Shanghai Hotel

Grand Hyatt at the Jin Mao Tower

If you expect traditional Chinese architecture in Shanghai, you're in for a surprise. A collection of contemporary buildings and geometric skyscrapers towers over more conventional structures, making the city feel like a combination of Hong Kong, Singapore, Chicago, and Dallas. But no building has prompted more wows than the 88-story, Art Deco-inspired Jin Mao Tower (designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill), the tallest building in China and the third tallest in the world. And the hotel inside, the Grand Hyatt, which opened in March, 1999, is similarly spectacular. Shanghai, simply put, has never seen anything like it.

Beginning on the 53rd floor (and extending to the 87th), this Hyatt is the highest hotel in the world, with dazzling views of the city's colonial buildings and the skyscrapers rising over the Hwang Pu River. Every one of the public rooms is a showplace of spectacular features—a combination of modern Art Deco and Chinese decorative arts expressed in gold, marble, intense colors, and theatrical lighting. And there are so many of these spaces—12 high-concept restaurants and bars—all with glass walls to highlight the view. It's no wonder that Shanghai residents come in droves every night.

For guests, that's both a plus and a minus—a plus if you like being in the center of the action, a minus if you've had a hard day and want some peace and quiet. The pace is generally Grand Central rush-hour here. The service can also be a bit chilly, an attitude curiously in line with cutting-edge hotels everywhere. And the still sparsely settled financial district location can feel isolated. But staying here gives you a dramatic dose of the new Shanghai. Book your room on the Regency Club floors to avoid the mobbed check-in lobby. To maximize the experience in the surprisingly soothing brown-toned rooms, get one of the corner 15 series rooms on floors 60 to 65—the bed is facing the floor-to-ceiling windowed walls and Shanghai is literally at your feet. $175-$4,395. 88 Century Boulevard, Pudong, Shanghai 86-21-5049 1234; 800-233-1234;