Langham Yangtze Boutique: Scrubbing Up Nicely

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Courtesy of Langham Hotels International

Hit the deco: The Langham Yangtze Boutique's distinctive exterior

Fans of old Shanghai style rejoice: another of the city's Art Deco beauties has been buffed, polished and restored to its former shine, this time by Langham Hotels.

The onetime Yangtze Hotel on Hankou Road — now called the Langham Yangtze Boutique — was built 75 years ago to cater for the city's Chinese élite. Designed by Li Pan, a popular architect of the day, it was an ostentatious project, costing 1.2 million silver dollars (or about $325 million in today's money) and featured a host of mod cons — like air-conditioning — that were then becoming standard in luxury international hotels but represented heady advances for locally financed properties. Tycoons, heirs, heiresses and film stars flocked to the Yangtze's opening. The hotel's nightclub, the Yangtze Dance Hall, became, with its big bands and song divas, one of the hot spots of the era.

In the ensuing decades, much of that glamor faded, and the Yangtze ended up as a characterless, if perfectly respectable, midrange hotel, its interiors retaining a hint of history but sacrificing most of their charm during unsympathetic — the uncharitable might say "tacky" — renovations conducted down the decades. Not surprisingly, the hotel's new management decided to put a reassertion of 1930s style at the forefront of a lavish renovation project completed earlier this year. The Langham Yangtze Boutique now boasts the kind of rooms and public spaces that a tuxedo-clad Noel Coward would have enjoyed lolling about in, gimlet in hand — think period-style furnishings, a lavish deployment of geometric patterns and motifs, and a masculine color palette of chocolate, cream and deep red.

Many of the 96 rooms and suites have their own balconies, and the hotel also lists "windows that open" as a delightful nostalgic feature. (Given Shanghai's notorious levels of air pollution, you might want to limit usage of these charming aspects of your room.) But while the accommodation may look like a set designer's dream of the Bund, you'll find all the modern bells and whistles among the thick carpets, opulent upholstery and somber panelling, including Internet-protocol phones and iPod-docking stations.

Diners can choose from T'ang Court (an outpost of the two-Michelin-star Cantonese restaurant at the Langham's Hong Kong flagship), an Italian restaurant and a Japanese izakaya. The Chuan Spa, a feature of all Langham properties, is there to administer to the overfed and the overworked with its toxin-eliminating scrubs and soothing unguents.

The hotel's replica 1930s BMW motorcycle and sidecar is one of its nicest innovations. This dashing conveyance is available for two-hour city tours with itineraries that can be tailored according to your interests, be they historical, architectural, cultural or culinary. Book a Destination Deco package, available from now until the end of the year, and the tour, along with a night's accommodation and breakfast for two, is yours for around $250. For more information, visit