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.

British expat and longtime Beijing resident Dominic Johnson-Hill mines a rich seam of local nostalgia with his line of quirky, retro T-shirts—which depict Communist revolutionary heroes, coquettish Chinese pinups, and iconic Beijing images (subway maps, taxi and noodle-shop signs).

A gallery opposite the Nangao police station, in an area just outside The Fifth Ring Road.

Set in the city’s northeastern Chaoyang district, the newly built Olympic Park is home to the fabulous “Bird’s Nest” national stadium (an inventive, spiderweb structure of interlocking steel beams), along with the “Water Cube” National Aquatics Center (with an exterior made up of hundreds of what

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, and frequent-flier number (if you have one) straight to a bilingual electronic self-check-in kiosk.

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 you wait for your flight and watch the world go by—and through security—below. Drinks, snacks, and magazines are complimentary.

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 night, while the bells rang out during the day. The Bell Tower burned in the Qing Dynasty and was rebuilt, this time of fire-proof brick.

A day trip to the Great Wall is an absolute must when in Beijing. The only question is, what part to visit?

Hidden away along a bland, utilitarian suburban block, this über-hip space is a major haunt for Beijing fashionistas.

Laetitia Gauden, a French curator, started the Imagine Gallery in Feijiacun in 2003.

Capable of holding a million people, the 100-acre Tiananmen is the world’s largest public square.

Get to your gate on time!

The Taoist temple where Ming and Qing dynasty emperors once prayed for good harvests has some of the most exquisitely graceful architecture in the city—especially impressive given that it was built according to the precepts of numerology rather than aesthetics.

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 that saw almost 74 million passengers in 2010.

The highlight of a visit to the new Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall is the extraordinarily detailed scale model of the city that projects what China’s capital will look like in the year 2020.

It’s a see-and-be-seen scene at Redmoon, where well-heeled late-nighters size each other up over Japanese sake-tinis and pricey plates of sashimi.