Beijing’s New Palace

The Peninsula Palace sets a new standard in this city’s luxury hotel market

By: Judy Koutsky

BEIJING There are about a dozen five-star hotels in Beijing and, having stayed at a few, it’s obvious that there’s a pretty big difference in terms of amenities, room size and general comfort. While there’s no definitive answer to which property is the best hotel in the Chinese capital, The Peninsula Palace Beijing, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, gets my vote. First of all, you can’t beat a hotel that’s within walking distance of Tiananmen Square. Most people take a tour of the square during their stay in Beijing, but it’s essential, I think, to walk around the square at night, when local families come out en masse to fly kites. From the hotel, it’s also a 10-minute walk to the Forbidden City and a host of other historical sights. Walking a city is, of course, a great way to get a feel for it, and the Peninsula’s location couldn’t be better as the starting-out point for various strolls.

For those not into walking, there are enough shops in the hotel to keep even power-shoppers satisfied. The Peninsula Arcade includes over 50 international high-end brands such as Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Cartier.

Above and beyond shopping and location, the hotel sets a new standard in Beijing, following a $27 million renovation program that turned The Palace Hotel into The Peninsula Palace Beijing in September 2003. The renovation included refurbishment of 530 guestrooms, including 50 suites, and a total transformation of three executive club floors and the spa.

When your clients aren’t off sampling the city’s culinary delights, two award-winning restaurants located in the hotel will thrill their palates. In 2003, Jing, which serves Western cuisine with an Asian flair, was named one of the “75 World’s Top New Restaurants” by Conde Nast Traveler. Huang Ting, designed to look like a noble courtyard house filled with Chinese antiques, specializes in dim sum, Cantonese cuisine and local Beijing dishes.

Sometimes the best thing about dining in the hotel, however, is how fast it is to get back to your fantastic room afterward.

The standard rooms in the Palace are spacious, compared to the other five-star hotels in Beijing, and all newly designed guestrooms measure 334 square feet or larger. Each room comes equipped with state-of-the-art technology, such as bedside control panels that allows guests to control temperature, lighting, telephone, alarm clock, curtains, television and audio system with the touch of a fingertip. Forgot to put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door? No worries, the Do Not Disturb button is located on the bedside control and will silence the doorbell and keep housekeeping away.

My favorite room features are the flat-screen plasma TV and the additional TV in each bathroom, perfect for watching movies while soaking in the bathtub. The bathroom TVs have steam-free screens, and remote-control functions are installed in the wall next to the bathtub to avoid dropping the remote in the water.

Guests can order DVDs free of charge from an extensive list “The Joy Luck Club” and “The Last Emperor” are popular choices.

I stayed in the 732-square-foot duplex suite, with its 23-foot-high ceilings. The suite, located on the top floor, has one and a half bathrooms, three plasma TVs and, of course, the omnipotent bedside control panel.

The suite experience also includes roundtrip airport transfers by limousine, unlimited mini-bar consumption and dinner for two in any of the Peninsula’s restaurants.

The hotel has four executive floors and a refurbished and expanded Club Lounge, now twice its original size and with sweeping city views. The lounge has a separate concierge desk for facilitating check-in and out. The concierge will also confirm flight reservations, make restaurant and sightseeing reservations and generally look after the club guests.

Club guests can partake in a free full breakfast of eggs, breads, cheeses, meats, salmon and fruit. Throughout the day, they can grab free snacks and bottled water and, in the evening, indulge in complimentary wine and cheese. There is something very special and gratifying about coming back to one’s hotel and relaxing over wine and cheese, especially when you’re looking out over a city from the top of its newest Palace.

HOTEL CHECKLIST

The Peninsula Palace Beijing
Wangfujing, Beijing
86-10-8516-2888
Fax: 86-10-6510-6311
www.beijing.peninsula.com
E-mail: tph@peninsula.com

Hits: Flat-screen plasma TV in every room with an additional no steam-screen TV in the bathroom. Remote controls for lighting, TV, temperature, curtains, etc., at the touch of a button.

Misses: The ATM machine is not easy to locate in the hotel. It’s not on the lobby floor, but instead it’s in the mall downstairs in the rear. While the arcade of stores is great for those visitors interested in shopping, it can be a bit congested for business travelers.

Be Aware: The executive floors have views of Beijing that are hard to beat. While the Beijing Suite is larger in square footage than the Duplex Suite, the Duplex Suite feels larger because of the two floors. The Duplex Suite is also less expensive.

Plugging In: All rooms include two-line international direct-dial telephone with voice mail, high-speed Internet access and a silent fax machine.

Clientele: The hotel targets both business and upscale leisure travelers. High-end tour operators, like Pacific Delight, use the Peninsula for the Beijing leg of its tour.

Rates: Rack rates for standard rooms begin at $340; rates can be found on the hotel Web site for as low as $140. Check site for reasonably priced packages as well. Suites from $400 to $4,000.

Commission: 10 percent.

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