by Evelyn Chen
Between the busloads of tourists and the history buffs that flock to this Bund landmark to experience a piece of Shanghai’s history, the public spaces at the Fairmont Peace Hotel might not quite embody its name. But what the property lacks in tranquility, it more than makes up for in iconic status, given its storied past as the Cathay Hotel, built in 1929 and then owned by one of the city’s most notable businessmen, Sir Victor Sassoon.
The lodging where Steven Spielberg went on to film scenes for “Empire of the Sun” was renamed Peace Hotel in 1956. In 2007, it closed for a major facelift by the Fairmont Group and reopened in 2010. While much of the original property — the Art Deco lobby with its octagonal hall capped by a stained-glass rotunda, the renowned Jazz Bar, the non-functioning antique wood-paneled elevator and the stunning Nine Nations Suite — has been restored to its former glory, a rear extension has been added to house additional guest rooms, a swimming pool and spa.
Like its ten-floor façade, guest quarters in the 270-room hotel are furnished in handsome Art Deco style with thick carpets, claw-foot bathtubs and stately poster beds flanked by table lamps on Lalique glass bases. From the grey-vein marble in the bathrooms to the Le Labo bath amenities and illy coffee machines, there is no lack of luxe in these accommodations. However, not all rooms afford equally lavish views. For panoramic Bund-side viewing, book a Signature Riverview Suite or one of the ultra-luxurious Nine Nations Suites. Standard room rates do not include breakfast, but Fairmont Gold rooms come with complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea, pre-dinner snacks and all-day beverages served in the ninth-floor Fairmont Gold Lounge.
Those seeking a memorable culinary experience are pampered with eight food and beverage options. The Cathay Room on the ninth floor boasts splendid vistas of Pudong’s skyline, alongside a fusion of modern and rustic European fare — think steak tartare with quail’s egg. Catering to those on the go, the ground-floor Victor’s beckons with pastries and sandwiches; we suggest you try the all-time favorite, the signature Grand Marnier milk mousse. For sheer nostalgia, you shouldn’t pass up a night with the Old Jazz Band that began playing at the Peace Hotel in 1980. The average age of the veteran musicians here is about 75 years old.
The Fairmont Peace Hotel is one of our top hotel choices in Shanghai, and even if you choose not to stay here, we suggest a visit. This property is a time capsule for one of the city’s liveliest eras, which can be explored at the on-site Peace Gallery, with its collection of photographs, memorabilia and artifacts from the hotel’s illustrious history.
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