BACKGROUND A historic landmark that began life in 1929 as the Cathay Hotel, this property was once a symbol of decadence and style. It became the Peace Hotel after the Communist Party took over in 1949, but in 2007, a three-year renovation project supervised by Hirsch Bedner Associates began; the former Cathay is now the Fairmont Peace Hotel.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? Today, the property has changed dramatically, with everything looking polished and shiny, although the art-deco flavour remains. Another building has been incorporated into the hotel, allowing the lobby to expand significantly to include a grand atrium with stained-glass skylight that leads to a shopping arcade and larger reception and lounge areas. Many original features remain, including the famous Jazz Bar – where the same furniture from the Cathay days is still in use – and the gold-painted carved mythical creatures on the ceiling of the Dragon-Phoenix Restaurant. All the new additions have been carefully blended in with the old.
WHERE IS IT? Right in the middle of the most bustling part of the Bund, just a short walk from the pedestrianised Nanjing Road shopping stretch.
ROOM FACILITIES My Fairmont King room, at 49 sqm, was a good size for one person – there was even a walk-in closet with a vanity table and another door to the bathroom. The windows faced the inner atrium, though, so it did not have a lot of natural light – those rooms facing the Bund enjoy much more sunlight and better views.
The bed is placed against the wall opposite the windows, and both nightstands have universal sockets and controls for the lights and curtain, with one side featuring an alarm clock with iPod/iPhone docking. Wifi is complimentary to Fairmont President’s Club members, and signing up as one is free. The flatscreen TV mounted on the cabinet near the entrance can be tilted to face the bed or the velvet daybed, while the minibar is well stocked and there’s also an Illy coffee machine. The gold-hued walls are decorated with drawings of peonies – a theme found throughout the property.
The large bathroom is floored in black marble, with a bath and sizeable vanity counter. A separate shower stall sports a rainshower, but there was a problem with mine: the shower door leaked, and I had to mop the floor with the foot towel every time I showered. The sound of the bath-side wall TV was also so limited that even at full volume I couldn’t hear it.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS The ninth-floor Fairmont Gold Lounge is decorated in dark wood and offers all the expected club benefits, but as I was not staying on a Fairmont Gold floor I had breakfast at Dragon-Phoenix Restaurant. This was no bad thing as it’s a beautifully preserved room, serving Cantonese cuisine during the day but for breakfast featuring both Asian and Western favourites and two live cooking stations. The Shanghainese noodle soup, flavoured with seaweed, was delicious. Service was inconsistent, however – sometimes my food was brought to me from the cooking station, other times I had to go to claim it.
Other outlets include the Cin Cin wine bar and cigar lounge, Jasmine Lounge on the lobby level and the Jazz Bar with live performances. The Cathay Room on the top floor offers European fine dining as well as a beautiful terrace featuring a spectacular view of the Bund. Finally, Victor’s is a French café and pastry shop.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There are five meeting spaces, the largest being the Peace Hall holding up to 350. There are two small balconies ideal for getting fresh air between meetings. Dragon Phoenix can host a banquet for up to 250 guests and it also has four private rooms for more intimate functions. The 268 sqm Sassoon Presidential Suite is also popular for exclusive meetings.
LEISURE FACILITIES This property has a Willow Stream spa, Fairmont’s signature brand, and my one-hour full-body de-stressing massage was wonderful. There is also a sky-lit swimming pool, sauna and steam room, and a reasonably well-equipped fitness centre featuring an exercise studio that offers regularly scheduled fitness classes.
The Peace Gallery on the mezzanine floor is a must for history buffs. Many of the lost artefacts from the hotel’s golden pre-war days and subsequent government-owned era were tracked down and retrieved, and are now on display here.
VERDICT Fairmont has successfully injected new life into this historic hotel while maintaining its original essence. The staff are generally well trained.
HOW MANY ROOMS?
270 rooms and suites, including the famous themed suites designed after eight different cultures such as Japanese, Indian and English.
A combination of art-deco atmosphere and 21st century mod cons. The room also feels spacious.
Internet prices for a flexible midweek stay in April start from RMB2,400 (US$384) for a Fairmont King.
20 Nanjing East Road, Huangpu, Shanghai; tel +86 21 6321 6888; www.fairmont.com/peace-hotel-shanghai