The best places to stay in four price ranges: budget ($), moderate ($$), expensive ($$$), and luxury ($$$$)
Qian Men Changgong Fandian
This 200-year-old bordello is now a $20-per-night hotel. Grand central courtyard surrounded by bright banisters, columns, and walls. Not all rooms have windows or traditional furnishings, but they do have private bathrooms, air-conditioning, and TVs. 11 Yingtao Xiejie (from Da Zhalen Jie); tel. 86 106303 2665.
Far East Youth Hostel
"Grab one of this hostel's rental bikes and discover historic Qian'men hutongs (historic alleyway neighborhoods) and former bordellos before they all get chai'd (demolished)."—Patrick Pearce, Beijing filmmaker. This clean, spacious, and central hostel is a short stroll into a lively hutong. Share a room with three or five for under $10, or get one to yourself. Small restaurant is a great place to commune with other travelers. 113 Tieshu Xie Jie; tel. 86 10 6301 8811.
Bamboo Garden (Zhuyuan) Guesthouse
"Charming and affordable choice within walking distance of the lakes region and Drum and Bell Towers."—Heidi Leigh Johansen, editor, Fodor's Beijing. Chinese pavilions within breezy, bamboo-filled garden. Former home to a high-ranking minister in the Qing dynasty and, later, one of Mao's fiercest henchmen. 40 rooms, 6 suites. 24 Xiaoshiqiao Hutong, Jiugulou Dajie; tel. 86 10 5852 0088.
"Affordable hotel situated in a Beijing hutong strewn with restaurants and coffee shops."—Heidi Leigh Johansen. Hutong dates to Kublai Khan's rule. Hotel arranged in a quadrangle, with five courtyards and about 50 basic rooms. 22 Banchang Hutong, Kuanjie; tel. 86 10 6404 0436.
Novotel Peace Hotel
More than 300 clean, basic, value-driven rooms with floor-to-ceiling views of the city. Convenient to Wangfujing Plaza, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City. 3 Jinyu Hutong; tel. 86 10 6512 8833.
Red Capital Residence
"Pitch-perfect revolutionary fantasy, probably the world's only Maoist-chic boutique hotel."—Laurent Vernhes, president, TabletHotels.com. Five ultra-luxe rooms with silk-covered opium beds, red Mao books, propaganda posters, intricate antiques, and other elite Communist Party insignia. Cigar lounge, Bomb Shelter Bar, and imperial-style restaurant (Red Capital Club) complete the elite vibe. 9 Dongsi Liutiao; tel 86 10 8403 5308.
"A business favorite. Guests also receive passes to the five-star health club at the China World Hotel."—Heidi Leigh Johansen. 570 muted rooms and suites; fine service; central location. 1 Jianguomenwai Dajie; tel. 86 10 6505 2277. www.shangri-la.com
Grand Hotel Beijing
"Overlooks the Forbidden City. Even if you're not staying, head up to the rooftop bar for the amazing views and sunset."—Heidi Leigh Johansen. 217 rooms and suites adorned with traditional calligraphy, scrolls, and Chinese furniture. Prime location steps away from the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. 35 Dongchang'an Jie; tel. 86 10 6513 7788. www.grandhotelbeijing.com
Grand Hyatt Beijing
Impeccably managed hotel, with exceptional restaurants (Made in China, Noble Court) and a hopping bar (Red Moon). Nearly 1,000 rooms and suites; some with Forbidden City views. The health club has a 50-meter (165-foot) pool in a subtropical grotto. Underground connector to shopping mall, food court, and English-language multiplex. 1 Dongchang'an Jie; tel. 86 10 8518 1234. www.beijing.grand.hyatt.com
Hotel Côté Cour S.L.
"A throwback to the feudal era, it's a splendid 14-room boutique in a gated hutong compound in old Beijing."—Laurent Vernhes, president, TabletHotels.com. Artful rooms and suites have garden views, flat-screen TVs, down duvets, and a few private terraces. 70 Yanyue Hutong; tel. 86 10 6512 8020. www.hotelcotecoursl.com
Ritz Carlton Financial Street
"With plenty of glass and chrome, this is a sleek choice for financial business travelers."—Heidi Leigh Johansen. Over 250 rooms, three restaurants, spa and health club with sauna, and 24-hour fitness center. Financial Street is Beijing's self-styled Wall Street, far to the city's west. 1 Jin Cheng Fang Jie; tel. 86 10 6601 6666. www.ritzcarlton.com/en/properties/beijingfinancialstreet
"A classic old-world luxury hotel with a resort atmosphere."—Laurent Vernhes. Vast grounds, including rock gardens and a rambling lawn. Close to Summer Palace. Tip: Café Cha, on the lobby level, has one of the city's biggest, most varied brunches, including Peking duck, New Zealand oysters, and American roast beef. 29 Zizhuyuan Lu; tel. 86 10 6841 2211. www.shangri-la.com
Commune by the Great Wall Kempinski
"Part architecture exhibition, part luxury hotel, a once-in-a-lifetime experience in a sublime location."—Laurent Vernhes. Some 11 architectural homes (villas) sit at the base of a peaceful section of the Great Wall. Popular spot for film shoots and corporate retreats. Stay in suites, or rent whole "villas." Tip: consider taking a day trip here from Beijing and eating at the hotel's excellent regional restaurant. Great Wall exit in Shiuguan, Badaling Highway; tel. 86 10 8118 1888. www.commune.com.cn
Shangri-La China World Hotel
Sparkling chandeliers, hand-carved screens, and floor-to-ceiling spectacle make the lobby of this hotel Beijing's most inspirational. And even with 716 lusciously decorated rooms and suites, it still manages to be cozy. Luxury mall adjacent. 1 Jianguomenwai Dajie; tel. 86 10 6505 2266. www.shangri-la.com
St. Regis Beijing
"China's highest staff-to-guest ratio, with personal butlers."—Graeme Smith, author, Frommer's Beijing. Preferred hotel for heads of state (Bush), celebrities (Uma Thurman, Quentin Tarantino), and CEOs. Classic Chinese beds, deep bathtubs, natural hot spring water in the health club Jacuzzi. Bustling Press Club Bar has jazz piano and a classy vibe. 21 Jianguomenwai Dajie; tel. 86 10 6460 6688. www.starwoodhotels.com/stregis
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
Browse photos of nature, cities, and people and share your favorite photos.