Truth is; If you want to talk luxury, China needs to be at the helm of that conversation. Not China as you have seen in the traditional movies with only the outdoor activities and the Dynasty embedded historical tales, but the new China; the China of the Future, the China of lavish dimensions that rival the very definition of the word. Being such a behemoth of a country, tackling what to see and where to stay can be overwhelming at worst and an exhilarating quest at best. Fortunately, Global Child has you covered on both ends as we give you a broad understanding on why to visit China, where to start and where to do so in Global Child style.
China has to be lived first hand, it cannot (nor does it want to) be explained. The sights will always fall short for words, the magnitude is incomparable, and the particular draws are too particular to each one of these, for us westerners, still mysterious cities. So let’s dive into the land of gold and dragon and see what treasure we unveil together.
At the heart of it all, you will find Shanghai. Imagine a brand new New York. The roads are planned, the city is carefully designed, and when infrastructure or design creates an interruption to the flow of the city it is usually removed to continue crafting the best version of the city possible.
Shanghai is home to some of the most novel developments in architecture, urban development, and structures that defy gravity and general logic. From Top tier cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and China’s very own Silicone Valley; Shenzhen, Chengdu, and Guangzhou to the second level up-and-coming Hangzhou (hub of Alibaba HQ), Dalian, Tianjin, Zhuhai and Xiamen, China is not short to offer the highest level luxury experiences and it has the environment, the market, and the resources to do so, after all, much of current marketplace reality is manufactured, well you guessed it… in China!
But, back to Shanghai. If you have been to the French Riviera, walking through the French Concession will bring an air of familiarity. The cafes, the trees, the tiling, it just feels foreign, and it should, its how its supposed to be because one of the main benefits to being the new powerhouse world economy is finances to build what the collective driven Chinese approach imagines.
Journey into Shanghai
Since you arrive into Pudong International airport (if you are on a long-haul flight chance you will arrive at the terminal, but any mid-level airline on a non-overnight route will most likely require a bus ride into the terminal), you will instantly notice the dimension of where you have arrived. The entry queue is normally packed from people from all over the planet that has journeyed into the center of the new world. Scope, energy, vibrancy: welcome to Shanghai. From there, you have a choice of how to get into the city, which is about a 45-minute ride depending on where you are staying. If you prearranged transportation (not a bad idea) you are good to go, but for me, I always take the Maglev train (enter link here). This state of the art magnetic train runs at 420 km/h on an 8-minute journey that cuts your transit time by 30 minutes into Pudong area; the financial hub of the city. From there it is a short-lived taxi ride to your hotel (and quite entertaining if you try to spark up a conversation, so give it a try!). GlobalChildTip: Don’t pay for the first class. The ride is 7-8 minutes, and the only difference is the fabric on the seats; your dollars are best spent elsewhere.
Next step is arriving at your hotel.
So, where do you stay? Here are my suggestions for you:
This is the financial center and statement piece of the Chinese government. Not only is this area of the city-state of the art in every possible way, but it serves as the home to some of the most astronomically complex structures in the nation. Separated by the Yangtze River, its beauty is rivaled only by its mystery.
The Ritz Pudong (Jin Mao Tower) – 9.5/10
It doesn’t get more Shanghai than this. This is one of the most iconic places in Shanghai, whether you stay there or not, it is a must-see experience. With a phenomenal top story uninterrupted view of Shanghai, you will live in awe of everything the city has to offer with one of the most on-point service levels available. High tea is served daily in the main lobby as it is in most Ritz Carlton’s worldwide and with it’s usual flair, and don’t forget to stop by the multiple level rooftop bars for one of the best views of the city by night.
GlobalChild Tip: Don’t forget to stop by Aura lounge and Flair for a photo op! Once you’re there, hit us up in Instagram @globalchildtv. You might get a feature!
