A glittering jewel in the heart of Beijing
176 Rooms / 43 Suites
Though Beijing is several time zones from New York, there exists a tantalizing link between the Big Apple’s Fifth Avenue grand dame and Waldorf Astoria Beijing, her younger Chinese sibling. A Qing Dynasty viceroy named Li Hongzhang was purportedly Waldorf Astoria New York’s first Chinese guest back in 1896, together with his 40-person entourage, so it’s fitting, then, that the location of Waldorf Astoria Beijing (in the heart of upscale Wangfujing) is as close as possible to the site of Li’s former Beijing residence. And a palace it most certainly is with gorgeous guest rooms, a deeply serene spa, a fantastic brassiere and a location that can’t be beat — it’s just a short sedan chair ride from the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.
From a distance, Waldorf Astoria Beijing looms majestically, an elegant latticework of copper and bronze cleverly designed to age gracefully via a process of natural oxidation. Beyond the glittering threshold, you will see an interior (by Toronto-based firm Yabu Pushelburg) that whispers boutique and exclusive. In place of an ostentatious lobby, the Beijing hotel is all silk-lined corridors, discrete chambers with tall ceilings, daring art pieces and gold-flecked Italian marble. At 176 rooms and 43 suites, the scale feels petite, personal and luxurious to the last detail.
Peacock Alley was the name of the original concourse connecting the Waldorf to the Astoria in New York, where trendsetters strut their stuff to see and be seen. Here it’s the ground floor bar lounge, a breezy Art Deco space serving signature cocktails and afternoon tea with treats on tiered trays. Don’t skip the luxury hotel’s signature red velvet cake, the delicate wraps of crisp-skinned Peking duck or the namesake Waldorf salad.
From Peacock Alley, soaring black lacquered double doors heave open to reveal Brassiere 1893, helmed by chef Benoit Chargy. His à la carte menu is a playful mix of modern American and pan-Asian cuisine, with a focus on quality and sourcing. A pair of magnificent Italian ranges are the centerpiece of the open kitchen, turning out exemplary renditions of homey classics like honey-glazed Boston shoulder of pork, double-baked roasted baby chicken and a host of New Zealand, Angus and wagyu steaks grilled to juicy perfection. On the second floor, Zijin Mansion is the hotel’s Chinese restaurant, a modern take on Cantonese and Beijing dining with five private rooms.
Guest rooms are awash with color; some are wrapped in walls of soothing eggshell blue silk, others have bolder amber or purple accents. Art Deco design frills like cubist dividers delineate areas for work and rest, and little touches like Ferragamo bathroom amenities, tablet-controlled room technology and electronic Japanese toilets exude modernity and comfort. Ask for a west-facing room on the upper floors and you may get views of the white dagoba atop imperial Beihai Park, or a glimpse of the arched eaves of the Forbidden City palaces.
For a setting a little more traditional, Waldorf Astoria Beijing operates an exclusive set of hutong guest suites encircling a traditional Chinese courtyard behind the hotel. Connected by a private underground passage and decorated in traditional Qing style, these ultra-swank suites have luxuries that include an underground swimming pool, a private restaurant and a private villa more than 6,000 square feet in size with its own garden.
A unifying thread throughout the Beijing hotel is contemporary Chinese art, with eye-catching pieces lending a dash of daring and a sense of place to the public areas. Shandong painter Ling Jian’s beautifully androgynous face, painted in oils and framed in a circle some seven feet across, gazes placidly at guests approaching check-in. Sculpture is keenly represented by a modern deconstructed version of the famous Waldorf Astoria New York’s grandfather clock. It was made by Chinese artisans who dreamed up the design, which is a six-and-a-half-foot transparent clockwork mechanism that appears weightlessly suspended in mid-air.