The service and facilities of Nanjing’s luxury hotels match that of any international city.

These top picks (listed in no particular order) extend the essence of imperial hospitality to normal travellers.

Jinling Hotel (金陵饭店)

Numerous government leaders have stayed in this state-run five-star Nanjing hotel over the past three decades. The list runs from Deng Xiaoping to Kim Il-sung to George W. Bush.

The 37-story, 110-meter edifice also held the record of being the tallest building in mainland China from 1983 to around 1998.

In-room design and facilities are a little outdated (think 1980s air conditioning switches) but the service is outstanding. Examples include bellboys running to get guests out of the rain and managers going to great lengths to return a missing object to a customer.

Plum Garden (梅苑) on the second floor serves the most authentic Nanjing cuisine. Their signature dish is the Yanshuiya (盐水鸭), or duck soaked in brine (RMB 198 or US$32 per duck).

The 585-room Nanjing hotel is erecting a 57-story second phase which is scheduled to open in 2013.

Jinling Hotel (金陵饭店), 2 Hanzhong Road, Gulou District 鼓楼区汉中路2号; +86 25 8472 2888; nightly rate from around RMB 898 inclusive (US$144)

More Nanjing travel guide: Nanjing at a glance

Intercontinental Nanjing (南京绿地洲际)

This skyline-dominating hotel is an emblem of Nanjing’s vertical growth.

It is the highest hotel in the city and occupies the 45th-81st floors of the 450-meter Zifeng Tower- the tallest skyscraper in Jiangsu Province, the second tallest in mainland China and the seventh tallest in the world.

All 433 rooms provide vertigo-defying views – either of the immense Xuanwu Lake backed by 449-meter Zijin Mountain or the sprawling, constantly growing cityscape.

A unique ventilation design allows guests to breathe fresh air safely nearly half a kilometre from the ground.

Located on the 78th floor, Prime Restaurant Bar Lounge is the highest of the hotel’s eight restaurants and bars. The 150-seat bar lounge carries juicy imported steaks, a wide selection of wines (around 250) and a spectacular view worth writing home about.

Intercontinental Nanjing (南京绿地洲际), 1 Zhongyang Road, Gulou District 鼓楼区中央路1号; +86 25 8353 8888; nightly rate from around RMB 1,200 (US$193) plus 15 per cent

More Nanjing travel guide: The 5-minute pocketbook

Regalia Resort and Spa (御庭精品酒店)

This Chinese resort brand owns two Thai-style properties in Nanjing, one is downtown facing the Ming City Wall and the other is on the hot spring mountain Tangshan.

The branch in the city takes up a secluded spot by Qinhuai River in the depths of the 1865 Art Zone.

The 4-story boutique hotel in Nanjing center houses 37 guestrooms, each equipped with floor heating and a generous bath/mini pool, at its smallest measuring 1.5 by 1.5 meters.

Thai masseuses probably give the city’s best rubdowns in five treatment rooms (three single and two double). A 60-minute full-body massage costs around RMB 800 (US$128)

The Regalia Tangshan is one of the higher-end hot spring resorts in the region, comprising 100 rooms and suites. The hotel does not have public hot spring pools. Instead, 23 private rooms can host anything from a honeymoon dip to a party for half a dozen people.

Regalia Resort & Spa (Qinhuai River), Building E5, No. 388, Yingtian Da Jie, Qinhuai District 秦淮区应天大街388号第E5幢; +86 25 5188 5688; nightly rate from around RMB 1,280 inclusive (US$206) Regalia Resort & Spa (Tangshan), No. 8, Quanyun Road, Jiangning District 江宁区汤山街道泉韵路8号; +86 25 8713 1188; nightly rate from around RMB 1,350 (US$217) plus 15 per cent, RMB180 (US$29) per person per hour to use the private hot spring room

More Nanjing travel guide: 10 iconic Nanjing foods

The Westin Nanjing (南京维斯汀大酒店)

Situated just west of Zhongyang Road across Xuanwu Gate, the Nanjing hotel offers an unparalleled angle to take in the emerald-like Xuanwu Lake.

Occupying the 23rd-36th floors of Nanjing International Center, the city’s new shopping and dining hotspot, this is an ideal check-in point for shopaholics, with an eight-story glistening shopping mall on its doorstep.

All 234 rooms and suites come with what the Starwood brand calls a “Heavenly Bed,” a king-size marshmallow-soft bed containing 10 layers of smooth bedding.

Two restaurants and one lounge bar produce Cantonese, Mediterranean and European dishes. Burn off the calories gained from eating in the 24-hour gym on the ninth floor.

Westin Nanjing, 201 Zhongyang Road, Xuanwu District 玄武区中央路201号; +86 25 8556 8888; nightly rate from RMB 970 (US$156) plus 15 per cent

More Nanjing travel guide: Current Nanjing events in and around the city