Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008

JW Marriott Hotel

One of Shanghai's first ultrahigh hotels (it opened in 2003), the JW is still one of the city's best-located properties. The 342-room hotel is located on the upper floors of a 60-story, twisted steel and glass landmark that rises right at the edge of People's Square, within easy walking distance of its museums and theaters. The glassy 38th-floor lobby has 360-degree views over downtown Shanghai, while the 60th-floor library (recognized in 2005 as the world's highest by Guinness World Records) has an entrance to a secret sky-high balcony camouflaged behind a bookshelf. The wired and wireless rooms are comfortable if unspectacularly designed compared to some of the newer competition, though with expected amenities, like cable plasma TV's and large in-room safes. The stylish Mandara Spa offers massage, wraps, and waxing—plus a three-in-one Chinese herbal back treatment to exfoliate, cleanse, and revitalize travel-worn skin.

Insider Tip: Grab a window seat at the 40th-floor lounge overlooking People's Square, and sip a signature sundowner champagne cocktail.

Room to Book: One of the 52 deluxe corner rooms, ending in numbers 08, 11, 20, or 23 on each level. The floor-to-ceiling bathroom windows let you gaze out over the city skyline while you shower.

Four Seasons Hotel

Just a block south of Nanjing Road in the heart of downtown, this 37-floor luxury tower sits snuggled among similarly soaring office buildings. Its location, along with its proximity to the Shanghai Exhibition Centre and extensive conference facilities, means the hotel is big with conventioneers—but ordinary lovers of Four Seasons–style luxury will be just as comfortable here. (Female guests, for example, can indulge in the "Men Don't Get It" concierge service, offering spa, shopping, and entertainment advice.) The 421 guest rooms are airy and comfortable, though the room design is a little classically conservative, with dark wood antique repro furnishings, overstuffed armchairs and sofas, and rather minimal Chinese detailing (a few silk throw pillows here and there are about it). All have DVD players, Wi-Fi, iPod connections, and—by the end of 2008—flat-screen TV's. The pleasant lobby lounge, with its large windows, high ceilings, and nightly live piano music, is one of the grandest in town.

Insider Tip: Keep your eyes peeled when walking the corridors, restaurants, and lobby; the hotel has a fine collection of commissioned art adorning its walls.

Room to Book: The 1,345-square-foot deluxe suites on floors 29–34 feature marble foyers, marble baths, full dining areas, and great views over downtown Shanghai.

Pudong Shangri-La

The twin glass towers of this enormous 950-room hotel are a prominent feature of the Pudong riverfront skyline. The newer Grand Tower has the plushest and most spacious rooms and suites—all clean-lined, upholstered in velvety buff-colored fabrics, and with 32-inch plasma-screen TV's and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the river or the Pudong skyline. (Executive-class rooms even come with binoculars for close-ups of the Bund mansions across the water.) The common spaces also pack a punch: the banqueting suites regularly host Chinese society wedding celebrations (NBA star Yao Ming and his bride tied the knot here in summer 2007); the best dining options include Nadaman for Japanese kaiseki tasking menus and Jade on 36 for Paul Pairet's molecular gastronomy; the cavernous Himalayan-themed Chi spa provides a decadent menu of treatments (jade footbaths, yin-yang harmonizing massage); and a cluster of on-property luxury shops includes a branch of Shanghai Tang.

Insider Tip: The cocktail menu at the Jade on 36 bar is one of Shanghai's most creative (try the coconut-lemongrass daiquiri), and is complemented by a jaw-dropping view over the city.

Room to Book: Room 3258, the Pudong Suite, has floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room, dining room, and kitchen.

St. Regis

A cigar-colored façade and tobacco-leaf leitmotifs adorn the exterior of this 328-room Pudong palace (it's no coincidence that the owner is a tobacco baron). Set back from the river, it's close to the Lujiazui business district and so caters to a corporate crowd. The facilities and services are exemplary: a 24-hour butler caters to guests' personal whims, and there's an on-site global-cuisine restaurant, Saints, that's also open around the clock. (On Friday evenings, the Champagne Sabrage event sees a bottle of Bollinger ceremonially opened using a saber). Even standard guest rooms are a spacious 516 square feet, dressed in rosewood and light gold, with plasma-screen TV's, fluffy pillow-top mattresses, and sleek bathrooms with rainfall showerheads, plush spa robes, and slippers.

Insider Tip: Tapping into Shanghai's flourishing contemporary arts scene, the hotel arranges private studio tours to visit local artists in action.

Room to Book: Rooms on the "ladies only" floors (24–26) come with extras like Bulgari bath products, fresh flowers, and padded silk clothes hangers.

Westin Bund Center

Perched between the Bund and People's Square, this 570-room hotel attracts a mixed clientele of corporate high rollers, Asian celebs, and global leisure seekers. The bustling lobby, with its atrium bar, potted palms, and a cantilevered glass staircase, makes an immediate, swanky impression; the plush, stylish rooms—spread between two adjoining towers—follow suit with their black-and-blond-wood furnishings, jade ornaments, signature Heavenly beds, and marble bathrooms with separate rainforest showers and deep soaking tubs. Lodgings in the Grand Tower have extras like DVR's and wall-mounted TV's in the bathrooms. In the third-floor Banyan Tree Spa, staffers dole out treatments based on the five elements of earth, gold, water, wood, and fire (in-room services are available, too). Fitness fans can get their fix at the duplex on-site gym or the spacious indoor pool.

Insider Tip: The Westin's lavish Sunday brunch—during which Chinese acrobats, opera stars, and magicians all perform—is a Shanghai institution.

Room to Book: Executive suites (like No. 1262) have blond-wood paneling, potted plants, glass lanterns, and views of both the city and river skylines.