Expensive

Crowne Plaza Beijing (Guoji Yiyuan Huangguan Fandian) This Wangfujing institution spawned a litter of imitators in the mid-1990s but feels tired after 12 years of operation. The spacious central atrium underwent a much-needed renovation in mid-2003; management will soon need to do the same for the rooms, comfortable enough but falling apart. A small gallery on the first floor and weekly events in the "art salon" on the mezzanine floor give the hotel a certain credibility with the art world, and its location, close to but sheltered from the commercial madness of Beijing's central shopping district, is among the best in the city.

Wangfujing Dajie 48, Dongcheng District (at Dengshikou Dajie). & 010/6513-3388. Fax 010/6513-2513. www.crowneplaza.com. 382 units. AE, DC, MC, V. ¥1,600 ($200) standard twin (summer discounts around ¥950/$120), plus 15% service charge. Most rates include breakfast. Amenities: 3 restaurants; bar; tiny indoor swimming pool; small health club with new equipment, sauna, solarium, and underwhelming Jacuzzi; concierge; business center; forex; shopping arcade; salon; 24-hr. room service; same-day dry cleaning/laundry; executive-level rooms. In room: A/C, satellite TV, minibar, hair dryer, safe.

Haoyuan BTnguan fj? Tiny and exclusive, the Haoyuan is located in a Qing-era courtyard house once occupied by Hua Guofeng, Mao's successor as Communist Party chairman. Rooms in the front courtyard are cramped, but those in the sublime rear courtyard (decorated with tree-shaded stone chess tables) are spacious with canopy beds and custom Ming reproduction furniture. The hotel is located on a lane running east off one of the city's trendier shopping streets. Shijia Hutong 53, Dongcheng District (blue sign points way on Dongdan Bei Dajie). & 010/6512-5557. Fax 010/6525-3179.19 units. AE, DC, MC,V. ¥585-¥715 ($73-$89) standard twin (discounts extremely rare, even in winter). Amenities: Restaurant; bike rental; travel service; Internet room; laundry. In room:A/C, satellite TV, fridge, hair dryer.

Wangfujing Grand (Wangfujing Dajiudian) ^ This is one of the better city-center hotels at this price level, with views of the Forbidden City and fresh "superior"-level rooms available for roughly the same rate as a standard room at the Crowne Plaza. Prices are the same on both sides of the hotel; ask for a west-facing unit on one of the higher floors if you want to see the Forbidden City. Standard rooms are usually only ¥50 ($6) cheaper and less recently refurbished. Go for the upgrade.

Wangfujing Dajie 57, Dongcheng District (south of Chaoyang Men Nei Dajie intersection, west side of street). & 010/6522-1188. Fax 010/6522-3816. www.WangfujingHotel.com. 428 units. AE, DC, MC, V. ¥1,490 ($186) superior twin (summer discount rate around ¥950/$118), plus 15% service charge. Amenities: 3 restaurants; bar; small indoor pool; exercise room; sauna; concierge; tour desk; business center; forex; salon; 24-hr. room service; same-day dry cleaning/laundry; executive-level rooms. In room: A/C, satellite TV, free broadband Internet access, minibar, hair dryer, safe.

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