Exploring Shanghai And Its Historic, Luxurious Charm
In its heyday, Shanghai was the place to be. From monumental architecture and private art collections, to high-brow restaurants and international clubs, tycoons and the rich all flocked to the city for a taste of opulence.
Now, Shanghai may have long been freed from its colonial past, but it has managed to preserve its historical and colonial roots and elevate it into something more modern and equally luxurious.
Luxe Asia host Russell Ong explores the most exclusive and well-rated nooks of Shanghai to experience this marriage of history and opulence.
Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund
Right at the banks of Shanghai’s popular cityline sits the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund, the brand’s very first namesake hotel in Asia. The hotel is oozing in history, culture, and luxury, offering only the best and the most stylish, that fits the bill of every luxurious vacation.
The two-building complex houses 260 rooms and suites, whose colonial interior matches the dark mahogany furniture. Another nod to its historic charm is the huge canopy bed that occupies the room. It’s a perfect blend of modern pampering and historical glamour.
Waldorf Astoria Club
Connected to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel is the more boutique-type Waldorf Astoria Club, located in the heritage building that was formerly The Shanghai Club in the 1920s. In its time, The Shanghai Club was the most exclusive club in all of the city. And the gentlemen of highest stature would flock to the club for entertainment and drinks.
Until today, one of the most popular drinks in the club is the Waldorf Cream, a concoction served to customers in tea cups. The drink dates back to hundreds of years ago, during the Prohibition Period in the US, when Waldorf Astoria in New York became the go-to place of rich businessmen and politicians. Because alcohol couldn’t be consumed, they turned to these alcoholic concoctions served in tea cups so people would think that they’re only drinking tea.
Three on the Bund
One of the most exclusive and leading epicurean lifestyle destinations in Shanghai is Three on the Bund, home to award-winning restaurants and bars, The Cupola, and Shanghai Gallery of Art. It is also one of the most historic and magnificent buildings in the Bund as it is the former Union Building built by the British in 1916.
Among its prestigious restaurants, The Cupola stands out as its most exclusive and VIP-access only place. The restaurant is named after the building’s architectural style. A cupola is a small dome on a circular or polygonal base, crowning a roof or turret. The place is very intimate and should be reserved up to months in advance.
Dong Liang Studio
As the shopping mecca of China, Shanghai has become home to a wide spectrum of fashion choices and brands, more than the usual signature brands that people typically look for. A growing number of Chinese designers and concept stores are breaking into the high end fashion scene and Changle road is one of the busiest places in Shanghai when it comes to high-end local boutique designers.
To start you off down the various boutiques in the area, go down Fumin Road to get to Dong Liang Studio, an 80-year-old 3-storey lane house that had been converted in 2009 into a fashion house, showcasing pieces from rising and prominent homegrown designers like Uma Wang and Yang Li.
Each designer has a designated space in the house where they can curate a selection of their pieces, giving every visitor an access to an array of styles, moods, and themes.
Looking for a hidden place to chill and loosen up a bit? A popular speakeasy in Shanghai is Speak Low, a 4-floor establishment where each floor offers something different. When you enter Speak Low, you’ll be greeted by a friendly, interesting-looking bookstore. But wait until the sliding bookshelf opens, which leads you to entirely different worlds.
Down the tunnel is an upbeat, fast-serve volume bar, where people can cram themselves for a nice drink and some loud music. The second floor is a more upscale refined setup, where guests can order creations from Japanese ingredients and more rarefied spirits.
Speak Low is also one of the World’s Best 50 Bars, so it’s something truly worth checking out.
For more luxurious travel and destinations, catch Luxe Asia on Metro Channel, channel 52 on Sky Cable and channel 174 on HD. Catch premiere episodes on Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m., and replays throughout the week.