By John Wogan
July 08, 2020
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Credit: Courtesy of The Peninsula Shanghai

This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

Although Shanghai has a reputation as a futuristic megalopolis, the allure of this city — the largest in China, with a population of more than 25 million — is the dichotomy of the old and the new. The 128-story Shanghai Tower, for example, debuted in 2017 as the tallest skyscraper in the city, but a short cab ride across the Huangpu River brings you to the French Concession, a historic, highly atmospheric neighborhood with elegant 19th-century buildings, parks, and avenues. The same mix is found in the city’s hotel scene, which is equally sprawling — and includes our reader’s picks for the best hotels in Shanghai.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value.

“A beautiful, stately hotel on the Bund” is how one reader described No. 3 Fairmont Peace Hotel, housed in a 1929 Art Deco gem on the city’s famous promenade along the Huangpu River. “There’s a rooftop bar and restaurant with delicious food, and it overlooks the river. At night, you’re able to see the lights of the city. Rooms are gorgeous and well appointed, with every amenity you might desire. And the staff is excellent.” The hotel’s Jazz Bar, which hosts a live band nightly, attracts visitors who want a taste of Shanghai as it might have been in the 1920s and 30s.

The Middle House, the runner-up, impressed one reader with a feeling of being “a home away from home.” Indeed, the design is reminiscent of a sophisticated urban apartment rather than a typical high-end hotel room, with a mix of traditional Chinese and contemporary Italian furnishings. It’s probably why the Middle House is known for attracting an aesthetically-minded crowd from the fashion and art worlds. “It was so memorable,” said one reader.

But the top property this year was the Peninsula Shanghai, also the champ in 2019. The “fabulous” hotel got raves for its faultless service and decadent spa, among other amenities.

1. The Peninsula Shanghai

Credit: Courtesy of The Peninsula Shanghai

Score: 96.80

More information: peninsula.com

“Absolutely fabulous on every level,” said one reader about the Peninsula Shanghai, which also came in third among the best city hotels in Asia. Located on the Bund, the hotel is known for its flawless service and its 13,000-square-foot spa, which was designed to look and feel like an Art Deco sanctuary from the 1930s, with plenty of dark wood accents and a sharp navy-and-white color scheme. When the weather is warm, the Michelin-starred Sir Elly’s offers terrace dining with some of the best views you’ll find of Shanghai — plus an exceptional Mediterranean-style menu and wine list.

2. The Middle House

Credit: Courtesy of The House Collective

Score: 95.80

More information: themiddlehousehotel.com

3. Fairmont Peace Hotel

Credit: Courtesy of Fairmont Peace Hotel/Accor

Score: 89.00

More information: fairmont.com

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.