I was confused, not an unusual sensation for me, but there nonetheless. Every time I searched for The Ritz-Carlton property in Beijing I kept getting different information. Then the reason slowly dawned on me – there are actually two amazing Ritz-Carlton hotels in Beijing: The Ritz-Carlton Beijing Central Place and The Ritz-Carlton Beijing, Financial Street. If any city deserves more than one, it’s certainly Beijing and I was excited as I began to plan my stay in the city, patronizing both Ritz-Carlton locations in the process. I traveled to Mainland China as part of a project with Cathay Pacific Airways, who asked me to come up with my ideal itinerary in China. My goal was to put together a schedule that reflects me and what I enjoy doing and since I’m a luxury traveler, the obvious choice was to spend my time luxuriating at the consistently amazing The Ritz-Carlton hotels. When I first sat down to write this, I was going to do just a normal review, comparing and contrasting the two properties. But that’s boring and the one thing I hate more than reading something boring is writing something boring, so instead I thought we’d all start with some basic assumptions about both hotels, and then move on to what really makes them interesting places and fantastic hotels to call home for a few days when you visit Beijing.
The Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts around the world are amongst my most favorite thanks to their consistently high levels of luxury service. There are few better in the world than The Ritz-Carlton when it comes to providing a memorable hotel experience that goes above and beyond whatever it is you were expecting. So the assumptions I think we can all start out with are that the hotels themselves are beautiful properties, the rooms exquisite and the service beyond reproach. That is frankly true at every Ritz-Carlton hotel I’ve ever visited and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. They were also well located, although each one calls very different areas of Beijing home. Whether you’re in town for business, pleasure or a mix of the two, one of these two properties will be ideal for you. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on to the really interesting stuff. Unique touches and moments at both of The Ritz-Carlton properties that I think show off their individuality and sense of style.
Feng Shui at Financial Street
While I certainly admire many a hotel entry space, I rarely stop long enough to appreciate their inherent beauty. That changed when I checked into The Ritz-Carlton, Financial Street and was taken aback by what surrounded me. This light and airy space erupts out of nowhere, but it was only after learning about the thought that went into the Feng Shui design that I stood there truly dumbstruck. Every detail in the lobby, and I mean every last fixture and ornament, was delicately placed or created with incredible forethought. Feng Shui is grounded in the five Chinese elements, and achieving the ultimate balance among them is key. One of the few properties in downtown Beijing to fully embrace this philosophy, the influence is found throughout the lobby from the wood decor to the water fountains and the jade and crystal found where you least expect them. I couldn’t believe the stories behind even the most seemingly inconsequential figurine, and this level of attention to detail truly impressed me. Plus it’s just a beautiful space to relax, enjoy a drink and decompress.
BOTH Club Lounges
If you’re a regular reader of this site then by now you are tired of hearing just how much I love The Ritz-Carlton Club Lounges, but it bears repeating. I consider these luxury lounges to be the best in the business and they’re usually a deciding factor for me when choosing a hotel. Guests booking a Club Level room enjoy a lot of perks from in-room check in to complimentary clothes pressing and more, but the highlight of these perks is the Club Lounge itself. Usually large and comfortable spaces, they feature a variety of meal services throughout the day with drinks and coffees always available. They’re perfect for breakfast, afternoon snacks or a quick cocktail before dinner. I love them and I will always make sure that I have access to them, that’s how very important they are to me.
Formal Tea at Central Place
Not every hotel has a team of staff members dedicated to tea, but that’s just par for the course at the Ritz-Carlton, Central Place. The traditional tea ceremony is a very important aspect of Chinese culture, as I learned immediately upon arrival when one of the hotel’s tea masters took me through one of those time-honored ceremonies. Which tea is used depends on the time of year, and that meant during my visit that a fresh and vibrant green tea was the beverage of choice. While tea is a popular beverage at any time of day, the formal ceremony is given as a sign of respect and gratitude and takes years for an apprentice to move up the ranks to master. Each step is meticulously planned and is accompanied with special implements, designed especially for the preparation. It’s a graceful and beautiful experience and it was a privilege to have been offered this unique cultural moment.
Ok, I said I wasn’t going to talk about the rooms, but I think I have to. The standard rooms at any Ritz-Carlton are of course amazing, but so are their suites. There is nothing I enjoy more when I travel than being able to relax and having enough space to do so. Suites therefore are perfect for me as I can set up different areas for work and relaxation. The Central Place property is decorated in what I consider to be an elegant and very classic Ritz-Carlton style, with all of the trimmings you would expect. The suite I enjoyed there was enormous, with more than enough space to get everything done that I needed to. Financial Street is a little different and as a traveler I like the fact that the hotels enjoy varying design styles and aesthetics. Financial Street is what I lovingly call Chinese modern, with well-executed use of glass and metals, but still retaining that classic style and elegance we all love. My room there was perfect, with sweeping views of the city and a bathroom with a view I’ll never forget. Included is Club Level access, making these rooms the best choice.
This pool at Central Place
One thing I loved about the Ritz-Carlton, Central Place was its location, right in the Central Business District and close to many of the sights for which Beijing is so very well known. Maybe that’s one reason why the spa and pool facilities here are so very well done, so guests can quickly escape the chaos of the downtown core and slink away into their own private oasis. And this pool definitely qualifies. I’m not normally a big pool guy, but as soon as I saw this modern and naturally lit space, I knew I had to spend some time there. Booking a spa appointment, I made the most out of the facilities available to guests and soon discovered that yes, it is possible to relax and decompress even in the middle of one of the world’s busiest cities.
Dinner at Qi – Financial Street
I don’t always patronize hotel restaurants, but whenever I’m in Asia that all changes. The reason for that is due to the quality of luxury restaurants found in hotels throughout Asia, and that is especially true with the Ritz-Carlton properties. Their dining establishments are routinely ranked amongst the best in the city, no small achievement for a place that takes food seriously – very seriously. One of my culinary highlights happened while a guest at the Ritz-Carlton, Financial Street and my robust dinner at Qi. The restaurant was inspired by Taoist beliefs and it actually named after one’s positive energy that’s constantly circulating around us all. The fitting name for a dining experience that ranks amongst my most favorite. The Qi menu features classical Cantonese dishes using locally sourced ingredients and varies based on the seasons. Since my experience with Cantonese cuisine was admittedly lacking, I relied on the expertise of my hosts as the progression of seemingly never-ending dishes showcased highlights of this delicious food culture. The entire dining experience was made up of an assortment of small plates, giving me the opportunity to try as much as possible and learn a lot about both the city and culture in the process.
The IT Factor
No, this isn’t a cop out bullet point, it’s the truth when I say that there is something very special and yet vaguely indefinable about both The Ritz-Carlton, Beijing properties. I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels and I’ve enjoyed spending time at many Ritz-Carlton properties around the world, but my Beijing experience was different. It had nothing to do with the rooms or the food but instead how I was made to feel. I felt special, I felt unique and ultimately that’s at the heart of the luxury travel experience. What’s even more amazing is that I know every other guest felt the same way. Everyone walks away with that special feeling of individuality and that is, more than anything, what makes these properties so very special. They go that extra step not just to make sure that the pillows are fluffy and the champagne is on ice, but to ensure everyone who passes through their doors has an experience and not just a trip. There’s a big difference between those two concepts and is yet another reason why I always love my time with The Ritz-Carlton, one of the best luxury brands in the world.