Soaking it in: Beijing's best bath houses

As the temperatures drop, check out these spots to warm you up

Best for luxury

In the world of Beijing bathhouses, Shunjingwenquan is close to king. Located across from the IKEA on the North Fourth Ring Road, this distinctive South-East-Asian themed bathhouse is a little pricier than the competition but the unique ambiance compensates for the extra cash.

After a quick shower, slip into your swimsuit and take a dip in the bathing area pool or head out to the mixed-sex lounge area, which is adorned with boulder fixtures, large trees, waterfalls and bamboo cabanas for resting. In addition to mixed-sex saunas, hot rooms, cooling pools and a dry steam room, numerous hot-spring spas are available both indoors and outdoors. Here you can indulge in a massage (98-698RMB) or a hair treatment.

Another 98RMB will get you dinner at the buffet, where the vast options include teppanyaki, Korean-style sushi, a few Western specialities and, most notably, a tasty dessert selection boasting a chocolate fountain. The only problem you might encounter with this tropical chill-out mecca is the coma you’ll surely endure afterward – but that’s okay; you’re welcome to stay and sleep as long as you like.

Shunjingwenquan costs 198RMB for a 24-hour stay and an additional 98RMB for buffet.

Best for businessmen

Located on Chaoyang Gongyuan Xilu, No 8 Hot Springs boasts a level of class that outstrips many rivals. The facilities are top-notch, attractive and very clean (you’re not even allowed in the baths without a shower cap!) – however, they’re also grossly inequitable; while the women’s side only includes one hot tub, a sauna and a steam room, the men’s side includes six baths, a heated outdoor pool, ping-pong tables and several saunas.

Both sides offer a menu of a-la-carte perks, like body scrubs (168RMB) and a variety of skin nourishing tuina massages (from 68RMB) featuring honey, milk, salt and more. Also on hand are skin nibbling fish, though they’re not always available on the women’s side. Once you’re properly pruned, don pyjamas and head up to the lounge area, where men and women rejoin each other in a dim room full of lounge chairs attached to TVs.

Don’t forget to hit the buffet, which has everything from Western junk food to Chinese seafood. The dishes aren’t gourmet, but are perfectly satisfying; stuff your face and head back to the lounge area to claim a chair for another few hours of sleep.

No 8 Hot Springs costs 198RMB for an 18-hour stay and buffet.

Best for students

As it’s located near the heart of Wudaokou, you’d expect Langtaoshato be a haven for stressed-out students, but when we arrived, the sparsely populated spa featured more businessmen than undergrads. So if you’re a student wanting to escape classmates, this could be the place to go. While Langtaosha boasts a grand, spacious lobby, filled with smartly dressed attendants, the spa itself is smaller than you’d expect and with attractive but disappointingly sparse facilities.

Nevertheless, it’s clean and competent, and showering is required before a dip in the baths. In addition to the main pools (one on the women’s side, three on the men’s), a steam room and a sauna, the bathing area offers scrubs (35RMB) and massages (129RMB)– however on the women’s side there is only one attendant on hand. When you’re ready to eat, throw on the complimentary pink silk pyjamas and head to the dining room. While the buffet looks positively lavish, on our visit the dishes were cold and a bit stale. There was, however, a sax player serenading diners, adding a kitschy, old-fashioned feel to the whole experience.

Langtaosha may not be worth a trip to Haidian, but for students already in the neighborhood, it can offer a cosy respite on a winter night.

Langtaosha costs 188RMB fora 24-hour stay and buffet (passport required for entry)

Best for TCM

Despite its name, there were no pools or baths in sight at the Qinghua Pool House and Foot Reflexology Center when we arrived – the women’s side has only showers, though we are told there’s a bath on the men’s side.

After stripping down, you can follow the sounds of splashing and pounding into the shower room, where an aggressive but supposedly effective milk massage– exactly as it sounds – is available (30-98RMB). Also on hand is a small steam room, light-wave treatment room and sauna. Once you’re done bathing, don a pair of silky pyjamas and head upstairs for a foot massage in a chair the size of a bed (from 20RMB), or straight to the buffet.

While the dining area is comfortable, the food itself is vaguely reminiscent of Chinese cafeteria fare. Qinghua is functional; the staff are generally helpful, but the facilities feel tired. It’s not ideal for an afternoon of pampering, but if you’re simply looking to get rid of the kinks, it’s worth a shot.

Qinghua Pool House costs138 RMB for 24-hour stay and buffet.