Arriving at The Sofitel Legend People’s Grand Hotel Xian, with its sweeping driveway, art deco styling and staff lined up ready to greet arriving guests, makes you feel like a traveller from days gone by. Surrounded by so many French art deco design touches, it seems as if you are in Europe rather than China, a feeling heightened by the staff’s use the Sofitel’s signature greeting, ‘Bonjour’. The hotel opened in 1953 as a State Guesthouse and is surrounded by gardens that originally belonged to an imperial palace.

The lobby is impressively grand and the 71 rooms and suites convey the same feeling of time and place. We stayed in a grand premium room which had 60 sqm of space with a king size bed and lounge area with a desk. However, my favourite room feature was the marble bathroom which had a deep claw foot tub, separate rain shower, twin sinks and French toiletries by Lanvin. Guests in all room categories receive butler service plus an assortment of added extras including complimentary evening cocktails, free WIFI, complimentary mini bar and bicycle hire. The hotel also has a gym and an attractive swimming pool overlooking the gardens. This is heated during winter but we still found it a little too chilly for swimming.

Lobby

Bathroom with a claw foot bath

Gym and pool area

The daily cocktail hour takes place in the Lobby Lounge, a bar with two small rooms adjoining the lobby, and includes complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, an assortment of hot and cold finger food and a tempting selection of sweet treats. We really enjoyed this relaxing end to the day after we had been touring the city plus it gave us time to enjoy the hotel’s beautiful surrounds. The only negative was it wasn’t always possible for everyone to fit in the small Lobby Lounge and some guests had to retreat to the seats near reception in the lobby with their drinks and nibbles. It is worth arriving on time to get one of the tables for two in the Lobby Lounge if you are travelling as a couple.

Lobby Lounge

Lobby Lounge

Hot canapes

Sweet treats

While the decor throughout the hotel has a decidedly European feel, Chinese design touches and paintings and sculptures are dotted throughout the lobby, rooms and restaurant. There is also a fascinating hotel museum with items collected from its early days as a guesthouse right through to the modern concept art for the remodelling of the hotel. Free tours of the museum are held daily.

Dining is an all Italian affair with signature restaurant Dolce Vita serving a variety of Italian dishes from wood fired pizza to pastas and Italian-inspired mains of steak and seafood. This restaurant is definitely worth a visit, especially if you are getting a little nostalgic for western food as we were after over a week in China. Dolce Vita also doubles as the hotel’s breakfast restaurant and serves an impressive continental buffet. A la carte hot dishes can also be ordered at no extra charge.

Hotel Museum

Dining at Dolce Vita

If you feel like a change from the Lobby Bar, or if you are in town and want somewhere memorable for a drink, the top floor Louis XIII Bar is the place to go. This bar operates in partnership with Remy Martin and includes cognacs and an assortment of fine champagnes, wine and cocktails. This is an area to enjoy the finer things with classic art deco décor and a refined atmosphere. It is apparently also the place to be seen so don’t be surprised if you find yourself sitting next to someone famous.

Louis XIII Bar

Rare cognacs at Louis XIII Bar

The Sofitel Legend People’s Grand Hotel Xian is worth the spend, with elegant surrounds and many complimentary inclusions. It offers a five-star experience that is almost under-priced given the elegance and historical significance of the hotel. It is also located inside the Ming Dynasty city walls in Xian’s historic centre so many sights are within walking distance.

Disclosure: The writer stayed as a guest of The Sofitel Legend People’s Grand Hotel Xian.