Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Staying with the Astor's in Shanghai

Now, when one travels one of the first thoughts that come to mind is where am I going to lay my weary head at the end of each day?

Choices are endless, and no where is this more evident than in Shanghai. Countless selections of hotels abound from the down and out to 5 star luxury. When Savoir Faire travels, there are lots of things that come into consideration and one of them is not only the reputation of an hotel but the history behind it. It does not have to be brand new, 5 star luxury or the most expensive. The hotel I chose must have something that will set it apart and transport me into another frame of mind.

Shanghai has several hotels that fill this criteria. There is the famous Cathy Hotel, now the Fairmont after a multi million dollar renovation, the Metropole from the 1930’s or Astor House, the grand hotel with a history that is as old as some countries. Of course to me the choice was obvious, Astor House!

Astor House or is one of those rare breed of hotels that only exist in Asia. Once in the same class as Raffles in Singapore and the Peninsular in Hong Kong, it is like stepping into another era. Luckily untouched by a big chain, or restored and renovated to within an inch of its life it is one of the charming hotels of old Shanghai that still stands and more importantly takes bookings. The only thing is, that it still trades under its Chinese name.

Established in 1846 as Richards' Hotel and Restaurant Astor House was the first Western hotel established in China. The story of the Astor House Hotel in Shanghai provides a revealing insight into the history of China itself. "The Astor House Hotel has witnessed the whole sweep of China's emergence into the modern world, from English opium running in the 1840s through the tea dances of polite society in the 1920s and to the excesses of Maoist China in the 1960s."

During the 1930’s Shanghai had an overwhelming choice of some of the grandest hotels in Asia.
I must admit from the outside it is a little grimey looking and I was slightly alarmed satnding outside looking up at the facade. However once entering all those fears were set aside.Walking through the front doors of the hotel one can almost feel the ghosts of bygone eras observing new arrivals. Highly atmospheric, you can only think of what the hotel must have been like in its heyday. Restored and renovated to maintain the atmosphere to a degree, none of the charm has been lost.

The rooms are large and although slightly dated by modern day standards were entirely satisfactory for laying one’s weary head.

One of the highlights is the serving of the ubiquitous breakfast buffet in what was once the main ballroom. This is a huge cavernous room with large crystal chandeliers hanging overhead. It was a wonderful way to start the day each morning!

Another wonderful feature were old wide hallways with the original wooden floorboards creaking underneath as you walked. Along some of these hallways were rows of windows opening onto a light well that flooded them with natural light.

A nice touch is the long gallery turned into a museum of sorts detailing the hotel’s history and past glory.

All in all this was a wonderful hotel that met all my expectations of savoir faire!


  1. I am so happy to hear that you appreciate the original charm of this historic, old hotel. So many hotels and public buildings are ruined by modernization. I agree with you that the hotel should in some way reflect the ambiance of the locale you are visiting, and a generic big chain like Marriott certainly won't do that.

  2. Ni Hao,

    Welcome Back! Thank you for introducing us to this elegant old hotel which somehow we missed on our visits to Shanghai. Once we stayed at the Peace Hotel, and more recently at Number 9 (which is in the French Concession). Can't wait for more of your trip reports.


  3. Oh there´s nothing like a Vintage Hotel..full of history and gorgeous architecture...the pictures are just beautiful!

    The Black Label

  4. I'm living vicariously thru you! So enjoying the pictures.

  5. MR SWF, I would hate for this to be taken over by a big chain. As a child we used to stay at Raffles in Singapore in its somewhat faded glory, when it had character, now it is just another big expensive hotel.

    MArjorie, quite easily missed unless you know about it. It was a toss between it or the Metropole

    Jill, I am glad they at least are not sending you to sleep!


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