It seems they do still make 'em like they used to. The Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund is pure classic luxury, vintage 2011. It was a contender for the city’s best hotel from the moment it opened its doors, for there was a lot behind those doors: a soaring main hall awash in white marble, a staff that’s the epitome of discreet and attentive service, a set of restaurants that have quickly come to be regarded as top Shanghai dining destinations, and 260 elegant, oversize rooms that pull off the seemingly impossible feat of combining old-world opulence with a light, modern touch. And where better than the Bund, with its endless parade of historic architecture, for a hotel that’s something of a throwback to a past golden age of hospitality.
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To say that the hoteliers have anticipated guests’ every need is to drastically understate the point. For you probably don’t actually need eight pillows to choose from (including a white goose down stomach pillow for the lonely snuggler), or a sharp, fog-free television screen built into the bathroom mirror, or bathrobes that you will never want to change out of, or several hundred dollars worth of high-tech Japanese electronics built into the toilet. Nor do you really need there to be an in-house florist waiting downstairs to make you a bouquet, or for the hotel’s salon to be run by a big-name celebrity stylist — but should you wish, say, for an on-call personal shopper to fill your walk-in closet with the most current Shanghai fashion pieces or precious centuries-old antiques, the hotel has you covered.
It’s the kind of treatment you might expect (if your expectations are rather high) at a hotel that has at its core the old Shanghai Club, built a century earlier, and for decades the drinking establishment of choice for the city’s elite. Today the white marble neoclassical building is used primarily to house the Waldorf’s twenty suites — and what suites they are — but the club’s famed Long Bar remains. There was a time when getting a seat at the 110-foot mahogany bar was testament to your status as one of China’s top power brokers, and while the door has loosened up a bit, what waits inside is no less impressive, the room having been painstakingly reconstructed from archival photographs. If Cuban cigars and single malt scotch can feel like affectations in lesser surroundings, they’re perfectly appropriate when you’re sitting in a leather chair at the Long Bar, listening to live jazz, surrounded by marble columns and stained glass windows and views of the Bund’s Huangpu River.
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