Author: Rachel Coleman
Tags : Asia, Baby, China, City Break, Family-Friendly Hotels, Museums & Culture
From a humble hutong to a golden lobby, China's capital city offers accommodations in every budget, for every taste.
Several major hotels have been built in anticipation of the 2008 Olympics. Of the current crop, some are stylish "boutiques" while others are huge monoliths from the tourism boom which began in the mid-1980s. In a large city like Beijing, where visitors feel the heat of the summer or the chill of the winter, a centrally located hotel with facilities children enjoy can be a real asset.
Kerry Centre Hotel Beijing
No.1 Guanghua Road
With a keen appreciation of Shangri-La Hotels from past experiences at their Hong Kong and Singapore properties, we chose the chain's high-style Kerry Centre Hotel Beijing. It's in the Chaoyang district, well-located for tourists, business and the 2008 Olympics, and a short walk from Silk Alley when you want to shop. At the casual Kerry Centre, Matisse-like figures scamper across the woven rugs and contemporary paintings mix with Ming vases to create a visual delight. Many local expats take advantage of the three-story Kerry Sports Centre, the largest hotel health club in Beijing. Among its facilities, hotel guests are able to take advantage of an indoor swimming pool, two tennis courts and an outdoor terrace with a jogging track which is also suitable for rollerblading. The hotel's Horizon Club package charges a premium rate for a concierge-level floor, but it's worth it for a spacious, stylish room with two doubles topped with duvet and silk pillows, a CD player and library of music, fresh fruit and flowers daily, free broadband access, your own scanner/printer, and a butler waiting to tend to your needs. In the Horizon Club lounge (a relaxing place to play), complimentary breakfast, beverages and newspapers are available throughout the day as well. The hotel's excellent coffee shop serves breakfast to the standard guest rooms. Extra beds are available in some rooms for a fee. Other Shangri-La Hotels in Beijing -- the China World Hotel and lower-priced Traders are more business oriented, though well located near Wangfujing and the city center. On the other side of town, the high-end Shangri-La Hotel Beijing recently added Shangri-La's acclaimed CHI Spa, a must-try for frazzled travelers.
St. Regis Hotel, Beijing
Daije, Beijing 100020
Located in the quiet Embassy District, the St. Regis Hotel is an upscale property families should consider. The hotel is stylish, however the understated decor does not describe a staff that prides itself on service. (Don't tell the kids a round-the-clock butler assigned to your room is available in certain categories.) There is green space behind the hotel and several parks in the area for relaxing after sightseeing. In addition to being surrounded by several foreign embassies, the hotel is around the corner from the popular Friendship Store, perfect for little gifts and souvenirs, and the Silk Market is a short walk away. You will find some Western chain eateries, including a Haagen-Daz ice creamery, right next door. The hotel is quite near the new Beijing subway, or, of course, the doormen will hail you a cab and write down your destination address in Chinese for the driver. The international buffet breakfast is a must-do because it is so lavish you will not need to eat again before dinner. Offerings range from Chinese specialties to more familiar western items such as berries, melons, omelets, cereals, pancakes and meats, and even peanut butter and jelly. A kid’s menu including such items as 'Free Willy Fish' and 'Chips and Calvin and Hobbes Bowtie Pasta with Tomato Sauce' make children feel welcome. The hotel has extraordinary facilities for families, including a fabulous pool and spa, a handball court and a bowling alley with a billiards table. Additionally, there is a children’s play area open to guests. Babysitting is arranged through the concierge.
State Guest Hotels Presidential Plaza
No. 9 Fuchenmenwai Road
Xicheng District, Beijing 100037
This hotel was designed with a neo-classical aesthetic, which is evident from the 24K gold-capped Roman columns in the atrium lobby. The massive PP has over 500 rooms, and it contains two restaurants, an indoor pool, fitness center, recreation room and shopping arcade. Fair warning: The hotel hosts large travel groups, so service isn't exemplary. Additionally, the hotel's location is off of the main thoroughfares, so there isn't much to do within walking distance. While the hotel interiors are striking, expect rooms to be on the smaller side. All in all, if you're looking to conserve your money while visiting Beijing, the Presidential Plaza is a good choice, but your family will need to arrange local tours in order to have someone see to your sightseeing/translation needs.
The Great Wall Sheraton Hotel Beijing
10 North Dong San Huan Road
Chaoyang District, Beijing 100125
$$ - $$$
If you prefer to be at the heart of the city, the Great Wall Sheraton is a big luxurious option near shopping and commercial centers (not near the Great Wall.) The hotel has 827 guest rooms, including 98 suites, and its three international restaurants boast Italian, French, and Cantonese and Sichuanese cuisines. The morning and evening buffets come highly recommended. In-room massages are available for exhausted parents, while kids can frolic in the hotel's indoor pool. If you're a Starwood Preferred Guest, all the better- there are good deals under the membership program so be sure to sign up online before you travel. Note that major tourist attractions, such as the Great Wall in Mutianyu are a ways off, but the Silk Market and the Forbidden City are just 15-20 minutes away. Cab rides are generally cheap in China, so if you're not with a tour group, don't fret. The Sheraton provides an easy, central location to get around Beijing.
East Lake Villas
35 Dongzhimenwai Main St.
If you're looking for a more long-term arrangement, East Lake Villas is a great option for foreigners who plan to stay at least a month in Beijing. Located near Embassy Row, these apartments are popular among diplomats and expats. Spacious, modern, and fully-equipped apartments go for about $3,000-$12,000 a month, depending on how luxurious the set-up. A lot of polished wood and indirect lighting give these apartments a classic, homey feel. The 'village-style' compound includes a restaurant, bar, coffee house, conference rooms, a swimming pool, gym, tennis and squash courts. Conveniences such as a bank, the post office, and a beauty salon are also located within the complex, and other establishments are a short walk away. Perhaps the biggest lure for foreign families is the Ivy Academy that's located in the East Lake Villas. This international pre-school was set up in collaboration with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and it boasts a Multiple Intelligences program. All in all, East Lake Villas provides a safe, comfortable and international haven from the bustling city right outside the compound gates.
Hotel Cote Cour SL
No. 70 Yanyue Hutong
Dongcheng District, Beijing
The Hotel Cote Cour SL is for families who want to see a different side of Beijing. The quaint boutique hotel is in a historically protected hutong that was once home to performers of the Ming-dynasty court. While its surroundings are old, the hotel itself is equipped with modern facilities, including flat-screen televisions and broadband Internet. The rooms are lavishly decorated with Tibetan carpets and headboards engraved with Chinese poetry and the courtyard and lounge are great places for tired parents to take a break. The hotel is conveniently situated near Wangfujing, a popular shopping district, and both Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City are within walking distance. For families with young kids, public transportation is also nearby, a plus when no taxis are in sight. The friendly staff will happily assist guests with everything from finding a taxi to booking a restaurant reservation.
Other hotels we recommend include: the very posh Peninsula Beijing (866/382-8388) similar in appearance to its namesake in Taiwan but closer in service to its cousin in Hong Kong; the grand Hyatt Beijing Oriental Plaza (86 10/8518-1234), which is in Asia's largest commerce and shopping development and the Renaissance Beijing Hotel (86 10/5863-8888).
Major chains with Beijing properties include Hilton, New Otani and Kempinski. The Rosedale Hotel & Suites, the Jinglun Hotel and any of the 17 new Super 8 chain motels are good choices among the many moderately-priced hotels used by tour groups.