2018 is shaping up to be a great year for tourism into China, including some hot new hotel openings. We at Imperial Tours have been very lucky to have witnessed the quality of service and facilities in China improve over the past decade into what they are now. However, it is not just the quality of service and luxury that is so surprising about China, there is incredible value as well. (On a square foot basis, China’s top hotels are about a quarter the price of their western peers.) And what’s even more amazing about this, is that in a market which is already unmatched in value, we are witnessing an influx of new luxury properties aiming to become the new #1. We’re talking Bulgari & Swire’s Middle House in Shanghai and the Mandarin Oriental in Beijing – no slouches.
This spring we are recapping 9 game-changing hotels that have either opened this past winter, or that will open in 2018. From renovated historic mansions, to Italian-styled skyscrapers, these new properties offer both quality and value for visitors to this dynamic, fast-paced country.
1. Amanyangyun | Shanghai
We begin our list with the highly anticipated Amanyangyun. Over 15 years in the making, this beautiful heritage property was born from the vision of a successful, young real estate entrepreneur to preserve his home village from destruction. In 2002 a plan was conceived to relocate ancient village mansions and a camphor forest from his hometown in rural Fuzhou to Shanghai 700km away. Once in their new home the labor-intensive process of reassembling these century old villas, brick-by-brick, began. Today guests have the choice of staying in one of 13 exquisite Antique Villas – like the Imperial Palace, except nicer – contemporary pavilions set within the outer wall of an Antique Villa’s courtyard or in one of 24 contemporary suites. With three restaurants, two swimming pools and a fabulous cultural center, the Amanyangyun is an extravagant delight in Shanghai’s southern suburbs.
2. Middle House | Shanghai
The fourth addition to Swire’s top line House Collection of modern, stylish small hotels, Shanghai’s Middle House combines 111 rooms with a smattering of residential apartments for hotel use in Shanghai’s central Jingan Temple area. Combining both global and contemporary Shanghainese vibes in its cutting edge design, Middle House combines bold artistic gestures for example its asymmetrical designed lobby, with an elegant and restrained sensitivity to create spaces that are at once thought-provoking, fun and comfortable. The uniqueness of design is further reflected in the structural design of the dining, bar and seating areas of the hotel’s breakfast and all-day dining restaurant, Café Grey, providing a glimpse of how hotel public spaces will be used in the future. The hotel also features both Chinese and Italian restaurants, outdoor terraces and a private members social club, providing guests with plenty of options for entertainment.
3. BVLGARI | Shanghai
Featuring 82 rooms and suites on the upper eight floors of a 40 story skyscraper, the BVLGARI Hotel Group’s newest property is getting ready to make its debut. Located in the Hongkou district of Shanghai, which has benefited in recent years from extensive gentrification, the Bulgari Shanghai provides spectacular views of the Yangzi River and is only a short walk from the famous Bund and Nanjing Road. Like its sister property in Beijing, the Bulgari Shanghai has been designed by Antonio Citterio, originally a furniture designer, featuring a tan-based color palette with a focus on tremendous residential luxury – this is the fashionable Milanese pad you’ve always dreamed of owning. Although the interiors of the Bulgari Shanghai are slightly darker than those in Beijing, the properties are so similar they will foster a strong brand identity and following amongst both Chinese and international travellers. As well as being exquisitely designed, the room views to both the Suzhou Creek embankments to the west and the British settlement in the south are both beautiful. Finally, we cannot go without mentioning our excitement for the opening of the distinctive Bulgari Bar and accompanying rooftop Italian restaurant, which are sure to provide guests with a one-of-kind dining experience.
