China Travel Guide

The Insider’s Guide to China’s Best Luxury Hotels

The House Collective properties make you feel right at home, if your home was a gorgeous, impeccably-styled art collector’s dream.

It shouldn’t have taken the popularity of Crazy Rich Asians to inform the world what so many travelers have known for ages: China is where the impossibly wealthy and chic of the world come to be, well, impossibly wealthy and chic. Yes, you should still marvel at the history and enormity of the Great Wall of China. Yes, you should still gorge yourself on dim sum and noodles in off-the-beaten-path food stalls. Yes, you should eventually come to the realization that you could visit China every year for the rest of your life, and still never truly capture what it means to live in this energizing, chaotic, constantly changing, and constantly challenging country.

But while you figure out the people, and the history, and the language, and the future of this place, you would also do well to explore its cosmopolitan side, and there is no better way to do that than visiting its three major cities: Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai. Each holds a different vision of China, and each has its must-sees and must-eats and must-drinks. And if you’re looking for lodgings that are among the hippest, most unique, and most service-oriented in the country (and perhaps even the whole world), the House Collective, part of The Swire Group, should be on the top of your must-stay list. And while they all drip luxury, the best part is that they’re surprisingly affordable.

The House Collective consists of four extraordinary hotels: The Upper House in Hong Kong, The Opposite House in Beijing, The Middle House in Shanghai, and The Temple House in Chengdu. As their names suggest, each attempts to redefine the meaning of home for a traveler, and each succeeds thanks to the incredible design, delicious food, and amazing service. Here’s a guide on what to expect at three out of four of these properties (we didn’t get a chance to stay at The Temple House, but we can tell you there are pandas).

The Upper House, Hong Kong

The Facts: Opened in 2009, The Upper House regularly makes lists of the best hotels in the world, and it’s completely understandable why. Designed by Hong Kong-born architect Andre Fu, the 117 rooms (starting on floor 42) are meant to invoke a journey upwards, reminiscent of the feeling any visitor gets when stepping foot in Hong Kong and its skyscraper-laden skyline.

The Upper House_Level 38 Atrium_Rise_Hiroshiwata Sawada
The Upper House_Level 38_Sky Bridge from below
The Upper House_Level 49_Sky Bridge to Sky Lounge
1. Atrium from below 2. Sky Bridge from below 3. Sky Bridge to Sky Lounge

 

The Vibe: Despite its location in the middle of one of the world’s most frenetic cities, the entrance to The Upper House is almost hidden away, and from the second you walk in, you’re imbued with a sense of peaceful reflection. Small touches help further instill this organized calm, from button-less elevators to paperless check-in. The muted natural materials, all bamboo and light woods, feel sophisticated and serene. A variety of artwork and sculptures in various materials are placed throughout the hotel, from the entryway to the restaurant on the top floor. Highlights include a metal zig-zag sculpture titled “Rise” that, fittingly, rises along the hotel’s atrium while a collection of muted lamps await below; be sure to view it both from above and below.

The Rooms: Surrounded by those floor-to-ceiling windows Hong Kong is famous for, rooms at The Upper House will give you either a view of Victoria Harbor or the mountains surrounding the city (sometimes both). Like the rest of the property, these rooms are the definition of understated luxury, with bright woods, white linens, muted fabrics, and subtle artwork and sculptures placed throughout. The bathrooms are perhaps the highlight, with the option of walk-in rainforest showers or a large basin bathtub, both bathed in a soft yellow light that guarantee you the most glamorous bathing experience of your life.

The Upper House_Studio 70 + 80 Island View day
The Upper House_Studio 70 Harbour View
1.  Island View day 2. Harbour View

 

The Location: The Upper House is centrally located in the Admiralty neighborhood of Hong Kong, right next to the Pacific Place shopping complex and just footsteps from Hong Kong Park (which includes the tram to the iconic Victoria Peak).

The Food: The one restaurant on-site, Café Gray Deluxe is led by renowned chef Gray Kunz (who was born in Singapore before taking his talents to New York, where he received a Michelin star). The restaurant aims to recreate a traditional grand cafe, serving contemporary pan-European cuisine with panoramic views of Victoria Harbor. The adjacent Café Gray Bar serves cocktails and other drinks with equally gorgeous views.

The Extras: Like with the artwork here, there are multiple areas scattered throughout the hotel designed for mingling and relaxation. The Lawn is an enclosed grass area, where guests often enjoy cocktails and complimentary early morning yoga classes. While there aren’t as many amenities here as the other House Collective properties (aka no pool or spa), the customer service here is a step above. You can even arrange “cultural safaris” with the Guest Experience team to take you to major sights and under-the-radar gems throughout the city.

Can I Actually Afford to Stay Here? Hong Kong is an expensive city, and the Upper House’s reputation as one of the best hotels in the world means it’s the priciest House Collective property. But you can find deals for around $600 a night, which is admittedly expensive, but if you’re going to splurge for one hotel in your life, make it this one, even if it’s just for one night. You seriously won’t regret it.

The Opposite House, Beijing

The Facts: The first House Collective property opened in Beijing in 2008 and over the past decade, it’s redefined the concept of a luxury boutique hotel. The 98 rooms and sleek public spaces designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma are based on an ancient concept in Chinese hospitality: elite members of Chinese dynasties would typically have a guesthouse “opposite” their own quarters, where visiting guests would stay as a place of honor.

