(includes Huairou & Shuiguan)
BAKERIES, COFFEE, ICE CREAM, JUICE & TEA
●Beiluo Bread Bar – 70A Beiluoguxiang (Gulou); 011-86-010-8408-3069; some of area’s best coffee, as well as bread and pasta, made in-house.
●Upper Room – 6A Guanghuali (Chaoyang, difficult to find: best way is from Tongan Li subway Exit A, up Dondaqiao to Guanghua Road intersection, then right & just past big Soho mall, immediately go into small side alley next to it, then left & keep turning till you see Upper Room (Upper Room easy to spot in alley as outside is like picturesque, blue garden)); 011-86-010-6506-8324; thebeijinger.com/directory/upper-room; great place to take visitors for adventure to out-of-way place hiding great Chinese food & ex-pat-friendly comfort; inside is cozy, sporting blue décor of quaint cottage restaurant; holds around 40 people & basically dead during week; on weekends, alive & jumping; main floor has bar/diner kitchen section & comfy patio chair tables; specialty is Hong Kong desserts; Milk Tea is spot-on traditional; try Double Skin Milk (popular, traditional Hong Kong dessert, cross between custard, eggnog & yogurt, sweet but not too thick with nice moist milky center), Nutcracker Mousse, Mango Carnival Mix (smoothie-like, yet layered, so that taste 1st mango and finally grapefruit), Bailey Dumpling (gooey dough ball served in Bailey Irish Cream), or Walnut Soup (simply pureed walnuts).
BARS & NIGHTCLUBS
●Atmosphere Bar – 1 Jianguomenwai Avenue, 80th Floor (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-6505-2299; shangri-la.com; often booked month in advance, with hotel patrons getting preference; Beijing’s best cocktails.
●Apothecary – 81 Sanlitun North Road, 3rd Floor (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-5208-6040; apothecarychina.com; expat and hipster bar; fried chicken on Sundays.
●El Nido – 59 Fangjia Hutong (Dongcheng, enter from Andingmennei Dajie); 011-86-010-8402-9495; tiny hutong bar that looks like bunker beer aficionado would assemble to prepare for nuclear attack; inside, looks as if bomb already dropped; among Beijing’s best beer selections; decent selection absinthe and 4 types affordable infused brandy and vodka; grab seat outdoors, where film projector propped on books beams images onto back of canvas advertising banner.
●Fez – 81 Sanlitun North Road, 4th Floor (Chaoyang, Agua’s rooftop bar); 011-86-010-5208-6188; mojitos and pinchos.
●Great Leap Brewing – 6 Doujiao Hutong (Dongcheng); 011-86-010-5717-1399; greatleapbrewing.com; courtyard microbrewery.
●Hidden House – 39 Xindong Road (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-8418-5718; hard to find; in unmarked, glassware store, flip light switch and bookcase opens; worth effort; like bonkers medieval castle - blend of large grey bricks & impressionist art, cosy alcoves for chatting with pals; try Bourbon Mai Tai or London Mule; also, Silver Gin Fizz, which adds splash of elderflower to creamy, egg-white-&-gin shake-up.
●Mai Bar – 40 Beiluoguxiang; 011-86-138-1125-2641; thebeijinger.com/directory/mai; miniscule cocktail courtyard in hutong.
●Mao Mao Chong – 12 Banchang Hutong (Gulou); 011-86-138-1035-1522; maomaochongbeijing.com; creative cocktails; known for drinks infused with mala (numbing pepper).
●Serk – 40-2 Beixingiao San Tiao (Gulou); 011-86-134-2647-4634; serk.cc; bar, bike shop, and cafe.
●Migas – 81 Sanlitun North Road, 6th Floor (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-5208-6061; migasbj.com; very mod (worth visiting just for décor); cocktails on huge deck with DJ-spun music as background.
●Tiger Bar – 28 Xiaguandi Village (Yanxi, Huairou, at Red Capital Ranch); 011-86-010-8401-8886; redcapitalclub.com.
