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Best bets for a place to stay in Beijing

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Best Newcomer: The Intercontinental Hotels Group usually delivers a safe, bland variety of luxury, but somehow they have produced one of Beijing's best-designed hotels, the Holiday Inn Central Plaza, tucked away in the city's Muslim quarter. It has an elegant minimalist lobby, modern and comfortable furnishings in the guest rooms, rainforest showers in the bathrooms, snappy service, and fine restaurants.

Most Relaxed Atmosphere: The low-rise Jianguo Hotel, the first Sino-foreign joint-venture hotel in Beijing, looks its age from the outside, but has kept itself up-to-date with frequent renovations inside. Its pleasantly bustling lobby has retained the loyalty of long-standing expats, who have meetings over afternoon tea while enjoying the string quartet, or turn up in droves for the Sunday morning string orchestra concert, a Beijing institution. Some ground-floor rooms have French windows opening on to small patios alongside goldfish-stocked pools, providing a level of calm quite astonishing in such a hectic city.

Best Whiff of Old Beijing: The recently refurbished Lusong Yuan Binguan, situated on the site of a former Manchu general's residence in a hutong within walking distance of the Back Lakes, features bright paneled ceilings in the hallways, an inviting teahouse in the lobby, and traditionally furnished rooms that somehow avoid the museum-like feel of rooms in other similar hotels. Certain units have direct access to that most Beijing of architectural features: the private courtyard. Grander but not yet fully renovated, the Hejing Fu Binguan, originally the home of a Qing emperor's daughter, will probably eclipse the Lusong Yuan once work on its impressive courtyards finally finishes.

Best Hotel Garden: The Bamboo Garden Hotel's three courtyards are filled with rockeries, stands of bamboo, and other green leafiness. A traditional Chinese garden stretches away behind the otherwise modern Shangri-La Beijing Hotel to its tennis courts at the rear.

Best Business Hotel: That 90% of China World Hotel's guests are there for business comes as no surprise. It's part of a vast shopping complex offering a full-scale business center and top-notch executive floors, state-of-the-art conferencing facilities, free wireless connectivity in public areas, Beijing's finest European restaurant, a specialist wine store, and a supermarket. It sits right above a metro stop and the east Third Ring Road.

Most Efficient Hotel: Four-star Traders Hotel Beijing deliberately markets itself to the "guerrilla traveler," with simple but well-equipped rooms, the city's snappiest service, and a generally straightforward approach as rare in Beijing as a spring without sandstorms. Room rates are very reasonable, there's a metro stop 5 minutes' walk away, and staff members are genuinely apologetic when there's a delay in service (which there rarely is).

Best Health & Fitness Facilities: The health club and spa at the St. Regis Beijing is the capital's most luxurious by far, but the most extensive facilities, including a running track and courts for almost everything, can be found at the Kerry Centre Hotel.

Best Pool: The pool at the Grand Hyatt is very kitsch and out of keeping with the tastefully understated modern but comfortable design of the remainder of the hotel. A small lagoon buried among mock-tropical decor beneath a ceiling of electric stars, it's worth visiting even if you have no plans to swim, and it has plenty of space if you do.

Best for Children: The Kerry Centre Hotel has the largest and best supervised play area for children, handy for a wide range of sports facilities and a pool for the older ones.

For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed accommodations, visit our online hotels index.

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