The Vibe: Art plays a big role in all the House Collective properties, but it shines the most at the Opposite House. Maybe that’s because the exterior of the hotel is a work of art itself: a huge, glowing glass-box of yellow and green squares greets visitors when they arrive, setting itself apart on a street filled with nondescript buildings and shopping complexes. Within this literal jewel-box of a building, you’ll find a collection of avant-garde and contemporary art, which rotates every three months and typically focuses on emerging local artists. Art is really everywhere here, from the tiny apothecary boxes that make up the background of the reception desk to the traditional Chinese outfits made completely out of reconstructed Ming dynasty china hidden away in a corner, waiting for you to discover them.

TOH Atrium Water Feature Evening View
TOH Atrium Evening View
1. Atrium Water Feature Evening View 2. Atrium Evening View

 

The Rooms: The rooms here are bright, airy, and uncluttered. The subtle design, decorated in natural woods, lets highlights like the glass-enclosed, deep-soaking oak tub really stand out (you get a walk-in rainforest shower here too). Floor-to-ceiling windows look out over the shopping complexes below.

TOH Penthouse Bedroom
TOH-Exterior-Sunken-Garden-Day-View
1. Penthouse Bedroom 2. Sunken Garden

 

The Location: The Opposite House is located in the up-and-coming Sanlitun district of the city, right next door to a shopping complex known as Taikoo Li Sanlitun. You’ll find a unique and hip collection of dining and nightlife options nearby, and the major Beijing attractions, including Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, are just a short taxi ride away.

The Food: You can indulge in some excellent traditional Chinese cuisine at Jing Yaa Tang, which offers a variety of classic dishes, including some of the city’s best Peking roast duck. The Village Cafe is a more casual eatery, great for breakfast or lunch, that serves international favorites along with Chinese standards. For drinks, Mesh offers a contemporary lounge space and an outdoor patio, along with a long wine list and cocktail menu.

The Extras: Besides the perk of staying in what is basically a contemporary art gallery, the Opposite House also has an on-site gym and an insanely gorgeous, moody swimming pool that is another piece of art itself. The pool’s stainless steel floor reflects the water and the skylight above while LED lights above the pool and below the skylight make you feel like you’re taking a dip under the stars.

Can I Actually Afford to Stay Here: Yes! Prices at the Opposite House typically range between $200-$300 a night, which is a great deal for the level of service and sophistication you’re getting.

The Middle House, Shanghai

lobby
chan
1. lobby 2. chan

 

The Facts: The House Collective’s newest property opened in May 2018, quite fittingly right in the middle of Shanghai. The hotel’s chic, lush spaces were created by Italian designer Piero Lissoni and the 111 rooms embrace both the contemporary and the traditional, just like Shanghai itself.

The Vibe: Right upon entering the Middle House, you’re greeted with chic, emerald-lacquered walls and a massive, seriously insane hanging chandelier right out of the set of Crazy Rich Asians. The rest of the hotel is a similar mix of the bold and the luxurious. Art is once again placed all over the property, most of it by Chinese artists and much of it alluding to a mysterious but ancient sense of history.

The Rooms: The dark, elegant rooms are just as spacious and comfortable as their Hong Kong and Beijing counterparts, but the dark wood gives the spaces an edgier and more sumptuous feel with gorgeous, Moroccan hand-woven rugs adding the perfect amount of color. All rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the city.

The Location: Located with the bustling commercial district of Jing’an in the neighborhood known as Dazhongli (“zhong” means middle in Chinese), the Middle House lives up to its name as a great base for exploring Shanghai. It’s technically part of the complex known as HKRI Taikoo Hui, which includes designer and boutique shops, a Tesla flagship store, and the largest Starbucks in the world. Major tourism hubs like the former French Concession and the Bund are a quick cab ride away. Metro lines are also close-by.

The Food: Gray Kuntz of the Upper House fame brings his European cafe concept here to Shanghai with another iteration of Café Gray Deluxe, perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or cocktails (the city views from the terrace are a nice addition). Sui Tang Li features contemporary Chinese dishes with Shanghainese, Szechuan, and Cantonese flavors, and some incredible handcrafted dim sum and funky cocktails. And while it might be frowned upon in one of Asia’s best food cities, we all get a craving for Western food once in a while, which means Italian eatery Frasca is perfect for anyone looking for some excellent upscale pizza, pasta, and tiramisu.

The Extras: There’s a 24-hour fitness center, and a subterranean indoor heated pool that serves as an oasis of calm from the chaos of the city. There’s also a full-service MI XUN Spa, which offers massages, facials, and other signature spa and beauty treatments. You can also sign up for a variety of fitness classes, including a spin in a HYPOXI room, a unique treatment meant to burn three times more fat than a normal work-out. Also, seriously don’t ignore that chandelier; your Instagram account will thank you.

Can I Actually Afford To Stay Here: Right now, yes, but that might change. When it first opened, prices were around the $200-$250 a night mark. But Shanghai is an expensive city, and as word gets around about the level of service and luxury here, prices are rising, hovering around $300-$350 a night currently and are likely to get higher.

All Photos Courtesy Of The House Collective