During my recent trip to China, I had the chance to catch up with Iain Shaw, a well-connected Scotsman who’s been living in the country for six years and acts as the deputy editor at The Beijinger, and runs the travel and nightlife sections at the excellent and informative local city guide. I asked him to share his perfect day in Beijing.
If you can get up early, go to a park and watch as the old people do Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and practice their ballroom dancing. Grab a baozi — a fluffy bun stuffed with meat and/or vegetables from a street vendor — and wander around the hutongs for a while. For lunch, head to Tang Yuan for dim sum, it’s great. During the afternoon, explore the galleries in the 798 arts district or Caochangdi — a rawer art section of the city. It’s less well-known and has been in the news recently because it’s slated for demolition.
If it isn’t dark yet, visit Jingshan Park, which is just north of the Forbidden City and has offers amazing views of the Imperial Palace and the hutongs to the east and west. If you feel like having a drink with your view, visit the Atmosphere Bar in the China World Summit Wing hotel — Beijing’s tallest building (above) — and watch the sunset.
In the evening, try checking out Gui Jie, or “Ghost Street”
and pick out one of the many hot pot (huo guo) restaurants. Then prepare for a massive bar crawl. I love Amilal, which is a tiny bar in a converted siheyuan (courtyard home) near the cafes and T-shirt stores of Nanluoguxiang. If you want to impress, try Apothecary in Sanlitun–they’re very creative and make a good cocktail. Try their martinez martini or mint julep. Then I’d head to Fubar on the east side of the Worker’s Stadium. It’s intended to come off as an old New York-style speakeasy, “hidden” in the back of a hot dog joint. The owner Chad is one of Beijing’s biggest characters and looks after his regulars well. Then we can head to George’s, which is run by George Zhou, a guy from the south of China who has learned the art of making great cocktails and is really passionate about what he does.
Thanks to Iain for his tips! For more Beijing travel ideas, check out our city guide. Photos: Top, courtesy of the Shangri-La Hotels; above left, ribbon dancers outside the Temple of Heaven, Janelle Nanos; bottom, a nightclub in the Sanlitun district, by Sun Jian/Myshot.
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