BACKGROUND Following its September opening, the People’s Grand is the first ever Sofitel Legend in China – and only the second in Asia after Hanoi’s Sofitel Legend Metropole. Built shortly after the Cultural Revolution in 1953 as a state guesthouse for foreign dignitaries and visiting Chinese leaders, the hotel’s guestbook includes captains of industry, political heavyweights and heads of state such as the late premier Zhou Enlai, French president Francois Mitterrand and US diplomat Henry Kissinger. Parent company Accor’s renovation of the historic building took approximately 28 months to complete and was headed by Joe Cheng, chairman and chief executive of celebrated Hong Kong-based Cheng Chung Designs. WHAT’S IT LIKE? The imposing building, designed by Hong Qing, chief architect of the Northwest Institute of Architectural Design, is located in what was formerly part of the grounds of an imperial palace. The grand monotone exterior features a number of classic French touches, including the fleur-de-lis motif, as well as numerous Sino-Russian and Xianese design influences. Its once characterless interior originally housed some 200 cramped bedrooms, but has now been converted into a palatial property with spacious and well-appointed guestrooms and suites. WHERE IS IT? Located inside the ancient city walls, within walking distance of the Yuan Dynasty Bell and Drum towers. It is a 12-minute walk to the bustling Muslim Quarter, famous for its maze of alleyways lined with street vendors selling knick-knacks and regional snacks such as cold wheat noodles with sesame sauce, persimmon pancakes and local-style minced meat burgers. China’s oldest and largest mosque, founded in 742 AD, is also located here. It is the result of Islam being introduced into northwest China by Arab merchants and travellers from Persia and Afghanistan during the mid-7th century, and blends Muslim and Chinese architectural styles. The hotel is a 50-minute drive to Xianyang International Airport, and ten minutes to the train station. THE ROOMS There are 71 rooms, including 27 suites, with either city or garden views. All rooms are decorated in a similar style – white Italian marble, floral carpets and dark wooden floors complemented by classic European furniture and Chinese artifacts. Each room has a king-size bed with 600-thread count cotton sheets and a goose-down duvet. The highlight: personalised 24-hour butler service that includes in-room check in and check out, secretarial support and any other demands that may take your fancy. BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The People’s Grand shares the same grounds as four sister Accor properties, including Hotel Grand Mercure and Hotel Sofitel, making the Renmin Square complex the largest facility in Xian in terms of hotel beds. Guests staying here have access to 21 meeting rooms that can accommodate between 20 to 250 people. There is a 1,500 seat Grand Theatre, and the Sofitel Convention Centre, which has a 1,100-sqm column-less ballroom that can accommodate up to 1,000 people for a cocktail reception. The ballroom can also be divided into three separate units. LEISURE FACILITIES There is a 15-metre lap pool and a modest fitness centre, as well as a basement spa with two spacious treatment rooms and a foot reflexology room. Morning tai chi classes are taught in the hotel's courtyard in warmer months, and are complimentary for in-house guests. RESTAURANTS AND BARS Dolce Vita, an authentic Italian restaurant located on the ground floor, is the hotel's only fine-dining restaurant. It opens onto a small terrace overlooking the courtyard and manicured garden. Open for lunch and dinner, it is also the breakfast venue for in-house guests and serves a small buffet of western items as well as an extensive a la carte menu. The lobby lounge offers Asian and Western favourites, as well as afternoon tea and pre-dinner cocktails. The top floor is home to the intimate 36-seat Louis XIII Bar. Admission is restricted to in-house guests and club members only. VERDICT The stunning renovation of The People’s Grand masterfully blends the old with the new. The hotel’s location within the city walls near to the vibrant Muslim Quarter means guests can easily explore China’s ancient capital by foot. FACT FILE
- HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 71 guestrooms, with 27 suites, including superior rooms (45-50 sqm), luxury rooms (60 sqm); and junior suites (60 sqm), the prestige suite (98 sqm) and the opera suite (133 sqm).
- HIGHLIGHTS Being in a foreign city, the personalised butler service comes in handy. The historical ambiance makes for a one-of-a-kind experience.
- PRICE Best flexible rate for a mid-week stay in mid-October is US$444.41, with breakfast
- CONTACT 319 Dongxin Street, Xian, Shaanxi Province, China; tel + 86 029 8792 8888; sofitel.com