Beijing is an enormous sprawling city and deciding where to stay in Beijing can be a daunting task. Since the former Palace Hotel (now Peninsula Beijing) opened in 1989, numerous 5 star hotels have opened in the city. There are outposts of Western brands, Chinese own brands and Beijing boutique hotels. The Chinese have embraced luxury like the French to pate. For example, like Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, the Pangu Hotel has given itself a seven-star rating even though there’s technically nothing above 5 stars. In a world where Beijing is trying to out-nouveau riche the Middle East, what’s left for hotel luxury other than great design?
We’ve stayed a total of 10 days in Beijing to date. So where IS the best place to stay in Beijing and the best neighbourhood to stay in Beijing? We had a specific set of criteria in mind when we chose our hotels. The design and interiors geek in me likes cool design hotels. As for my family, my husband wanted convenience and the kids just wanted simple hotel luxury.
The Best Neighbourhood To Stay in Beijing
After conversations with expat friends who live in Beijing and the expertise advice of Abercrombie and Kent, who organised our trips to China, we would suggest two neighbourhoods, Wangfujing and Sanlitun, as the best place to stay in Beijing for tourists seeking contemporary style as well as hotel luxury.
To give you an idea of the city’s size, Beijing has 7 ring roads circling it. This last 7th ring road is under construction. The Beijing International Airport is on the northeast side of the 6th Ring Road approximately 20 miles from the city center.
Both these areas have good transport links, including subway stations. We, however, stuck to taxis. And, walking extended periods in the brutal smog and humidity wasn’t an option either.
Do you want to spend your vacation time stuck in a taxi in Beijing? Sure, you can find cool hotels like the Beijing NUO Hotel (a Beijing boutique hotel loaded with art and style near the 728 Art District). This 728 Art District area though is not very central. There is a Beijing NUO Wangfujing which has a more traditional French-Colonial feel because it’s in the former Beijing Raffles hotel. The 7 star Pangu Hotel which was mentioned above is on the fourth ring road near the Olympic stadiums – a total non-starter for us.
If you would like to stay outside of Central Beijing, I would suggest the Aman Summer Palace which is near one of the bucket list items that is on everyone’s itinerary for Beijing anyway. The amazing Aman service will also ensure that you get your sightseeing in central Beijing done smoothly as well as enjoying your hotel luxury in beautiful surroundings.
Staying in Wangfujing
We personally considered Wangfujing as the best place to stay in Beijing because we loved the area. Admittedly, the neighbourhood doesn’t have much of a nightlife scene but we were travelling with kids. There are great hotels located relatively closely to the Forbidden City which is about a 20 minute walk.
There are large malls with upscale stores and food courts in addition to Wangfujing shopping street. Wangfujing night market sells some of the strange street food you have heard about. We got our fix just by looking at the Wangfujing street food – Fried scorpions anyone? And, there’s a ginormous Apple Store in with excellent WiFi which made my kids happy.
It’s totally a microcosm of modern China – traditional culture, luxury goods and a population obsessed with conspicuous consumption.
Staying in Sanlitun
If you are travelling with teenagers, you may consider Sanlitun to be the best place to stay in Beijing. Sanlitun is an up and coming trendy area with lots of young and artsy hipster types. Think Shoreditch in London or Brooklyn in New York. Unlike these other areas though, there are many embassies located nearby.
Sanlitun definitely attracts a well-heeled and well-dressed crowd. There’s a large Sanlitun Village entertainment complex in Sanlitun which has shops, cafes and restaurants so there’s plenty to do in the neighbourhood as well. Sanlitun Village has a great website in English if you want to browse for what’s available (and positioned prominently is Opposite House Beijing).
Beijing Where To Stay Centrally
These hotels are in our preferred areas where there is plenty to do in the evenings in terms of shopping, restaurants and people-watching generally.
The Peninsula Beijing
After the Peninsula Beijing got its recent £100 million facelift, this Grande Dame is looking good again! Located in Wangfujing area, the all-suites hotel is probably the definition of hotel luxury. It’s got everything you would expect from The Peninsula including excellent service,rooms and amenities.
Way back when the hotel opened in 1989, it was China’s first Western luxury hotel! Much though has changed in Beijing (and China in the intervening nearly 30 years). It was time for The Peninsula Beijing to be refreshed as well!
Gone are the dowdy interiors and the hotel is now light and airy. Post-renovation, the Peninsula Beijing no longer has check-in desks. It’s filled with contemporary art chosen by the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Beijing. And, acres of luxury materials such as jade, marble and mahogany.
Families can get connecting rooms with the second room at a discount. Kids will love the large (black!) swimming pool. Adults will love the spa and gym facilities. There are two restaurants (Cantonese Chinese and farm-to-table international cuisine) and a pastry cafe. It’s also got the distinction of having a luxury shopping arcade on site with names even my kids recognised – Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Bottega Veneta and Tiffany to name a few.
Check out what how The Peninsula ranks among TripAdvisor Beijing hotels!
For the latest rates for The Peninsula Beijing, here are a selection of travel booking sites.
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Vue Hotel Houhai Beijing
Have kids in tow but do you still want to be part of the action? The Vue Hotel Hou Hai Beijing is a good option if you want to hang out with the cool kids but you have kids of your own.
The Vue Hotel is young, hip and trendy and an easy place to join the action around the venues of Houhai Lake. Then you can go back to the hotel which is secluded from the main action and put the kids to bed!
