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Great Cities, Affordable Hotels

BEIJING
$36 History permeates the Lu Song Yuan Hotel (22 Banchang Hutong, Dongcheng; 86-10/6404-0436; www.the-silk-road.com), tucked among the hutongs (old alleys) of Beijing. The former compound of a 19th-century general who became an imperial prince, it's now a hotel with 57 small but comfortable rooms, some with Ming dynasty furnishings. (Hint: Ask for a downstairs room opening to a courtyard with lovely tea tables.) The centuries-old surroundings are unrivaled: step out the front door and old China pulses past.

SHANGHAI
$80 Equal parts Hogwarts, Nordic castle, and Chinese puzzle box, the Moller Villa (30 Shanxi South Rd.; 86-21/6247-8881, fax 86-21/6289-1020) borders on the surreal. Built in the 1920's by a Swedish businessman for his daughter (who dreamed up its Gothic Revival spires and Escheresque staircases), the house later headquartered the city's Communist Youth League. Last year, the Hengshan hotel chain refurbished it as a 16-room palace ideal for visitors in search of an alternative to Shanghai's mega-hotels.

TOKYO
$252 This capital of chic has historically been short on inspired, reasonably priced lodgings. Now, the Celestine Hotel (3-23-1 Shiba; 81-3/5441-4111; www.celestinehotel.com), which opened just south of Shiba Park last July, offers an alluring option. Simple whites, browns, and blacks characterize the 243 eye-pleasing rooms; sightseer and salaryman alike can chill in the spacious lobby or in the sunny courtyard.

$184 Low budget reaches dizzying heights, literally, at the stylish Hotel Century Southern Tower (2-2-1 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku; 81-3/5354-0111; www.southerntower.co.jp), which occupies the top 17 floors of a high-rise building. The 375 rooms are small but smartly designed, with clean lines, good beds, and breathtaking views (on a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji). You'll save a fortune on taxis, too: the hotel is just steps from Shinjuku station, where the train from Narita airport drops you off.

Caribbean/South America

SAN JUAN
$145 Standing along the north wall of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, a six-foot, cast-stone sculpture of a scepter-wielding African queen welcomes guests to the Gallery Inn (204-206 Calle Norzagaray; 787/722-1808; www.thegalleryinn.com; breakfast included). Here, hundreds of artworks are hung on the walls, planted in the gardens, even hidden inside the ornate closets. On the way to one of the 22 rooms where guests sleep with the art, you may see owner Jan D'Esopo in action as she sculpts, paints, and casts on the balcony.

$84 In the lovely suburb of Ocean Park, the seafront Hostería del Mar (1 Tapia St.; 800/742-4276 or 787/727-3302; www.prhtasmallhotels.com) has 26 simple rooms—white walls, terra-cotta-tiled floors, wicker furniture. The restaurant's laid-back style (open-air, tin roof) belies chef Zelma Parra's impressive Puerto Rican cuisine, but with prices as high as $28 for entrées like seared halibut with goat cheese and malanga mash, you probably won't dine here every night. Instead, book a room with a kitchenette (from $165) or an apartment that sleeps four (from $195).

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