●Upper Room – 6A Guanghuali (Chaoyang, difficult to find: best way is from Tongan Li subway Exit A, up Dondaqiao to Guanghua Road intersection, then right & just past big Soho mall, immediately go into small side alley next to it, then left & keep turning till you see Upper Room (Upper Room easy to spot in alley as outside is like picturesque, blue garden)); 011-86-010-6506-8324; thebeijinger.com/directory/upper-room; great place to take visitors for adventure to out-of-way place hiding great Chinese food & ex-pat-friendly comfort; inside is cozy, sporting blue décor of quaint cottage restaurant; holds around 40 people & basically dead during week; on weekends, alive & jumping; main floor has bar/diner kitchen section & comfy patio chair tables; holds sort of Concert-KTV-Open Mike night (rather than machines, real music accompaniment & will follow any song), popular with both Hong Kong expats & locals; creative & fun creative cocktails, including “Wizard of Oz,” peppermint, 7-Up & apple slices.
●Yan Club Arts Center – Ceramics 3rd Street, Dashanzi Art Zone, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-5978-9172; yanclub.com; boite by night, art gallery by day.
●Aman at Summer Palace – 15 Gongmenqian Street (at Summer Palace, about 30-40 minutes from downtown Beijing); 011-86-010-5987-9999 or 800-477-9180; amanresorts.com; boutique hotel; among handful UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Beijing; 720 acre, former Qing Dynasty Summer Palace imperial garden; arranged around elegant courtyards, ponds, and arcades; 18 guestrooms, 33 suites; ask for Suite #25.
●Commune – Badaling Highway (Yanqing County, Shuiguan exit); 011-86-010-8118-1888; commune.com.cn; stunning architecture and location; 12 original villas designed by international architects, copies of which subdivided into more affordable hotel rooms; pleasant experience.
●Emperor Hotel – 33 Qihelou Street (Dongcheng District); 011-86-010-6526-5566; theemperorbeijing.cn; futuristic boutique near Tiananmen Square; rooftop bar with views over Forbidden City.
●Grace Beijing – Jiuxianqiao Lu, 2 Hao Yuan (798 Art District); 011-86-010-6436-1818; gracebeijing.com; 30-room boutique hotel; colorful abstract paintings and embroidered carpets in otherwise minimalist lobby; Superior Rooms are lovely, Grace Suites are best; comfortable and stylish.
●Hotel G – Workers’ Stadium West Road, Chaoyang (Sanlitun); 011-86-010-6552-3600; hotel-g.com; modern boutique hotel.
●Kerry Hotel – 1 Guanghua Road (Chaoyang); 011-86-10-6561-8833; shangri-la.com/beijing/kerry; club-level rooms are comfortable and cozy, notwithstanding hotel’s enormity; business hotel; full service hotel with great facilities and food.
●Langham Beijing Airport – 1 Er Jing Road (Terminal 3, Capital International Airport); 011-86-010-6457-5555; beijingairport.langhamplacehotels.com.
●Opposite House – 11 Sanlitun Road, Building 1 (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-6417-6688 or 800-819-5053; theoppositehouse.com; boutique created by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, this intriguing urban hotel’s exterior has emerald green glass overlay; inside, pampering with plush thread count linens, chic bars, and haute interiors; may be best choice for Beijing (great deal for money) in terms of locale; room service; stainless steel pool almost too beautiful to use.
●Orchid – 65 Baochao Hutong (Gulou); 011-86-010-8404-4818; theorchidbeijing.com; boutique hotel.
●Peninsula Palace Beijing – 8 Jinyu Alley (Wangfujing, Dongcheng); 011-86-010-8516-2888 or 800-223-6800; peninsula.com; close to Forbidden City; gleaming and ultramodern lobby.
●Park Hyatt – 2 Jiangumenwai Avenue (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-8567-1234; park.hyatt.com; this might be my 1st choice hotel in city.
●Raffles Beijing Hotel – 33 East Chang An Avenue (Dongcheng); 011-86-010-6526-338 or 800-768-9009; beijing.raffles.com; 1907 building originally known as Grand Hotel de Pekin; lavishly decorated rooms; 9 elegant suites (named for celebrities, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Bernard Shaw, and Sun Yat-Sen); private valets; best French restaurant in Beijing, Jaan; go in September-October; book rooms in original wing.
●Red Capital Ranch – 28 Xiaguandi Village (Yanxi, Huairou); 011-86-010-8401-8886; redcapitalclub.com; gaspingly close proximity to Great Wall; 10 rooms (“villas”); thoughtfully decorated with antique furnishings; oddly shaped Yan’an room has considerable charm and very firm bed; request 1 with rooftop terrace; ascend wall at sunset to watch surrounding hills, rustic villages, and crumbling watchtowers melt into twilight.
