The Raffles Hotel, Beijing, China.
In the Chinese capital of Beijing, as the buildings get ever taller and the future seems ever closer, Raffles Beijing hotel has one hotelier’s ace card to play.
This hotel has history – a century of it, which is one commodity that money can´t buy. Occupying part of the original Beijing Hotel, which dates from the early 1900s, Raffles Hotel Beijing is an icon of the city’s historical heritage.
You can sense the past in the Writers’ Lounge, a delight with all-day dining, the most delicious afternoon teas, and evening live performances of Chinese harp (often referred to as a konghou) as well as classical piano.
This venerable salon has hosted and entertained the likes of writers Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad and Noel Coward; Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw; influential American journalist and China specialist Edgar Snow; Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, and numerous Chinese and international politicians (Vladimir Putin), as well as other dignitaries, from David Beckham to royals such as Princess Anne and Prince Albert of Monaco. Black and white photos adorn the walls, telling a tale of their own about illustrious past visitors.
While you’re in one of the hotel’s bars, the signature Beijing Sling cocktail is a must-try. It was developed by an Englishman in the 1920s, five years after the birth of the infamous Singapore Sling, at another Raffles hotel. The Beijing Sling is vodka-based (unlike the original gin-based Singapore version), combined with the delicate flavours of honeydew melon and peach.
For eating, there are private dining rooms, and the elegant internationally-acclaimed Jaan restaurant, with 1920s décor, including crystal chandeliers and original dance floor; it has probably the best wine cellar in town, with over 200 vintages. There is even an adjoining “hall of the people”, with golden columns and rich red carpets.
Our very own Michelle Chaplow was in residence for four nights in the Cartier-Bresson suite, appropriately enough, as it is named after the renowned French photographer who visited the hotel.
John Spooner, the Raffles Beijing ambassador (a sort of super-concierge-manager), who sits in a huge high-backed throne-like chair, is a born storyteller and 10 minutes with John will save you hours of time. A sommelier by training, he will listen to your requirements and plan your itinerary, even offering to escort personally you around this fascinating city. From the sunrise flag-raising ceremonies at Tiananmen Square to Wangfujing Night Food Market, both just a five-minute walk away, John is your true gentleman guide and travel advisor.
In terms of the rest of the staff, the longevity of the hotel goes hand in hand with experienced personnel – you are in excellent hands.
This is a hotel where just walking through the revolving doors into the lobby to be greeted by the abundance of flowers, a regal staircase and scarlet-clad bellboys with pillbox hats and gold trims, it feels like an occasion and you know intuitively that you will return.
The complete history of Raffles Hotel Beijing, a Select Member of The Most Famous Hotels in the World, can be found here: http://www.famoushotels.org/hotels/960