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.

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.

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).

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.

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 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.

Chairman Mao himself is said to have surveyed Beijing from atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace and announced he wanted "the sky to be filled with smokestacks."

Also known as Factory 798, this Bauhaus-style complex houses the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art.

If your flight is delayed, go down one level to the Arrivals hall and walk 100 yards east of Gate B (with the giant glass windows overlooking the street to your right) to 12 reclining chairs amid a stand of potted palms.

Beijing’s newly opened Terminal 3, designed by Norman Foster’s Foster & Partners, is a miracle of rapid-fire engineering and army-ant–intensity construction;  it’s also the world’s largest single building, with a ceiling that is a dizzying scrim of light and color.

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 least $5 for withdrawing from a Chinese ATM, no matter the amount.

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