Since moving to Beijing four years ago, I’ve heard people discuss the pros and cons of The Commune by the Great Wall. Yet, despite living just an hour’s drive from The Commune, I had never been there until three weeks ago. Now, I’ve stayed at The Commune on three separate occasions in four different houses (twice for work and once with friends and family) and I feel I’ve sufficiently tried out their services that I can give a fair assessment of the place.
There is one thing that remains true to building a great hotel: location is key, and The Commune by the Great Wall has location to spare. Nestled into two valleys beside the Shuiguan section of the Great Wall, The Commune has stunning views of the surrounding mountains, glimpses of the Great Wall, and private trails that reward hikers with access to sections of that ancient wonder that remain unmolested by busloads of tourists. All of this is just 90 minutes away from the CBD – but it might as well be a continent away, considering how completely different the setting is.
Originally, The Commune was a collection of private villas designed by a dozen architects from Asia and was the brainchild of Zhang Xin, a prominent Chinese real estate developer. Those original 12 designs are in the lower valley accessed below the clubhouse. An additional 30 replicas of a handful of the designs were built in the upper valley to provide adequate hotel rooms for those seeking respite from the city.
All the villas are available to guests, but certain villas – such as The Bamboo Wall House by Japanese designer Kengo Kuma – are more popular than others. Each villa has four to six private rooms with attached bathrooms and shared living spaces (living room, dining room, and kitchen). The result is that a few families can rent out an entire villa for privacy, or you can rent a room in one villa and possibly make some new friends, depending on how much time you spend in the communal space.
When staying at The Commune for business on a weekday, an associate and I had the entire Cantilever House #2 to ourselves (my personal favorite thus far). The large windows provided amazing views of the surrounding valley, to the point that it was a sight to behold even though it was raining.
This past weekend, we arranged with two other families to rent out all of The Bamboo Wall House #2. This worked out especially well for those of us with younger kids, due to the house’s proximity to the Kids’ Club and the clubhouse where the two restaurants are located (one Western and one Chinese). It also meant the children could run around inside our villa without worrying about making too much noise and disturbing other guests.
The Kempinski managed The Commune in the past, but the owners (SOHO) decided to take the reins back this year. It was clear to us that SOHO was working to raise the level of service, but there is still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to housekeeping and restaurant service. On the other hand, the Kids’ Club was well-run and the staff did a fantastic job of entertaining and educating the two 5-year-olds in our group. (In fact, they would’ve gone both days we were there had we not slept in on the second day.)
At its heart, The Commune by the Great Wall is an architectural experience set in nature (aided with some great landscaping). If you go there expecting five-star service, you’ll likely be disappointed. But if you go with an eye for beauty and a desire to recharge your soul, you’ll leave wishing you could stay another day.
Here are some tips for going with children:
- Try to go with friends so they have someone to play with.
- If you can arrange it, get a villa to yourselves.
- Stay on a weeknight and you will feel like you own the place.
- Bring layers – it can be cooler up there and inside the restaurants.
- Take plenty of snacks and beverages to stock the fridge with, as only water, tea, and instant coffee are provided in each villa.
- Although villas with the number “2” (such as Bamboo Wall House #2) are closest to the Kids’ Club, The Commune can arrange vans to pick up and drop you off at any time.
- For families with older kids, it is worth asking for a villa near the pool.
- Bring plenty of indoor activities for when the kids get tired of playing outside or in case of rain.
For more on The Commune by the Great Wall, visit their website here.
Directions and Contact
To reach The Commune, take exit 53 at Shuiguan on the G6 (Jingzang) Highway. To book a villa, call 8118 1888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.