●Regent Beijing – 99 Jinbao Street (Dongcheng); 011-86-040-0810-6868; regenthotels.com; modern; spa.
●Ritz-Carlton Beijing Financial Street – 1 East Jinchengfang Street, (Financial Street, Xicheng); 011-86-010-6601-6666 or 800-542-8680; ritzcarlton.com; chrome and blue-glass tower; contemporary; northwest of Forbidden City; 253 rooms; excellent views; Club Floor guests look upon “Tibetan White Pagoda”; “Tea Apothecary” in lobby is under Banyan Trees; standard rooms are sufficiently regal.
●School House at Mutianyu – 12 Mutianyu Village (Huairou); 011-86-010-6162-6506; theschoolhouseatmutianyu.com; restored village 1 hour from capital, nestled near 1.4-mile stretch restored Ming Dynasty Great Wall; also houses art gallery and glass-blowing studio to display villagers’ work; arranges Great Wall tours; take last transport up to wall top and walk down in early evening (best way to visit).
●Shangri-La Hotel Beijing – 29 Zizhuyuan Road (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-6841-2211 or 866-565-5050; shangri-la.com; modern.
●St. Regis Beijing – 21 Jianguomenwai Street (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-6460-6688; starwoodhotels.com; majestic lobby.
●Temple Hotel – 23 Shatan North Street (Shatan Beijie); 011-86-010-8401-5680; thetemplehotel.com; housed in 600 year-old former Qing Dynasty temple compound (buried, forgotten, rediscovered in 2007); among city’s most exclusive restaurants; French-inspired meals; best option.
●Waldorf Astoria Beijing – 5-15 Jinyu Hutong (Dongcheng); 011-86-010-8520-8989; waldorfastoria.com; 176-rooms; deep-bronze latticework on exterior gives 12-story building glistening jewel box appearance; interiors are masculine and tailored; contemporary Chinese art in public spaces; in rooms, instead of white-on-white, rainbow of vivid hues, from teal blue to persimmon, made sophisticated with bronze accents, plush gray rugs & chocolate-colored wood flooring; floor-to-ceiling windows offer views over central shopping district & tiled hutong rooftops; heated floors and Japanese-style toilets along with Ferragamo bath products; just 15-minute walk from Forbidden City & Tiananmen Square; book premier suite on 6th floor and up for view over Forbidden City north to Drum & Bell Towers.
●Agua – 81 Sanlitun North Road, 4th Floor (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-5208-6188; nuevo Spanish cuisine.
●Bel – Village, Building 1, 11 Sanlitun Road (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-6417-6688 or 800-819-5053; theoppositehouse.com; northern Asian cuisine.
●Bianyifang – 2A Chongwenmenwai (Dajie); 011-86-010-6712-0505; open since 1416; try duck.
●Chuanban Canting – 5 Gongyuan Tou Tiao (Jiangguomennei Dajie); 011-86-010-6512-2277, ext. 6101; run by Sichuan provincial government; again, tacky décor belies excellent classic dishes; try mapo tofu (custardy texture with explosive peppery kick); long waits.
●Din Tai Fung – 22 Hujiayuan, Yibei Building (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-6462-4502; dintaifungusa.com; excellent café chain that elevates street food into something elegant; try xiaolong bao (soup dumplings).
●Duck de Chine – 1949 Hidden City, Xingfuyicun, 4th Alley (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-6501-8881; Asian-French fusion in industrial-chic space.
●Green T. House – 6 Gongti Xi Lu (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-6552-8310; green-t-house.com.cn; perhaps little precious, but was groundbreaking when opened in late 1990s; brought unique design to Beijing’s restaurant scene; large oversized chairs, tree branches, and bird cages decorate airy dining room; imaginatively prepared food is light, with tea-infused flavors, but cuisine is beside point; minimalist decor and attentive service attract fashion-conscious crowd.
●Green T. House Living – 318 Hegezhuang (Chaoyang, at Cuigezhuang Village); 011-86-013-6011-37132; green-t-house.com.cn; like Green T. House but longer drive;
bold, pavilion-like structure inspired by Warring States-period architecture; white stone terraced courtyards set within vast complex; huge white chimney floats over long, slim fireplace and crystal floors and walls.
●Guizhou Dasha Mudanting – 18 Yinghuajie (Hepingxiqiao, Beisanhuan Donglu); 011-86-010-6444-4466; ext. 6203; run by Guizhou provincial government; do not let décor dissuade; try suantangyu (made tangy with fermented tomato soup base); do not order “dog hotpot.”
