Iconic Art Deco Hotel
In the 1930s, Shanghai gained its reputation as the “Paris of the East”, attracting a diverse array of people with its fusion of Eastern and Western cultures, thriving economy, and bustling nightlife. It was during that time that a new landmark emerged on the Shanghai map, the legendary Cathay Hotel – an inseparable part of the city’s history and an enduring symbol of Shanghai’s grandeur.
The Cathay Hotel gained fame as the most luxurious hotel east of the Suez Canal. Constructed in 1929 by Sir Victor Sassoon, a wealthy British Jew who built a fortune trading opium and guns, the iconic building of the hotel proudly stands at the prominent corner of the Bund and Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s commercial center.
The luxurious walls of the hotel welcomed a wide range of visitors – artists, diplomats, travelers, and celebrities – the elite of the world. Among the guests were some renowned individuals, including Chiang Kai-shek, Edgar Snow, Ernest Hemingway and Charlie Chaplin. It was here that Noël Coward, sick with the flu, wrote his iconic play ‘Private Lives’ in just four days.
With its striking Art Deco façade and distinctive green copper dome, the Cathay Hotel was a world of luxury and cutting-edge amenities. Alongside its in-house telephones, ahead of any European hotel, two elevators, marble baths with silver taps, and a private plumbing system, the hotel also offered a selection of themed suites. Guests could indulge in the opulence of Chinese, Japanese, English and French-inspired interiors.
Despite being bombed during World War II, the hotel resiliently survived and was later reopened in 1956 under the name “The Peace Hotel”. Today, known as The Fairmont Peace Hotel, it stands as a testament to the city’s heydays and endurance, embodying Shanghai’s rich history and timeless charm.
Our tip: The best way to capture the 1930s zeitgeist of the Fairmont Peace Hotel is to visit the hotel’s jazz bar in the evenings (from 6:30pm onwards) where a six-piece jazz band made up of mainly octogenarians can be found playing to a crowd of reminiscent listeners, loyal locals and hotel guests alike, swaying to the swoon-worthy tunes.