I still fondly recall my stay at the Peninsula Hotel Shanghai earlier this year in March. It gave me the impression that the hotel was a neat blend between the contemporary design and retained 1930s feel of Shanghai’s hey days’ (when it used to be known as the “Pearl of the east”). In contrast to the Peninsula Shanghai, the 525 room Peninsula Beijing has a completely different feel to it altogether. Apart from all the usual signature Peninsula amenities and in-room facilities offered in every Peninsula Hotel around the world, the Beijing Peninsula differs enormously in terms of architecture, ambiance, its classical interior décor and the amount of shopping one can do inside the hotel. It is the only other Peninsula hotel on mainland China (and part of the “Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels’ Ltd), and is rather more well established as well than its younger and newer counterpart in Shanghai. This magnificent picturesque hotel has been through 4 renovations since its opening in 1989- and 2003 was the most recent one where over US$34 million were spent to upgrade its facilities.
Originally known as the “Peninsula Palace Hotel” until 2003, The Peninsula Beijing has become a renowned landmark since its opening in March 1989. Located in the heart of Beijing’s glamorous Wangfujing area, around 5 minutes walking distance from the bustling Wangfujing Street itself, and around 15 minutes walk from the Wangfujing Metro station, the hotel reflects a careful blend between the innovative touch and the luxury that it stands for. In actual fact, most guests will tell you that with the change of the times, the Peninsula Beijing is fast becoming a hotel that requires itself to constantly provide some sort of innovation its guests. It’s the small things that make the big difference to a guests stay in the 21st Century (and beyond). Such as the luxury of having to use a Fax Machine and the international direct dial (although the Beijing Peninsula does not feature of free International calls by Skype like the Shanghai Peninsula). The whole Peninsula experience starts with a personal pick up from the airport (VIP Pick up also available on request) with one of the Hotel’s signature Rolls-Royces’ or the BMW 7 series automobiles- and the same service is available on checking-out. The driver will take you straight to the plane (for those flying with First Class/Business Class), or to the terminal building.
The rooms are slightly smaller in size compared to the other Peninsula Hotels’, but it must be bore in mind that this glorious hotel has been operating since 1989- and in those days it was perhaps the most luxurious hotel operated by a foreign company in the whole of China. This was well before any of the Peninsula’s competitors’ entered the Mainland China market. To this day the tradition still looms in the air. The customer service, the maids dressed in period uniform, the Rolls Royce Service and the general feeling of the hotel that gives a message of “Yes, I am at the luxurious Peninsula” is still the same as it was in 1989. Toiletries, as with all other Peninsula Hotels in China, are provided by “Davi”- including their impossibly luxurious hand cream.
One of the key things that impressed me was the polished level of languages spoken by the native Chinese staff except English. These included French, Spanish and even business conversational Italian. Now that is a bit of a rarity in China- you’d be lucky enough if someone speaks good enough English let alone any other language.
The Peninsula Beijing Club looks and feels like a gentleman’s club. There is a strict dress code of semi-formal to formal wear with no jeans, shorts or trainers. The view may not be that fantastic, however the service and the environment is calm and soothing. Unlike the kind of “Clubs” that some of the other five star hotels’ offer, the club house at the Peninsula is a real club house. By this I mean that it is just the right place where one can relax and while away their evening in the company of good friends/colleagues and a good wine in hand. Normally such clubs are the nearest thing comparable to Gentleman’s Clubs such as the “Victory Services Club” (London) or the “American Club” (Hong Kong) that are frequented by airline captains’, four-star generals’, actors’ and other VIPs’. Its how a club should be- not with numerous amounts of food (it’s not a restaurant) or with the rest of the hustle and bustle that one gets in a noisy eatery. On my trip I even managed to bump into renowned Chinese actor, Mr. Guo DeGAng (郭德纲), for a nice dinner and chat.
The Club can be used by anyone, however is only complimentary for those staying at any one of the Club rooms on three dedicated floors of the hotel (and the 57 Suites’). The focus is mainly for those who are business minded- and the general conception is that everything should be smooth. This is true from everything ranging from private checking-in and checking-out to the breakfast service (guests can have a pre-assigned Breakfast at short notice if they are in a rush). The only thing is that some elements of the service may seem very traditional for those that are used to residing at more modern five-star hotels’- such as the amount of dishes on offer are quite limited. One thing that people must remember is that the Peninsula is all about luxury and class rather than the amount of service. It’s the quality, and not about the quantity as they say.
One of the finest innovations of the Peninsula Beijing is the “Academy” that allows guests to enjoy any one of the 10 signature experiences’. There is something for everyone- including Children. Some of the amazing experiences include “Chinese Contemporary Art”, “Kite making with a Kite Master*” and “Chinese Dumpling Making**”. The latter two have to be my favorites. The “Kite making experience” allows people to visit a real Kite Maker in their Hutong courtyard house, and then after the kite is made you take it down to Tiananmen Square to enjoy this traditional activity. The “Chinese Dumpling Making” allows the guest to be given a personal tutorial on the history of the Chinese Dumpling by the Peninsula Chef, and then allows the guests to learn how to make a perfect Dumpling. Highly recommend that you make a reservation two days in advance to avoid disappointment.
Whether you want to relax, swim, exercise, shop (over 50 shops in the renowned exclusive Peninsula Arcade) or eat like there is tomorrow at the finest of Beijing’s restaurants’ then the Peninsula has it all. In terms of having a massage or a swim, the Peninsula for sure has a deeply personalized spa experience like no where else in the rest of this part of the capital. Opened in 2008, the 1370 Sqm Peninsula Spa by ESPA forms part of the third-floor health and fitness facility at the Peninsula Beijing with 12 state of the art treatment rooms that include all the relevant treatments to cleanse the skin, relax and soothe aching muscles and preparing the body to become more fresh and energetic. The experience of the Spa doesn’t just stop here as there are a wide variety of treatments for men and women available on request. Both men and women have separate thermal suites that include a steam bath, sauna, lifestyle massage shower and an ice fountain.
Don’t be disappointed if you feel that the Peninsula Beijing does not seem to be as contemporary as, say some of the other five-star hotels’, or if the rooms are a bit smaller (except of course in the HUGE Suites)- because it really isn’t meant to be either. The clientele at the Peninsula are different, perhaps more affluent and perhaps not so much of the business type. The vast majority are celebrities, people on holiday or those who just prefer to enjoy life in Beijing at the high end.
One of the key features and memorable experiences I would definitely recommend is the impossibly scrumptious food served at the Huang Ting. Whatever you do, and whatever you eat, just make sure you don’t go away without trying the signature Beijing Daiquiri. An amazing combination of banana, vodka, lemon Juice, triple sec, curacao and a quick dash of Mao-Tai; the Beijing Daiquiri will not only blow your mind away, but will perfectly round up your stay to be a memorable one at the Beijing Peninsula.
* 2 Hours cost RMB 1250 per person (Prefer Minimum 2 persons)
** 90 Minutes costs RMB 880 per Person
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