Review: St. Regis Beijing

I visited Beijing three times in May, thanks to American’s amazing $450 business class fares:

I wanted to try yet another new property for this stay in Beijing, so decided to book the St. Regis Beijing. The Starwood portfolio in Beijing has gotten interesting recently, especially between the St. Regis and W:

  • The two hotels are basically across the street from one another, so I can imagine they’re turning into quite the competitors
  • The rates at the two hotels are typically comparable, and sometimes the St. Regis is even cheaper

For what it’s worth, the rate at the St. Regis was 1,440CNY (~$230) per night for the two nights I was staying. This is a Category 5 SPG property, making a free night redemption 12,000 Starpoints per night. Since I value Starpoints at ~2.2 cents each, paying seemed like the better option.

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As was the case when staying at the W Chang’an, the ride from the airport to the St. Regis took about 45 minutes and cost about 100CNY.

The first thing I noticed as we pulled up to the hotel was how dated the exterior looked. The windows were all fairly small and it looked more like a hospital than a luxury hotel. Especially compared to the rather modern looking W across the street.

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St. Regis Beijing exterior

The lobby does “feel” very St. Regis, with high ceilings and a rather grand lobby.

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St. Regis Beijing lobby

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St. Regis Beijing lobby

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St. Regis Beijing lobby

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St. Regis Beijing lobby

That being said, the furniture in the lobby wasn’t especially well maintained, and it doesn’t seem like they put much effort into keeping the hotel clean. I saw the below in the lobby bar at 7AM (and this wasn’t the only table in such a state).

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St. Regis Beijing (dirty) lobby

The reception desk is located inside the lobby and to the left. While some St. Regis properties have “sit down” check-in, this one doesn’t. That being said, the associate checking me in was friendly, and I appreciated that she proactively offered me a Platinum upgrade to a Statesman Suite.

She also explained a bit more about the hotel, including the location of the gym, and the fact that the hotel had a “business center” with complimentary drinks and snacks in the evenings.

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St. Regis Beijing reception

The elevators were located diagonally across from the reception desk. I took the elevator up to the seventh floor, where my room was located.

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St. Regis Beijing elevators

It was a non-smoking floor, though they still had big sand “ashtrays” for extinguishing cigarettes, which seemed a bit odd, especially since the floor did also smell a bit like smoke. Then again, I guess it’s not that different than how airplanes still have ashtrays.

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St. Regis Beijing non-smoking floor

My room, #703, was located at the far end of the hallway after turning left outside the elevator.

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St. Regis Beijing hallway

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite entrance

As you can see based on the floorplan, the suite consists of two separate rooms, which are each about the size of a standard room.

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St. Regis Beijing floorplan

The room featured a square entryway with an armoire on the left.

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite entryway

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite entryway

Then on the right side was the minibar, which actually had extremely reasonable prices ~$3 for a Diet Coke, which is less than they charge in the restaurant).

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite minibar

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite minibar

Then the living room featured a couch on the right side, a big, yellow chair on the left side by the mirror, and a desk between the two.

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite living room

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite living room

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite living room

I did appreciate that the desk had a proper rolling desk chair. There was also what I believe was a fax machine?

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite desk area

Not that Beijing is a city particularly known for its views, but I thought mine was especially underwhelming.

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite view

If I cocked my neck I could see the hotel’s pool and garden area, but that was about it.

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite view

Waiting on the table were five bottles of water (two of which were Fiji), a fruit plate, and some sweets. I thought that was a nice touch.

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite fruit & sweets

The bedroom was on the small side. While the king bed was well padded, it was extremely worn out, to the point that I could feel the springs.

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite bedroom

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite bedroom

The bed faced a flat screen TV as well as a chair by the window.

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite bedroom

Then just past the bedroom was a vanity, and across from that was a closet.

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite vanity

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite closet

Past the vanity and closet was the bathroom, which featured a single sink, a bathtub, a walk-in shower, and a Japanese toilet.

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite bathroom

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite toilet

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite shower

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite bathtub

As usual, toiletries were Remede branded.

