Beijing’s transmuting skyline is known for many things — most of them big. But amid a crop of new big-box hotels, not to mention the world’s biggest concert hall, the world’s biggest media headquarters (Rem Koolhaas’s CCTV building), and the world’s biggest building (Beijing Airport’s Terminal 3), a quiet little boom in boutique hotels has started to take root.
The just-opened Emperor Hotel (interior pictured) is China’s first urban member of the Design Hotels group. The 55-room property mixes sleek, modern spaces with traditional Chinese touches (vintage rice wines on the lantern-lit terrace, anyone?). The glass-encased spa and a rooftop Jacuzzi look out across the city, and while you can wander to nearby brand-heavy malls, you might want to stick to the Emperor’s in-house boutique — it stocks arts-and-crafts that reference the area’s artisan workshops.
Next up is Hotel G, which should lend some Hollywood retro-glam to Beijing’s hotel scene when it opens next month in the up-and-coming nightlife district of Sanlitun. From the same backers behind L.A.’s The Roosevelt, the 110-room “urban retreat” lets its guests choose the mood lighting in their room, ala London’s St. Martin’s Lane, while a split-level rooftop restaurant aims to introduce Mediterranean food under a traditional Tibetan tent. (You can hit the lobby bar-restaurant, named after the Roosevelt original, 25 Degrees, if you need your fix of A-list attitude.)
Racing to open pre-Olympics is the Opposite House, also in Sanlitun. The emerald glass façade of the 99-room hotel shouts 21st-century and the building is set in a new retail and entertainment “village” (pictured) that aims to reinvent the neighborhood as a funkier extension to city’s Central Business District. Typically ambitious for the new Beijing, the futuristic-looking project will, when finished, be virtually a neighborhood unto itself (and home to the world’s largest Adidas shop). At least the Opposite House makes a nod toward old-school hospitality: its name is a translation for a Chinese courtyard guesthouse.