From imperial architecture to whimsical luxury, Beijing’s best upscale hotels will accommodate you in style. By Daniel McCrohan.
Modern Beijing is unrecognisable from the Silk Road city that Venetian merchant-traveller Marco Polo famously told the West about in the late 13th century. And, of course, business travellers have swapped camel caravans for flights on Qantas. But one thing hasn’t changed: Beijing remains a magnet for world trade. The Chinese megalopolis is home to more Fortune Global 500 companies than any other city in the world and, according to the Hurun Global Rich List, is now the only city on Earth with 100 billionaires.
Its fabulously rich history and deep-rooted culture continue to play an important role but modern Beijing also dazzles with its designer shops, luxury hotels and a rapidly emerging fine-dining scene that’s beginning to compete with the likes of Hong Kong and Singapore.
There are six major economic hubs, each in different parts of this huge city, but the one that draws most foreign business is Guomao, the CBD – a place of gleaming skyscrapers, upscale hotels and malls and busy bars and restaurants. Bank on at least 40 minutes to get there in a taxi from the airport; more if you get stuck in one of Beijing’s notorious traffic jams.
The Opposite House
Housed inside a green-and-yellow glass-panelled cube, Beijing’s most eye-catching boutique hotel is a little north of the CBD but is smack-bang in the middle of Sanlitun, the city’s premier area for nightlife and shopping. Designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the House is achingly cool, with minimalist décor and plenty of natural textures, including solid oak bathtubs. Book now
Business facilities: There’s no business centre but Bei Space is a multifunction room that can be used for meetings.
Wi-fi: Free throughout.
Food and wine: Village Café, just off the lobby, is ideal for breakfast meetings, while Mesh is the hotel’s signature cocktail bar. For dinner, try the roast duck at Jing Yaa Tang restaurant.
Fitness and wellbeing: The subterranean pool has an unusual stainless-steel base that gives a metallic shimmer to the surface of the water – an effect enhanced by “sunrise” lighting that reflects off the burnished-metal walls. The glass-fronted fitness centre overlooks the pool and both are open from 6am to 10pm.
Run route: The largely traffic-free, tree-lined streets of the embassy area directly north of the hotel make for relatively pleasant running. Turn left out of the hotel and run north for about one kilometre until you reach a small canal. You can then run up and down the canal path on either side, although there are two places where you’ll have to walk up steps from the canal path to cross the road.
Taikoo Li Sanlitun, 11 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District
Aman Summer Palace
Located next to the 260-year-old UNESCO World Heritage-listed Summer Palace, this lavish Qing Dynasty resort offers a taste of imperial China that is unmatched. The manicured grounds contain courtyards, ponds and pathways, while the rooms are decked out with period furniture, wooden screens and bamboo blinds.
Business facilities: As well as a fully equipped business centre, there are various-sized multimedia rooms for meetings and presentations.
Wi-fi: Free throughout.
Food and wine: Spread across the hotel’s grounds, three restaurants cover Chinese cuisine, French-Japanese fusion and American grill. Reflection Pavilion is a delightful tea house-cum-cocktail bar with a terrace overlooking a serene lotus pond.
Fitness and wellbeing: The two-floor subterranean spa is sensational – perfect after a workout on one of the two squash courts. There are also steam and sauna rooms, a good-sized gym and a 25-metre pool.
Run route: The Summer Palace’s vast willow-tree-shaded Kunming Lake is a jogger’s dream. Use the hotel’s private entrance to the complex and sneak in early before the gates are opened to the public.
1 Gongmenqian Jie, Summer Palace, Haidian District
￼Set in the frenetic heart of the CBD yet retaining a cloistered air of serenity and artistic elegance, Rosewood manages to mix business flair with luxury living like no other hotel in Beijing. Whimsical bronze dragons guard the entrance, contemporary Chinese artworks adorn much of the interior and the soothing surrounds of the emerald-hued indoor pool are bathed in natural light via an ornate glass ceiling. The guestrooms are chic and spacious; choose a Premier Room for great views of the Rem Koolhaas-designed China Central Television (CCTV) tower.
Business facilities: There’s a fully equipped, 24-hour business lounge, secretarial services and a limousine on call for meetings, airport pick-up/drop-off and daytrips to the Great Wall of China.
Wi-fi: Free throughout.
Food and wine: Country Kitchen serves Northern Chinese cuisine, including the city’s signature Peking duck, while Mei is a sophisticated cocktail bar that’s good for tapas, too.
Fitness and wellbeing: As well as a sumptuous indoor pool (open 6am to 11pm), the hotel has a 24-hour fitness centre with treadmills facing out to the CCTV tower.
Run route: Tuanjiehu Park is 800 metres north of the hotel. Cross busy 3rd Ring Road using one of the footbridges then skirt around the park’s small doughnut-shaped lake before retracing your steps for a run that’s about three kilometres long.
Jing Guang Centre, Hujialou, Chaoyang District
The Peninsula Beijing￼
As befits a hotel so close to the Forbidden City, The Peninsula is built on a grand scale. Its imposing façade takes inspiration from China’s imperial architecture and, because the latest round of renovations slashed its number of rooms from 525 to 230, it offers some of the largest hotel suites in Beijing. Wallow in bathtubs made from colossal chunks of marble or choose a neat two-storey Loft for the city-apartment experience.
Business facilities: The business centre includes private office spaces and semi-private workstations, while state-of-the-art meeting rooms have videoconferencing and multimedia facilities, with computers and mobile phones available on request.
Wi-fi: Free throughout.
Food and wine: Jing serves quality Mediterranean food in a relaxed, casual atmosphere; Cantonese restaurant Huang Ting has a refined air, with Ming-style furniture, elegantly dressed waitstaff and a selection of high-grade Chinese teas.
Fitness and wellbeing: Floor-to-ceiling windows in the fitness centre and a glass roof above the indoor pool ensure plenty of natural light while you exercise. Both are open from 6am to 10pm.
Run route: From the hotel, turn left and run one kilometre west to the east gate of the Forbidden City. Now on a traffic-free lane, cross the moat then run anticlockwise around the palace, keeping the complex’s magnificent walls to your right, until you return to the east gate. Retrace your steps from here for a run of about six kilometres.
8 Jinyu Hutong, Wangfujing, Dongcheng District
Top image: The Opposite House