|Nov. 21st, 2012|
Where to Stay, Eat & Sightsee in Beijing | Guide to China's Capital
Photo Courtesy of The Kerry Hotel Beijing/eBeijing
Shanghai might have the fashion flair and Hong Kong has the finance factor, but don’t discount Beijing. The Chinese capital has to be one of Asia’s most fascinating destinations thanks to a history that dates back to ancient times, proximity to picturesque sections of the Great Wall, cutting-edge arts and architecture, and a steadily improving food and nightlife scene.
Many of the top-tier hotels are right in the heart of it all near Tiananmen Square, but for a location that’s close to the city’s historical center as well as its financial district and more interesting nightlife, consider the Kerry Hotel Beijing at the Kerry Centre, near the city’s third ring road.
Kerry Hotel Beijing
It’s adjacent to the soaring China World Trade Center Tower and has stunning views of the now-iconic Rem Koolhaas-designed CCTV building. Like its sibling in Shanghai, the Beijing Kerry—a part of the ultra-luxe Shangri-La Hotels group—combines equal parts upscale refinement and unfussy, contemporary amenities.
As is typical with Shangri-La, the hotel takes its artistic aesthetic seriously. Its light-filled marble lobby with burnished onyx reception desks is illuminated by cascading chandeliers. The walls are ornamented with gongbi paper landscapes and hand-painted embroidered silk panels – all an allusion to China’s artistic past – while installations and sculptures by international artists, referencing the nation’s place as a crossroads of contemporary culture are displayed as well.
The hotel contains 486 rooms and suites, all done in an understated yet polished neutral palette of silver, taupe, cream and black. Standard rooms have either one king or two double beds and are outfitted with 40-inch flatscreen LED televisions, oversize executive writing desks with multi-socket electronic panels, laptop safes, and marble bathrooms with digital clocks set into the mirror, L'Occitane products and glassed-in Asian-style toilette suites which include both an open-air shower and deep soaking tub. Complimentary minibar service and high-speed internet and WiFi are also standard.
Staying in a Club room or suite entitles guests to an array of special privileges at the Club Lounge on the hotel’s 18th floor, including private check-in, all-day dining and snacks, cocktails and aperitifs in the evening and more. Club rooms also include enhanced amenities such as Bose SoundDock Series II for iPod, chaise lounges with views, A/V connectivity panels and Nespresso coffee makers, while suites include those as well as all-in-one printers in the desks to meet clients’ business needs. Club guests receive complimentary minibar upon arrival, daily newspaper, in-room fresh fruit baskets, a complimentary suit pressing, and concierge services by the Club butler.
Hotel Dining and Amenities
The hotel’s main restaurant, Kerry’s Kitchen, is located off the lobby. Guests can visit the spacious eatery to find myriad food stations serving everything from sushi and dim sum to full Western-style meals. For something faster and more casual, guests can visit Kerry’s Pantry, a café-style restaurant also in the lobby that serves coffee drinks, sandwiches, pastries and convenience foods.
The hotel’s showcase Cantonese restaurant is The Horizon, which is known throughout Beijing for its traditional service of Peking duck with all the fixings (be sure to save room for the crispy skin, which you can dip in sugar according to custom). At the front of the lobby, meanwhile, is one of the area’s hottest nightspots, Centro, the hotel’s bar. This is the watering hole of choice for many of the city’s up-and-coming young professionals, with a book-length specialty cocktail list and nightly live music.
The hotel’s other distinguishing feature is its enormous fitness complex, which measures up at over 60,000 square feet and includes not only a full gym with a weight room and aerobics equipment and a yoga studio, but also two full indoor tennis courts and a basketball court as well as a 115-foot indoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi.
Although it’s outside the very city center, the hotel still has easy access to the sights any tourist wants to see. Tiananmen Square—the beating heart of Communist China—is a 20-minute drive away, and visitors can meander its mind-boggling expanse before either visiting one of the museums that border it (including Mao’s mausoleum) or queuing up for a tour of the Forbidden City where they’ll learn all about China’s imperial past and the extraordinary wealth on display at the former emperor’s palace. Expect to spend a full day exploring both.
On the other end of the spectrum, and one which is more interesting because of the insight it provides into an everyday way of Chinese life that is quickly disappearing, guests can arrange a hutong tour by foot, bicycle or rickshaw nearby as they explore these traditional neighborhoods through hectic, narrow alleys.
To get a feel for the burgeoning contemporary arts scene in the city, head northeast about a half-hour to the Dashanzi area and the former factory complex that is now referred to as District 798. This rambling warren of buildings now houses a vibrant artistic community of galleries, workshops, cafes and even a small museum. It’s sort of like the Soho of Beijing—only get here before it gets too gentrified.
Of course, no visit to Beijing would be complete without a jaunt out to the countryside to visit the Great Wall of China. Originally built over 15 centuries ago, the scenically restored Badaling section is among the closest to the city, at just 40 miles away. But venture just a bit farther to Mutianyu, which is slightly less touristy (only slightly) for a picture-perfect section of the Wall that was reconstructed to look like how it would have appeared in the 1400’s. This is a particularly good section to hike as it winds along the hilltops and watchtowers come at short intervals. Afterwards, stop for lunch on the way back to town in the Schoolhouse Restaurant in the little village of Mutianyu for some fresh, seasonal fare to fortify you for the drive back.
Finally, once you’ve gotten your dose of culture and history, head to the bustling Silk Street Market, which has over 1,600 stalls selling everything from electronics to silk and home furnishings to toys and fine jewelry, all spread out over 323,000 square feet. Good luck getting out of there in less than a few hours! But use the time to pick out some souvenirs for friends back home, and leave some space in your suitcase for your next visit to Beijing.
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