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Note: these hotels were selected based on Frugal Travel Guy’s preference for mid and high-level properties from major US hotel groups. There are all manner of other options, but the analysis can help those with other preferences.
For the main US hotel groups, you generally cannot go wrong with facilities, the Asian locations are almost several levels of luxury ahead of their US cousins. Even the Best Westerns are quite nice. The first time my wife saw a US Marriott she thought it was a joke and couldn’t be a real Marriott.
The issue is location, and here, be very wary of any use of the word “downtown.”
There are many stellar local hotels, boutique hotels, Asian chains (like Shangri-La and Raffles) but the mandate here is US hotel chains. Accor also has tons of hotels in China.
Occasionally the China travel sites like ctrip and elong have better deals than the hotel global sites, but you often do not earn points for those stays. Price difference are much less common that in the past.
Hilton Beijing Wangfujing is a great location in the heart of the sightseeing action.
The Hilton Beijing Hotel is in the northeast of the city center, not convenient for tourists and the same price at the Wangfujing.
Crowne Plaza Wangfujing is a great deal. It is a bustling hotel, not a quiet retreat, but half the price of the nearby Hilton.
All are in poor locations except the Ritz-Carlton Beijing and JW Marriott Beijing which are in the same complex and right on the metro on the main east-west road. At that price level, the St. Regis’ location is better.
One Blue in an inconvenient location.
Starwood has some good properties, but all are a little removed from the action. The Sheraton Great Wall is near the Hilton Beijing Hotel. Of the more expensive ones, the St. Regis is right in the heart of the city, but the Westin Beijing Chaoyang is not convenient for the metro and the Westin Financial Street, well, avoid anything on Financial Street unless you want horrid traffic in the day and a moonscape devoid of life at night.
- Mid: Crowne Plaza Wangfujing
- High: Grand Hyatt
- Over the top: Park Hyatt
Hyatt Regency Xi’an, great location inside the city walls.
N/A, Xi’an Crowne Plaza does not open until Q3 2011.
Sheraton Xi’an does not have the great location of the Hyatt Regency.
- Hyatt Regency (for non-US chains, there are choices from Shangri-La and Sofitel).
Hilton Shanghai Hotel is a serviceable choice in a decent, central location, near Jing’an Temple and its metro stop.
3 superb choices, the Grand Hyatt Shanghai and Park Hyatt Shanghai leer over the city from their perch at the dueling tallest towers in Lujiazui, Pudong, though the Grand Hyatt’s rooms are reputed to be shoebox size. On the north side of the Bund is the stellar Hyatt on the Bund, a great spot for a drink with your view.
Lots of inconveniently located hotels, there is a new Indigo on the far, far south of the Bund, but only if you must us IC Hotels.
The JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton can’t quite match up to the Hyatts, and many other Marriott properties are in so-so locales, but if you want a more traditional Chinese feel, the Renaissance Shanghai Yuyuan peers over Yu Garden.
The Radisson Hotel Shanghai New World has a superb location, on Nanjing Road at People’s Square, but is mainly if you want a hotel with a flyer saucer on top. The sleeper pick in Shanghai is the Radisson Plaza Xing Guo Hotel Shanghai, a new tower on a sprawling estate in French Concession, just a little north of Xujiahui. It has a major downside of no conveniently walkable metro stop, though just a short taxi from several, but it is a wonderful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Le Royal Meridien Shanghai has a stellar location, at Nanjing Road across from People’s Square and far outclasses the nearby Radisson New World. The Westin Bund Center is more expensive with a location quite a hike from the actual Bund, but the weekend all you can order, affordable Chinese-Japanese-Thai brunch at its Asian restaurant EEST makes it worth a stop, if not necessarily a stay.
- Mid: all of these are around $150 and up, to go lower with the US chains pick the less central locations, for which most will still have reasonable metro access.
- High: Le Royal Meridien to be in the thick of the action or Radission Xing Guo for an oasis in old Shanghai.
- Over the top: Hyatt, Hyatt or Hyatt (Grand, Park or Bund).