Aman Summer Palace allows guests to experience a piece of history in an utterly beautiful setting with hilltop temples, shimmering lakes, and marble bridges. The Summer Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was burnt down by a coalition of foreign militaries, then rebuilt on the orders of Empress Dowager Cixi, who appropriated the funds of the Chinese navy to spend on this lavish summer retreat. Aman Summer Palace shares a wall with the original structure and is built from the old reception areas; guests enter through a “secret” door. Rooms are in keeping with the palace's century-old, Qing-era style. Service details are pulled from the tricks of a traditional Chinese host: luggage is carted to the room by a rickshaw bicycle, and guests are led to their quarters in the evening by the glow of red lanterns carried by staff.
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The Summer Palace is located in a suburb, in a rather run-down part of Beijing. Everything closes early, and there's not much nightlife to speak of. Guests come to the Aman for the quiet solitude—whether climbing the hills of the Summer Palace in the morning or wandering the hotel courtyards by lantern at night. It's essentially a fantasy version of China inside the hotel walls—and that fantasy quickly dissipates once you step outside.
Need to Know
Rooms: 18 rooms, 33 suites. From $360. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: The Summer Palace is a former imperial retreat, so it sits far from downtown Beijing. There's not much to eat in the immediate area other than the hotel restaurants, unless guests want to trek to Sanlitun or the CBD. The hotel’s Cantonese restaurant serves Peking duck and a Western-style grill. Spa and gym details: The gym is incredibly well equipped, with dedicated Pilates and yoga studios, and personal trainers at the ready. And as this is Aman, the spa is of the same standard as one would expect from the brand. While the Thai massages are superb, the Chinese-style acupressure massage is a true standout.
Who's it for: Architecture and history buffs, spa addicts, and experiential travelers. Our favorite rooms: The Imperial Suite is an amazing space with three Qing-style pavilions. It's an entire hotel within itself. An impressive lobby leads to a private area with a dedicated spa and dining facilities and an appropriately imposing meeting room. For guests who want something more cozy, the smaller suites have the same thoughtful decor. Remote luxury: Getting downtown from the Summer Palace is a bit of a nightmare unless visitors use the subway. But luckily, getting to the ruined sections of the Great Wall, which are more authentic and atmospheric than the restored parts of the wall, is made easier with the suburban location.