Aman Summer Palace
The Summer Palace, located in the less frenetic outskirts of the bustling capital city of Beijing, housed the pleasure gardens of the dynastic emperors.
They are still an oasis (metaphorical and literal) of calm, with beautiful parkland, pagodas and even an enormous marble barge in one of the many lakes that dot the landscape.
That Aman managed to get permission to build a hotel adjoining the palace walls is impressive enough, but the no-expense-spared attention to detail makes this a serious - if seriously expensive - contender as the city's best hotel. The rooms are decked out in mock-Ming dynasty style with design details borrowed from the Forbidden City, and the bathrooms are contemporary, with huge baths and separate showers.
When not wandering around the Summer Palace gardens or the city itself, there are four restaurants, an underground spa and a 75ft swimming pool.
More authentic touches include a pavilion where musicians play the traditional erhu (violin) and guzheng (zither), and a library where a calligrapher can show you the beauty of highly stylised Mandarin text.
Why We Love It
There is direct access from the hotel into the Summer Palace gardens; just ask where the door is.
The Rosewood Beijing is a stylish, spacious and very comfortable hotel in the fun nightlife district of Sanlitun, within striking distance of Beijing's main attractions.
There are 283 very generously sized rooms and suites with marble bathrooms spread across five storeys, and all filled with the same Oriental ephemera - from books to vases and porcelain figures - that also adorn the hallways and even lifts, creating a very homely feel.
The excellent on-site restaurants include some of Beijing's finest, from Country Kitchen which specialises in Northern Chinese cuisine (the Peking Duck is a must) to Red Bowl where chefs cook a selection of meats, seafood and veg hot pots at the table. Elsewhere, for a European foodie fix Bistrot B has an open kitchen and serves classic French cuisine accompanied by old world wines, while House of Dynasties is all about Cantonese cooking prepared by chefs at slick cooking stations and a mean lunchtime dim sum menu.
For drinks, guests can head to Bistrot B's lounge Bar (which sells pastries and afternoon tea by day) for Asian-influenced cocktails, or take the private elevator up the outside of the hotel to Mei, a bar with superb views of the CCTV Tower and serving a wide range of drinks and tapas while live musicians or DJs play.
Guests can also relax by the lovely pool, located on the sixth floor and which is guarded by an elegant dragon sculpture by Chinese artist Liyongfei. The Rosewood Spa offers a wide range of treatments from massages to coix seed facials and designed using Oriental ingredients such as Tibetan rosewood and lotus seeds.
Why We Love It
From the second you walk in you feel like this is possibly the buzziest hotel in Beijing, with very friendly staff who speak good English. I loved it.
The Opposite House
The centerpiece of the spanking new Sanlitun Village development in the embassy district, the Opposite House is a far cry from many of Beijing's rather dreary corporate hotels.
The village location was designed to resemble a traditional hutong community, with buildings separated by narrow alleyways, but the buildings themselves couldn't be further from traditional. The hotel is a great green glass edifice with the 108 rooms and suites arranged around a soaring atrium where reception staff check guests in sitting on sofas and using iPads.
The rooms themselves are studio-sized with wooden floors and full length windows, minimal clutter and open-plan bathrooms behind glass walls. The lobby area features a regularly changing exhibition area showcasing work by hip contemporary Chinese artists stainless and in the basement there is a stainless steel swimming pool and gym.
Breakfasts are served in the Village Café, and consist of everything from a full English to dim sum and pretty much anything in between. Elsewhere, the Bei restaurant serves Japanese, Chinese and Korean recipes and Sureno specialises in Mediterranean dishes.
For night owls, the Mesh bar is a sophisticated space serving high quality cocktails.
Why We Love It
The name derives from the ancient Chinese tradition of guesthouses being located opposite a courtyard home.