In many ways, Shanghai feels like a city of tomorrow. A leading global financial hub and China’s largest metropolitan area, it’s an awe-inspiring expanse of cutting-edge infrastructure, rapid social innovation and stupifying high-rises, all of which speak to the rising consumer power of its estimated 26 million inhabitants. Futuristic architecture dominates its coastal skyline and, at night, atmospheric city lights glitter across the bay. Its reputation as China’s most modern city is well-deserved.
But Shanghai is also a city with a fascinating and well-preserved history, and it’s this tantalising mix of old and new that charms an increasing number of visitors each year. Colonial-era buildings sit alongside traditional Chinese gardens and historic temples in the shadow of towering skyscrapers. And right in the middle of it all is the world-famous Fairmont Peace Hotel.
Boasting spectacular marbled floors and plush, intricate furnishings, this is a hotel that represents both the success of modern-day Shanghai and the decadence of times gone by. With some of its buildings dating back as far as the 1850s, the Fairmont Peace Hotel has been a landmark presence in the city for generations. Once a favourite with Chinese officials and celebrities, as well as western stars like Charlie Chaplin and Noël Coward, it was occupied by the Japanese army during the second world war and later used as a government building by the newly sovereign Chinese Communist Party. In 1956, it was named the Peace Hotel after the Asia and Pacific Rim International Conference for World Peace, Beijing. It was later closed between 2007 and 2010 for a thorough restoration, reopening as the Fairmont Peace Hotel. For more than a century, its fate has mirrored the fortunes of Shanghai itself.
For Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, this inextricable tie between a hotel and its community allows guests to experience a deeper connection to their destination. Shanghai’s character is woven into the fabric of the Peace Hotel, which even has its own on-site museum, so that visitors can learn more about the story of this hotel and its city. Setting off from the Peace Museum, guided tours take in some of the hotel’s most impressive and historically significant sites, including the grand lobbies and lavishly decorated corridors once walked by the world’s great and good.
Some ingredients are even produced on site, with mixologists using herbs and edible flowers grown on the building’s Cathay Room terrace to create their world-class cocktails in the hotel’s bars. The garden is a thriving green oasis in this most urban of urban landscapes, and a prime example of a Fairmont hotel tangibly giving back to the city it calls home. And by growing its own ingredients here, the Peace Hotel naturally becomes more self-sufficient, thereby reducing its contributions to the higher carbon emissions normally associated with importing food.
It’s all second nature for a hotel group that has been making the environment a priority for more than three decades, leading the conversation around sustainable tourism and enacting changes that have made a positive difference to destinations around the world. From installing water-bottle refill stations at Scotland’s Fairmont St Andrews to recycling champagne corks at The Savoy, these are luxury hotels that behave responsibly.
The group works hard to minimise the impact it has on the surroundings its hotels treasure. This is partly because it recognises the vital importance of these surroundings to guests; by protecting the diverse locations of its hotels and resorts, it preserves the unique appeal of each destination.
And it’s hard to imagine a destination more appealing than the Fairmont Peace Hotel in central Shanghai. Nestled on the edge of the city’s famous waterfront area, the Bund, it boasts views over the Huangpu River and the stratospheric high-rises of the Pudong district. It’s right at the beating heart of modern Shanghai and close to so much of the action this bustling metropolis offers its visitors. Yet because of its place in local history, it also affords guests a meaningful connection to Shanghai’s rich and storied past.
The life of a landmark hotel is inextricably linked to the life of its community; their past is shared and their futures are mutually dependent. And for a truly rewarding travel experience, the luxury of a hotel at the very centre of its community simply cannot be beaten.