Aesthetic Is Everything: A Review of The Shanghai Edition
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To The Point
The Shanghai Edition is a design aficionado’s dream, right in the middle of China’s biggest city. Pros: beautiful and modern design, incredible rooftop views and plenty of options for eating and drinking. Cons: uber-touristy location and the overcrowded public spaces.
Toward the end of last year, when flight reviews for the inaugural TPG Awards brought me to Shanghai, China, I was extremely excited. Ever since I was very young, I’d come across pictures of Shanghai’s glittering skyline and think to myself, “Whoa, I’ve gotta get there.”
To me, Shanghai represents China’s unequivocal declaration of its arrival on the world stage. It’s the largest city proper in the world by population; it’s home to the world’s third-largest skyscraper (and one of the most recognizable skylines on the planet); it has a food and drinking scene that rivals that of other global hotspots like New York, London and Hong Kong; and, perhaps most importantly, it has money. The city is filled with luxury homes in the sky, Italian supercars, enough high-end boutiques to make your head spin and plenty of young, very rich millennials sharing all of it on social media — because, of course.
Thanks to all that money, Shanghai has an especially appealing high-end hotel market. Practically every major luxury brand has its flag planted firmly in the city. And the best part of all? The rates are usually fantastic, by US standards, at least.
When I first began figuring out where to stay, I was set on the Park Hyatt mainly due to its sky-high setting in the Pudong district, but when I searched on Marriott.com, the Edition immediately stood out. I knew that an Edition was slated to open in the city, but I didn’t realize that it had already opened. I canceled my Park Hyatt reservation and made one at the new Marriott property on the other side of the Huangpu River.
This Edition hotel is a Category 6 in the Marriott Rewards chart, meaning a free night will cost anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 points, depending on the season. When I stayed, the hotel was still offering attractive opening rates, and we didn’t want to burn 180,000 points for my three-night stay, so we paid $288 per night, which also included breakfast — since Platinum elites don’t get free breakfast at Edition properties, it made sense to book the breakfast rate.
For the stay, I earned a total of 13,308 points — 8,205 of them in the form of base points, 4,103 as an elite bonus and 1,000 as another bonus. I charged the $1,161 total (room rate plus taxes, fees and incidentals) to my Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card (they’re no longer accepting applications), which earned me 6,966 Marriott Rewards points, since the card earns 6x points per dollar at Marriott properties.
The Edition occupies a piece of prime real estate in Shanghai’s Puxi neighborhood. It’s situated on Nanjing Road East and is just a few minutes’ walk to the Bund, the city’s gorgeous Art Deco promenade that hugs the Huangpu River and provides a look into Shanghai’s past directly across from its future: Pudong.
I found the hotel well-located for tourists, but this meant the surrounding area was busy. On my first day, as I was arriving from the airport, a constant wall of passersby basically blocked my taxi from pulling into the hotel’s entryway. It almost felt like I was getting dropped off in the middle of Times Square. About a block or so to the west of the main entrance to the hotel, Nanjing East Road became fully pedestrianized, though, so it was a great place to walk around and get a feel for the city. Also, a Metro station was just steps away from the hotel.
I used the Metro all weekend and found the system to be great overall — the stations were well-marked (with English translations on every sign), clean and bright, and the trains were brand-new, on time and featured announcements in several languages. Basically, the Shanghai Metro is everything New York City’s subway is not.
I arrived in Shanghai after an early-morning flight from Seoul Airport (ICN). I used Blacklane to take me from the airport to the hotel — I had just signed up for an account and got a 20% discount for my first ride. My ride in an extended-length BMW 530i sedan cost $76, which is almost exactly what I’d pay for an UberX from my Brooklyn apartment to New York-JFK. I originally expected the ride to take between 45 minutes and an hour, but it ended up taking about 90 minutes due to heavy traffic coming into the city.
It was well before check-in time when I arrived, but I was in need of a quick nap, as I hadn’t really slept at all the night before in Seoul because of jet lag. Thankfully, my room was ready for me when I arrived — I only had one small bag with me, so I grabbed it and headed up to my room on the 15th floor.
I’d stayed in the New York Edition a while back, and after reading TPG contributor Eric Rosen’s review of the Barcelona property, I was ready for the general look of my room, which felt modern, trendy and very much part of the Edition brand. Light wood was everywhere — it looked very minimalist but luxurious at the same time, especially with the all-white furniture and bed. And, of course, there was the signature fur throw that made the room look oh-so-cool.
There was a small foyer, with the entrance to the bathroom on the left as I came in. Opposite the bathroom was a closet that came stocked with robes, a shoehorn, laundry bag and a prominently displayed umbrella, which felt to me like the hotel’s subtle reminder to always be prepared for any type of weather.
