The Urbn


The Urbn's Garden Courtyard is hidden from Shanghai's streets

A growing number of world travelers are becoming aware of their carbon footprint and are anxious to find ways to reduce it. The Urbn hotel in Shanghai, the first of a planned chain of carbon-neutral hotels, and China’s first earth-friendly property, offers a luxury eco-experience. So if you have clients who care about saving the planet, reassure them that carbon-neutral does not mean skimping on comfort or style, and that the amount of energy they use at the Urbn will be tracked and neutralized by investment in green energy development.

The Urbn is tucked away on a busy side street in Shanghai’s central Jing-an district, not far from Nanjing Road, which has premium shopping and entertainment, and close to the old European-style French Concession district. Although the neighborhood is low-rise, Shanghai’s skyscrapers line the horizon and so the tall trees in the Urbn’s flag-stoned courtyard, which was buzzing at lunchtime, provide a nice screen.

The four-story building, a former factory, has been restored using reclaimed materials like old tiles and house bricks, glowing mahogany and flagstones retrieved from demolished buildings. The massive redwood door with its stylized Chinese seal leads off the courtyard into the lobby and to the reception desk behind which leather suitcases from the 1920s, stacked ceiling-high, provide a nice heritage touch.

Design and Details

The 23 minimally designed guest rooms, with either courtyard or garden views, have complimentary Wi-Fi, DVD libraries and iPod docking stations. The contemporary and uncluttered design features wooden floors and sunken lounges with inviting wraparound sofas in brown and beige tones. The large flat-screen TV swivels, so it is possible to watch it from the low platform bed or any part of the long sofas.

urban penthouse

Penthouse Suites at the Urbn offer the best city views and huge terraces

A large free-standing stone bathtub is beside the king-size bed. The separate bathroom behind a sliding door has a walk-in closet and a separate stall with a rose-head shower. The toiletries, like all the cleaning products used in the hotel, are environmentally friendly. Tip: The most romantic room is the Garden Suite, which has a small outdoor patio with a Jacuzzi hidden behind wooden louvers.

The two Penthouse Suites (#19 and #24) have the best city views and huge terraces on their upper level, and there is a fireplace, dining table for six and a desk in the large living area on the lower level next to the spacious bedroom. General Manager Nicholas Parkinson-Bates ([email protected], 011-86-1305-2284-723) says the Penthouses can be taken together for families, who can also be accommodated in any of the hotel’s four connecting rooms. He says it is best to book at least two months ahead to ensure the best room type, and even earlier if you have clients who want to stay from May to October next year when Shanghai will host the 2010 World Expo. There are great city views from the top-floor Green Room, a relaxing guests-only lounge accessed by the room key.

The Urbn guest room

Guest rooms feature sunken living areas that include wraparound sofas

Guest Service Manager Emeline Zhao ([email protected], 011-86-21-5153-4610) and the front-desk staff provide such concierge services as setting up tailoring appointments and visits to one of the few artisans left in Shanghai who makes handmade shoes. Zhao can also arrange tours of old buildings, art galleries and antique shops with expert guides, as well as Chinese cooking, tai chi, yoga and Mandarin Chinese lessons, in-room massages, beauty treatments and acupuncture sessions.

It is easy to catch a taxi at the entrance to visit other parts of Shanghai, and the front-desk staff will write out the address in Mandarin for the taxi driver. Tell your clients to keep the slip with the Urbn’s address for their return journey, as taxi drivers in Shanghai may not speak English.

The hotel features 24-hour room service, but we think few will resist the Room-twentyeight restaurant next to the lobby lounge, with its eye-catching array of white ceramic lampshades hanging from the ceiling. The menu is Western and Asian fusion and Franck Krynen ([email protected], 011-86-21-5153-4610) runs the busy open kitchen. Parkinson-Bates says guests also like to try Shanghai’s famous dumplings and dining experiences at nearby restaurants, and recommends Lost Heaven, New Heights, MINT and Coconut Paradise for great Thai cuisine, and M on the Bund for spectacular views of Shanghai’s most famous street.

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