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St. Regis Beijing Statesman Suite toiletries

While I appreciated the suite upgrade, overall I found the decor to be a bit dated and past its prime. I do usually prefer modern design, but can also appreciate more classic design. In this case I just kind of felt like lots of things were dated and not well maintained.

Shortly after arriving in the room someone from butler service knocked to explain to me how the service works. They seemed to offer the usual St. Regis Butler service, including complimentary coffee/tea, and pressing of five garments.

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St. Regis Beijing butler services

I took advantage of the complimentary coffee more times than I can count, given the crazy hours I was up. And I did appreciate that they served French Press coffee.

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St. Regis Beijing butler service coffee

Breakfast was served daily from 6AM until 10AM at The Garden Court restaurant, which is located across from the reception desk.

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant entrance

The decor is beautiful, and pretty characteristic of the St. Regis brand.

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant seating

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant seating

The buffet itself was big. And while I usually love “Asian breakfast buffets” (I realize that’s quite a generalization, but it’s typically true almost across the board), that’s not the case in Beijing. This was the third breakfast buffet that missed the mark.

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

The food was largely tasteless, lukewarm, and not cohesive.

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

See the thing in the bottom right? Those are basically hot dog buns with tasteless chocolate cream. Something you’d think would taste great, but it didn’t. Okay, on second thought maybe that doesn’t even sound like it would taste great.

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

Like, don’t the below muffins look like they’d be delicious? They tasted like cardboard…

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant breakfast buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant breakfast buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant breakfast buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant breakfast buffet

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant breakfast buffet

Some of the Chinese options were the only redeeming quality of the buffet, including the noodle station.

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant noodles

In terms of the hotel’s other dining options, as I’ve noted in a previous blog post, this hotel does room service really well, which I appreciate.

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St. Regis Beijing room service

As I explained above, this hotel has what they call a “business center” on the 18th floor. That seems straightforward enough… except it’s actually a club lounge open to all guests.

There’s an associate at reception who takes down your room number as you enter.

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St. Regis Beijing The Garden Court Restaurant breakfast buffet

The lounge is a good size, with plenty of tables, as well as a back room with some couches and PCs.

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St. Regis Beijing club lounge

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St. Regis Beijing club lounge

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St. Regis Beijing club lounge

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St. Regis Beijing club lounge

The lounge even boasts nice views of the city (unlike from my room).

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St. Regis Beijing club lounge view

The lounge is open from 10AM until 10PM, and they serve complimentary soft drinks and light snacks all day, including cookies, fruit, etc.

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St. Regis Beijing club lounge daytime snacks

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St. Regis Beijing club lounge daytime snacks

Then, oddly enough, there’s an evening reception from 5PM until 7PM, which is complimentary for all guests. This is literally like a club lounge which everyone can access.

There’s a selection of (pretty low end) liquor.

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St. Regis Beijing club lounge evening drink selection

Then there’s also wine.

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St. Regis Beijing club lounge evening drink selection

The spread itself is good, though not amazing. There were all kinds of light snacks, including sushi, fresh fruit, etc.

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St. Regis Beijing club lounge evening snacks

Then there were a few hot dishes, including gnocchi, spring rolls, and mini-hot dogs.

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St. Regis Beijing club lounge evening snacks

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St. Regis Beijing club lounge evening snacks

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St. Regis Beijing club lounge evening snacks

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St. Regis Beijing club lounge evening snacks

Lastly, there were a few types of dessert.

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St. Regis Beijing club lounge evening snacks

Ironically enough the only thing they charge for in the “business center” is using the computer. Seems a bit backwards, no?

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St. Regis Beijing business center price list

As I explained in a previous post about the lounge, I just find the lounge as such to send conflicting messages, and can’t really rationalize it. It’s nice that they have it, but:

  • Aren’t they cannibalizing their own food/beverage sales by offering it?
  • Is the spread they’re offering really creating the impression of the brand they want? When I think about St. Regis, Beefeater and mini-hot dogs aren’t the first thing that come to mind

But again, I appreciate it, and it’s certainly better that they have it than not. Though that won’t stop me from being confused. 😉

The St. Regis also has a nice gym and spa area, which is located in the other “wing” of the hotel. To access it I had to walk to the ground floor, turn right, walk down a long hallway, and then it was on the right.

