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Where to Stay in Beijing
Beijing is an enormous city, and many of its most prominent points of interest are spread far throughout the sprawling metropolitan area. If you want to choose your hotel based on its proximity to major landmarks, even the centrally located district of Dong Cheng will be a bit of a journey from some of the stops on your must-see list. Still, Dong Cheng is among the most popular areas for lodging, with several of the city’s finest hotels and convenient access to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and Beijing National Stadium, the famous “Bird’s Nest” of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
The district of Chaoyang, situated in the northeast region of Beijing, contains the city’s Central Business District and several hotspots for nightlife and the performing arts. Outside of Dong Cheng, you’ll find the greatest concentration of luxury hotels there. The northwestern districts of Yayun Cun and Haidian also have numerous lodging options, and are among the closest tourist areas to the Summer Palace, the city’s most scenic park. For cheap hotel deals in Beijing, the south side of the city has remarkably affordable options. Though these neighborhoods offer little in the way of scenery, many of Beijing South’s discount rooms are perfectly comfortable.
Beijing Hotel Tips
Regardless of the size of your budget or the level of luxury you desire, you’ll find options that meet your needs in the districts described above. Five star luxury hotels are as abundant in Dong Cheng and Chaoyang as hostels and modest guest houses are in Beijing South, and there are several levels of quality in-between.
The factor that is liable to make the greatest difference among accommodations is whether they’re managed by Western hotel chains or independent Chinese hoteliers. Hotels with brand names you recognize are most likely to resemble accommodations in the U.S., while fully Chinese-run hotels vary more in terms of standard amenities.
Beijing Hotel Recommendations
The Grand Hyatt Beijing is a great place to splurge, especially if you plan to spend lots of time exploring Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden Palace, both located short walks away. Rooms are luxurious, but not excessively so, and upscale amenities include a modern fitness center, an indoor pool and grotto, and on-site boutique shopping. Five excellent restaurants can also be found throughout the hotel complex.
A quieter boutique hotel experience awaits in nearby Dong Cheng at the Hotel Cote Cour, a courtyard mansion with charming neighborhood views. With rooms filled with state-of-the-art electronics and clever design details, this hotel is a bargain.
In ritzy Chaoyang, the St. Regis Beijing is a contender for the city’s finest digs, and is popular among international business travelers for its impeccable concierge service. The regal décor, oversized rooms and gourmet dining options are all first-class, but perhaps the hotel’s most interesting feature is a spa tub filled with water piped in from a natural hot spring located far beneath the hotel floor.
On the west side of town, luxury is made affordable at the Shangri-La Beijing, where the gleaming golden lobby is a sight to behold. Its well-appointed rooms, tranquil gardens and distinguished CHI Spa make great retreats from the hectic grind of the city.
Beijing’s subway is an ever-expanding, efficient and affordable transit system, if a little crowded. English-language signage at all entrances and terminals make it an easy-to-use first line of transportation for visitors from the U.S., and one-way tickets can be purchased from machines at every stop.
The next best way to get around is by taxi, where metered rates are competitive with most major U.S. cities. Few Beijing taxi drivers speak English, though, so it’s important to embark on every ride with your destination, return destination and major nearby intersections written down clearly in Chinese characters. Asking your hotel front desk staff for help with this task is a common request.
Don’t consider renting a car after your flight to Beijing arrives unless you’re familiar with driving in the area. Though the roadways are arranged in a simple and logical fashion, drivers in Beijing are often aggressive and parking is notoriously difficult to find.