Sky-High Expectations: A Review of the Park Hyatt Shanghai
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On a recent trip to Bali, Indonesia, I decided to book a long stopover in Shanghai rather than endure 24 straight hours of travel. After 15 hours on a plane, it was good to break up the trip, and besides, what’s the fun in being in a new place if you never leave the airport?
I gravitate toward hotels that offer #views or attractive interiors. I wouldn’t pick a subpar hotel just because of how it looks, but it’s definitely a starting point for me. What drew me this time was that I discovered that the second-highest hotel in the world is the Park Hyatt Shanghai. The building itself is not the tallest and is not exclusively a hotel, but the hotel is the third-highest when measured by what floors it’s on, the 79th to the 93rd. I was sold on the potential for views and booked it.
Typically you can find solid deals on luxury hotels in China (at least for US standards), and the Park Hyatt Shanghai was no exception to this. As a Category 5 property in the World of Hyatt program, a free night runs 20,000 points per night. And, since Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to the World of Hyatt program at a 1:1 ratio, it’s easy to get the points you need for a “free” hotel stay with Hyatt. In fact, with this property and other Category 5’s, you can earn three free nights just for signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. Plus earn a $50 statement credit on grocery purchases in the first year of account opening.
Related: The 7 Best Starter Credit Cards
However, for this stay, since the cash rates were solid and I wasn’t pursuing any status with Hyatt, we paid a total of $510 for my two-night stay with a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which earns 10x miles per dollar spent on hotel reservations when booked through the special link at hotels.com/venture. You can also stack this with Hotels.com Rewards, which awards one free night per every 10 paid nights. Since the free night is based on the average price of the 10 nights, when stacked with the 10x miles from the Venture Rewards, it effectively gives us a 20% return on this reservation. That’s one of the very best credit card returns you can get when spending cash on hotels.
The Park Hyatt Shanghai is in the Shanghai World Financial Center. You can easily spot the building within the city’s skyline — just look for the one that looks like a giant bottle opener. The Shanghai World Financial Center is the 10th-tallest building in the world but doesn’t stand out because it’s right next to the Shanghai Tower, the second-tallest building in the world.
In the Pudong section of the city, the Shanghai World Financial Center is part of — you guessed it — the Financial District. From a tourist’s perspective, you probably won’t need more than one day to explore this area. For a business traveler, this is where you’ll want to stay.
The Huang Pu River separates Puxi and Pudong — the old and the new. Filled with skyscrapers built in the last 30 years, Pudong is the new. The Shanghai World Financial Center opened its doors in 2008.
I spent most of my time across the river exploring the Puxi, the historic heart of the city.
I arrived at the hotel from the airport around 10pm after hopping in a DiDi (China’s version of Uber). There was a special side entrance for hotel guests, and I took the elevator to the lobby on the 87th floor. There wasn’t a line, and I was quickly taken care of. The workers behind the desk spoke English pretty well, and check-in went smoothly.
This was my first time staying at a Park Hyatt, and I was instantly impressed. The room was large, with a simplistic yet modern feel.
There was plenty of space, and the large windows filled the room with light.
The bed was comfortable, which is definitely important when you’re jet-lagged and 12 hours ahead of your usual time zone.
There was a lounge chair by the window, across from a curved desk.
A long hallway was lined with multiple closets — definitely more closet space than l have in my New York City apartment.
Off the hall, there was a spacious bathroom with a shower, tub and a double sink with a vanity mirror.
The bathroom mirror provided the perfect amount of lighting to do my makeup. I watched the tiny TV built into the mirror as I got ready to explore the city.
Since you couldn’t drink the tap water in China, the hotel provided two bottles of water on the marble sink.
The bountiful amenities included two toothbrushes, a shower cap, mouthwash, a shaving kit, an emery board and more. I used a toothbrush because I was too lazy to dig through my bag for mine when I arrived. The next day, the housekeepers replenished any amenity I used, including the toothbrush.
Under the sink were additional towels, slippers and a scale to remind you to not eat too many dumplings (if that’s possible).
The tub and shower were sectioned off from the rest of the bathroom by a glass door.
The shower had both a handheld shower head and a rainfall shower on the ceiling — definitely passing the TPG shower test.
The Natura Bisse shampoo, conditioner and body wash were scented with rosemary and white tea.
Alongside the tub was a container with soap, bath salts and an exfoliating washcloth.
The toilet was in a completely separate room at the end of the hallway.
Asian countries are known for their toilets — at two extremes. In the older areas of Shanghai, many restaurants and public restrooms had squat toilets, basically holes in the ground. Using one of those was an experience. You could also find the fanciest toilets you’ll ever come across. The Park Hyatt Shanghai had over-the-top, high-tech toilets.
When you walked in the room, the toilet seat lifted up automatically.
Just look at the controls for the toilet. It. Was. An. Experience.
Back in the main room, the minifridge was stocked.
There were also snacks for purchase — chocolate-covered wafers, cashews and cheese biscuits.
The Nespresso machine was my best friend. Shanghai was the first stop on my Asian adventure, and I needed caffeine to combat the jet lag.
As I mentioned earlier, there was voluminous closet space throughout the room. In addition to these three large closets in the hallway, there was additional storage space in the bathroom and across from the bed.