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St. Regis Beijing walkway to gym

There’s an Iridium Spa, as you’d expect at a St. Regis property.

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St. Regis Beijing Iridium Spa entrance

And then there’s a pretty big gym as well.

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St. Regis Beijing gym

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St. Regis Beijing gym

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St. Regis Beijing gym

Lastly, there’s an indoor lap pool.

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St. Regis Beijing pool

The only other thing I’d note about the St. Regis is that internet was a real opportunity. I’m familiar with the challenges of internet in China, but I had a VPN, and by far had the fewest problems at the W Chang’an, for what it’s worth.

St. Regis Beijing bottom line

Before I stayed at the St. Regis I was a bit confused as to why it was roughly the same price as the W, and often cheaper. Because 9 out of 10 times I’d choose a St. Regis over a W, all else being equal. Well, this case might be one of those exceptions.

I thought the St. Regis was dated and past its prime. There were no doubt good things about the hotel. For example, the hotel executed room service very well, the club lounge was a nice touch, and service was generally a bit more polished than at some of the other properties I’ve stayed at in China.

That being said, all else being equal I’d probably return to the W in the future for the more comfortable bed, more modern decor, and generally better upkeep of the property.

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Comments

  1. Thx for the review, Luke! Too bad that you did not try out Being’s two best luxury properties during one of your 3 visits: the newly opened Rosewood Beijing and the stunning Aman at Summer Palace. I stayed at both of them last April (and they are far, far better than the St Regis & W, where I stayed at last January):
    – my review of the Rosewood: http://theluxurytravelexpert.com/2015/04/22/rosewood-beijing-china/
    – my review of the Aman at Summer Palace: http://theluxurytravelexpert.com/2015/05/20/aman-at-summer-palace-beijing/
    I used to choose my stays (as well?) based on my loyalty to Starwood (Platinum) and Hyatt (Diamond), but now I just go for the most unique hotels, regardless of loyalty. It may sound strange, but I am somewhat relieved since I do not feel loyalty pressure anymore (and since my travel plans are no longer determined by loyalty, making for much better and authentic travel experiences).

  2. That booze is below St. Regis standards but I think I would call it mid-range, rather than low-end. I think the US carriers are serving worse well liquor in their clubs, for example 🙂

  3. Thanks for the review, Luke. Too bad you did not stay at one of Beijing’s 2 best luxury properties during one of your 3 trips: Aman at the Summer Palace (my review: http://theluxurytravelexpert.com/2015/05/20/aman-at-summer-palace-beijing/) and the newly opened Rosewood Hotel (you can read a review on my blog as well). Both hotels are far, far better than the W and the St Regis where I stayed at in January, and especially the Aman is a stunning place, located within the boundries of Summer Palace, a UNESCO world heritage site. I hope you had at least tea over there :-).

    My travel plans used to be determined by my hotel loyalty programs (Hyatt diamond, Starwood Platinum), but I changed that and I am so glad I did: I do not feel any loyalty pressure anymore, get to stay at far better hotels, and live more authentic travel experiences.

  4. 2nd’ed the Rosewood. The Happy Hour at the lounge made me very very happy with free-flow foie gras, premium Champagne (Taittinger) and swedish meatballs!

  5. “The Luxury Travel Expert”? Aren’t you the one who got caught writing plagiarized content for your trip reports and blogs on FlyerTalk?

    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/24753718-post38.html

    Huh. What do you know… I found the same paragraph from your review…

    http://www.differentplanet.com/TravelSpeak6/files/assets/common/downloads/publication.pdf

    “Just steps from the East Gate of the Summer Palace grounds and only 15 km from the Forbidden City, lies Aman at Summer Palace – the ideal location from which to discover Beijing. The ultra-luxurious resort is a serene retreat, with peaceful internal courtyards and pavilions embracing traditional Chinese architecture. The property provides easy access to cultural landmarks as the Great Wall, The Temple of Heaven and the hutongs, as well as Beijing’s restaurants, art galleries and other contemporary delights.”

