Bedroom - Aman at the Summer Palace, Beijing, China

Aman at the Summer Palace

Aman has out Amaned itself with this incredible property because it has actually merged a luxurious resort experience with a historic cultural immersion. Today, too often a traveler is forced to starkly divide their sightseeing experience from their hotel experience. You leave a modern cocoon and dive into cultural exploration, then return to your hotel oasis to process. Here, however, within the very walls of one of China’s greatest monuments, Aman has fashioned a supremely special home-away-from-home-Imperial Chinese-style hotel so you actually feel like you are checking into history.

The Summer Palace, which at 293 hectares is three times larger than the Forbidden City and is still the largest garden in China more than a century after it was built, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built as the summer retreat for the imperial family, the Palace in its current form (the original was destroyed in 1860) was the fantastical project of Empress Dowager Cixi. Somehow, Aman managed to win the right to transform buildings annexed to the palace, some of which were once used as diplomatic waiting rooms, into a luxury hotel. So while tourists stream into the main gates of the Summer Palace through subway-like ticket turn styles, guests at the Aman arrive to a private courtyard adjacent to the East Gate where valets await to whisk them into a restored 19th-century Ming dynasty building where dignitaries once waited for their audience with the Empress.

The lobby, like the rest of the property, has been updated with the most luxurious modern materials but in a way that pays homage to history. So under the traditional peaked, beamed ceilings, there are lots of chic wood and paper lanterns, delicate wooden lattice screens and Ming benches with gorgeous silk cushions. If the Empress were to arrive today, she would know that she were in a different time but also that she was in a familiar place, which means for the modern guest going from the pampering enclave of the Aman, where bathrooms have deep soaking tubs and TVs hidden in Ming armoires, to the Summer Palace, there’s no jarring transition from tourist to traveler.

Cobblestoned pathways lined with gardens and weeping willows lead to the thirty-five guestrooms and suites, which are housed in historic buildings set around internal courtyards. Each room is slightly different but all incorporate traditional architecture and materials like Jin clay tile polished floors, exposed wood roof beams and Ming daybeds and armoires. The top accommodation, the Imperial Suite, occupies three separate structures, which share a courtyard. One building houses the bedroom and his-and-her bathroom suites; another has a living room and study and another a private dining room. And while the rooms feel like precious jewel boxes that you will not want to leave, the resort has many attractions to explore. In addition to the exquisite spa and state-of-the-art gym, there are squash courts, an indoor pool, a 37-seat screening room and one of China’s premier wine clubs. The Aman restaurants include the Grill, which focuses on Western food; a Chinese restaurant; and Naoki, where the chef serves French Kaiseki Japanese food. Cultural activities such as calligraphy classes, tea ceremonies, tai chi and musical concerts are also offered daily. To visit the Summer Palace, guests merely duck through a private doorway, but it is also possible to have the hotel arrange for other sightseeing excursions to the Forbidden City, Great Wall or 798 Art District and even to have after-hours access to the Summer Palace itself, where you might have a private dinner or concert arranged.

Editors' Picks
Indagare Plus
hotel room with bed on the left and floor to ceiling windows

Bulgari Hotel, Beijing

An oasis in bustling Beijing, the Bulgari is one of the most sophisticated locations to wind down from a busy day of sightseeing in China’s capital.

Editors' Picks
Indagare Plus
Interior View - China World Beijing, Beijing, China

China World Beijing

The China World, a veteran in Beijing hotel terms, was the first major hotel to be designed as the centerpiece of an entire complex, with shops, offices and restaurants incorporated into the block-long plot. This is one of the top properties of the renowned Shangri-La group, which ensures that it is powered by a slick and efficient Hong Kong–European mechanism. It is not for everyone—the gargantuan feel is accentuated by the presence of a sister hotel, the Trader’s, in the complex and a large exhibition center—but it is luxurious, fairly convenient and used to meeting the demands of American and European business and leisure travelers.

Interestingly, a portion of its trade these days comes from local Chinese traveling to the capital; they were once intimidated by such grand abodes; the prices, too, tended to scare them off, and also the risk of breaching Western etiquette rules and suffering the resultant loss of face. This changed because of the booming economy. For Westerners, it can serve as a bolt-hole after a long day of sightseeing or meetings; there are plenty of restaurants and bars, in the complex and nearby, that obviate the need to venture back out into the heavy traffic.

