China: The Peninsula Shanghai

  • Tables set for afternoon tea in the soaring lobby.

    Tables set for afternoon tea in the soaring lobby.

  • The Peninsula Shanghai’s riverside entrance.

    The Peninsula Shanghai’s riverside entrance.

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Above: Inside one of the hotel’s deluxe rooms.

On Shanghai’s historic riverfront, this grand new hotel feels right at home.

By Amy Fabris-Shi

FIRST IMPRESSIONS It may occupy the first new building on the Bund in 63 years, but Shanghai’s latest five-star address already feels like a grande dame. This may be due to the Peninsula group’s spiritual connection to the city—the founders of its parent company, the Kadoorie family, got their start in the hospitality business here in the early 1900s. Drawing on the Art Deco elegance of Shanghai’s prewar heyday, the hotel delivers a fine balance of finesse and functionality.

THE ADDRESS Although its stepped, Deco-esque exterior doesn’t compare with the historic facades elsewhere along the Bund, the Pen occupies generous grounds on the northern end of Shanghai’s famed waterfront. It’s not particularly central to downtown, but bellboys are on hand to flag a cab—or you could always zip around in the hotel’s restored 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II.


ROOMS TO BOOK Check into a river-facing room to watch the barges and pleasure boats cruising the Huangpu against the backdrop of Pudong’s soaring skyline. Each of the 235 guest quarters is wired with the city’s smartest in-room technology, ranging from a DVD player and iPod dock to multimedia card readers for viewing digital images on the 46-inch TV. Other amenities include Nespresso machines and dressing rooms thoughtfully equipped with nifty nail dryers.

THE FOOD Michelin-starred chef Tang Chi Keung oversees the Cantonese fare at Yi Long Court, designed like a whimsical banquet hall with Oriental screens and silk drapes in chocolate, vermilion, and royal blue. Sir Elly’s restaurant and bar—named after Sir Elly Kadoorie, who first settled in Shanghai in 1880—serves up mod-European cuisine by French chef Arnaud Berthelier. The views from the restaurant’s rooftop terrace are staggering.

FACILITIES The hotel’s dazzling cream-and-blue?swimming area is straight out of The Great Gatsby, with a skylighted ceiling and an outdoor deck overlooking the gardens of the former British Consulate. On the same floor, the spa has a classic English-manor feel and China-themed treatments involving herbal poultices and heated bamboo.

DON’T MISS Inspired by the scones and Earl Grey dished up in the lobby at its venerable sister property in Hong Kong, the Pen Shanghai’s afternoon tea is a real treat. Petite cakes and sandwiches are served on silver trays in the vast lobby where a string quartet or jazz band plays behind the Deco grille of a minstrel’s gallery. This will also be the setting for the return of a lost Shanghai tradition: “tea dances,” the early-evening dance parties enjoyed by the city’s beau monde in the 1930s.

32 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, Shanghai; 86-21/2327-2888;; doubles from US$468.

Originally appeared in the December 2009/January 2010 print issue of DestinAsian magazine ( “The Peninsula Shanghai”)



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