Hong Kong is a city awash in gorgeous hotels that are woven deeply into the local culture and the business travel experience.
But only a handful of Hong Kong hotels are truly spectacular.
On a recent trip across the Pacific, I set out to determine which ones were the most spectacular, and settled on these three for a variety of reasons.
Check them out! (In alphabetical order…)
InterContinental Hong Kong
The InterContinental Hong Kong is not one of the newest hotels in town, but this jewel remains one of the most spectacular for several reasons. First, of course, is the view you get when entering the lobby or your hotel room. The InterCon has one of the most unusual locations in the city– two-thirds of it rests on pylons and seemingly floats on the waves of Hong Kong’s glamorous and bustling Victoria Harbour. Those over-water views are what sets the InterCon apart from other hotels– at this hotel, you can look out your window and see the captain steering a megaship through the busy harbour, passengers’ faces on the nearby Star Ferry, or the red sails of the Chinese junks offering tours. And since it is on the Kowloon side, you look out to the full sweep of the shimmering Hong Kong skyline, which is especially exciting each evening at 8 pm when nearly all the buildings engage in a mind-blowing, 13-minute light show.
Aside from the views, the InterCon is spectacular in the way that it has kept up with the times. It opened in 1980 as the Regent, and owners have continually updated it so it always feels nearly new. (Over the years, I’ve stayed here at least 3-4 times, and I’ve noticed!) Most recently, the dramatic lobby was revamped and modernized to capitalize on that gorgeous view. Plus, over the years, the hotel has attracted some of the best restaurants in town for entertaining clients. When I was there, we dined at Yan Toh Heen, the city’s most exquisite Cantonese restaurant so fine that it’s garnered TWO Michelin stars. (Get the Beijing duck!) There’s also the clubby Michelin-starred Steak House which sports the only charcoal grill in the city. There’s an outpost of Nobu for the sushi set. Alain Ducasse has his famous Spoon restaurant- with yet another Michelin star. And its Harbourside restaurant offers one of the most elaborate international buffets in the city– I’ve never seen anything like it. Talk about spectacular! (See photo above.)
Rates at the 503-room, 17-story InterCon start at about US$400 per night. Business travelers should consider getting a package that includes access to its gigantic Club InterContinental business lounge, with daily buffets, a full bar, wi-fi, meeting rooms and just a quiet place to sit and gaze out at the harbour.
And the InterContinental Hong Kong is now poised to get even better– earlier this year, the hotel sold for a record US$929 million dollars, and new owners have grand plans to make even further renovations starting in 2017– so keep an eye on this spectacular Hong Kong hotel.
A stay at the 312-room Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is like like floating through the city’s subtropical clouds on a luxury cruise ship. You are removed from the hustle, bustle and grit of the city, and have nearly everything at your fingertips– several restaurants (including some of the city’s most popular- see photos above), an unworldly blue pool and gym with views, access to outdoor terraces (at almost 1,600 feet!), a popular bar/club, and easy indoor access to public transport and the express train to the airport.
Nearly everything about this hotel (opened in 2011) is spectacular, but it’s probably best known for being “the world’s highest hotel.” While that may sound like the someone’s been hitting the wacky weed 🙂 , it gets the title due to the fact that it occupies only the top floors (102-118) of Hong Kong’s towering ICC building. The title of the world’s tallest hotel is held by the JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai, since the hotel occupies the entire building.
When we arrived at the Ritz, the edge of Typhoon Mujigae was whipping the city with rain and wind, which meant the hotel had to slow down the elevators, so an ascent that should have taken quick 53 seconds took 2-3 minutes. When I got off in the lobby on Floor 103, rain pelted the huge floor-to-ceiling windows like rain on a car windshield. Well trained and solicitous staff apologized for the weather and directed me to the Club level lounge where check in was completed and I got the keys to a deluxe king room on the 113th floor. (See photo) Rooms are super luxe and well appointed with Nespresso machines, free wi-fi, big marble bathrooms, and of course, there’s not a bad view in the house!
When a typhoon is in town, there’s not a better place to be than the Ritz– it’s a self contained cocoon in the sky with plenty to see and do indoors. In my case, I enjoyed some wine and the six daily spreads laid out in the Club level lounge. As in most Ritz Carlton club levels, these buffets are nearly full meals– perfect for solo travelers who don’t feel like sitting alone in the hotels’ busy restaurants, or those nearby in Kowloon. I took a self guided tour of the unbelievably blue pool area– regrettably, the hotel had restricted access to the outdoor hot tub due to the high winds, so I never made it outside. I enjoyed an excellent scalp & neck massage ($100) from a friendly Nepalese therapist at the hotel spa, which helped pass the time and ease my jet lag. I also took a stroll through the adjacent Elements Mall and took a peek at the neighboring W Hong Kong. Alas, I never made it up to Ozone, the super hot bar and lounge on the top floor of the tower.
