The Layover: Beijing

From the city's best bar to a store designed by two Altitude members, here are five can't-miss spots.

Stay: The Opposite House

The Opposite House

Located in busy Sanlitun, Opposite House flouts the five-star rule book with super-stellar personalized service and a dazzling design by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. There’s a 22-metre stainless-steel pool that’s enveloped by a warm, almost supernatural glow, and rooms with a palette of white, slate and latticed wood. Don’t forget to book a table at the hotel’s Jing Yaa Tang, the new Peking duck bar – a collaboration with Alan Yau of London’s Hakkasan.

11 Sanlitun Rd., theoppositehouse.com

Drink: Ichikura

Ichikura

The Chaoyang Theatre, with its Vegas-neon facade and program of acrobat spectacles, is hardly subtle. But the gritty staircase around its unsigned eastern flank, beneath an elevated section of the Third Ring Road, leads to one of Beijing’s most gratifying secrets. Behind the long, theatrically lit bar in Ichikura’s dim second-floor den are some of the most knowledgeable bartenders in town: methodical, bilingual and fluent in the ways of the martini. Once your drink arrives (crystal tumbler, hand-shaved ice), you’ll want to pace yourself – with more than 500 bottles, the spirit selection is so vast, you’ll have to get off your leather stool to scan it all.

36 Dong Sanhuan Bei Lu, 10-6507-1107

Eat: Lost Heaven

Lost Heaven

The setting may be the former American embassy, within earshot of Tiananmen Square’s loudspeakers, but the welcome is warmly Southeast Asian, with silk-festooned hostesses conjuring the folksy flavour of Yunnan. Dishes follow the trail from Myanmar to Tibet with wild-herb pancakes in a sweet-tangy dip, fresh cod steamed in banana leaf and slathered with black bean sauce, as well as minced pork bound in lettuce leaf. After dinner, stop by the Distillery Bar next door and sample the vintage whiskies, part of the flamboyantly gilded Johnnie Walker House.

23 Qianmen Dong Da Jie, lostheaven.com.cn

Shop: Lane Crawford

Lane Crawford

This location gets its high-concept cred from Toronto-based designers and Air Canada Million Mile members George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg, who head the design firm Yabu Pushelberg. The duo created a glass and steel envelope and a layout that laughs in the face of right angles. None of this would matter, of course, if the store didn’t come up with the goods. It does. Armani, McQueen, Lanvin, Neil Barrett, Raf Simons et al. are divided into formal and casual rooms, with accessories on conveyor belts and an army of personal shoppers and stylists waiting in the wings. Plus, it’s open until 9:30 p.m.

Seasons Place, 2 Jinchengfang St., lanecrawford.com

Relax: The Emperor Quianmen Hotel Pool

The Emperor Quianmen Hotel Pool

A former bathhouse at the southern end of Tiananmen Square has become a water-themed boutique hotel with the only rooftop pool in town. And it’s serious business: Water from the 84-square-metre pool, which cantilevers over the lobby atrium, rains down into a stunning 15-metre, multi-storey waterfall by Canadian Dan Euser – who designed a portion of the water feature at New York City’s 9/11 Memorial. You can buy a three-hour pass to the pool and the adjacent Shang cocktail bar, or visit the hotel’s new L’Occitane spa, equipped with its own plunge pool.

87 Xianyukou St., en.theemperor.com.cn