Over-the-top opulence reigns at this vaunted, century-old hotel—which is, appropriately, closer than any other to Beijing’s singularly grand Forbidden City. The Raffles’ arched ceilings are dizzily high, its plush corridors wide enough to drive a small car through, and its 171 guest rooms amply sized (even the most modest standard options start at 500 square feet). The décor is unapologetically overstated, fusing classical European elements (gleaming antique repros, ornate brass lamps, chintz and brocade upholstery) with traditional Chinese accents (richly colored rugs, carved wood folding screens). Suites are named after luminaries who have stayed here over the years, like Charles de Gaulle and George Bernard Shaw. Of the four on-site dining options, Jaan (serving traditional French cuisine) and La Vie (a posh lobby lounge offering afternoon high tea) are the swankiest.
Insider Tip: If you’re meeting friends here, receive them in the second-floor drawing room, open to all guests; its decadent décor and spacious balcony make a dazzling first impression.
Room to Book: All south-facing rooms in the main building offer a spectacular view of Chang An Avenue, the main east-west thoroughfare that leads to Tiananmen Square.