The Vue Hotel Houhai Beijing is close to where we took a rickshaw tour of a traditional hutong (a neighbourhood of alleys with courtyard homes leading of the alley). Houhai is one of the lakes in Beijing which is a popular place to hang out.
The Vue Hotel Beiing is is decorated in assorted shades of grey trendiness with pops of color. It’s design credentials are impeccable having been designed by Ministry of Design, a Singapore firm and featured in Wallpaper (naturally).
There are lots of contemporary flourishes including open-plan bathrooms like the Muscat Chedi. There is a high-end restaurant, a French pastry cafe and a slick bar.
Check out what how the Vue Houhai ranks among TripAdvisor Beijing hotels!
For the latest rates for Vue Hou Hai , here are a selection of travel booking sites.
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Rosewood Beijing Hotel
The Rosewood Beijing hotel is a slick sophisticated hotel set in a skyscraper. The decor is non-risk taking, high end contemporary with a calm muted palette. Think Kelly Hoppen. What’s extraordinary though is the gallery’s worth of contemporary artwork on display.
There’s a hotel spa, gym and yoga studio to add to the hotel luxury. Unfortunately, the large emerald green pool is adults only but there is a smaller kids’ pool. There are interconnecting rooms available which would be suitable for families.
The Rosewood Beijing hotel offers several dining options (Northern Chinese, Szechuan Hot Pot and French) and a trendy bar scene. If you pay extra for the members lounge, you get free breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails which is remarkably good value (for adults).
Check out what how the Rosewood Beijing ranks among TripAdvisor Beijing hotels!
For the latest rates for Rosewood Beijing, here are a selection of travel booking sites.
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A slick, minimal and hipster-friendly boutique hotel, Opposite House Beijing is located smack dab in nightlife-central, Sanlitun. There’s nothing so bourgeois as a check-in desk for example at this Beijing boutique hotel.
Opposite House Beijing is light, airy and spacious which is hotel luxury in itself. I felt this accomplishment particularly keenly in Beijing where the city’s concrete smoggy drabness seems to weigh down on you.
There are two restaurants (Chinese and Spanish/Italian fusion cuisines), a cafe and a bar on site. There’s also a small stainless steel pool and a gym also at this Beijing boutique hotel.
In terms of family friendly, one kid can stay for free in your room at Opposite House Beijing. On the other hand, this hotel is better for teens who will appreciate the hipster quality of its hotel luxury so do you really want a teenager bunking down with you?
Check out what how Opposite House Beijing ranks among TripAdvisor Beijing hotels!
For the latest rates for Opposite House Beijing, here are a selection of travel booking sites.
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Hotel Eclat Beijing
Hotel Eclat Beijing is located in the Parkview Green mall in fantastic location between the central business district and the nightlife area of Sanlitun. The Parkview Green is one of Beijing’s best malls. For a suburban American kid like me, a luxury hotel in a great mall is a dream come true!
Staying at this Beijing boutique hotel is like staying in an art gallery and also being in something like the Truman Show. You are covered by the glass dome that covers the Parkview Green – so it’s all temperature controlled and the Beijing smog is kept outside.
We didn’t have a pool but we did have interconnecting terraces in our rooms. These large terraces reminded me of Manhattan apartment living. It’s like being outside without actually the terrible heat, humidity and smog of being outside. It’s very artificial – but we loved it! I consider not having to deal with Beijing smog hotel luxury in itself.
The pools at this hotel are individual to the particular rooms. The decor is cool and quirky. Although not an open-plan bathroom, the bathroom did have dimmable glass if you wanted the world to see you bathe (or not). My kids LOVED the lamp that you can turn on and off with a gun.
There’s no spa and the little gym is a bit lame. Obviously you can choose from Parkview Green’s mall restaurants or the hotel restaurants (Spanish or British cuisines). There’s a bar at which hotel guests get a free drink.
Check out what how Hotel Eclat Beijing ranks among TripAdvisor Beijing hotels!
For the latest rates for Hotel Eclat Beijing, here are a selection of travel booking sites.
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Beijing Where To Stay Further Afield
Aman Summer Palace
If you don’t mind being away from the tourist spots in Beijing, the Aman Summer Palace is a great option. A plus side? The air is a lot cleaner when you are 1 hour+ from Beijing. You are near the Summer Palace (a UNESCO world heritage site) and pretty much nothing else.
The hotel is set up as a traditional Chinese complex (courtyards, walkways, and gardens). It’s got a gorgeous pool and spa all of which are in an underground complex oozing hotel luxury.
The Aman Summer Palace has several restaurants (steaks, Japanese and Cantonese) as well as assorted cultural craft activities on offer to make up for the fact that there’s very little to do in terms of entertainment nearby.
The tinkling sound of Chinese music is prevalent. One of my kids’ complaints about China was this tinkly version of Chinese Muzak that you hear everywhere. I told them to get over it! The Chinese are probably as used to hearing the tinkly music and tuning it out as we are to Muzak.
Another big bonus is that you get direct access to the Summer Palace before the tourist hordes arrive. Like the rest of China’s attractions, the Summer Palace gets very crowded and so it’s nice to have this one UNESCO world heritage site almost to yourself in China.
Children under 12 can stay free with parents but only in suites and older children pay a reduced rate. There are two types of suites that have double en-suite bedrooms that sleep up to four people.
Check out what how the Aman Summer Palace ranks among TripAdvisor Beijing hotels!
For the latest rates for Aman Summer Palace, you can look it up on Expedia.
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