4. Bellagio | Shanghai
Setting roots in the same Hongkou district as the Bulgari Shanghai, the Bellagio Shanghai is a 10 story building offering 162 capacious and comfortable rooms and suites a short walk from the Shanghai Bund. Bellagio have cleverly located many of its public spaces in the south east corner of the property which offer wonderful vistas showcasing the Yangzi River, the Suzhou Creek embankment, with the Russian consulate in the distance, and the British settlement across the river. The all-day dining, Julian Serrano’s Italian restaurant Lago and the spa are all located in this section of the building on different floors. And it would be remiss no to mention the glass-walled sauna offering the same view. In this way, if you are booked into a river racing room, you are repeatedly reminded of the magnificent view as your move through the property. The Bellagio’s modern interpretation of the Art Deco style echoes the design of the early twentieth century heritage building, which is connected through the main lobby, and houses the hotel’s Chinese restaurant where guests can savour renowned classics like Peking Duck. Thanks to the Bellagio Shanghai’s local Chinese partner Diaoyutai, the group running the State Guest House in Beijing, this restaurant will be adopted quickly by Chinese clients for elaborate banquet meals.
5. Alila | Yangshuo
Alila have successfully concluded an ambitious project, converting an old sugar mill cradled by limestone pinnacles in a curve of the Li River Yangshuo, for use as a hotel. The artistic framing of the central public area, particularly of the sunken pool overlooking the Li River and scenery beyond is spell-binding and speaks to the aesthetic core of this originally Indonesian hotel group. The 117 rooms, suites and villas are accommodated mostly in tastefully furnished new buildings that sensitively echo the style of the 1960’s sugar refinery.
6. Mandarin Oriental | Beijing
The highly anticipated and long-awaited Hutong based Mandarin Oriental is currently set to open in September 2018 in Wangfujing, the heart China’s capital city, near the famous Tiananmen Square. Situated in the traditional Hutong quarter of the city, guest will be able to glimpse ancient Beijing architecture dating back to the 13th century. Nestled amongst courtyard homes, local boutiques and narrow alleyways the Mandarin Oriental will feature a traditional tea lounge, multiple food and beverage outlets, an indoor swimming pool and a rooftop terrace where guests can look out over the city.
7. BVLGARI | Beijing
What’s most surprising about the 119 room Bulgari Beijing is how successful it has been in regenerating the canal by which it stands and how much this has added to the property. The owner did such a terrific job of cleaning up the waterway and its once dilapidated banks that the Bulgari’s unexpected strengths now include its scenic location by the canal’s crystal blue waters and its magnificent views over Beijing’s verdant embassy district. Like the Shanghai Bulgari this property focuses on residential excellence and fine Italian design. The style bespeaks comfort, quality and simplicity. The bar is fun and the Italian restaurant by Niko Romito offers delightful Italian cuisine. There is no fussiness here – as a guest, you just relax and savor it all.
8. Peninsula | Beijing
Although the Peninsula Beijing reopened its doors in the spring of 2017, we have saved space for it on this list because, at the end of the last year, it rebranded itself as an all-suite hotel. (Click here to see our full review of this hotel from last fall.) It is important to note that the smallest suite at this all-suite hotel is a generous 600 square feet (60 square meters) and features a sitting room, bedroom, a separate dressing area and of course a beautiful marble-tiled bathroom.
9. Park Hyatt | Beijing
We conclude with the extensive recent renovation of the Park Hyatt Beijing in time for its tenth anniversary in October this year. The browns and creams of the originally handsome Peter Remedios design have been softened with a variety of pastels and enhanced with a greater range of textiles and fabrics. This lighter colour palette works well with the open bathroom concept to create a seamless residential space. Over the course of the year, the lobby and dining area with great views over the heart of Beijing’s business district will also be freshened. With all these new facilities, there still remains the particular panache of Park Hyatt’s great service. They really know what they are doing. During our visit, we were delighted to catch up with legendary Hyatt culinary leader Jack Aw Yeong, whose role is now limited to being the Executive Chef at this property, a formidable guarantee of excellence.
With that we circle back to our original statement of how excited we are to welcome these new hotels to an already amazing line up of hotel in China already – each with a unique perspective and style. One could even say visitors to China are as spoiled by the available choices as they are by the incredible value for this level of luxury.