Laundry service was available, along with complimentary shoe-polishing service. I didn’t need to use either.
There was a safe, jewelry organizer and flashlight in one of the cabinets.
On the bottom shelf, there was an iron and two masks to be used when escaping a fire. I had never seen anything like that in a hotel room… or anywhere actually.
Next to the bed were controls for the lights and the window shades. It took me a while to figure out how to use them.
The hotel provided power strips compatible with American plugs — a service I loved.
As amazing as it looks, I actually was disappointed with the view from my room on the 81st floor. I’m not being a brat — it’s just that the view from the other side of the building is a knockout. I definitely suggest requesting a room with a view of the Bund in advance, or at least at check-in.
Food and Beverage
Since I arrived from the airport late in the evening, I decided to order room service before heading to bed. I ordered xiao long bao, aka soup dumplings. I’ve had them many times in New York, so I was excited to have authentic ones in Shanghai. They were great.
I also ordered wonton soup, which looked and tasted different from what I’ve had in Chinese restaurants at home but was so delicious! The total room-service charge for the dumplings and the wonton soup came out to 235 yuan ($35).
The next morning, I headed up to the 91st floor for the breakfast buffet, which cost about $50. I was greeted at the entrance with a wake-up shot of pineapple and passion fruit juice.
I grabbed a seat by the window, which had the amazing view I had hoped to have from my room. I made myself a plate of meats and cheese, the perfect way to start any day.
I sat across from a bright and inviting bar, which I’m guessing was popular in the evening.
The buffet selection was impressive. Talk about fresh — honey straight from the honeycomb!
One section had all your American breakfast essentials: bacon, sausage, hash browns and a station where you could get eggs cooked to your liking.
Gotta love a good meat selection. I stopped by here a couple of times.
And, of course, can’t forget the cheese.
Fruit and freshly squeezed fruit juices were displayed over ice. I loved the watermelon juice.
There were plenty of healthy options, like a variety of yogurts and other treats.
My favorite thing about breakfast in China was that it could be foods like fried rice, steamed dumplings and noodles. It made me feel a lot better about all the times I’ve had cold Chinese leftovers for breakfast back home.
On my last night in Shanghai, I closed out the evening with a drink at The Living Room, on the lobby floor. I ordered a mojito and snacked on complimentary nuts. The mojito was OK — as OK as you would expect a mojito in China to be. But wasn’t here for the drinks. I was here for the view.
I mean, look at this! The view alone on this side of the hotel is enough of a reason to book your stay at the Park Hyatt Shanghai.
I sipped my drink while watching the light displays on the buildings across the river and taking in the spectacular views of the Jin Mao Tower and the iconic Oriental Pearl TV Tower.
The Shanghai World Financial Center has observation floors on the 97th and 100th floors — about a dozen floors higher than the hotel lobby. The building is a popular tourist attraction, but I was able to soak in the views from the comfort of the hotel lounge.
On my third and last day in Shanghai, I decided to have my first meal that was not traditional Chinese food. I ate lunch at The Dining Room, which offered a two- or three-course prix fixe. Two courses cost 290 yuan ($40).
First came the warm bread, fluffy, doughy and delicious. I ordered a bottle of Tsingtao beer, which cost about $8.
For an appetizer, I had the king crab with gremolata with an orange blossom emulsion, a fennel-and-citrus cannelloni and a sprinkle orange powder. I didn’t know what half of those words meant, but it was tasty.
For my main course, I had the thyme-smoked lamb chop and creamy, truffled polenta with roasted garlic, confit tomato and lemon and lamb jus. This was an additional $26 on top of the original prix fixe. For the majority of my meals in Shanghai, I ate dirt-cheap local food and street eats, so I didn’t mind splurging a bit on my last meal. This tasted as good as it looked.
I have had bad luck when reviewing hotels. Something is always closed or under renovation. This time, the gym was under construction, but there was a temporary gym area available for guests. I also had the option to use the gym at the Grand Hyatt nearby.
The makeshift gym worked fine for me.
For the first time ever during a review, I used the gym instead of just popping in to snap a photo. I enjoyed the view from the treadmill, and it made working out feel like less of a chore.
There were plenty of water bottles and towels.
It was a pretty decent gym, so I would have loved to see the usual one.
Next, I headed to the pool. I didn’t go for a dip, but I there was a long infinity pool next to a Jacuzzi surrounded by sculptures.
It was a perfect spot to relax. I didn’t see anyone use the pool either of the two times I passed by.
There were lounge beds lined up against the windows, which offered the same views as my room.
If you love a good view, you cannot go wrong at the Park Hyatt Shanghai. Even if you get stuck on the “bad” side, as I did, you can still enjoy the dazzling panorama toward the Bund while enjoying breakfast or sipping on a cocktail.
The room was clean, modern and high-tech. The service was decent, and the staff was relatively easy to communicate with. Overall, I enjoyed my stay, but if I ever find myself in Shanghai again, I would stay in the older part of the city on the other side of the river. The Financial District is probably more appropriate for a business traveler. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the culture, consider staying in Puxi rather than Pudong.
Danielle Vito contributed to this story. All photos are courtesy of her.
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