Beijing

Things to do in Beijing

If you’re an early riser looking for things to do in Beijing, visit Ritan Park first thing in the morning. Here you’ll find the Chinese tradition of using public spaces; traditional swordsmanship, Mah-Jongg, T’ai Chi and ballroom dancing, even a climbing wall. A less restful but exciting Beijing activity awaits you in the Silk Market, with buzzing carts and shops. No Beijing tour would be complete without the Forbidden City. Visit the grand 16th-century palace early, since it takes at least three hours to get around. Temple of Heaven Park is a Confucian style urban landscape, equally worthy of a visit.

Tiananmen Square is the world’s largest public square, surrounded by Soviet-style buildings, is a reminder of China’s turmoil and political history. It’s not a place to sit and relax, but it is certainly a site not to be missed by any Beijing visitor. Summer Palace is a marvel of temples, gardens, bridges, and pavilions to explore. There are also riverside walkways, shops and restaurants. The 798 Arts District is a popular artist hangout with cafes lining the streets. Beijing is also the best departure point to see the Great Wall of China, easily done as a half-day trip.

The epicenter of the Beijing games, the green is the site of Herzog & de Meuron-designed "Bird's Nest" National Stadium where the gymnastic and aquatic competitions are held; and Olympic Village, where more than 10,000 Olympians set up camp.

This women’s wear and accessories boutique carries little-known Chinese brands, like namesake White Collar and sister company Shee.

This groundbreaking gallery is set in one of the capital’s most intriguing developments—a former state munitions factory turned into an 80,000-square-foot home for contemporary art.

A man with a PhD in Chemistry from Oxford may not be the first person you’d expect to start a Tibetan textiles company, but that’s exactly what Chris Buckley did in 2000, leaving product development to launch a craft and textile business.

This 2010-opened bar is shaking up local cocktail culture with creative concoctions and house-made mixers. Try the “secret Earl Grey,” Beefeater gin finished off with pomelo-lavender bitters.

Located northwest of the city, this district is where many of the city’s universities are located. It’s also home to the Beijing Zoo (with its ever-popular giant pandas) and the glorious Summer Palace.

While the traditional boat that guests board may be called a “junk,” the experience is far from it on this staffed all-night cruise.

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 fermented sorghum liquor from Guizhou, in southwest China ($125). Peckish?

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 Meuron's National Stadium in Beijing, the primary site of the 2008 summer Olympic games.

It doesn’t have a street address—which is only fitting for a place that was once considered the center of the universe.

For really distinctive souvenirs, avoid the dreary state-run stores and samey hotel-lobby shops in favor of this boisterous, treasure-filled market.

A brick-walled gallery that, come night, morphs into a gathering spot for fashion designers and media types. The most creative drink: “emperor’s whiskers,” made with tea-infused vermouth.

This sprawling district east of Tiananmen Square has lots of variety: some areas are dotted with lively clubs and cutting-edge restaurants; others have upscale hotels and slickly modern malls; and still others have clusters of old-style hutongs.

Upon arrival, go one flight up directly to the Departures hall Passenger Service Center for excellent help (finding a car, hotel, transfers, sightseeing) in fluent English.

Pack duty-free liquor in an imitation Wenger “Swiss Army” carry-on-size wheelie suitcase from this travel accessories store. Smarter buys include Snuggy Snoozer neck pillows ($19) and fresh earplugs to drown out the plane engines and crying babies ($6).