Beijing

Beijing Travel Guide

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.

Well-known rock venue impresario Li Xuebing (or “Bing Bing”) and Hong Kong gallery owner Zhao Lei combined forces in 2001 to open the Yan Club as an arts center.

Don't be fooled by the fading paint and dusty velvet banquettes: the best young Chinese indie bands can be found cutting their teeth at this respected rock bar in the university district.

This charming little pottery studio-cum-store, which features ceramics from talented local potters, has solved many a gift-giver’s dilemma. The emphasis here is on contemporary interpretations of traditional ceramic forms (vases, plates, cups, urns, teapots).

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.

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 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.

The now-restored Legation Quarter, the fabulous Temple of Heaven, and bustling pearl and tea markets are the highlights of this neighborhood southeast of the Forbidden City.

Pass a carved white stone wall and there, next to the bathrooms, is a vending machine with SIM cards from China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom ($22), usable in compatible phones. You can also buy prepaid phone cards in denominations of 50 and 100 yuan ($7–$15).

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.

The Long March Space, which is well known for its public-art projects along the route of Mao's Long March, uses its space at 798 more as a base than as a gallery.

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.

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.