Three hours from Beijing by a slinky new high-speed train, this UNESCO World Heritage site is definitely worth a detour. One of China’s last remaining walled cities, Pingyao was first inhabited 2,700 years ago, although the extant architecture is primarily from the hey day of the Ming and Qing dynasties. A stroll around the 14th-century city wall and barbican gates at sunset is truly breathtaking. Pingyao was also once an important trading and banking capital where the first cheques in China were issued and its banks had branches from Singapore to Russia. There is so much to see in this fascinating city that you will probably want to make it an over-nighter. There are many family-run guesthouses in Pingyao but the only truly boutique hotel experience is to be had at Jing’s Residence (www.jingsresidence.com; rooms from RMB 880). This lovingly restored Qing dynasty courtyard has 19 uniquely designed rooms and suites by architect Antonio Ochoa of Cantilever House fame.