Lounge at Commune by the Great Wall Kempinski, Beijing, China

Commune by the Great Wall Kempinski

A series of striking buildings, the Commune by the Great Wall Kempinski complex, attracted world attention when it was unveiled. The concept was intriguing: today’s cutting-edge architecture next to one of the oldest structures of all, the Great Wall. Some of the villas are available for rent, with management by the Kempinski group, which is likely to appeal to those who have plenty of time in Beijing.

Indagare Plus
Unknown image

East Hotel

One of the few good hotels located in the east of Beijing, this is a perfect stopover for those with business in the area.
Lounge at Hotel Côté Cour Beijing, Beijing, China

Hotel Côté Cour Beijing

Book ahead for a stay at this intimate hotel, which has just fourteen rooms. It’s the personal project of investment banker Shauna Liu, who dreamed of turning a traditional courtyard home into a hotel, incorporating creature comforts. Liu happened upon a run-down courtyard in a protected area of Beijing and used her savings to totally gut and renovate it. The result is Hotel Côté Cour, the French name reflecting the owner’s passion for all things Gallic. The rooms’ decor is a mixture of traditional and modern: fine linens and handmade silks for the beds, olive paint for the walls, dark wood for the chairs, plus flat-screen televisions and walk-in showers. The rooms are arranged around a courtyard and lily pond. Although it is just a short cab ride from busy Tiananmen Square, the overall feel is that of a tranquil suburban retreat with a personalized ambiance.

Dining at Park Hyatt, Beijing, China

Park Hyatt Beijing

The Park Hyatt is known for its modern, elegant interiors and fabulous views. Located in the middle of the Central Business District, the Park Hyatt occupies floors 37 to 66 of a gleaming skyscraper. Though you enter on the ground floor, to reach the lobby you must ascend to the 63rd floor, where floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the massive urban sprawl will stop you in your tracks. The miles of buildings and highways that extend into the distance in every direction give you an immediate overview of just how big and bustling this city of more than 20 million inhabitants truly is. There are numerous lounges and restaurants on the 63rd to 66th floor from which to marvel at the metropolis. Some face the famous Rem Koolhaus-designed CCTV tower, known as the “Trousers” (the Chinese nickname is boxer shorts) for its iconic square-legged shape.

Apparently Park Hyatt’s architect once said that he had wanted to create a building that a blind man would find beautiful. To this end, he mixed materials from granite and natural and lacquered woods with marble, glass and steel, and, yes, the result is that you find yourself wanting to reach out and touch the surfaces. Despite the high drama of the public spaces, the 237 guest rooms have a wonderfully warm but minimalist style to them. (True added touch: The toilet seats are heated.) Sliding partitions separate the sleek sleeping areas from the spa-inspired bath areas, which have deep soaking tubs. Among the most spectacular public spaces are Xiu, the outdoor terrace on the 6th floor, where tables and chairs are set beside hutong-style pavilions, and the China Bar on the 65th floor. The restaurant’s private dining room are among the most fabulous in the city.

Editors' Picks
Indagare Plus
Unknown image

Peninsula Beijing

This luxurious five-star hotel prides itself on good service and is located just a short drive from many of Beijing’s top sights.

Editors' Picks
Indagare Plus

Red Capital Residence

Book early, as accommodations are limited at this extraordinary place, a shrine to Old China and Communist kitsch. The buildings are designed around several courtyards, in the traditional Chinese manner, the kind of place that usually exists only on movie sets. It is the brainchild of China scholar and entrepreneur Laurence Brahm, who realized that there was a dollar to be made from nostalgia, even though this theme harks back to the darker days of the recent past, when the nation was ruled by Mao Zedong. Some might find the commitment to verisimilitude a bit much—there are no televisions in the rooms and the dark wood everywhere can make the place seem dingy—but this is as close to the real old-days deal as it gets. The hotel also offers a tour of the city by Red Flag limousine, the model used by Mao and his cronies.

Lounge at Ritz-Carlton Financial Street, Beijing, China

Ritz-Carlton Financial Street

The Ritz-Carlton Financial Street is a shiny property in the financial district, on the western side of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. The suburb, which has little intrinsic interest for visitors, does now have a nucleus of posh properties—the Ritz, Intercon and Westin—and is within striking distance of the city center. The standard Ritz rooms are a generous 535 square feet and feature 37-inch flat-screen television sets.

