Home See & Do How to Enjoy the Best of Beijing

How to Enjoy the Best of Beijing

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Home to over 20 million inhabitants, and the epicentre of over 5,000 years of history, Beijing is a city unlike any other. From the country’s ancient history and rich culture, to its mouthwatering cuisine, there’s so much to see and discover. Here’s a guide to the best that Beijing has to offer.

Eat & Drink

Beijing’s cuisine is consistently rated as among the world’s top cuisines, and you shouldn’t pass up the chance to indulge yourself. Its cosmopolitan populace has also developed a taste for international food and drink, assuring you of bountiful eating and drinking options.

 

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Peking Duck should be the top item on your To Eat List, and almost any place with a queue in front is worth checking out. But if you’re in the mood for extravagance, Duck de Chine will serve up the best roast duck you’ve ever tasted. Other noteworthy establishments include Da Dong Roast Duck, De Yuan Roast Duck and Li Qun.

 

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Dumplings are another speciality dish that connoisseurs insist should be eaten the Beijing way – wrapped and boiled upon order, and consumed within seconds of arrival. Containing fresh pork with cabbage or chives, this is Northern China in one tasty bite. Be sure to also order up some steamed baozi, which you’ll find everywhere. Whether with meat or vegetable filling, these warm, pillowy buns make for great breakfasts.

 

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Hotpot is another must-try when you’re in Beijing. A good choice is Mongolian Hotpot with its 1,000-year history, but really, you can’t go wrong with anyplace offering fresh, thinly sliced vegetables and meats cooked in a large boiling pot of soup. Still unsure? Dive in with Beijing favourites Haidilao Hot Pot Restaurant or Dong Lai Shun for the full experience.

Street Snacks are a great choice when in doubt, given the city’s rich culinary heritage. Make a trip to Nan Luogu Xiang and explore the old alleyways for unique and delicious street food. When you’ve had your fill of strolling and snacking, head over to the less busy Bei Luogu Xiang to chill out among the city’s hipper shops and bars. The cocktails here are said to be among the best.

Cocktails are popular among the Chinese, and you can find all manner of watering holes catered to every type of drinker. Besides Bei Luogu Xiang, another good place for drinking and nightlife is Sanlitun. Be warned – the dive bars on the east side tend to be popular with undergrads. If swanky is more your scene, head to The Opposite House. Alternatively, Q Bar is known for good cocktails and a laid-back vibe. If, however, you’re after authenticity in the form of baijiu, hit up Capital Spirits. The world’s first baijiu bar offers delicately balanced baijiu cocktails geared towards beginners, while hardcore enthusiasts can pick their favourites from extensive tasting flights.

 

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Bubble tea is enjoying a current renaissance in the capital (and throughout the country really), and we wonder why it took so long, given the country’s status as the discoverer of tea. Spare the time to queue up for HeyTea – you won’t be disappointed – and enjoy a different take on the quintessentially Taiwanese beverage. Other notable franchises in the game are Yi Dian Dian, Yunyang Royal and Happy Lemon.

See & Do

Beijing has no lack of high-end shopping and glitzy malls, so you’re well covered if you’re up for a spot of shopping. However, if you’re looking to experience the city’s culture and character, there’re plenty of engaging ways to do so.

 

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Trawl the Markets for Trinkets starting with Panjiayuan Antiques Market. Home to over 3,000 vendors, this surprisingly well-ordered market is where you will find Cultural Revolution memorabilia, artwork, curios, replicas and the like. Perfect for kitschy souvenirs – provided you do your best bargaining for a fair price. Another good place to sharpen those haggling skills is the Silk Market, still the city’s top spot for fake goods. Bargain as if your life depends on it, but don’t go overboard – you’re only buying knock-offs afterall. For authentic, quality handicrafts instead, head over to Wudaoying Hutong, where you’ll find some of Beijing’s top vintage shops and local boutiques.

 

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Catch Cultural Shows and Art Exhibitions such as a Peking Opera show at the National Centre for the Performing Arts. Known colloquially as ‘The Egg’, the Centre puts on some of the best Peking Operas in the city, showcasing the acrobatic leaps and dazzling costumes distinct to the Beijing school of the artform. But if time (or patience – Peking Opera isn’t for everyone) is expected to be in short supply, opt for shorter shows at Liyuan Theater of Huguang Guild Hall. As an alternative, consider Cinker Pictures, a luxe boutique cinema with leather armchairs and cocktails to go with its selection of Chinese classics and arthouse hits.

Another great way to catch the cultural character of the city is by visiting 798 Art District, where former state-owned factories have been transformed into galleries and halls hosting a steady stream of contemporary Chinese art – along with cafes, restaurants, studios and design companies.

 

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Wander the Grounds for the most immersive (and free!) way to experience Beijing. And with the sheer number of options available, you won’t soon be bored. Tiananmen Square is a must, for its cultural and historical significance, as is the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace. Complete your tour of Beijing’s best-preserved architecture with a visit to the Dashilar Area.

Don’t forget to make time for Beihai Park, home to Beijing’s largest and most beautiful public lake. Ritan Park is another great choice for a relaxing day out, and good for spotting public taichi displays. Yuyuantan Park offers similarly languorous scenes, and a swim with the locals if you’re game.

Finally, head over to Olympic Park – the change from ancient architecture to contemporary style and design is a great way to appreciate how far Beijing (and China) has come. Time your visit after dark to see the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube lit up in dazzling colours.

Top photo by Hong Jiang on Unsplash.

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