The Mandarin Oriental 9.3/10
Apart from the majestic decorations and the signature treatment of the Mandarin Oriental brand, the hotel is carefully located just of the river in a more quiet and private area allowing for better rest, without the noise and chaos. If you add that you happen to have the 58Grill, which is by FAR the best steakhouse in the city, you are tempted to never leave.
GlobalChild Tip: Some rooms have the millennium tub on an open floor plan. Worth the extra bucks if you enjoy lounging in the water while you get one of the most iconic views in town.
Known for its postcard scenery of modern Shanghai, the Bund is where it’s at. Only a short walk from the historic trademark places in the city, and access to multiple Michelin star restaurant, terraces, bars, nightclubs and the vibration of very heartbeat of this city.
The Peninsula – 9.6/10
No luxury conversation is complete without the Peninsula in it. This historic award-winning landmark group has several properties all around China, and they are always at the 50-yard line of the major cities. A safe bet, and it will come at a price. The lowest rated restaurant here falls at a stunning 2-Michelin-star rate (Sir Elly’s & Yi Long Court for example), so you can imagine what goes into creating and recreating daily experiences. The Art-Deco influence of the Bund sets the stage to enjoy a surely start-studded stay.
GlobalChild: What better way to understand a new culture but through its food, its art, and its fashion. If you have some time, and the agenda matches the availability, make sure to join one of the tailored Peninsula Academy Courses. From fashion to understanding Chinese traditional art all the way up to pastry, it makes for an unforgettable memory.
Shanghai Edition 9.4/10
This recently opened majestic property is with no hesitation the newcomer of the year! A laid back atmosphere provides a new generation experience where all the senses will come into play at the exact same time. Indulge in any of the many top tier restaurants (HIYA, for example, is a new take on Japanese which will blow your mind), the Canton Disco and the rooftop bar are excellent for a drink with a view. Don’t forget to step into the lavish spa for any of the 6 signature treatments available (outstanding relaxation area comes with a full bar some bespoke boutiques).
Nothing says old-school meets new-school as this new up-and-comer in the city, but its name is no pushover in the hotel scene. Located just off the Bund on Suzhou Creek, the attention to detail, the essence, and the niche style corners all over the hotel will cause you to be immersed immediately in a different time and place. Not to be outdone by any of the local favorites, places like Lago (Julian Serrano) and Mansion on One will have you asking for more. The merging of the brand traits and the dynamic upbeat of the city create an atmosphere that will challenge you even to say in for a day! (The Presidential Suite is something out of this world!).
Bulgari Hotel – 9.2/10
As with any Bulgari Hotel, the name is reserved only of the connoisseurs of travel, those who not only live to travel but travel to be alive. The experience comes at a price, but it is rivaled by few. Carefully located just off the Bund, this impressive traditional Chinese house complements a majestic tower that hosts not only some of the most perfectly crafted rooms and suites in town but provides panoramic views that unless you are traveling with a local, you would be sure to miss out. La Terraza & IL Bar will start off your journey leaving you with a perpetual smile. As with anything at this level, moderation is essential provided by 2 supreme dining experiences at Il Ristorante and Bai Li Xuan.
GlobalChildTip: If chocolate is your thing, then you are in luck. Il cioccolato is the ONLY Bulgari chocolate boutique in China. As it would be with any Bulgari design, the items are showcased on glass displays to be admired as the gems they are.
W Hotel – 9.1/10
Contrary to the previously featured hotel, these 2 properties are on North Bund, a little further away from the happening spots, but it compensates with the service, experience and a view of the Bund and Pudong rivaled by none. From the unmistakable rooms to the creative spaces built to showcase the migration of 1920’s art scene and 2020’s take on the future, spots like Liquid at Yen and the Wetbar® will confirm you are indeed submerged in the W experience.
The W hotel has a sensational lobby bar (don’t they always!), and THE best swimming pool in town – hands down! Creating a sophisticated stay. As with any W, the Away spa is complete with their well-known treatments and a beautifully designed space.
