Commanding a ring-side perch on Beijing’s premier east-west avenue, Raffles is walking distance from Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and Wangfujing. The closest subway station (Line 1) is five minutes away on foot.
Confusingly, the hotel comprises two blocks: ‘B’ (the original lobby and guest rooms) and ‘E’ (a newer addition at the back aimed at business travellers). You’ll probably want to snag a south-facing room in ‘B’ with a four-poster bed and petite balcony overlooking Chang An Avenue. This really is prime real estate and altogether off-limits to most mortals whenever there’s a government parade scheduled. Nine ‘Personality Suites’ are named after past guests – I got a sneak peak at the Henri Cartier-Bresson Suite and was quite taken by the patterned wallpaper and historic ambience. ‘Landmark’ rooms are the most affordable – thumbs-up for the gold-framed plasma TVs and grand upholstered beds. True, the décor and fixtures err on the dowdy, but it’s unashamedly old-world posh, which counts for something, right?
Even if you’re staying at the Holiday Inn, you ought to pop by for afternoon tea in the lovely Writers Bar for scones with clotted cream and finger sandwiches. Ascend the grand staircase to ogle the delightful ‘Drawing Room’ on the second floor, then have a wander down the wide, low corridors with their impossibly long rugs – they don’t make them like that anymore.
Eating and drinking
Jaan gets plaudits for its upscale French fare, but for better value, I’ve enjoyed a couple of decent seafood buffets (Fridays) at East 33, the all-day dining restaurant. The Writers Bar (essentially the lobby bar) rivals Capital M as Beijing’s best destination for afternoon tea (see above).
There is a fitness studio and large pool (shared with the Beijing Hotel next door, annoyingly). Several boutiques, a gallery and a spa on site are managed by other companies.
The staff are top notch – this is the only place in Beijing where they put the sugar in your tea for you. Returning guests get a personal welcome in the lobby by the manager.
Who stays there
With such a prestigious address, Raffles Beijing has hosted its fair share of global VIPs (King Alfonso of Spain, former presidents Carter and Bush, and, err, Michael Bolton). Generally speaking, guestrooms in Building A (the original section) are the haunt of high-end tourists, Chinese officials and celebs; Building E at the rear, with access to the Executive Lounge, is for business travellers.
- Business Centre
- Fitness Centre
- High-Speed Internet
- Room Service
- Swimming Pool
- Culture vultures
- Celebrity spotting
- Special occasions
- Design and architecture
Pros & Cons
- Great location
- Lovely public areas
- Historic hotel
- Rooms don’t quite live up to the price