What to see and eat in Beijing in one week!

Posted by on May 29, 2015 in Asia, China, Featured, Travel | 0 comments

What to see and eat in Beijing in one week!

Before my parents arrived in Beijing last week I sat down and wrote out the sights they had to see and places they had to eat.

People often ask me what I think the “must do” things in Beijing are, so if you or someone you know is visiting the old city, here’s my guide for a one week visit:

 

 

Day 1 

My parents arrived in the afternoon, I decided their first dinner should be Beijing’s most famous dish – Beijing Roast Duck!  There are many restaurants in Beijing that serve up a good kaoya, my favourite is Xiao Wang Fu located at the north end of Ritan Park.  In the warmer months you can sit upstairs on the rooftop and overlook the beautiful park.

 

Seen in Ritan Park

Seen in Ritan Park, this is the most common method of cooling oneself!

 

Before dinner we meandered our way through the lovely gardens and watched local children gleefully running around each other.  Dating back to 1530, Ritan Park is a great spot for people watching as families come down to fly kites, fish in the pond, rock climb, dance and sing.

After dinner we walked over to Centro, a nearby bar located inside the Kerry Hotel, for a glass of wine and to listen to their live jazz music.

 

Day 2

Start your day with a delicious, healthy and organic breakfast from Tribe (not to mention a great coffee to get your day started!).  Once you are ready to go, put your walking shoes on and take the line 6 subway from Dongdaqiao to Nanlouguxiang.  From Nanlouguxiang walk to Jingshan Park where you will find the best view of the city.

Not only is the park beautifully landscaped, it has the only “hill” in Beijing, made with the soil excavated for the moat around the Forbidden City.  From the top of the hill you get an understanding of the layout of the city, as well as the grandeur of the Forbidden City which is sprawled out below.

 

View of the Forbidden City from Jingshan Park

View of the Forbidden City from Jingshan Park

 

From Jingshan Park head over to another beautiful park, Behai Park.  This park has a large lake in the middle, and you can even hire a boat if you wish.  A very peaceful and tranquil park, it’s not uncommon to see people practicing taichi and qigong.

After all this walking you’ll be getting hungry, so head back to Nanlouguxiang and walk down Nanlouguxiang Hutong.  Stop for lunch at Peking Cafe, decorated with dried and fresh flowers this place serves up quality food, my favourite is the salmon fillet.  Be sure to wander down some of the smaller hutongs that run off the sides of Nanlouguxiang.

 

Nanlouguxiang Hutong

Nanlouguxiang Hutong

 

Once you’ve had a rest and are ready to go again, walk down to the Drum and Bell Towers.  These two ancient towers face each other and used to be the official timekeepers of Beijing.  The bell would be rung and the drums beaten to tell citizens what time of day it was.  Be warned, the stairs are steep!

After taking in these ancient buildings, wander down to Houhai, where you can perch on one of the many rooftop bars along the lake and watch the world go by.  These lakes are always entertaining with people swimming and fishing, and in winter ice skating.  When you’re ready for dinner find your way to Hutong Pizza which offers a cosy environment located down a winding hutong, and serves more than just pizza.

 

Houhai

Houhai

 

Day 3

Start your day with a fresh and tasty breakfast from Deli de Luxe, a tiny cafe hidden inside the Parkview compound across from Chaoyang Park’s West Gate.  After breakky take the line 10 subway to Panjiayuan to visit the Dirt Market, a sprawling outdoor market with hundreds of stalls offering everything from beads, jade, statues and jewellery to antiques, furniture, artwork and books!  If you do want to buy something be sure to negotiate heavily.  This is a great spot to find those uniquely Chinese souveniers.

 

The Dirt Market

The Dirt Market

 

After you’ve wandered through the markets, head over to Qianmen to enjoy lunch at Capital M, whose terrace offers an amazing view of Qianmen Gate and Tiananmen Square.  The food is Mediterranean style and although the restaurant is one of the more expensive in Beijing it’s still reasonable by western standards.

After a leisurely lunch it’s time for some serious sight seeing – Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  Tiananmen Square is the world’s biggest public square and is surrounded by large imposing buildings.  If you’re an early riser you can swing by at dawn to watch the flag raising ceremony held each day.