Under the closet were drawers that contained the room’s Nespresso machine, a couple of complimentary water bottles (I never had to break into those, though, since housekeeping was so generous with restocking water), a bottle of red wine and four glasses, a stocked minifridge and a selection of snacks.
I appreciated that my room had a plethora of charging options for all my devices. I’d brought my iPhone, AirPods, laptop, GoPro, camera stabilizer and a portable battery pack. Of course, all of these devices needed to be charged, and between the nightstands and the desk I had no problem charging them all up at once — props to the Shanghai Edition from this millennial!
The room was large enough to contain a separate sitting area, and I actually used it this time around, mainly thanks to the very cool “Old Shanghai” photo book that was on the table. I liked flipping through the pages and visualizing the history of the city while wide awake at 3am because of jet lag.
The bathroom was stylish in white marble with black accents and chrome fixtures.
There was a large soaking tub, but I really only cared about the shower, which was truly a thing of beauty with its positively enormous rainshower fixture. It had great pressure, too. There are few things more disappointing than a beautiful shower ruined by poor pressure.
I also loved the toiletries, which were a collaboration between Edition hotels and Le Labo, a high-end New York-based brand. Housekeeping brought a new set of shower gel, shampoo and conditioner each day, so I was able to take a couple of sets home.
Food and Beverage
The Shanghai Edition had several outposts for eating and drinking: three full-service restaurants and an astounding nine bars. Given the amount of incredible food that Shanghai boasts, there was no way I was going to get through each venue, but I did get to try out some of the highlights.
As I mentioned above, my room rate included breakfast, which I had each morning at Shanghai Tavern, a kind of reprise of Berners Tavern at the London Edition. It evoked 1920s Shanghai glamour with its abundant potted plants, bright green booths and dark woods.
The menu also nodded to the time when the British were a colonial power in China with such items as the full English breakfast. There were plenty of Chinese options, too, including congee and noodles and fried rice. The jian bing (like a savory Shanghainese crepe with chives and chili sauce) stood out. It was so delicious that I had one on each of the three mornings that I ate breakfast at the hotel.
There was a bit of confusion as to what was included in my free breakfast. One day, I was told that I’d have full access to buffet items plus a la carte items, but another day I was told that it was either/or. Regardless, I had no issues, and no matter what I had at breakfast, it was taken off my bill at checkout.
I didn’t eat at the other two full-service restaurants, Canton Disco, which served modern Cantonese cuisine, and the Japanese-centric HIYA. I did, however, have drinks at HIYA, which featured an outdoor roof terrace with unforgettable views.
It was clear that the rooftop had quickly become one of the city’s hotspots. There was consistently a wait for a table, though both times I visited (once at night and once during the afternoon), I didn’t have to wait more than 20 minutes.
Did I mention the views?
They were spectacular and made me feel like I was standing in a city on the move, one where things were happening at a rapid clip and that had ambitions to raise its profile even higher on the world stage. With a skyline like that, it’s kind of hard to not take Shanghai seriously.
I also checked out the inside portion of HIYA, which during the day was a relaxed and comfortable hangout spot with a long bar stocked with every imaginable liquor.
The space also featured a bronze-clad spiral staircase, which has become a staple of Edition properties and is definitely a hit on Instagram.
Oh, and more #views.
There was also a gorgeous lobby bar and hangout area with a pool table topped with bright blue felt as well as hanging potted plants that seemed to have been placed there specifically for meticulously staged Instagram shoots.
Either way, the lobby was a cool space with plenty of low-slung seating and couches upholstered in a jewel-tone blue.
The hotel also has a nightclub called Electric Disco, which was predictably busy on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s been billed as one of the city’s hottest new nightlife spots. The entrance for non-guests was outside the hotel, so there were never crowds of people waiting for admission in the lobby.
Wi-Fi was fast, free and maintained my connection throughout my stay. I had to use my VPN to access US sites while connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi network, though, thanks to the Great Firewall. The property also had a small but modern and well-equipped gym, which was stocked with water bottles and towels.
Same for the pool, which was also small but still a relaxing place to hang out, with its cushioned loungers and soothing music. I camped out by the pool for a couple of hours to get some work done, as it was much quieter than the hotel’s other public spaces.
There’s also a full-service spa. I didn’t book a treatment, though I could have used one after a full weekend of urban exploration.
The Shanghai Edition seems poised to be one of the city’s top hotels, especially for those with Marriott points to use. Though the location is far from serene and the public spaces can get very crowded with eager Instagrammers, I very much enjoyed my stay at the property. A modern and luxurious design, insane rooftop views and plenty of delicious options for eating and drinking make the hotel an attraction in itself. If I find myself in Shanghai again (something tells me I will), it’ll be hard to pry me away from this newcomer.