Beijing for the Senses

A city over 3000 years in the making, the Middle Kingdom's imperial capital radiates with luxurious splendour for the modern age. Here are seven of Beijing's top highlights to be experienced through the city's most splendid hotels. Photos by Chief

Bird's eye view of the Palace Museum from a vantage point at Jing Shan Park, the very spot Emperor Chongzhen, the last ruler of the Ming dynasty, hanged himself after the fall of the city to Manchu invaders in 1644

1. Take flight over the spectacular Mutianyu Great Wall with this enthralling Four Seasons experience.

Aerial views of the Mutianyu Great Wall, a stretch of the famed structure also known as the 'Wild Great Wall', can only be enjoyed via a thrilling helicopter ride

It has been said that the service team at the 4 Seasons will cross the dessert just to satiate your whims but how about a more attainable experience of hovering over parts of the ‘Wild Great Wall’ at Mutianyu to catch a bird’s eye view of the 2000 year old relic? Folks at the 4 Seasons Beijing would gladly make that booking for you, with a packed breakfast and limo transfers to and from the historical fortress where one can enjoy the thrill of a helicopter ride over parts of the wall inaccessible by foot. The views from up above, over ridges and cliffs and parts of the wall untainted by mass tourism, are so spectacular, this is easily one of the best attractions of cultural Beijing.

The Presidential Suite of Four Seasons Beijing is a behemoth residence that spans an entire floor

2. Feast your eyes on one of Asia's greatest private contemporary art collections as you play house at Hotel Eclat Beijing

Fabulous art greets the eye at the lobby of Hotel Eclat Beijing

The notion of an art hotel is so singularly redefined by the gargantuan gumption of Hotel Eclat Beijing’s founder George Wong to create a space so filled by art and the sublimities they convey, the line between museum and hotel has been melded under one conceptually soldered roof. Boasting a treasure trove of monumental pieces by the likes of Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali and modern Chinese artists like Chen Wen Ling and Gao Xiao Wu, the open spaces here are lavishly filled with art just as the suites are set with luxurious accents like grand pianos, LED lighted bathtubs and plush private pools installed with swim current machines.

More contemporary art adorn the interior of theme suites, such as this slick Miami Suite, at Hotel Eclat Beijing

3. Feel the power and prestige of the modern Chinese capital as you inhabit the towering suite of China World Summit Wing Hotel Beijing

The views from China World Summit Wing are as inspiring as they come within the CBD of modern Beijing

Located at the CBD district of Beijing, China World Summit Wing Beijing by Shangri-La towers 80 storey atop the China World Shopping Mall and is the preferred temporal residence of world leaders who routinely visit the Chinese capital for talks and conferences. The suites here are spacious and handsomely appointed with grand vistas. The stunning city views here have also been used to full advantage through the restaurants and lounges, chiefly at Grill 79 and Atmosphere, where the giddy mix of height, fine dining and spirited cocktails have constantly attracted the top financial and trendy crowds of the city.

Fabulous cuts sizzle at Grill 79 located near the top floor of the hotel

4. Explore the Forbidden Palace museum from the elegant sanctuary of The PuXuan

The famous 'Nine Dragons Wall' within the Palace Museum, once the emblem of imperial rule in China

The PuXuan is one of the newest luxury hotels to rise within Beijing and not only is its location at the edge of the palace district perfect, its interiors are also splendidly refined, a masterful melding of classical elements and modern accents (think eel leather details on the wall) that so many hotels had tried and failed within the vicinity. A 20 mins walk from the Palace Museum, an outing to this monumental edifice is most convenient as one strolls back and forth in a relaxed pace, observing, but unassailed by the horrendous traffic that has plagued the Chinese capital, especially within its Wangfujing district, for eons.

Classical minimalism sums up the splendid ID-mores of The PuXuan

5. Life’s a picnic at the historic Jing Shan Park with The Opposite House Beijing

Opposite House, the very firstborn of Swire Hotels, can pack a luxurious picnic basket for an outing to Jing Shan Park

Swire hotel began its operations with The Opposite House in Beijing where it was planted within the trendy Sanlitun district. Fans of the group’s modern-minimalist design bent will also find their penchant for luxury services thoughtfully curated by the concierge of the hotel. Particularly interesting is the Jingshan Park picnic that comes with a superb guide and a basket stuffed with gourmet delicacies to be savoured at choice spots with picturesque views of the Forbidden Palace below. The picnic is usually followed by a tour of the Bell and Drum Tower and the old Hutongs nearby, with insights into the fascinating history and present day realities of this heritage enclave.

Contemporary accents decorate the newly renovated lobby of The Opposite House

6. Wine, dine and watch a movie at the art filled CHAO Beijing

The modern take of a chapel at CHAO Beijing

CHAO Beijing was also raised within the chic Sanlitun area, emanating the sophistication of a modern art hotel. A patchwork of galleries and event spaces with routine exhibitions add to the contemporary milieu of this hotel. There is even an avantgarde take on a chapel here called the Glasshouse said to be very popular for staging marriage proposals. A score of art-deco inspired restaurants and lounges set the mood for culinary indulgences like genteel afternoon tea and intimate dinners with live jazz performances. Movie fans would be happy to visit the ultra plush Cinema Club, a private space that lends a decorous air to the art-house screenings routinely curated by the CHAO team for guests.

An inspired martini waiting to be savoured at CHAO Beijing

7. Meet the artists with the Art Academy program at The Peninsula Beijing

A flamboyant sculpture by eminent Chinese artist Gao Xiao Wu at his workshop in Beijing

The Peninsula Beijing is a recently renovated landmark hotel within the Wangfujing area. With renewed vigour and a new visage, the hotel has set in place an Art Academy program for guests of the hotel to meet renowned contemporary Chinese artists based in Beijing. Over our stay we were arranged to meet the eminent sculptor Gao Xiao Wu and painter Wu Jing at their studios where they gave insightful tours of their working environment and shared the inspirations and philosophies of their creative process. The statuesque works of these two artists are also richly displayed within the art filled Peninsula Beijing.

A sculpture by Wu Jing stands by the entrance of the newly renovated Peninsula Beijing