After five days in Hong Kong, I was growing weary of dim sum and won ton soup, so I opted for lunch with a colleague at Tosca, the hotel’s Michelin-starred Italian restaurant. Instead of ordering off the menu, we asked chef Pino Lavarra to impress us with a few light bites, which were outstanding, including his signature roasted langoustine with crab cookie (see photo).
That night during a break in the downpours, I decided get outside, so descended and picked up a house car (one of two shiny Teslas, natch!) for a 10-minute ride over to central Kowloon for dinner at the neighborhoody Spring Deer– a Beijing-style restaurant known for its Peking Duck- but I liked its signature shredded spicy dried beef better!
On my last day in Hong Kong, I capitalized on one the the Ritz-Carlton’s key features: the location atop the sprawling Kowloon MTR station. In the morning I jumped on a subway and rode under the harbour to Central Hong Kong, where I was able to walk through the city’s web of covered walkways, tunnels and shopping malls to stay dry and get to my appointments. After that it was back to the hotel to pick up my bags, and head back down to the same station for the quick and easy one-stop ride on the MTR Airport Express ($13) to Hong Kong International Airport for the flight home.
Rates at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong start at about US$550 per night.
The Upper House
Hugh Jackman checked out of The Upper House on the day before I checked in, and the hotel was still filled with star-struck employees who only grudgingly revealed that he’d actually stayed there on a recent trip to Hong Kong. It’s that type of discretion that has kept movie stars and moguls coming back to this quiet, 117-room boutique style hotel perched on the upper floors of a nondescript Hong Kong skyscraper since it opened in 2009. (Location: A few blocks east of Central Hong Kong, adjacent to the sprawling Pacific Place complex)
The Upper House is most spectacular for what it’s not. In a city of big flashy hotels begging for attention, this elegant hideaway hotel remains classy, low-key, and off-the-radar of most travelers…and that’s a good thing. TripAdvisor currently ranks the Upper House as Hong Kong’s #1 hotel.
When I booked my stay at the Upper House, the hotel offered to send one of its two Lexus hybrid house cars to fetch me at the airport, which is about 40 minutes away. The first sign that this hotel knows what business travelers want? As soon as I sat down, the driver offered a bottle of water and informed me that the car had wi-fi and provided the password– just what I needed after a 14 hour flight from San Francisco– an opportunity to clear out my bulging email box without getting dinged for data by Verizon.
Unlike Hong Kong’s grand hotels, there is no lobby at the Upper House. Cars arrive under the hotel’s “stone curtain” entrance to a “floating light box” (see photos above) on the ground floor. There, attendants greet arriving guests and usher them to their rooms, processing check-in details on an iPad on the way up. (Rates start in the US$650 range)
The Upper House occupies the top (38-49) floors of this building (a JW Marriott is below). Hallways face a sunlit interior atrium sheathed in the same blonde oak, bamboo and limestone that you’ll find in the rooms. The serenity the minimalist design of the rooms is in stark contrast to the riveting views out floor-to-ceiling windows of nearby skyscrapers, verdant mountains and the humming harbour.
Another thing that separates this hotel from others is space– standard rooms start out at a generous 730 square feet (the largest in the city). Suites measure 1,230 and the its two penthouses offer a roomy 1,960 square feet. In addition to all that space, guests enjoy free wi-fi, a free mini bar (snacks, juices, beer), and an espresso machine.
After a long flight, the first thing you’ll likely want to do (and exactly what I did) is to take a luxurious soak in each room’s glamorous tub (see photos), and gaze out at soaring birds, or peer into neighboring skyscrapers. But be careful, those in neighboring skyscrapers can peer in on you, too, per the cheeky warnings posted on bathroom window sills. (Push a button on the handheld remote to lower blinds.)
Since there’s no ground-floor lobby at the Upper House, the hotel’s social center is on the top (49th) floor where you’ll rub elbows with hotel guests and well-heeled locals at the posh and popular Cafe Gray Deluxe restaurant and bar, or across the skybridge at the hotel’s more subdued Sky Lounge. If you are the type of traveler who thrives on a busy lobby scene, don’t fret– check out what’s happening in the lively lobbies at the adjacent JW Marriott, or across the street at the enormous Island Shangri-La or Conrad hotels.
Dining at Cafe Gray Deluxe is a must– in the morning, it’s a hot spot for power breakfasts among the bespoke-suited-set. (Don’t miss: Dim Sum or smoked salmon from Tasmania. See photo) At night, its European-inspired menu attracts a big crowd (reservations are a must), but try to get there early to interact with a festive, friendly crowd of locals and expats gathered at the bar to peer out at the view and enjoy a deep menu of special cocktails.
The Upper House is owned by Hong Kong conglomerate Swire, and is part of its House Collective, which includes the Opposite House in Beijing and the brand new Temple House in Chengdu, China. Swire also owns Cathay Pacific Airways.
Have you been to Hong Kong lately? What’s your favorite hotel there? Which one is most spectacular to you?
Disclosures: I was a guest of a hotel executive for dinner at the InterCon’s Yan Toh Heen. I paid travel industry rates at the Ritz (total bill was US$586 for 2 nights) and Upper House (US$448 for 2 nights).
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