With a history spanning over 3,000 years, Beijing has more to offer than you can possibly imagine. From lush bamboo forests on the outskirts to the stalwart walls of the Forbidden City and everything from opulent dining to street vendors, there is always something to see, smell, taste and do. While we can’t possibly cover everything in two days, here are the major hotspots in China’s capital.
8 AM MOKA BROS
NALI PATIO G/F NO.81 SANLITUN BEILU, CHAOYANG BEIJING 100027
The Chinese aren’t known for their breakfasts. While getting a jian bing — fried egg in a crepe — from a street vendor is highly recommended, you may want to jump-start your day with some healthy Western options from Moka Bros. Delicious spinach and goat cheese sandwiches are available, but you may just want the tried and true stack of waffles.
10 AM TIANANMEN SQUARE
Take a stroll around the massive Tiananmen Square and soak in the history of the imperial China. Be sure to visit the Monument to the People’s Heroes and Mao Zedong’s mausoleum to the south. For a better perspective of the largest public square in the world, climb to the top of the Tiananmen Gate for a bird’s eye view above the famous painting of Mao.
11 AM THE FORBIDDEN CITY
4 JING SHAN QIAN JIE, DONGCHENG, BEIJING
Right behind Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City is another must-see. For sanity’s sake, only spend an hour or so here — the city is huge and it could easily consume an entire day. Take as much in as you can while making your way back to the Imperial Garden to exit from the north side.
12 PM LITTLE YUNNAN
NO. 28 EAST HUANGCHENGGEN BEIJIE, DONGCHENG, BEIJING 100009
For a cozy taste of China, Little Yunnan has what you need. The restaurant features a plethora of dishes from the southern part of the country and is perfect for foodies to indulge. Definitely try the goat cheese, and do not miss the bamboo shoots with lemon juice. They also brew their own rice wine that will leave you in need of a cab to your next destination.
2 PM LAMA TEMPLE
12 YONGHEGONG STREET, DONGCHENG, BEIJING
Walk off all that southern food by wandering around the Lama Temple: one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist lamaseries in the world. It’s also a religious art hub, containing works and architectural styles from ancient China, Tibet and Mongolia. While there is a lot to see here (over 1000 rooms have been restored), the most important thing is the 85-foot tall Buddha carved out of a single piece of sandalwood.
4 PM TEMPLE OF HEAVEN
TIANTAN RD. DONGCHENG, BEIJING
After the Lama Temple, catch a cab south to the Temple of Heaven. You’ll have to rush because the ticket office closes at 4 p.m. The Temple is actually the entirety of a beautiful park with meandering trails to explore through 60,000 varieties of trees. You never know what you may find here from musicians and choirs to soccer and community dances. Be sure to make your way to the iconic Alter of Prayer for Good Harvests, as well as the Circular Mound Altar for the most ethereal experience.
6 PM SIJI MINFU RESTAURANT
DENGSHIKOU WEST ST. 32, DONGCHENG, BEIJING
No trip to Beijing is complete without a taste of authentic Peking duck. You’ll find that the duck restaurants are almost literally stacked on top of each other, so it can be hard to choose one over the other, but Siji Minfu is a failsafe for it’s excellent price and quality. Located just east of the Forbidden City, you can also take an evening stroll around the walls to see the imperial fortress lit up at night. There’s nothing more satisfying than biting into that crispy, juicy duck skin served pancake style. Mmm.
9 PM 8-BIT
49 JIAODAOKOU NAN DAJIE DONGCHENG, BEIJING
For a fun way to wrap up your day in Beijing while also reminiscing, look no further than 8-Bit. This barcade will bring out your inner children with SNES, Sega Genesis and, of course, Nintendo 64 on offer. Although small and usually crowded, it’s surprisingly easy to get a drink, and the games rotate often enough to get some good playing time. With inexpensive alcohol and the chance to have a battle royale on Street Fighter 2 with a total stranger, you really shouldn’t pass this up — score!
7 AM VILLAGE CAFÉ
BUILDING 1 THE OPPOSITE HOUSE, 11 SANLITUN LU, TAIKOO LI SANLITUN N. CHAOYANG, BEIJING
Roll out of bed and head to Village Café for a solid selection of Western or Eastern breakfast options. Enjoy the a la carte menu or combo plates that include cold cuts, croissants, frittatas and even a make-your-own parfait station. Be sure to eat and drink up: you’ll need your energy for The Wall!
10 AM BADALING GREAT WALL
There are several sites to visit along the Great Wall, the closest (and, therefore, the most popular) being Badaling. Traveling by bus or train is the only way to get there without a tour package, but if you don’t feel comfortable booking tickets, ask your concierge to help. Travel time should take 1-1.5 hours, which leaves plenty of time to roam around one of the World Wonders while still getting back to the city in time for a late lunch. You may want to pack some snacks and plenty of water, though: you’re going to get your exercise!
1 PM MAMA’S LUNCH
Everyone knows that Mama’s home cooking is the best. For a true Chinese meal and exciting dining experience, you really can’t miss Mama’s Lunch. In this cozy little shop in a hutong (narrow alley), you will actually learn how to make Chinese noodles and dumplings before eating. It’s a fun experience that’s as educational as it is delicious. Be sure to book in advance, as space is limited!
3 PM SUMMER PALACE
19 XIN JIAN GONG MEN LU, HAIDIAN, BEIJING
With beautiful gardens, temples built into rock and a magnificent view of the lake, the Summer Palace is the perfect site to wind down under a willow tree and relax. If you like, stroll around the many manicured gardens and snap some photos, you can even take a cruise on a dragon boat!
6 PM WUKESONG MALATANG
FUXING ROAD 33, CUIWEI MANSION BACK, BEIJING
There are lots of swanky, European restaurants in Beijing, but if you want an authentic dining experience, grab a bowl of malatang. This spicy soup is the perfect way to round out your trip to China. After you pick what condiments you want (tofu, noodles, lotus, spinach, cabbage and potatoes, to get started) the shop will boil it down and load it up with sesame sauce and spices. It’s one of the most satisfying experiences in Beijing! Like Peking duck restaurants, there are malatang shops everywhere. One of the highest-rated is Wukesong Malatang, but there are plenty to choose from. Simply ask your hotel reception which they prefer.
9 PM HUTONG LIFE: SLOW BOAT TAPROOM
DONGCHENG QU, DONGSI BA TIAO 56 HAO
For the final excursion into the nightlife of Beijing, you have to check out the hutongs. These tight alleyways are major sources of Beijing history and culture that are undergoing a massive revival from Chinese and foreigners. There are many bars lining their corridors, but a small, cozy encounter at the Slow Boat Taproom is sure to satisfy. With specialty craft beers, friendly bartenders, incredible burgers, and a communal dining area, it’s an excellent place to catch-up with friends after a long day.
WHERE TO STAY: DOUBLE HAPPINESS BEIJING COURTYARD HOTEL
NO.37 DONGSI SITIAO DONGCHENG, BEIJING 100010
With over 200 years of history, staying in this hotel will be a step back in time in traditional design and culture. No worries, though — they’ve got air conditioning and a full bar. Award-winning for their service, the staff spares no trouble in making sure you are as comfortable and as happy as possible. Take a load off in their courtyard and relax after a long day.