Fairmont Peace Hotel

20 Nanjing E Rd, WaiTan, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200002

In a city packed with new construction, this Art Deco landmark remains a fixture of the Huangpu River—just as it has for more than eight decades. A favorite of visiting celebs and dignitaries, the Fairmont Peace Hotel is divided into North and South buildings. Complete with a copper-sheathed roof, Italian marble floors, and Lalique glass artwork, the 1920s North building—known as Sassoon House for its British businessman owner Sir Victor Sassoon—was once home to the Cathay Hotel; guests included Charlie Chaplin, George Bernard Shaw, and Noël Coward, who completed Private Lives here. 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, operating continuously until closing in 2007 for an overhaul of the exterior, interiors, lobby, and guest rooms by Hirsch Bedner Associates.

Today, Art Deco influences and romantic flourishes are evident throughout the 270 rooms and suites, many of which boast Bund views. Fairmont Gold rooms come with private check-in and lounge access, while the each of the opulent Nine Nations Suites is named for a different country and features corresponding décor. The Dragon Phoenix and Cathay Room serve Shanghainese–Cantonese and European cuisine, respectively, and the legendary Jazz Bar takes you back to a 1920s-era private club. After a day spent exploring the city or shopping along nearby Nanjing Road, take refuge in the Willow Stream Spa, which has 11 treatment rooms and a skylight-lit pool.

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A Storied History

Built by Victor Sassoon, this building was originally known as the “Sassoon House.” Finished in 1929, the first three floors were rented out as office space, Sassoon housed his businesses and subsidiaries on the 4th floor, the Cathay Hotel (considered the most prestigious hotel in the city at the time) took up the 5th-7th floors, the 8th & 9th floors contained restaurants, bars and dining halls and the 10th floor was kept for the Sassoons’ private apartments. In 1949, the building was taken over by the government but was reopened as a hotel in 1956 and has remained open ever since. Closed for a three-year renovation, it opened its doors as the Fairmont Peace Hotel in 2010 and has become an iconic landmark and tribute to the city’s rich international history and magnificent jazz culture.

The Mid-Autumn Festival Mooncakes!

When I visited in August, all the great hotels in Shanghai were starting to offer their Mid-Autumn Festival Mooncakes -- dense pastries beautifully packaged each year and sold as gifts. I bought several before I learned that A) this custom might not pass customs due to the egg filling, and B) to people in Shanghai, mooncakes are kind of the equivalent of fruit cakes. Everyone gives them as gifts and you can’t eat more than a couple of bites due to the sweetness and density, plus they are quite high in calories. There was also a mooncake scandal while I was there -- reported in the Shanghai Daily -- involving the recycling of paste used to fill the famous mooncakes! According to reports, “a gang of six took unsold mooncakes from 2012 and dug out their fillings, which included almond, lotus paste and other varieties. They then inserted the paste into new shells and baked them again to produce ‘fresh’ mooncakes to be sold in grocery stores and whole-sale markets.” There was nothing recycled about the designer mooncakes I got at the Fairmont Peace Hotel and the Park Hyatt Shanghai, but whether mooncakes are considered a delicacy or an annoyance depends on who you ask.

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