China: Beijing: Where to Stay: Luxury: Raffles Beijing
Considered the Grande Dame of Beijing hotels, Raffles hosted the International Olympic Committee in 2008 and continues to be where many officials and dignitaries stay. The famous Singapore hotel marque set up shop in a prime spot in the city—a mere five-minute stroll from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and located in the same building as the state-run Beijing Hotel, a century-old edifice. While the 171-room Raffles has all the five-star accoutrements, plus a smashing little writers’ bar close to the lobby, it does have a slight whiff of sterility. Its location make it a convenient base for sightseeing. However, the style is decidedly old-world, really old-fashioned with a grand marble lobby hung with crystal chandeliers. Those who love the Raffles in Singapore will recognize the colonial décor and the personality suites, which are named after famous guests who once stayed when this was the Hotel de Peking. The most sought-after rooms are those in the old wing, which face Changan Avenue. They have polished wood floors, velvet sofas, heavy silk curtains and Oriental carpets. The ones in the modern wing in the back are much more corporate and sterile in feeling. In addition to multiple on-site restaurants and the Writer’s Bar off of the lobby, where Chairman Mao often held court, the hotel features a large indoor swimming pool and fitness room. Rooms from $215, depending on the size and season.
Who should stay: Those who want to be as close to the main tourist sights as possible to avoid traffic tedium and those who like grand old hotels such as the Grande Bretagne in Athens or the Alvear in Buenos Aires. The décor preserves a turn-of-the-century atmosphere that can verge on antique-cluttered but Raffles service is extremely consistent.
Who should not stay: Anyone looking for contemporary or cutting edge China. They should consider the Park Hyatt or Opposite House.— Mark Graham 02/06/2008