    Anyways, I suppose if you start mentioning Real Housewives of Atlanta we’ll know you’re lifting content from “Luke”. 😀

  6. Yes Jan, your travel experiences to luxury high end hotels in cities with as much poverty as Beijing certainly are “authentic travel experiences” that connect you with the everyday citizen of China.

  7. I stayed at the Lee Garden in Beijing last week. Did you notice if they forced you to have a swimming cap to use the pool? Such a strange rule. We had to settle for the spa because we didnt have a cap and didnt want to buy one for a swim.

  8. Lucky
    Lived in China for a few years, and while there are exceptions (the Shenzhen Grand Hyatt, for one), even though these are international hotels, your best bet, by far, will be to stick with Chinese food, particularly at the buffets. There is just still a general misunderstanding in most places, even high end, of western cuisine, food, and how tastes go together. And Chinese preferences for things like soft bread (as opposed to something with some chew) make many foods not particularly satisfying to foreign travelers.

    That gym does look fantastic though for a hotel gym.

  9. Great property review as always. Is there a reason why you do not include taxes and fees in the rate when determining whether the paid rate is worth the 2.2c valuation? Quite often, these surcharges are 10 – 20% of the rate, which would justify the use of points (at your 2.2c per pt valuation).

  10. @ Al — Nope, you’re absolutely right, I should have. In this case it wouldn’t have been worthwhile in either case, but good point.

  11. @ Ben S — I have noticed that in Asia sometimes, though in my experience they’ll usually loan you one if it’s a requirement. Didn’t check at this hotel specifically, though.

  12. There was also what I believe was a fax machine?

    Ah, glad to see the partnership between St. Regis and Aerolineas Argentinas is coming to fruition.

  13. Lucky, my wife and I stayed here last October. Our favorite part was something that you did not mention. Below the pool there is a grotto area with multiples large jacuzzis, saunas, and locker room area. We had never seen such a large hot tub area at a hotel.

  14. @Greg – I agree with you about Shenzhen Grand Hyatt – best Italian restaurant!

  15. @ Ivan — Right, but personally I value 15 minutes of my time (which presumably it would take to get the drink) at more than the $2.50 savings. And typically when I get drinks out of the minibar it’s in the middle of the night, when stores wouldn’t otherwise be open.

  16. Sorry to see that the St. Regis has slipped a bit recently. My husband and I stayed their a few years ago (before the W opened) and had a great stay from start to finish. For what it’s worth, President Obama stayed there a few months later during his state visit, so they must have been doing something right! The decor looks the same so I guess it’s just starting to show its age, but we never saw a dirty cup or glass anywhere. We also were upgraded to a Statesman Suite, which was nice since I’m only SPG Gold. IIRC, at the time the top floor lounge was only available to elites; I agree the fact that it’s now open to all guests is strange. And Andrew is right, the sauna, jacuzzi, hot tub area was pretty luxurious.

  17. Stayed at the Westin Beijing Chaoyang about a year ago, and it was much better than the St Regis (at least judging by your pics). Much more modern vibe, and food and service was top-notch throughout.

  18. With regards to smoking. I’ve found that hotels in China have non-smoking “floors”, but that really only applies to the room itself, and even then that seems to be more of a suggestion.

    I often saw people smoking in the hallways, which explains the ashtray.

  19. What a shame you didn’t like the St Regis, Lucky! I was travelling around Beijing about a month ago and stayed in three SPG properties: W Chang’an, Westin Chaoyang, and the St Regis, and I definitely enjoyed my experience at the St Regis the most (followed by the Westin and W’s shocking management last).

    Incredible that you thought the breakfast was subpar — I thought STR Beijing had an exceptional breakfast, and even your photos make it look pretty delicious. Perhaps your taste buds were just having an off day if you considered the spread to be “tasteless”?

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