Beijing is fast becoming the city that has it all: all the culture you can consume, with never-before-seen technologies that work for your convenience.
“Beijing is the Chinese city with the most to discover below the surface,” said English travel blogger Simon Norton in a recent BBC feature. “Good arts and music scenes, bonkers nightlife, historical wonders, ultra-modern business districts, and rickety old alleyway districts.”
Those who have spent time in the Chinese capital would agree that now is the prime time to visit. To get a whiff of Beijing’s dynamism while uncovering hidden gems, follow our guide to the best of the city’s traditions and trends.
1. Interesting Things to do in Beijing
To experience Beijing like a global icon, follow fashion designer Michael Kors’ two-day itinerary, assembled for him by Condé Nast Traveler and luxury globetrotting specialists Abercrombie and Kent. It included:
A three-hour stop at the Juyongguan section of the Great Wall of China, about an hour’s drive from Beijing’s city centre. Juyongguan is historically significant as epic battles were waged here between the Han Chinese, the Jurchen people (who inhabited the area known as Manchuria until 1630), the Mongols, and the Japanese.
One hour at Tiananmen Square—refer to TimeOut’s “ultimate guide” to navigating the public square. Note: You may need more than an hour if you plan to spend time in the National Museum of China, which is located on the eastern side of Tiananmen Square.
One hour at the Forbidden City—read our guide to the best photo opportunities at China’s largest collection of ancient buildings. If time permits, several hours can be spent here, or even a full day, although author Jasper Becker has cautioned that if one lingers too long in the Forbidden City, it can morph into a “claustrophobic maze.”
A visit to the Summer Palace—visitors have spent up to half a day at the capacious imperial garden, which spans 70,000 square metres and is thought to be the largest of its kind in China. The attraction was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998 for its mastery in weaving together its natural landscape with man-made structures such as pavilions and palaces, to “form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value.” Kors himself declared that a walk through the grounds gave rise to a languid melancholy that he associated with the Chinese arthouse hit In The Mood For Love.
If you prefer to travel with a personal tour guide (as Kors did), Catherine Lu Tours and Beijing Private Tours By Jessie are the top-ranked tour providers on TripAdvisor. You can also use portals such as Viator to locate a suitable guide.
2. Unusual Things to do in Beijing
The Pritzker Prize is the equivalent of the Nobel for architecture, and in 2011, Smithsonian Magazine concocted a “Prize-winning Architecture Tour of Beijing,” featuring landmarks designed by Pritzker winners. The following stops were recommended:
- Beijing National Stadium by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, winners of the 2001 Pritzker prize. Visitors can purchase a ticket to access the stadium (nicknamed the “Bird’s Nest”) and its exhibition areas, or take a rooftop walk (separately ticketed) for a scenic view.
- CCTV Headquarters by Rem Koolhaas, 2000 Pritzker winner. The building, consisting of two 49-storey towers that are linked by a 75-metre cantilever, has drawn visitors for its resemblance to a pair of pants. However, internal access is limited to CCTV staffers.
- Galaxy Soho by Zaha Hadid, 2004 Pritzker winner. This business complex has been likened to an “alien spaceship,” and its appeal is strong for those with an eye for aesthetics (for whom another must-visit is the 798 Art District). Sadly, it has languished as a commercial entity, although one can still enjoy coffee or a meal there.
For more of Beijing’s architectural wonders, read our guide here.
3. What to Eat in Beijing
Feeling hungry from all that sightseeing? Let us recommend some places where you can refuel.
Beijing’s cosmopolitan outlook has seeped into its food scene, and the city’s current options for dining are staggering. The Beijinger, TimeOut, and CNN have posted their top picks for 2017, which can help you narrow down your choices as you search for the perfect meal.
Fine dining restaurants that have found favour with multiple critics include TRB Hutong (European cuisine in a restored 600-year-old temple), TRB Forbidden City (European cuisine, with a view of the Forbidden City’s east gate and moat), The Georg (casual fine dining), and King’s Joy (vegetarian).
Popular establishments in the mid-range and budget categories include Siji Minfu (money-for-value Peking duck), Duck de Chine (Peking duck, said to be Beijing’s best), Vin Vie (Japanese fusion), and Zhang Mama (Sichuan cuisine).
Also try Pan Pacific Beijing’s Hai Tien Lo, which serves authentic Cantonese cuisine paired with premium teas.
4. Things to Do in Beijing at Night
Photo credit: Red Dog Beijing
Night owls rejoice! Beijing works hard, and parties even harder.
Use TimeOut’s Beijing nightlife guide to navigate your way through the city’s Hutong (alleyway) bars, microbreweries, cocktail establishments, dance clubs, and “live” music venues. Or take your pick from the nightlife spots that emerged winners in City Weekend’s Reader’s Choice Awards.
Photo by Blue Note Beijing
Some notables from the “best of” lists:
- Red Dog Cocktail Bar is the red-hot newcomer while Jing-A Brewing Co. is the place to be for locally brewed craft beer.
- Enjoy a spot of jazz? Blue Note is a jazz institution and its Beijing outpost is no exception.
- Finally, dance the night away at Lantern—darling of the underground club scene.
To entertain clients on your Beijing holidays, the luxurious Amber Lounge provides a private space for business and pleasure. Relax and choose from an exclusive selection of single malt whiskey, or adjourn to the Sky Garden to enjoy views of the city skyline and the Forbidden City.
Welcome to Beijing! Speak to our team at Pan Pacific Beijing to enquire about our latest offers for rooms and suites.