Hike the Great Wall of China Then Relax With a Green Tea Spa Treatment at the Four Seasons Beijing
It's easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of China’s capital city. With a staggering population of over 21 million people, Beijing is many things and many contradictions: It’s old and new, with gleaming skyscrapers towering over ancient temples; hole-in-the-wall noodle shops are tucked away next to Michelin-starred restaurants; and hotels of every budget and class dot the city.
Located in the Chaoyang Business District — home to embassies from countries around the world — the Four Seasons Beijing is a 27-floor hotel that feels both homey and contemporary, but is inspired by traditional Chinese arts. Rising above the atrium, which the 313 guest rooms are centered around, is a delicate art piece consisting of 400 stainless steel butterflies that naturally float from the ceiling down.
The rooms are timeless and well equipped. I stayed in a massive Ambassador Suite, a corner room with impressive views of the Beijing skyline, a soaking tub bigger than my entire Brooklyn bathroom, and a separate living room and office space that made it feel like a luxury apartment. Of course, the Four Seasons' traditional king-size mattress made for a perfect night’s sleep, but the real highlight was waking up and pressing one button that dramatically opened all of the curtains to expose Beijing’s tallest building, China Zun, off in the distance.
Considering this trip was my first visit to Mainland China, I was very, very excited to eat traditional and new-aged versions of Chinese classics. You can imagine my surprise, though, at finding one of the best Italian meals I’ve had in my life hiding at Mio within the hotel. Starting with a truffle martini, the charming staff helped me eat my way through an avant-garde tasting menu that included the signature Alaskan black cod decked out with caviar and dried pepper. Helmed by Naples-born chef Aniello Turco, Mio is an absolute must while visiting Beijing.
Luckily for me and my stomach, the Four Seasons is also home to an upscale Cantonese restaurant that was able to satisfy my burning desire for local flavor. Led by Li Qiang, Cai Yi Xuan is a dramatic restaurant — the entrance hallway feels like something reserved for the royal class — that has an expansive menu. Eating with a friend, I was finally able to experience Peking duck and learn how the locals do it. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the choices at a place like Cai Yi Xuan, but when in doubt, trust the knowledgeable staff; they’ll make sure you have a meal you won’t forget.
We make homes in hotels, but the reality is that most of us travel for the experience outside of their walls. For me, that was heading to UCCA, a contemporary art museum in the ultra-trendy 798 art zone. Explore the museum before heading out to the streets to spend an afternoon taking in showrooms and shops that feel more like Berlin than Beijing.
And of course, no first-time trip to Beijing is complete without a visit to the Great Wall. The number of tour options to visit the wall are staggering — but the concierge will cut the clutter and arrange everything for you. Request the earliest possible time — and the Four Seasons black car — and not only will you get there in comfort, chances are you’ll have the wall to yourself as the sun rises over China.
After a visit to the wall, you’ll likely be sore — and that’s why you stay somewhere with a spa. The Power of Tea Ritual, a signature of the spa, is your go-to option. After exfoliating with different concoctions of tea and a body mask, a full body massage will work out the damage done by hiking up the Great Wall of China.