GlobalChildTip: If you enjoy the W experience, but would like a more low-key stay, right next to it you can find the Banyan Tree. Catered for a more moderate crowd, it provides all the staple services and details of the Banyan Tree family with the close range access to the futuristic Shanghai offerings. (ps it also has a great terrace for happy hour drinks!)
A visit to Shanghai is not complete if you don’t pass by Xintiandi, and what better way to do so than by staying there. This area is literally the new world, designed to attract the newest fashion designers, tech retail outlets, premium car dealerships, flagship stores and some of the best restaurants in the area. As you may have imagined, this area is home to Shanghai Fashion Week twice a year, an experience you should definitely live at least once.
With a wide array of luxury shopping and some of the most expensive real estate available in the city, Xintiandi is the clear representation of luxury living in a city with such contrasts.
Langham – 9.0/10
The Langham is a synonym of flawless execution at every possible level as this timeless piece infiltrates the heart of traditional Shanghai. From the main entrance, the location, the lobby, the staff, the orientation of the rooms, the carefully selected linens, bath amenities, and restaurants, this hotel is by far a seasoned favorite for European travelers that know their way around the city.
No Langham is complete without its star rated dining experience, this time provided by T’ang Court, and of course, be it before or after your dinner reservation, XTD Lounge will show you a side of Shanghai you won’t get anywhere else!
GlobalChildTip: This is one of the best locations for Sunday brunch. The set menus and Champagne free flow will open up your weekend with a bang, putting you in the right mindset to explore the incredible city! (try the Eggs Benedict).
Although excellent in their categories, we simply cannot feature everyone on the list, but these places deserve being mentioned as very close runners in the list. If in doubt, any of these establishments will substantially improve the quality of your stay due to their comfort, location, and service:
– Wanda Reign on the Bund (8.8 / 10)
– The Puli Hotel and Spa @ Nanjing Rd. (8.9 / 10)
– The Shangri La (8.6 / 10)
– The Middle House (8.86/ 10)
– The Park Hyatt Shanghai (8.6 / 10)
And finally…. just a quick note. If you have been able to live in Shanghai, as is my case, you have come to notice how this city has its own dynamic and sits in a category of its own. Noticeably, in the past 4 years of us being here, you could have also noticed how in a generations turn, the social status (in regards to money that is) changed in a blink of an eye. As such, many people are not used to managing that level of wealth, more so when there is a constant revenue stream and a government who support its survival. Therefore, all of these people transitioned into wealthy experience seekers, something that was neglected for many decades, and they are taking advantage of it. The luxury scene in China is just starting, and with it will come logic-defying moments to explore.
The birth of Global Child China
Since the turn of the last century, China has been actively embarking in a long-term transformational period, understanding where it was and were it needed (wanted) to be. By carefully planning its decisions (yes, some come at an enormous social cost), it redefined its social position, invested in its primary industry, elevated its infrastructure and ultimately created the manufacturing hub of the entire world. Enter stage 2: Now the local community is up and running, there are business owners, entrepreneurs, new creative, designers, architects, and a striving economy rivaled by none. Those people need entertainment, those people also travel, and they travel well, so the market developed for them, and it is us that fall amazed at what they have now created.
Follow our new China and South East Asia series with Stephen, our very own GlobalChild living in China as we continue through the journey unmasking the myths and discovering what’s new and around the corner in some of the most amazing cities you are dying to visit, and those you didn’t even know existed!
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About the Author: Stephen is a Mexican-Canadian social-neuroscientist, husband, father of 2, travel extraordinaire & retail advocate with a keen eye for what’s coming next. By appreciating and immersing in the local culture, he finds value and reason behind the complexities of every city he is a guest at. “For me, in order to understand a place’s culture, it always comes down to the people and the food. Connect with as many as possible, and try the local recipes and you will gain instant access to the mindset of the environment”.
Stephen also participates in the Global Child brand strategy since 2016 contributing insight and perspective through his journeys and expertise.
Dr. Stephen C. Patton