The Former French Concession
The greenest part of the city is blessed with beautiful tree-lined avenues, European-style villas and a cosmopolitan cafe culture. It’s the perfect place to wander; turn left and discover some stately architecture, right for a stream of cool boutiques and galleries, or saunter up an alleyway and unearth a feast of street food. The trendy bars and high-end boutiques of Shanghai’s showpiece restoration project, Xintiandi, lie within its leafy realms, too.
We recommend: Twelve at Hengshan
Plush, pretty and perfectly positioned on Shanghai’s vibrant Hengshan Road, this new low-rise hotel from Starwood’s Luxury Collection has already established itself as one of the most chic places to stay in the city. What makes it particularly lovely is the ‘secret garden’; a huge elliptical space filled with bamboo swaying above the large swimming pool a level below. There’s also a spa with a salt-stone sauna, herbal steam room, tepidarium and glowing chairs. Pure indulgence emanates from the 28 suites — many of which have private balconies — but the standard rooms aren’t short on glamour either. Thick carpets are woven with elegant patterns, shimmering hand-painted silk screens hang above the beds and large marble bathrooms come complete with concealed televisions. When the weather’s right, head to rooftop restaurant Tops and Terraces, one of Shanghai’s most seductive outdoor spaces.
■ X-factor: The neighbourhood, with its wide green boulevards, fascinating architecture and bunches of boutiques, galleries, cafes and some of the city’s trendiest nightclubs.
■ Rooms: Doubles from CNY1,280 (£134). starwoodhotels.com
Best for singletons: Andaz Shanghai
This hotel chain’s first Asian outpost is set over 28-storeys, with a neon-blue subterranean spa in the basement and a leafy patio adjacent to the ground-floor bar. The minimalist wood-lined rooms come with crisp white cotton linen and space-age bathrooms.
■ Rooms: Doubles from CNY1,700 (£178). shanghai.andaz.hyatt.com
Best for effortless chic: 88 XIntiandi
Situated in the city’s entertainment district, it’s a mahjong tile’s throw from an atmospheric collection of shops, cafes and bars in renovated shikumen (Shanghainese architectural style) residences. The 53 rooms mix pared-back contemporary furnishings with sophisticated Chinese touches.
■ Rooms: Doubles from CNY1,800 (£188). shanghai.88xintiandi.com
Until the mid-1990s Pudong, beside the Huangpu River, was just a handful of farms and low-rise factories. Today, it’s the financial heart of China and the size of 20 Manhattans. Here you’ll find the crazy, Jetsons-like Oriental Pearl Tower, backed by a forest of glittering skyscrapers housing sleek offices, gleaming malls and international-brand hotels. Accommodation is plentiful, even if it does tend to fall into the corporate-chic bracket.
We recommend: The Ritz-Carlton shanghai Pudong
The real kicker at the Ritz-Carlton Pudong is without doubt its splendid rooftop bar, Flair. Situated on the 58th floor, the Super Potato-designed hotspot has a spectacular split-level terrace that appears to cling to the side of the building. The views of the Bund and the Oriental Pearl Tower are quite simply unforgettable — and the cocktails are pretty darn good too. Downstairs, the newly-built 285-room hotel evokes the lavish ornamentation of the 1930s: crystal chandeliers, mirrored panelling, geometric lines and the sort of lavish sofas Greta Garbo might have lounged on. Rooms are romantic, with puffy white beds draped in Chinese silks, chaise longues by the window and copper-clad slipper bathtubs — the best have views of the Bund. Service is great — nothing is ever too much trouble — and indulgence is easy, whether it’s gastronomic (Jin Xian serves top-notch Cantonese cuisine) or corporeal (a huge ESPA spa with steam room, gym, and swimming pool).
■ X-factor: The flashy 53rd-floor indoor infinity pool, offering an IMAX view of the Bund and a Jacuzzi for added bubbles.
■ Rooms: Doubles from CNY2,760 (£289). ritzcarlton.com
Best for views: Park Hyatt
The Park Hyatt may have lost its title as the highest hotel in the world but it’s still one to head to in Shanghai. A maze of corridors and a space-age elevator ride to the 87th floor reception welcomes you into the hotel’s monochrome, Zen-like interiors, which allow the vertiginous views to take centre stage. Even the standard rooms are veritable sky cocoons, kitted out with every modern convenience imaginable, from B&O sound systems to Japanese-style Toto toilets. A spa, indoor infinity pool and plethora of bars and restaurants complete the cloud-level ensemble.
■ Rooms: Doubles from CNY1,840 (£192). shanghai.park.hyatt.com
Best for mixing business with pleasure: Four Seasons Pudong
This 187-room Four Seasons stretches across 11 floors of the 21st Century Tower, in the heart of the futuristic Lujiazhui financial zone, and although it’s most definitely towards the corporate end of the spectrum, it’s not without its pleasures. The rooms are bold and modern with traditional Chinese overtones, and the beds are incredibly comfortable. An afternoon at the glamorous Guerlain at Flare Spa, which includes a gym and James Bond-worthy indoor infinity pool, is time well spent.
