In a city packed with new construction, this art deco landmark stands out, a fixture on the Huangpu River for more than eight decades. The hotel is divided into North and South buildings. The 1920s North building, known as Sassoon House for its British businessman owner Sir Victor Sassoon, was home to the Cathay Hotel, with a copper-sheathed roof, Italian marble floors, and Lalique glass artwork; guests included Charlie Chaplin, George Bernard Shaw, and Noël Coward, who completed Private Lives here. The building was subsequently used as a government office. The 1850s Renaissance South Building, formerly the Palace Hotel and once the tallest structure on Nanjing Road, was occupied by the Japanese during World War II. The two buildings combined to become the Peace Hotel in 1965, though it closed in 2007 for an overhaul of the exterior, interiors, lobby, and guest rooms by Hirsch Bedner Associates. Art deco influences are evident throughout rooms, while executive floors come with private check-in and lounge access.
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The central location couldn’t be better, right on the Bund in the heart of it all. Evening walks on the Bund, a waterfront area that’s become one of the city’s key attractions, are a rite of passage, with Art Deco, Gothic, Baroque, and Romanesque architecture visible near the hotel, and the futuristic skyline of Pudong pulsing across the river. A neon glow lights up the international brand shops and numerous restaurants along Nanjing East Road, heading away from the river. To the south, Yu Yuan Bazaar offers a broad range of traditional Chinese items including paintings by folk artists, pearls from Taihu Lake, calligraphy, old bank notes, stamps, coins, and wood carvings.
Need to Know
Rooms: 231 rooms, 39 suites. From $805. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: The showy Dragon Phoenix embodies the heyday of early 1900s Shanghai; expect plates of local and Cantonese fare. At the art deco Jasmine Lounge, buttermilk scones, clotted cream, tea sandwiches and homemade jams served on silver tea stands are the norm; on Saturdays, professional instructors offer ballroom lessons for the tea dance. With the ambience of a 1920s private club, Jazz Bar serves cocktails and has a resident band that’s played in front of former U.S. presidents Carter and Reagan. More than 200 bottles of Old and New World wine and views of the Bund, Huangpu River, and Pudong skyline accompany European dishes at the Cathay Room. Spa and gym details: Located on the first floor, the skylit pool and gym (with free weights and machines, elliptical trainers, stationary bikes, and treadmills) are open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Willow Stream Spa incorporates Chinese healing treatments into its menu.
Who it's for: History buffs, Sinophiles, and anyone on a Grand Asia Tour. Our favorite rooms: Of the Nine Nations suites, four (Indian, English, Chinese, and American) have been left intact from the old Peace Hotel. For lovers of history: Visit the fascinating Peace Museum, fashioned after an old Shanghai reading room. It traces the hotel’s storied past through collected items and memorabilia like silver tableware, porcelain, crystal, and antiques used in rooms, plus art deco furnishings, newspapers, and photographs of the hotel and its celebrity visitors. Curators are on hand to elucidate further.