Designers set out to make the lobby lounge different from the China norm, in which bombast usually triumphs over intimacy. They succeeded: the comfy space, with its earthy colors, natural light, hanging birdcages and crystal bar, is a cozy spot. Another novel twist is the “tea apothecary” with its choice of 88 blends; the number is considered auspicious in Chinese culture and, in any event, at least one out of that choice is bound to bring luck.

Indagare Plus
Suite at St. Regis Beijing, Beijing, China

St. Regis Beijing

Set back from the highway, along a leafy lane containing mostly embassies and diplomatic housing, the 273-room St Regis is a rare ocean of tranquility in a generally noisy and crowded city. Every inch of the St. Regis exudes luxury and refinement; no corners were cut when building it, and no expense is spared in keeping up that standard—not always the case in China, where lack of investment money for maintenance can see new hotels shed stars quickly. The main lounge, with its marble floors, purple sofas, potted palms and stunning flower arrangements, is an excellent spot for afternoon tea or cocktails; and the Press Club Bar is a comfortable cigars-and-whiskey kind of place, with live jazz on some days. It has a large pool, spacious gym and acclaimed spa.

Indagare Plus

The Brickyard

Located at the foot of the Great Wall, The Brickyard is a way to see China’s most famous monument in style. The boutique hotel is converted from a former glazed tile factory and sits in Beigou Village (around an hour and a half drive from central Beijing) where locals make a living harvesting pear and apricot trees. Run by American Jim Spear and his Chinese wife Liang Tang – who have both lived in the area for nearly two decades – it is a sleek operation. Facilities include a spa, gym, and outdoor Jacuzzi, plus a free local shuttle to the Wall.

The Brickyard terms itself an eco-resort: the food is sourced locally, most of the lighting is LED, grass slippers are given away to guests as souvenirs, and the majority of the staff are locals from surrounding villages. Best of all, however, are the rooms. They offer dramatic views of the mountains from vast floor-to-ceiling glass windows and shielded private terraces; on a clear day the Wall is visible snaking along the mountain peaks. For meals visitors can either eat at one of Spear’s restaurants (the excellent The Schoolhouse at Mutianyu, which has views of the Wall and serves wholesome Western cuisine, makes a perfect lunch spot) or try home-style Chinese at one of the more basic village eateries. Mutianyu Village, a short drive away, is the main gateway to the Wall with a cable car going up and a toboggan slide back down the monument. The Brickyard offers more adventurous guests a map that marks a secluded mountain path from the hotel directly to the Wall. It is a tough forty-five minute uphill hike but it is a way to experience the lush surrounding countryside while avoiding the hordes of tourists.

Restaurant at The Opposite House, Beijing, China

The Opposite House

Designed by star Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the glass-and-steel boutique hotel is located in the fashionable expat area of Sanlitun.

Editors' Picks
Indagare Plus

The Orchid

The Orchid Hotel is situated right in the heart of old Beijing. Tucked away down a hutong, or alleyway, the hotel is made up from two inner courtyards set around a garden space. A roof terrace offers views over the pretty tiled roofs that top the ramshackle maze of traditional Beijing houses below. For guests who love to amble it sits in the perfect location: it is just a few minutes walk from the ancient Drum and Bell Towers (which once told citizens the time), a thirty minute walk from the Lama Temple, and a forty-five minute walk from the Forbidden City.

The hutongs surrounding The Orchid offer a plethora of tempting local eateries, ranging from dumpling houses to Yunnan cuisine. The restored rooms include under-floor heating, rainforest showers, complimentary WiFi, and a media server with free movies and music. The Orchid is the brainchild of a Tibetan and Canadian (Youngcall and Joel). They have designed it as cozy and characterful rather than luxurious. It is differentiated from the big international hotel chains by friendly staff – both founders are often on hand to offer their guests advice and tips – quaint decor and fabulous breakfasts. There are only ten rooms (including one with its own private roof terrace) making booking ahead essential.

Unknown image

Waldorf-Astoria Beijing

The Waldorf Astoria Beijing’s central location, coupled with its spacious, well-appointed rooms, make the hotel a very good value.

Indagare Plus

All Results


Indagare employees walking up stiars

Enjoy 30 Days On Us!

Start your Self Planner
membership trial today.

Unlock access to 2,000+ first-hand hotel reviews, 300+ Destination Guides and the most up-to-date travel news and inspiration.

Already a member?

Welcome back,
log in to Indagare

Not a member?

Forgot Password

Enter your email and we’ll send you a link to reset your password.

Type the first 3 letters to begin