By John O’Ceallaigh
In Hong Kong, The Upper House shows that good design doesn’t go out of style. The property opened back in 2009, on the upper levels of a skyscraper in Admiralty, as the inaugural hotel to be designed by André Fu, himself a lifelong resident of the city. I first visited the hotel in 2019, back when I was a luxury-travel editor at a newspaper and so many people in the industry had told me it was their favourite hotel in the city. I returned when Hong Kong finally welcomed tourists back in 2023, as part of a month-long stay that took me to eight or so of the city’s best hotels.
That ‘before times’ visit coincided with Hong Kong’s Art Basel celebrations and I remember the hotel was incredibly buzzy – it’s always been a magnet for financially successful members of the creative industries. Deals were being brokered around me; everyone seemed to be a ‘somebody’. It just felt like a place people really wanted to be, and that’s an alchemy so many properties would love to cultivate but fail to provide.
Hong Kong was notably more subdued when I returned this year – after prohibiting international visitors for so long it was hardly surprising that they ultimately lost interest in the city; European and American holidaymakers simply haven’t come back in any meaningful number – but still the hotel seems to have held onto its vibrancy. A new addition since my previous visit, the 49th-floor Mediterranean restaurant Salisterra and its conjoined cocktail bar were packed from early afternoon to evening. (I didn’t have time to try the food, but managed a sundowner – the cocktail was good, though you’re also coming here for wraparound views of the city. It’s a good date spot.)
But the enduring popularity of The Upper House, which recently secured fourth place in the inaugural World’s 50 Best Hotels Awards list, is curious in some ways. The property is part of the intimate House Collective portfolio (which includes The Middle House in Shanghai, The Opposite House in Beijing, and The Temple House in Chengdu) so doesn’t benefit from embedded brand awareness outside of Asia, plus the hotel lacks some of the basic on-site amenities you’d expect from a top-tier hotel – namely a pool and spa – in what is one of the world’s best cities for luxury hospitality. But they’ve made provisions for this – partnerships with neighbouring properties allow guests to use those pools on a complimentary basis; in-room spa treatments can be arranged – and there are plenty of other standout attributes that tend to win first-time visitors over.
The rooms top that list. At 730 sq ft, the entry-level options are the largest of their kind in the city, and they look the business. As does every other room and suite. Palettes are muted in earthy, oaky tones, with grass-green cushions rooted into the low window sills so guests can gaze at the wondrous views in comfort. These are fairly minimalist, calming places, with rubbish bins obscured from sight and everything just so. I loved the various considerate little touches I discovered during my stay: a tap was installed in every room during the pandemic, so guests could access fresh filtered water directly and sustainably; plenty of charging points are on hand at the bedside; a chic toiletry bag, packed with goodies, is gifted to every guest; wine and champagne aside, all the booze and snacks in the oversized mini bar are complimentary. It was so nice just to reside here, taking in views that stretched from Victoria Harbour across to the landmarks of Central and back to the forested hillsides that frame this city. (The best room in the hotel, by the way, is the André Fu Suite, which also launched during the pandemic; it features a full dining room and private couple’s spa.
Perhaps it’s that cosy, considerate atmosphere that makes a stay here feel so special. It’s something that extends to the standards of service you’ll find throughout the property, and I consistently felt as though the team really believed in going above and beyond expectations when it came to delivering gold-star hospitality.
A case in point: I was due to fly back to Hong Kong and to stay at The Upper House after a 72-hour work visit to Seoul and told the team I would need to stop by my previous Hong Kong hotel on the way over from the airport to collect the luggage I had left in their storage. A short while later I received an email saying they had already arranged to bring it to the hotel for me, saving me that journey. I stay in great hotels all the time, but it’s remarkably rare you experience such spontaneous and thoughtful proactivity.
Rooms at The Upper House start from HK$6,600 (£675) a night, B&B.
If you’re looking to book a stay at The Upper House or other luxury hotels in Hong Kong and beyond, LUTE can provide additional privileges and benefits to enhance your holiday (think upgrades, complimentary dining credits, and more), at the best-available room rate. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to make a booking.
LUTE is a luxury-travel consultant and content agency that works with hotel groups, tour operators, tourist boards, airlines and more. You can learn more about LUTE here. For frequent luxury-travel updates, follow LUTE and LUTE founder John O’Ceallaigh on Instagram.