In a sprawling, non-stop metropolis of over 23 million people, good things really do come in small packages in Shanghai. I love these boutique hotels not only for their intimate scale, but how each has a special way of carving out a unique little world for guests and pushing back against the fast pace of the city. Some of these oases, like the Swatch Art Peace Hotel, offer out-of-this-world imaginative respites for discerning travelers. Other properties, like 88 Xintiandi, pack all the glamour of a major mega-luxe hotel into one sleek, downsized space. Gems such as Chai Living and The Waterhouse are totally unique to Shanghai—they both give visitors a chance to reside in a part of Chinese history refashioned with ultra-modern comforts and serious design cred. Meanwhile, those seeking an eco-friendly counterbalance to Shanghai’s unprecedented urban growth can find high-end earthy relaxation within China’s first ever carbon-neutral hotel, URBN. Check out my picks for the top boutique hotels in Shanghai.
Hotel Shanghai’s premier environmentally friendly hotel boasts a low-carbon footprint and high design. UBRN’s 26 eco-chic guest rooms are minimal yet comfortable, utilizing natural materials like reclaimed wood and bamboo for sunken lounge areas and stone showers.
Swatch Art Peace Hotel
Swatch Art Peace Hotel is famous for long-term guests, international artists-in-residence who earn the opportunity to live and work in the hotel’s creative hub for up to six months. Swatch also has a handful of artsy rooms and sprawling suites for paying guests who are encouraged to mingle with the artists in common spaces. This contemporary property is housed in the former Palace Hotel, a turn-of-the-century Bund landmark which has been remodeled with a mix of immaculately preserved architecture and stunning, and an ultra-modern interior design.
88 Xintiandi is an upscale option for the fashionista who wants to be right in the heart of Xintiandi, Shanghai’s high-end neighborhood that’s home to great restaurants and bars and plenty of shopping. Guests of this exclusive 53-room hotel are spoiled with one-on-one service and invited to retreat into spacious rooms and executive suites kitted out with latest high-tech amenities.
This 19-room hotel is ideal for the nonconformist who wants cultural immersion into old China, but not without the modern comforts, high design, and personalized service of a luxury hotel. Chai Living offers something totally unique to the well-traveled tastemaker: a small collection of well-appointed serviced apartments housed in the run-down Embankment Building along quiet Suzhou Creek. Guests here live side-by-side with other Embankment residents, mostly charming elderly locals who practice their Tai Chi in the communal courtyard downstairs. A stay here is a fantastic way to experience a quickly vanishing era of old Shanghai.