Sumptuous elegance defines the Waldorf Astoria, and its first foray into China does not disappoint. It’s historic without being affected. It’s luxe without putting on airs. It is quite simply one of the most beautiful hotels we’ve seen in China and so it lands on our Top 25 list of China’s best hotels.
The building that houses the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai dates back as far as the Fairmont Peace Hotel, the Raffles Beijing and the Astor Hotel in Tianjin, but it doesn’t wear its history on its sleeve. There’s no museum displaying artifacts or themed dinners. Instead it lets the past be the past, and pushes new boundaries for luxe lifestyles.
The Waldorf Astoria opened in 2011, and is composed of an old and new part. The old part, of course, was carved out of a Bund building that was built in 1911 and previously housed the Shanghai Club, an exclusive British gentleman’s club that was the envy of all. Membership meant you were a big shot in Shanghai, and its most senior members were accorded pride of place along the infamous Long Bar. In the ’50s it was an international sailors’ club. In the ’70s it housed the Dongfang Hotel. In the ’80s it housed China’s first KFC.
The meticulous renovation was carried out by Hirsch-Bedner (which also oversaw the Peace Hotel’s transformation), and roughly 80 percent of what you see now is original, like the unusual, triangle-shaped elevator in the lobby, which is China’s oldest still-operable elevator. The intimate, gorgeous lobby is flanked by pairs of doric columns. The marble floor is checked white and black. Wonderful private alcoves are hidden away up short flights of wooden stairs. These are eccentricities only found in a heritage hotel.
In rooms opening discreetly off the lobby you’ll find the Salon de Ville where their famous red velvet-themed afternoon tea is served, as well as Pelham’s, their cozy fine dining venue, and, of course, the newly-relaunched Long Bar. You don’t need to be head of a trading house anymore to pull up a chair along the 34-meter bar and experience truly outstanding drinks and ocean-fresh oysters. We recommend going off piste and consulting the bar manager for his latest secret concoction. A group of regulars gathers in the evening to the sounds of smooth jazz.
Twenty absolutely sumptuous suites make up the rooms in the heritage end of the hotel. They feature silver-tipped clawfoot bathtubs, Christofle silverware, Narumi china and Hermes bathroom amenities. Sleep in a four-poster canopy bed. But for our money the hidden gem here is the event space. The gorgeous ballroom is already a very popular spot for weddings. We also loved the casual gathering space in the library on the mezzanine level which sits at the foot of a kind of random staircase—classy and totally unique. Then there’s the terrace, which connects the old and new wings and its unusual, free-flowing fountain.
Oh yes, did we mention the new wing has 240 rooms and suites designed by John Portman, or that the Sunday Champagne brunch at the sumptuously marbled Grand Brasserie was the first to break the RMB1,000 per person price barrier? Oh yes, and there is a spa coming online soon. It should be up and running before the end of the year.
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Westin Beijing Chaoyang
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Four Seasons Hangzhou
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