This hotel at the corner of the Bund and Nanjing Dong Lu is among Shanghai's most treasured buildings. If any establishment will give you a sense of Shanghai's past, it's this one. Its high ceilings, ornate woodwork, and streamlined fixtures are still intact. Following a renovation in 2010, the hotel reopened as the Fairmont Peace Hotel, with the jazz bar, tea lounge, restaurant, shopping arcade, and ballroom all restored to their original glory, evoking old Shanghai cabarets and galas. On the mezzanine level is a small but fascinating gallery chronicling the hotel's past.
The south building, formerly the Palace Hotel (and now the Swatch Art Peace Hotel), was built in 1906. The north building, once the Cathay Hotel, built in 1929, is more famous. It was known as the private playroom of its owner, Victor Sassoon, a wealthy landowner who invested in the opium trade. Sassoon lived and entertained his guests in the copper penthouse. The hotel was rated on a par with the likes of Raffles in Singapore and the Peninsula in Hong Kong. It was the place to stay, see, and be seen in old Shanghai. Noël Coward wrote Private Lives here.