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Aman at Summer Palace, Beijing

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
China, Asia: The Aman at Summer Palace's courtyard entrance, Beijing
14 Gongmenqian Street
Summer Palace
China 100091
Tel: 800 477 9180 (toll-free)
Tel: 86 10 5987 9999's insider take:

Chinese officials have been planning a hotel in this former Imperial retreat on the outskirts of Beijing for nearly 20 years. The Aman signed up only three years ago but has not wasted any time opening its first China outpost. Adrian Zecha's company has turned the handsome gray-brick residences of the former emperors' guests into a resort that effortlessly blends historic appeal, traditional Chinese design, and 21st-century comforts. The 51 rooms—serviced by 357 staff—are spread across the historic 6.9-acre site adjacent to the Summer Palace's east gate. Nestled among courtyards, willow- and bamboo-lined stone pathways, and a picturesque lake, the resort allows private day and night access to the palace and gardens. The rooms and suites—which range from 409 square feet to 3,122 square feet—feature high wooden beams, four-poster beds, wooden latticed styling, and heated oil-polished Jin clay stone tiles. The palatial public areas are dressed with Ming dynasty furnishings, silk trimmings, and photos of the rulers who once roamed the long corridors. The range and standard of facilities are excellent, with four restaurants, including Naoki—named after Kyoto-born chef Naoki Okumura—which serves French kaiseki (think French techniques and Japanese presentation); a private library; a "culture room" with Chinese paper cutting and calligraphy; an underground spa, gym, and Pilates studio; and a private 38-seat cinema. But perhaps the finest touch is also the simplest: In the late afternoons, two female erhu and guzheng musicians dressed in red silk gowns play ancient folk tunes in a waterside pavilion. The gentle melodies would soften the heart of the most fearsome emperor.

From the editors of Condé Nast Traveler:
Amanresorts has converted a collection of dwellings adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage Summer Palace into 51 dramatic guest rooms spread across nine courtyards, most of them part of the original 1750 construction. The hotel's seven-acre grounds include a Pilates and yoga studio and an indoor lap pool, and Chinese landscape paintings and brightly lacquered exterior details give the resort an authentic old China feel. Guest rooms feature sliding latticework doors that reveal soaring wood-beamed ceilings, floors of polished Jin clay tiles, and closets made from Chinese wedding chests. There are plenty of authentic touches, from the presence of a master paper cutter who creates works of art in the Culture Room, to room service orders that arrive in stacked bamboo cases balanced on a pole across the waiter's back. The courtyard Chinese Restaurant serves a spectacular Peking duck while instrumentalists perform ancient melodies in the nearby Music Pavilion. —2009 Hot List

When to go: The cool, sunny days from September through November.

Which room to book: With latticework four-poster beds, Deluxe Suites are especially romantic.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.