News and Travel Editor
Most people are familiar with the landmarks of Beijing, but what are the other must-sees that locals would recommend? We’ve rounded up our top tips to help you live like a local during your stay in Beijing.
- If you want a green way to get around Beijing, why not hire a bicycle? Skip the traffic and head up the backstreets to take in the sights and sounds of the city in between your destinations.
- Get up early and join in “morning exercise” at any city park – line dancing, ballroom dancing, Chinese opera, tai-chi, badminton, aerobics, martial arts of all kinds …There’s something for everyone.
- Hou Hai Lake – ‘Back Lake’ – is the largest of the three lakes of the Shichahai area of central Beijing, and is a great place to cool off on a hot day. The man-made lake has beautiful views, and there’s plenty of places to grab some food or a drink to sit down and enjoy them.
- We can’t discuss Beijing and not talk about Food. Make sure you head to Gulou and try mantou (steamed bread) fresh out of its bamboo steamer. Apparently Beijing Duck tastes better in Beijing than anywhere else, so try it the traditional way with pancakes, cucumbers and Hoisin sauce to see for yourself! Hotpot, with fresh vegetables and hand-pulled noodles, is not to be missed. For a less traditional eating experience, stop by the Cat Cafe for cuddles with your coffee.
- Jingshan Park dates from the Ming dynasty and its design is based on the principles of fengshui, with a hill to protect the Forbidden City from northern winds. Its Wanchun Pavilion is the highest point in Beijing. It’s the best place to get a bird’s eye view of the Forbidden City and at sunset on a clear day you get a great view of the spiky mountains that surround Beijing to the West and North.
- Karaoke bars, known by locals as KTV, are huge in China. So huge, there’s over 100,000 karaoke bars in total. Do as the locals do and have a go to see what the fuss is all about.
- Be a part of Beijing’s history by walking down Qianmen Street. The 600 year old pedestrian street is full of shops and restaurants. You can visit China’s oldest brands and learn more about traditional silks and shoes. On Chinese Public holidays, you can hop on the tram to get a lift from the top to the bottom! Turn off the main street to experience the narrow alleyways of a vibrant traditional hutong. This area was once the haunt of Beijing’s artistes and performers, and it’s still got a lively, bustling feel with tiny restaurants and atmospheric wine shops.
- 798 Art District is the site of Beijing’s most-established modern art scene. The “District” is in fact a complex of decommissioned buildings, filled with a diverse selection of ambitious exhibits. Cycle ten minutes to the North, and you reach Caochangdi, an up-and-coming art community that some insiders say is beginning to rival 798 for innovation and creativity.
- One of the most peaceful and beautiful ancient sites in Beijing is the Confucius Temple. Among the elegant buildings are dozens of standing stones, with the carved names of every single person who passed the Imperial examinations – stretching back hundreds of years. These highly-educated officials were the backbone of the Chinese administration from the 600s until the examination’s abolition in 1905.
- Take a ride on Metro line Number 8. Built for the 2008 Olympics, each station’s decoration is unique and matches what’s going on above ground. Ride North to the huge Olympic Forest park with its lake, hills and trees, and then walk slowly back into the city via the Olympic Green, site of the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium and Water Cube.
Get more top tips from Beijinger Lee as he shows you his top tips for a weekend in Beijing.