Capella Shanghai, Jian Ye Li

A preserved piece of Shanghai’s history

One of the most charming aspects of Shanghai is its laneway life, the hidden maze of lilongs, to use the local parlance, that jumble beyond the new highways and skyscrapers that shape the city’s modern face.

These lanes, populated with rows of narrow, low-rise housing, are a record of an earlier boom in Shanghai’s history, starting around 150 years ago. At that time, Shanghai was a magnet for international populations due to the concessions forced upon the local government by foreign powers.

Capella Shanghai, Jian Ye Li is a reconstruction and update of a real-life lane called Jian Ye Li. Built in the famous shikumen, or “stone gate” style, Jian Ye Li’s European-looking terrace houses were enclosed in high-brick walls. Once, as much as 60 percent of Shanghai’s housing stock was built in this style, but it’s legacy is disappearing. A stay at Capella Shanghai is a chance to enjoy a bygone era, in the middle of a modern city.

Our Inspector's Highlights

  • What makes Capella Shanghai, Jian Ye Li unique in the sphere of Shanghai luxury hotels is it has preserved the shikumen way of life — with some modern updates, of course. While the original structure of the Jian Ye Li lane compound remains, today villas take up residence within its walls.
  • An iron tower jutting from the center of the property plays host to a stunning light display in the evening. It was once a water tower that supplied the whole laneway’s needs, but now connects the property to satellite television.
  • Pierre Gagnaire, one of the world’s most lauded chefs, debuted his first culinary concept for mainland China at Capella Shanghai, Jian Ye Li. The 50-seat restaurant Le Comptoir de Pierre Gagnaire showcases his brand of French cuisine in a sophisticated but not stuffy atmosphere.
  • “Capella culturists” are available to tailor a stay, organize tours — by foot or bike — or set up dumpling cooking classes or a tea ceremony. The culturists available at the push of a button from the villa’s phones.
  • Named after the constellation whose brightest star is Capella, Auriga Spa offers a wellness philosophy based on the phases of the moon. The most popular treatments are the traditional Chinese therapies, a nice complement to the authentically local experience of staying in a Shanghai shikumen.

Things to Know

  • The hotel has been a favorite with locals for a staycation, especially those who wish to experience the old shikumen lifestyle that may have been the norm for their parents or grandparents.
  • As with traditional lane houses in Shanghai, the narrow villas necessitate steps from floor to floor. Those happy to climb them are rewarded, with the top floor of each villa opening out onto a little balcony, some of which have great views of the iron tower’s evening light show.

The Rooms

  • Each villa at Capella Shanghai, Jian Ye Li is actually one of the original houses in the laneway. There are three types of villas — one-, two- and three-bedroom options — measuring from 1,195 to 3,283 square feet.
  • The interiors of each villa, designer by Jaya Ibrahim, carefully echo the shikumen history by incorporating a mix of Chinese and European design elements, like silk wallpapers, wood-framed windows and high ceilings.
  • A mezzanine floor in each villa houses an intimate tea room or TV room, complete with a mini-bar (from which soft drinks are free) and a comfortable Chinese-style kang sofa-bed hybrid where you can curl up with a drink and a good book.
  • Each bathroom features a tub by a traditionally iron-framed window, many of them overlooking the lanes of Capella Shanghai, Jian Ye Li and more. They also come stocked with Diptyque products.
  • Specialty bath products, robes, slippers and toothbrushes are supplied for children staying at the Shanghai hotel.

The Neighborhood

  • The surrounding Heng-Fu Landscape Area has long been a popular destination for expats in Shanghai to make their home. They are drawn to the unique European and art deco architecture and leafy streets lined not only laneways of old houses, but also fashionable boutiques and an increasingly cosmopolitan array of cafés and restaurants.
  • One major advantage of the area is its walkability. Shanghai’s flat terrain and concentration of historic and cultural sites in this area makes the luxury hotel a great place to set off for a wander.
  • The nearby neighborhood of Tianzifang is also built into a warren of laneways and has been overtaken in recent years by food vendors and stores stocking a wide variety of souvenirs and design-oriented trinkets. It’s a must-visit during the week; when weekend crowds descend on the narrow laneways, it makes navigation difficult.

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480 West Jianguo Road Xuhui District, Shanghai, 200031 China
NeighborhoodFrench Concession
PVG (50 min)   SHA (35 min)  
Capella Shanghai, Jian Ye Li
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