Shanghai’s central business district is bursting with new hotels, but in the city’s former French Concession — an idyllic if not-quite-authentic slice of Paris in the Paris of the East — the new Twelve at Hengshan joins just a handful of others. What sets the elliptical, red-brick, 171-room hotel apart?
1. Thirty-nine signature cocktails. These expertly mixed drinks, exclusive to the Luxury Collection, are available in the Art Deco-inspired lobby lounge and on the serene terrace. The best of the lot is the brand-new Mandarin Sidebar, an only-in-China concoction that features fierce Sichuan pepper.
2. A secret garden. OK, so it’s only secret to passersby, but the garden around which the hotel is wrapped is a little piece of heaven in one of China’s most bustling and sometimes overwhelming cities. Half the rooms have balconies overlooking that garden, in which you can sit among the cherry blossoms and meditate to a soothing fountain and trickling little streams.
3. One of Starwood’s biggest spas. As you do in the New China, Sen Spa blends East and West to cater to weary travelers who need their knots untied. Sweat out Shanghai’s grime in the sauna and steam rooms, then cool down by the ice fountain or take a dip in the underground, skylight-lit pool.
4. Imported, Italian bricks. You know you’re staying in a house of luxury when the façade is from Italy. To build Twelve at Hengshan, Italian architect Mario Botta, whose work includes the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, brought in more than 20,000 terracotta bricks. Not only do they look good, the bricks insulate efficiently and are environmentally friendly.
5. Subway proximity. Shanghai’s Metro is expansive, inexpensive and extremely easy to use. The hotel is practically next door to the entrance of Metro line 1, which runs south from Xujiahui across town to People’s Square and then north to the older railway station. Zip around town all day and then take the two-minute stroll to the haven that is Twelve at Hengshan.
Photo Courtesy of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc.