A 23-hour layover in Shanghai would punctuate my relentless round-the-world trip with Aeroplan on the journey between Kazakhstan and Australia, and I had chosen the W Shanghai The Bund among the city’s abundance of Marriott properties for my one-night hotel stay.
I must say that I have something of a collector’s spirit when it comes to W hotels, and I do enjoy checking out their portfolio of properties around the world thanks to their renowned penchant for pizzazz and panache, even if that does come at the cost of some of the more traditional elements of a hotel stay.
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W Shanghai The Bund – Location & Arrival
I had heard that the Shanghai location was one of the brand’s finest, so I had no qualms booking the night for the lowest cash rate of 1,150 RMB ($220), which was far better value than paying 50,000 Bonvoy points at the standard rate for the Category 6 property.
As the name implies, the W is located near the Bund, Shanghai’s famous waterfront walkway on the Huangpu River and by far the poshest part of town, home to dozens of upscale hotels on both riverbanks. The W is perched at the northern end of the Bund, somewhat away from the heart of the action and separated from the waterfront itself by a few urban thoroughfares.
Oddly, the hotel doesn’t seem to show up on Google Maps at all – I had to input the actual street address (66 Lvshun Road) in order to locate it.
The 30-minute taxi ride from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport cost me about 130 RMB ($25), and I was dropped off immediately at the hotel’s entrance. The hotel’s exterior is pretty sterile for a W, keeping a low-profile camouflage among a complex of office buildings.
A few hotel associates helped me with my luggage and guided me towards the first set of elevators, which would bring me up to the 4th-floor lobby.
There’s also a colourful W sign here, sitting underneath an impressive suspended light display consisting of Shanghai street names, landmarks, and imagery.
(By the way, the bellhops who greeted me must’ve been the most casually-dressed bellhops I’ve ever met – they were basically wearing gym clothes and sneakers, making an instant first impression about the kind of hotel you’ve arrived at. I can definitely see how the W isn’t for everyone!)
The hotel lobby is situated on the fourth floor. It’s spacious and open-air while filled to the brim with quirky artwork and furniture, reminding me a lot of my experience at the W Dubai The Palm.
W Shanghai The Bund – Check-in
A check-in associate, Juliet, was available to help me immediately, confirming the Suite Night Award I had used to upgrade to the Fantastic Bund View Suite as well as a laundry list of benefits as a Titanium Elite member.
Although I was entitled to complimentary breakfast at the hotel, I would be departing the next morning before breakfast began at 6:30am. I therefore asked if I could get a breakfast box delivered to my room instead, and Juliet duly obliged.
I was also handed a set of two complimentary drink vouchers that could be redeemed at the Woobar, although unfortunately I never ended up making use of these.
While Juliet was very chatty and friendly, she did happen to forget multiple key items throughout the check-in process, such as giving me my room keys (those are kind of important) and also returning my passport to me (which neither of us realized until later, when she had to come up to my room and return it apologetically).
I was happy to laugh it off in good spirits, but she did seem quite flustered by this, and assured me that it’s not a usual day at the office for her!
The guest rooms are accessed via a separate set of elevators across a catwalk overlooking the first-floor lobby, giving you a chance to view the hotel’s central neon light display from above.
I took the elevators up to the 21st floor. The guest room hallways are decked out in outlandish bright colours with a few touches of Chinese design elements thrown in there; while it was nowhere near my favourite look, I certainly do prefer it to the pitch-black hallways that some other Ws around the world choose to employ.
W Shanghai The Bund – Fantastic Bund View Suite
Entering the Fantastic Bund View Suite for the first time made for quite the experience. First impressions? Well, I’ve never seen a hotel room so… red.
The living room has enough seating for about 10 people, made up of an extended couch, several chairs, and additional mattress pads along the floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as a wall-mounted widescreen television that can be rotated for easy viewing.
All of this is set against a brazen bright-red backdrop, which also houses the pantry and minibar.
Then there’s the desk, which, if I’m being honest, wasn’t very comfortable of a workspace at all. I didn’t like the funky shape of the surface, and the chair was quite stiff and didn’t move around easily.
We’ll continue into the bedroom, where the king-sized bed is adorned with a rather hilarious set of pillows in the shape of chopsticks and a xiaolongbao or soup dumpling, a Shanghai specialty. A few more seating choices occupy the space, as well as a widescreen television mirroring that in the living room.
Continuing around the corner, we arrive at the master bathroom. W Hotels are notorious for the fact that their bathrooms often lack privacy, and this was one was no exception, with no doors separating the bathroom from either the living room or the bedroom.
On the plus side, I did think the bathroom was masterfully designed in keeping with the W’s usual standards, the bathtub in particular acting as an impressive centrepiece. The toilet and shower were housed in their own separate compartments, the latter also consisting of a bench, a favourite shower feature of mine.
The master bathroom is connected to the foyer by a walk-through closet, which at least does have a sliding door to give you some degree of privacy if it’s required.
Finally, there’s a small half-bath near the entrance as well, which has just enough room for doing the business and washing your hands.
I spent a few minutes upon arriving in the room sitting by the windows and admiring the killer views of the Bund, including the Oriental Pearl right opposite us. I have fond memories of going to the very top of the building when I was younger, although that must’ve been at least a decade ago now.
I also loved the fact that the room was stocked with White Rabbit candy, which is a total “blast from the past” for anyone who either grew up in Asia or had Chinese candy lying around the house as a kid. If you know, you know…
W Shanghai The Bund – W Eats
Finally, one feature that I was quite impressed with was the W Eats feature here at the W Shanghai The Bund, which allows you to order delivery straight to your room via the WeChat app. For lunch, I ended up ordering a portion of Korean chicken wings, which came delivered in a cute W Eats basket.
Note that the payment is taken via the WeChat app rather than billed to your room like a traditional in-room dining service, so you do sacrifice earning the Marriott Bonvoy points on your purchase in exchange for the convenience. 😉
W Shanghai The Bund – Pool & Gym
The main reason I was in Shanghai was to meet an old friend later on in the evening, so I had a free schedule until then. After lunch, I managed to get some work done despite my rather lacklustre workspace, and after that I decided to hit the gym and pool, or as its known in the local lingo, FIT and WET respectively.
FIT and WET are also accessed via the catwalk leading from the 4th-floor lobby; instead of turning right towards the guest room elevators, you turn left to access the gym, pool, and spa facilities.
Given the hotel’s lifestyle emphasis, the gyms at W hotels are usually very well-appointed. This one lived up to those high standards, featuring separate areas for barbells, free weights, cardio and exercise equipment, and an aerobics space.
There was even a separate room for spin classes, and it was the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that at a hotel, although it makes perfect sense that it’d be at a W.
The indoor and outdoor pools were equally impressive. I decided to take a quick dip in the indoor pool and swim a few laps, but mostly spent my time relaxing in the heated whirlpool instead.
Meanwhile, outdoor pools are somewhat rare in China given the pollution, but the W Shanghai pulls it off very well, treating you to some unparalleled views of the Bund. While the pool was closed for the season, there were quite a few guests – hotel patrons and Shanghai locals alike – enjoying food or drinks on the outdoor patio while taking in the views.
I imagine it would quite a pleasure to hang out here on a warmer summer day, especially if you can snag one of the poolside cabanas.
After working out and going for a swim, I dropped by the hotel’s lobby lounge to check it out. In addition to the seemingly endless wealth of oddball furniture, there’s also the Woobar, the W’s signature brightly-lit bar and lounge that got rather rowdy in the evenings.
W Shanghai The Bund – Elite Happy Hour
Another drinking establishment here at the W is Liquid at Yen on the 6th floor (“Liquid” being the name of the bar, within the restaurant known as “YEN”), which hosts the hotel’s WIP happy hour for elite members every evening from 6–8pm. I popped into the happy hour just as it started, hoping to try a few drinks and bites before heading out for dinner.
Liquid is a dimly-lit venue in the mould of a 1920s Shanghai speakeasy, and just like many other parts of the hotel, offers some killer views of the Oriental Pearl.
As part of the happy hour, I could basically order any drinks I wanted off the menu, and I had a vodka orange to kickstart my evening.
The food spread was pretty bare-bones, though, consisting only of three types of bite-sized finger foods, so it was by no means a dinner replacement unless you wanted to repeatedly go back for dozens of portions.
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I returned to the hotel pretty late at night, giving me only a few hours of sleep before having to wake up and head to the airport. Upon returning to my room, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a few extra goodies – a bottle of wine, a mini-cheesecake, and a little ornament of the playful dog that’s somewhat synonymous with the W brand – had been delivered to my room, along with a hand-written note from Juliet apologizing for her slip-ups earlier!
It was a shame that I had already had too much to drink at that point, and would also be leaving early in the morning, so I couldn’t take advantage of the wine. However, I did manage to munch on the cheesecake when I woke up in the morning, along with the breakfast box and cappuccino that I had asked to be delivered to my room before my departure.
After polishing off the food and sobering up a little, I packed up the last of my belongings and bid farewell to my vivacious Fantastic Bund View Suite, and my all-too-short stay here at the W Shanghai The Bund was concluded with a 40-minute taxi ride over to Shanghai Pudong International Airport for my morning departure to Singapore.
The W Shanghai The Bund and its memorable Fantastic Suite fit my needs perfectly for a 23-hour layover. I liked the hotel’s electrifying decor and sweeping views of the Bund, enjoyed a few rejuvenating hours at the fitness and pool facilities, and found the elite treatment to be quite generous (although I do wish I had the chance to sample the breakfast buffet, which is almost always superb at a W hotel).
My only complaint – the uncomfortable working space in my suite – would relate more to the overall W brand itself rather than this specific hotel, and therefore I’d probably only recommend this hotel for a shorter stay of one or two nights, as an extended stay might’ve brought some of these practical shortcomings into sharper focus.
Overall, given the abundance of other hotels in Shanghai (many of which are either more luxurious in the traditional sense or more affordable), I think I’d be more inclined to try another property the next time I’m in Shanghai, but I’m definitely happy to have tried out the W and wouldn’t be opposed to returning if another overnight long layover were on the cards someday.