Walk through the square to the entrance of the Forbidden City, one of the most recognisable images of China.  The Forbidden City is enormous, so rather than trying to see it all just pick an area to explore.  The largest palace complex in the world, there are endless winding alleyways that will take you to ancient gardens and courtyards.

 

Inside the Forbidden City

Inside the Forbidden City

 

After exploring the Forbidden City you will have worked up an appetite that will be satisfied with diner at The Big Smoke, which offers hearty burgers and an awesome quinoa and veggie bowl.  After dinner finish off the day with a whisky or a cocktail at Miles, a nearby speakeasy style bar.

 

Day 4

Located down a market street in Jiuxianqiao and hidden behind an industrial looking metal door, Green Cow City Cafe is a little known gem.  With produce sourced from Green Cow Farm you know you’re getting fresh and quality ingredients.  Although they specialise in bagels, I am assured their ricotta pancakes are to die for!

 

Green Cow City Cafe

Green Cow City Cafe

 

After breakfast look around the wet market across the road and then head to the renowned 798 Art District.  Previously an electronics factory, this area is now home to Beijing’s best galleries.  There are many streets to wander with small and large galleries, shops and cafes.  Enjoy one of Beijing’s best coffees and lunch at Cafe Flat White.

 

Even the trees are artsy in 798!

Even the trees are artsy in 798!

 

After lunch it’s time to head to the countryside for two nights, where you can wander villages and take in the world famous view of the Great Wall snaking it’s way across the mountains.

By far China’s most prominent landmark, it’s not a question of whether or not to see the Great Wall, rather it’s how.  I suggest making  weekend out of it by staying near Mutianyu, you can read about that in more detail here.  Spend days 5 & 6 relaxing by the Wall, and return to Beijing in the afternoon.

 

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

 

Day 7

The last day in Beijing and there’s still plenty to see!  Start off by having breakfast like a local and getting a jianbing, a Chinese style pancake made by street vendors filled with toppings like an egg, cracker and soy sauce.  The pancake is then folded up and chopped up, and ready to eat, all for about 5 RMB ($1 AUD)!

 

Jianbing

Getting jianbing for breakfast

 

Then it’s off to the stunning Summer Palace.  Located in the north east corner of the city to get there take the subway to Beigongmen.  The Summer Palace gets crowded and is full of stairs, so my recommendation is to get there as early as possible.  The Summer Palace is unquestionably beautiful, with lush gardens, temples and lakes.

Get a map before you go in as it’s very easy to get lost, these can be purchased from the street vendors for about 2 RMB.  Also buy any bottles of water or iceblocks from the street vendors, as everything costs a lot more from the official shops inside the palace.

 

The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace

 

Once you’ve finished revelling in the Summer Palace take the subway to Yonghegong and enjoy lunch at one of the many cafes in Wudaoying Hutong.  My personal favourites are The Veggie Table (an eco-friendly vegan restaurant), Vineyard Cafe (which has a nice courtyard area) and Daily Routine.  Peek your head into boutique bike shop Natooke, where you can build a colourful custom made bicycle.

After lunch walk down to the Lama Temple, a beautiful Buddhist temple which previously housed monks from Tibet and Mongolia.  The final hall is home to the world’s largest sandalwood Buddha statute which looms above you at 18m tall.  Lined with trees and the smell of incense wafting through the air the temple has a serene feel, even with the many tourists wandering around.

Finally walk over to the Confucius Temple, another quiet sanctuary away from the crowded streets.  Head back to Wudaoying Hutong for dinner and drinks at Greek restaurant Argo, where you can sit upstairs among the ancient hutong rooftops.

 

Confucius Temple

Confucius Temple

 

If you’re excited about an upcoming trip to Beijing or feeling nostalgic for a past visit, watch this awesome parody music clip Beijing State of Mind, and check out this stunning time lapse of the city.

 

Other tips:

If you’re looking to get in a workout or two while you’re here, Crossfit Slash have just opened in their new premises and it is epic 🙂

For any cultural classes like Chinese cooking classes or walking tours, check out The Hutong.

 

*Please note this is not an exhaustive list as there is so much to do in this amazing city, this is just a starting point of what I recommend for your first visit!  

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