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Things to do in Beijing

There are plenty of things to do in Beijing, whatever your tastes. Let Travel + Leisure point you toward some of the best. If you’re an early riser, take yourself down to Ritan Park first thing in the morning. Here you’ll find the Chinese tradition of using public spaces in full swing; traditional swordsmanship, Mah-Jongg, T’ai Chi and ballroom dancing somehow still leave room for an outdoor gym and a climbing wall.

A less restful but no less characteristically Beijing activity awaits you in Beijing’s markets: the Silk Market will offer you sights and sounds you’ll experience nowhere else, and a brand of insistent, persuasive salesmanship you’ll need nerves of steel to resist – even if you want to.

Finally, it would be a sin to miss out on the Forbidden City. You should visit the grand 16th-century palace early, since it will take at least three hours just to get around it. Engage a guide or buy an audio guide, and give a day over to this historical jewel. If you’d like an afternoon’s tranquil entertainment, try the Beihai Park, or North Lake Park. Once part of the Emperor’s pleasure gardens, it can now be part of yours; walk or cycle round it or hire a rowing boat for an experience of tranquillity that’s uniquely Chinese.

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  • 12 sqm Bar and Café

    This bar’s name accurately represents its size—which, at 130 square feet, is easily the smallest in the city (and possibly all of China). The tiny ... More
  • 798

    The cluster of Bauhaus-style factory buildings, dating from the 1950's, have been converted into artists' studios and experimental galleries. More
  • Air China Automated Check-in Kiosks

    In a hurry and/or traveling light? Speed your international check-in on busy travel days by taking your carry-on luggage, ticket, passport number, ... More
  • Air China First-Class Lounge

    If you’re a first- or business-class passenger on China’s national airline, take a seat in a big upholstered chair in your own private skybox while... More
  • Airco

    Pick up small comforts at this duty-free foodstuffs and sundries shop. Thirsty? Try China’s popular pu’erh tea ($10) or a bottle of fiery Moutai, a... More
  • Airco Bag & Luggage

    Pack duty-free liquor in an imitation Wenger “Swiss Army” carry-on-size wheelie suitcase from this travel accessories store. Smarter buys include S... More
  • Apothecary

    This 2010-opened bar is shaking up local cocktail culture with creative concoctions and house-made mixers. Try the “secret Earl Grey,” Beefeater gi... More
  • ASILK

    Nothing says China like a silk panda-motif necktie. Tax-free at 198 yuan ($29), it’s a bit more than you’d pay in town, but the quality is solid. S... More
  • Bank of China ATM

    Ran out of yuan at the end of your trip but need cash for a pre-boarding meal? The ATM speaks English! But be warned: most U.S. banks charge at lea... More
  • Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)

    For the 2008 Olympics, this airport handled nearly 100,000 passengers and over 7,000 Olympic-related flights. That’s no issue for this sky port tha... More
  • Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center

    The heritage center offers educational tours through the city's traditional, and fast disappearing, hutong neighborhoods. More
  • Beijing National Stadium

    It isn't often that a building defines a city, and even becomes its icon, but that seems destined to be the case of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Me... More
  • Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall

    The highlight of a visit to the new Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall is the extraordinarily detailed scale model of the city that projects what Chi... More
  • Bell Tower

    This tower and its counterpart, the Drum Tower, kept Beijing people up to date on the official time through three dynasties. Drums beat out at nigh... More
  • Block 8

    Hidden away along a bland, utilitarian suburban block, this über-hip space is a major haunt for Beijing fashionistas. The beautiful young patrons—m... More

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