■ Rooms: Doubles from CNY1,800 (£188). fourseasons.com/pudong
After a half-century hibernation, Shanghai’s iconic Bund waterfront underwent a three-year, multi-million yuan overhaul ahead of the 2010 World Expo. This was a renowned trade hub in the early-20th century and, from the regenerated RockBund district in the north to the gritty old docklands in the south, many of the waterfront’s most famous buildings have been transformed into luxury hotels, trendy clubs, cocktail lounges and refined restaurants.
We recommend: Hotel Indigo Shanghai On The Bund
Lovers of design hotels may shudder at the thought of big brands going down the boutique route, but this property, part of the InterContinental group, might just change their minds. First off, its location is superb. Technically, it’s on the Bund but is placed on the soon-to-be-developed southern end. The neighbourhood is ripe for exploration, from the fabric markets to the old Shiliupu Dock and the narrow alleyways of the old lilong communities. Many of the hotel’s 184 rooms gaze out onto the Huangpu River, the Bund and Pudong skyline. Expect to find specially commissioned installations in the lobby and futuristic movie pods in the lounge.
■ X-factor: Char Bar and Restaurant delivers killer views of both sides of the Bund, as well as cut-price cocktails by the jug at happy hour.
■ Rooms: Doubles from CNY1,550 (£162). shanghai.hotelindigo.com
Best for indulgence: The Peninsula
Overlooking some of the city’s most recognisable landmarks, The Peninsula is the only new building constructed on the Bund in the past 60 years. Inside, it’s all old-world glamour with art deco flourishes. Many of the 235 rooms have iconic views and all have NASA-like in-room technology such as free international VOiP phone calls and heat-sensitive control panels operated by passing your hand over them. A clutch of fine bars and restaurants, and a world-class spa sweeten the deal.
■ Rooms: Doubles from CNY2,645 (£277). peninsula.com/shanghai
Best for design buffs: The Waterhouse On The South Bund
Behind the artfully-rusted door of a 1930s warehouse in Shanghai’s old docklands lies this property, filled with clever little design touches. The shaft-like lobby is stark and imposing — a Tracey Emin light installation taunts ‘you should have loved me’ from above the reception desk. Each of the 19 suites is different and comes with high-tech trappings, as well as free soft drinks. The restaurant, Table No.1, and the rooftop bar both deserve plaudits too.
■ Rooms: Doubles from CNY1,200 (£126). waterhouseshanghai.com
Jing An is the shopping, eating and drinking capital of Shanghai, where glitzy malls vie for space on Nanjing Road alongside five-star hotels, shiny new office blocks and strings of chi-chi cocktail bars. But it also has a historical heart, as you veer away from the main road onto a web of backstreets packed with low-riselilong houses, hidden courtyards and mini-temples. Jing An’s trump card though, is its urban parks — hotbeds of activity from dusk till dawn.
We recommend: Urbn
Concealed behind giant wooden doors, environmentally-friendly URBN is seriously stylish — walk in through the bamboo-screened courtyard to find stacks of recycled 1950s suitcases adorning the wall behind the reception desk — with a terrific restaurant and on-the-money service. The rooms of this 1970s post office building are spacious if a tad unconventional, featuring split-level lay-outs, but the hotel’s crowning glory is the rooftop bar.
■ X factor: Cultural activities are encouraged, from complimentary walking tours to Tai Chi sessions and Mandarin language lessons.
■ Rooms: Doubles from CNY1,100 (£115). urbnhotels.com
Best for style: Puli Hotel and Spa
The PuLi’s seductive design unfolds like a mini modern-day Forbidden City, as a small courtyard leads to a runway before opening onto a long double-height lobby adorned with fabulous artwork. The rooms are equally alluring, all dark woods, clean lines, spa bathrooms and city views.
■ Rooms: Deluxe King double from CNY3,380 (£354). thepuli.com
Best for added extras: Jia
Set up by the team behind the Philippe Starck-designed JIA Hong Kong (now the J Plus), JIA Shanghai was among the city’s first boutique hotels. Thanks to a strong design ethos in its 55 rooms and perks such as 24-hour complimentary drinks and snacks, its popularity is assured.
■ Rooms: Doubles from CNY880 (£92). jiashanghai.com
Published in the October 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Ideally situated in Shanghai’s downtown Jing’an District, the ONE Executive Suites by Kempinski boasts a unique and avant-garde style with a mix of contemporary pieces, traditional Chinese and European Art Deco design elements, it offers 244 spacious guest suites and private residences, which range between 62-600 square meters and are among the largest in the city.
Fengyang Road Shanghai 601, 200041 Shanghai
+86 21 61571688