Beyond bed and bath: Nanjing’s best hotels

Beyond bed and bath: Nanjing’s best hotels

Whether you choose to sleep in a former factory or an iconic high-rise, you'll be talking about these hotels long after you've checked out

Booking a hotel based merely on its star rating is like judging a restaurant by its exterior.

Big mistake.

We've scratched beneath the well-trod surface to choose six of Nanjing's best hotels -- each comes with a great personality, substance and pleasant surprises.

Kayumanis Nanjing

Nanjing hotelsThis is the place for 24-hour zen -- and a butler.

Kayumanis Nanjing is the Balinese luxury resort group’s first overseas venture.

Located in Tangshan, a popular hot spring resort area in a Nanjing suburb, Kayumanis isn't lacking for things to do.

Dragging yourself from the villa to actually do them might be a problem. 

With 20 villas ranging from 350 to 550 square meters, the resort is the most luxurious hotel experience in Nanjing.

Best features: Privacy and service.

“All of our villas feature the same facilities," says Martin Huang, Kayumanis Nanjing general manager. 

"The highlight -- besides the spacious villa area -- is the private outdoor swimming pool and hot spring Jacuzzi.”

Most resort activities, including tai chi class, Chinese calligraphy class, cooking class or spa treatments, can be done inside your villa.

Guess that takes care of the, "I don't want to go anywhere" problem. 

Kayumanis Nanjing, 12 Wenquan Road, Tangshan Town, Nanjing; +86 25 8410 7777; from CNY 4,180 ($685) per night

InterContinental Nanjing

Nanjing hotelsZifeng Tower is the seventh tallest building in the world.When hotels advertise their rooms as having "urban views," beware. This often means you're an arm's length from the next building, staring into someone's kitchen.

Not so at InterContinental Nanjing, where all 470 rooms are located above the 45th floor. 

Located in Nanjing's tallest and most iconic skyscraper, Zifeng Tower, it's hard to miss this beauty.

The 450-meter-high tower currently ranks as the seventh tallest building in the world.

More than 60% of the rooms overlook Xuanwu Lake and Purple Mountain, the two most scenic spots in Nanjing.

The hotel has eight restaurants and bars.

What to do in the hotel: Breathe. 

One thing travelers likely won't notice is the special design of the hotel's window vents, found in both guest and meeting rooms.

The vents were designed to let in (ideally) fresh air from Purple Mountain and Xuanwu Lake.

InterContinental Nanjing, 1 Central Road (Zhong Yang Road), Gulou District, Nanjing; +86 25 8353 8888; from CNY 1,100 ($180) per night

Regalia Resort & Spa Qinhuai River

Nanjing hotelsWhat's lacking in space is made up for with service.

Despite its pretty exterior, Regalia Resort & Spa Qinhuai River is set in a former military factory complex turned creative area that dates to 1865.

This Chinese boutique hotel in the historic southern part of Nanjing houses 37 rooms, an outdoor swimming pool and the Thai-style Andaman Spa.

As the name suggests the place overlooks Qinhuai River, the most beautiful waterway in Nanjing.

The hotel is located next to the Ming City Wall, one of the largest and best preserved city walls ever built in China. It was erected during the Ming Dynasty, six centuries ago.

Best room: The most extravagant suite is the Outdoor Jacuzzi Town House (CNY2,888/$475) with its own private garden and facilities for outdoor dining. 

Regalia Resort & Spa Qinhuai River, E5, 368 Yingtian St., Qinhuai District, Nanjing; +86 25 5188 5688; from CNY1,113 ($183)

EASpring

Nanjing hotelsWhat do wine, coffee and traditional Chinese medicine have in common? You can soak in all of them at the EASpring Resort.EASpring is a travel destination in its own right.

It doesn't have lavish decor nor are its rooms all that luxurious. But EASpring is the best place to experience the local passion for hot spring soaking.

Easily the biggest resort in Tangshan, it has venues for conferences and events. 

Owning two of the five hot spring sources in Tangshan, EASpring goes all out when it comes to baths -- more than 50 pools dot the hill behind the 197-room hotel. 

Best attraction: The outdoor hot spring area has become a Nanjing family favorite for winter day trips.

Among dozens of baths are unusual flavors such as wine and floral-flavored pools. There's also a bath in a cave and a Roman-style bath.

Entrance fee for hotel guests is CNY100 ($16), while visitors pay CNY218 ($35).

Easpring, 8 Wenquan Road, Tangshan Town, Nanjing; +86 25 5119 0666; from CNY 580 ($93)

Jinling Hotel

Nanjing hotelsJinling has had its share of politicians as guests. Don't let that turn you off. It may no longer be the tallest, nor the most glamorous hotel in town, but Jinling hasn't lost any of its elegance.

Opened in 1983, the state-approved hotel has served countless international political leaders.

The 37-story hotel -- Nanjing's first business hotel and once the tallest building in China --  still thrives, offering excellent service.

Best attraction: In addition to historical significance, the pride of this hotel is its salted duck, served in the Plum Garden restaurant. 

Not your average duck dish, the restaurant has perfected the process through careful bird selection. It takes three days to prepare.

"The duck has flawless white skin and pink meat soaked in an aged marinade," explains Nancy Xiao, Jinling's assistant director of marketing. 

Jinling Hotel, Xin Jie Kou Square, Nanjing; +86 25 8471 1888; from CNY 1,048 ($170) per night

Nanjing Time Youth Hostel

Nanjing hotelsThe place to stay if you want to learn more about China's Republican era.Jiang Nan, founder of Nanjing Time Youth Hostel, has no shortage of historical stories to share about the 70-year-old building he transformed into a hotel.

“The south-side guest room was a dance hall that famous politicians during China's Republican era (pre-1949) frequented,” he says.

“Commanders during the Republican era spied on the Communist Party through the attic’s west-side window, which is facing the Meiyuan Xincun [former office of the Communist Party, now a memorial hall].”

The neighborhood is great if you're intrigued by China's unique Republican-era (1912-1949) architecture, for which Nanjing is famous.

The hostel also holds regular reading club sessions and mini-concerts, most free of charge.

Best rooms: The most interesting room is the shared attic, which can accommodate 30 guests.

Jiang calls it the “mad men's ward,” a Chinese phrase used to describe a space that honors the freedom to exchange ideas and the spirit of independence.

For guests who don't want to sleep with strangers, the hostel’s priciest option is the private room, which comes with a 50-square-feet semi-circular balcony (CNY320/$53).

Nanjing Time Youth Hostel, 6 Meiyuan New Village, Yongyuan of Xuanwu Area, Nanjing; +86 25 8556 9053 or email timehostel@hotmail.com; From CNY50 ($8)

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Hiufu Wong is CNN Travel's staff writer.

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