As you’ve probably figured out, Beijing – and China for that matter – is a law unto itself. Few other cities can match its blistering speed of development. Most of the hotels I’ve chosen are Olympic-era or later (whether the building is historic or not). Why? Standards of service and amenities continue to rise, so logically (a few venerable establishments aside), the newer the accommodation, the more up-to-date its facilities, the more international its service culture, and the more a la mode its fixtures and fittings.
But most importantly, whether it’s a luxury chain or a courtyard hostel, I’ve given location absolute priority. Beijing’s sights, shopping and nightlife are spread far and wide, and traffic can be hellish. But I can vouch for my choices in terms of their centrality or proximity to public transport. Some hotels I’ve chosen are better placed for nightlife. Others for shopping. But fingers crossed, whichever you choose, your trip will be largely free of travel woe.
You might also notice a tendency towards high-end global chains. Part of the reason is the value they offer compared to other world capitals. Huge rooms, fabulous food, luxury facilities and attentive service at a far lower price than in Europe and the US. Since the 2008 Olympics, Beijing has a five-star hotel on every corner, and with so many beds, great deals abound, especially in the off-season (which includes Christmas). The other reason is simply that there are aspects of Chinese hotels that won’t appeal to foreigners. Stale smoke smells are a common complaint (most adult males smoke), and the Chinese favour firmer mattresses and higher room temperatures than some foreign visitors can tolerate. Of course, there are an increasing number of great local hotels with very competitive rates, some of which I’ve included.
At the lower end of the market, I’ve endeavoured to include a good number of courtyard hotels. I believe leisure travellers will get more from their trip staying in traditional hutong-style digs rather than similarly priced budget and mid-range hotels. Service tends to be more personal too – great if you need advice for tour booking or onward travel.
Finally, Beijing has been late to catch a ride on the boutique bandwagon, but over the last year I’ve hunted down some fabulous new openings that successfully mix Chinese style and tradition with boutique luxury, and which I believe have the potential to give you the best kind of China experience.
* Simonseeks has given star ratings out of five for all accommodation
recommendations. With hotels, these will tally with the hotel's official star rating where
it exists. Where a hotel has no official star rating, and in the case of b & bs and hostels,
the experts have made a judgment as to how many stars the accommodation deserves, in terms
of comfort, level of facilities and so forth.