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Asia travel

Five trendy new Shanghai hotels for party people, creative types, budget travellers and the cultured ultra-rich

The past year has seen a flurry of hotel openings designed to appeal to well-travelled trendsetters looking for something different. Here are five of the best

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 6:47pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 6:47pm

Several hotel openings in the past year have given Shanghai’s hospitality scene a lift. With China’s largest city, home to 24 million people, experiencing a cultural and financial boom, properties have opened to match that vibrancy.

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These are our pick of the newcomers – there’s something to suit everyone.

1. The Shanghai Edition: for party people and well-heeled hipsters

If you were going to open a branch of UK private members club Soho House in Shanghai, it might look a bit like The Shanghai Edition. The hotel is large (bigger than its London and New York counterparts) and divided between two connected buildings – a modern skyscraper and a renovated art deco building that used to house the Shanghai Electric company. The cool, cavernous entrance is built to impress, while inside there is a private cinema and karaoke room, and modular meeting rooms that make the hotel perhaps the most fashionable business centre in Shanghai.

Entertainment is the focus of this hotel, which caters to well-travelled party people and is close to the Bund, right on the city’s pulse. There are eight bars, three restaurants (including a modern Japanese joint by Jason Atherton) and a nightclub.

The rooms have large windows – some offer almost 270-degree views of the Bund – while arty black-and-white photos by Hong Kong’s Wing Shya adorn the walls.

This luxurious new kid on the block is a serious rival to the more old-world properties on the Bund, and vies for the attention of cool millennials ready to dive into Shanghai’s party scene.

2. The Sukhothai: seeking the feel-good factor

With its serene, contemporary interiors and spacious, airy rooms, The Sukhothai Shanghai is a sanctuary from the hustle of the Nanjing East Road a stone’s throw away. It may be at the heart of the Jingan commercial centre, in the same block as the new Middle House hotel and a rather tired Four Seasons, but here you can relax in peace.

Thoughtful design and approachable (but not overbearing) staff make you feel comfortable at the Sukhothai. Shanghai-based architects Neri & Hu have done a superb job, creating some of the most relaxing hotel rooms in Shanghai: spacious, Zen-like and decorated in natural, positive tones. Walls are made of diatom-silica clay, an innovative, environmentally friendly material that purifies air, regulates humidity and absorbs sound. You can take a tour of the neighbourhood on bamboo bicycles from local brand Kate Wood.

The Sukhothai brings laid-back luxury to the Shanghai hospitality scene. Guests would be well advised to visit its Retreat spa, which offers Southeast Asian-style therapies. Not one of those indulgent, fussy spas, it’s all soothing, clean lines, cool colours and interiors inspired by Scandinavia and Japan.

3. The Middle House: for frequent fliers and the fashion crowd

A sister hotel to Hong Kong’s Upper House, Beijing’s Opposite House and Chengdu’s Temple House, The Middle House – conglomerate Swire’s latest luxury hotel – is already home to Shanghai’s hip and happening people. Come here for slick service and an international vibe.

Boasting a showroom for Shanghai fashion designer Masha Ma, and having hosted fashion panel discussions and international film events, The Middle House has made its mark on the social scene. As well as wealthy travellers and the expat elite, a polished local clientele flow in and out of its restaurants and bars.

If you’ve had a hard day in the city, the basement pool is an attractive place to pass the time; unwind in one of the unisex sauna/steam pods after a refreshing swim.

Milan-based architect Piero Lissoni has used a bold design aesthetic of dark green and black, along with sleek bamboo elements and modern takes on Chinese ink paintings, vases, origami, tassels and lamps.

The Middle House is one of a number of new hotels in China that blend modern and heritage architecture. In a city that already has enough pre-second world war art deco and Ladislav Hudec properties to go around, this hotel is a welcome addition.

Paper Shanghai: affordable boutique

Most of Shanghai’s new hotels can be a bit daunting for travellers on a budget. The cool and contemporary Paper Shanghai hotel has rooms that start at around 1,100 yuan (US$160) a night, whereas most luxury hotel rooms in Shanghai cost 2,000 yuan and up.

The five-storey Paper Shanghai is a haven for creative folk – a novel space that encompasses a co-working area, exhibition space for artists and a hotel. With that comes a buzzy vibe and a sense of community. The boutique hotel was done in partnership with hospitality group H12.

The building is a beautifully restored 1,400 square metre (15,000 square foot) warehouse on a 1930s lane with an Italian mosaic facade on the outside. Rooms are very clean and come with quirky graphic wallpaper (don’t worry, nothing too intense); the hotel’s partners include designer furniture brands such as Magis and Listone Giordano.

A bonus is that the air and water are both purified and filtered using machines from Blueair – very desirable in polluted Shanghai.

5. Amanyangyun: a sanctuary for the cultured ultra-rich

With its huge “antique villas” starting at around 30,000 yuan a night, Amanyangyun’s prices are eye-watering even for Shanghai.

In the Minhang district on the city’s outskirts, its lush green grounds surround buildings that architect Kerry Hill designed for privacy; it’s easy to wander and get lost. The resort is the culmination of a spectacular 15-year renovation project by its owner Ma Dadong, a native of Fuzhou in southeast China, who rescued a whole village of Ming and Qing dynasty buildings from destruction in his home province, and repurposed them at the resort.

If the giant villas give a taste of imperial China, suites (starting at around 6,000 yuan) in the more modern part of the resort are all contemporary Chinese cool. Featuring light wood, clean lines and minimal design, they come with open-air bathtubs and courtyards with fireplaces in which to enjoy a glass of wine. The outdoor pool is fabulous on a sunny day.

Local experts can teach you woodblock printing, calligraphy and the workings of Song dynasty tea ceremonies, and a private cinema screens films nightly.

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At times there’s a stoic, almost academic feel to the place that’s largely down to the grey stone of its modernist part and the Nan Shufang cultural centre, formerly a Qing dynasty school.