudong Century Park is miles from downtown but is part of the hip lifestyle and dining enclave of Thumb Plaza.
Weddings on the Bund/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Another surprisingly good choice in Pudong is the Courtyard Shanghai-Pudong (by Marriott), offering slick service and amenities that reach far beyond its US counterparts. This is an affordable trimmed-down-service hotel still with everything you need for a successful trip. The Renaissance Shanghai Pudong Hotel is close to the New International Expo Centre and the Oriental Arts Centre, as is Sheraton’s addition to the neighbourhood, the Sheraton Shanghai Hotel & Residences, Pudong. This long-stay Shanghai hotel has joined the funky Four Points by Sheraton Shanghai, Pudong on the same multi-purpose site (the You You International Plaza Complex) and offers 141 serviced one to three-bedroom long stay apartments as well as regular rooms and suites.
Another Shanghai long-stay hotel alternative is Citadines Biyun Shanghai, which specialises in short or long-term serviced residences for business travellers. Local calls are free and there’s a 10 percent discount on laundry, dry-cleaning and meetings facilities.
FAST FACTS / Hotel Contact List
There is a 15 percent service charge added to hotel bills but no government tax. Winter is normally low season and better rates tend to be available. The renminbi (or yuan) exchange rate is about US$1 = Rmb6.89. For good city guides pick up a free copy of Time Out Shanghai or City Weekend. Copies are available at hotels, restaurants, boutiques, and select convenience stores.
InterContinental Ruijin/ photo: hotel
Any rates listed here are for indication only and daily rates will vary considerably depending on season and occupancy. Always consult with a travel agent or look for direct hotel BAR (best available rates) and compare rates carefully.
Depending on season, expect room rates to fall between Rmb1,400 for a quality four star hotel to Rmb2,200 in hip areas like Xintiandi or Rmb2,500-Rmb3,500 at high end luxury establishments in Pudong.
Shanghai business hotels, Puxi, Putuo, French Concession, Bund
88 Xintiandi. Currently unlisted. Briefly with Langham since September 2011.
Shanghai meetings in Hongqiao
Cordis Shanghai Hongqiao. Tel: [86-21] 5296-6002, (www.cordishotels.com/).
Shanghai business hotels, Pudong
Chateau Nouveau Pudong. Tel: [86-21] 3892-9666, fax: 5072-3803, (chateaustarriverpudong.hotel-rn.com).
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Meetings, dining in heritage alleys, and panda pursuits