The first real wave of tourists to visit China in the early 1980s had little need for guidebooks—foreigners were only allowed to stay in ugly, state-run, Stalinist-style blocks. But times have changed. Now Beijing has it all: a glorious glut of the world’s best hotel brands; cheap and breezy places to make your base; intimate boutique beauties; and historical courtyard conversions. The
main hubs for hotels are around Wangfujing (Beijing’s famous shopping strip), in the vicinity of the northeast Third Ring Road, and along Chang'an/Jianguomen, one of the city’s main thoroughfares that connect the Central Business District (CBD) to Tiananmen Square. This is where you’ll find the city’s most recognizable and reputable hotels, all of which offer luxurious rooms, international-standard facilities, and attentive service. Don’t despair if you’re on a budget: there are plenty of decent dwellings next to the tourist trail at a fraction of the cost.
"Location, location, location" should be your mantra when booking a Beijing hotel, especially if you're only in town for a few days. It's a big city: there's no point schlepping halfway across it for one particular hotel when a similar option is available in a more convenient area. Consider where you'll be going (Summer Palace? Forbidden City? Great Wall?), then pick your bed. Busy execs should choose wisely in order to avoid getting snarled up in Beijing’s horrific traffic, which most likely means staying a little farther west near Financial Street or in the other commercial hub of Guomao (the CBD) in the east. Those in search of nightlife will want to be by Sanlitun, home to the capital’s best bars and restaurants. If you're after a one-of-a-kind Beijing experience, check out the city's courtyard hotels. These distinctive lodgings are often converted siheyuan—traditional homes built as residential quadrangles among the hutongs.