●Jaan – 33 East Chang’An Avenue (Wangfujing, at Raffles Beijing Hotel); 011-86-010-6526-338 or 800-768-9009; beijing.raffles.com; best French restaurant in Beijing.
●Jamaica Me Crazy – I Cheniandian Hutong (Gulou); 011-86-010-6592-1254; ackee & saltfish, jerk chicken, oxtail, and stewed rice.
●Jing Yaa Tang – 11 Sanlitun Road, Building 1 (Chaoyang, at Opposite House); 011-86-010-6417-6688; theoppositehouse.com; famous for Peking Duck.
●Kashi Fanzhuang – 60 Pen’er Hutong (Xuanwu); 011-86-010-6358-2243; Kashgar provincial government run restaurant; city’s best Uighur food; this restaurant is among few in city that serve authentic lamb rice pilaf.
●Maison Boulud – 23 Qianmen (Dongdajie, adjacent to Tiananmen Square); 011-86-010-6559-9200; maisonboulud.com; in former US Embassy; French.
●Mercante – 4 Fangzhuanchang Hutong (Gulou); 011-86-010-8402-5098; among best Italian food in town; 10 tables.
●Migas – 81 Sanlitun North Road, 6th Floor (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-5208-6061; migasbj.com; molecular gastronomy; very mod (worth visiting just for décor).
●Middle 8 – 8 Dong Sanlitun (Chaoyang, in alley running east from 3.3 Mall); 011-86-010-6413-0629; middle8th.com; Yunnan cuisine; among city’s best places to eat.
●Red Capital Club – 66 Dongsi Jiutiao (Dongcheng); 011-86-010-8403-5308; redcapitalclub.com.cn; kitschy, Mao-era glory.
●Serk – 40-2 Beixingiao San Tiao (Gulou); 011-86-134-2647-4634; serk.cc; bar, bike shop, and cafe.
●Sureno – Village, Building 1, 11 Sanlitun Road (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-6417-6688 or 800-819-5053; theoppositehouse.com; Mediterranean restaurant on hotel’s ground floor with sunken, outdoor garden.
●Taco Bar – 9 Dongsishiertao (Gulou); firstname.lastname@example.org; opened as speakeasy; must make reservation on-line (no drop-ins whatsoever); Mexico City authentic.
●Temple Restaurant – 23 Shatan North Street (Shatan Beijie, at Temple Hotel); 011-86-010-8401-5680; thetemplehotel.com; housed in 600 year-old former Qing Dynasty temple compound (buried, forgotten, rediscovered in 2007); among city’s most exclusive restaurants; French-inspired meals.
●Upper Room – 6A Guanghuali (Chaoyang, difficult to find: best way is from Tongan Li subway Exit A, up Dondaqiao to Guanghua Road intersection, then right & just past big Soho mall, immediately go into small side alley next to it, then left & keep turning till you see Upper Room (Upper Room easy to spot in alley as outside is like picturesque, blue garden)); 011-86-010-6506-8324; thebeijinger.com/directory/upper-room; great place to take visitors for adventure to out-of-way place hiding great Chinese food & ex-pat-friendly comfort; inside is cozy, sporting blue décor of quaint cottage restaurant; holds around 40 people & basically dead during week; on weekends, alive & jumping; main floor has bar/diner kitchen section & comfy patio chair tables; Asian-Western food; try Baked Mexican Pork Chop (really Hong Kong pork chop) or Stew Mutton with Dry Bean Curd & Rice (surprisingly high quality lamb), served with fermented bean curd paste combined with peanut sauce, sugar cane & horse chestnuts; famous item is Deluxe Beef curry, Chinese-style curry with multi-layer tastes (chef favorite, this aromatic dish blends grounded chestnut & sesame paste in recipe that even owner does not know).
●Wistaria Bridge – 15 Zhongguancun Dajie, R23 (Zhongguancun Business Pedestrian Street, Haidian); 011-86-010-5986-3680; try “pork with special wine” or “deep-fried duck cube with walnut.”
●Yunteng Shifu – 7 Donghuashi Beili Dongqu (between Chongwenmen Dongdajie and Donghuashi Dajie, at Yunteng Hotel); 01-86-010-6713-6439; yuntenghotel.com; don’t be misled by kitschy interior; run by Yunnan provincial government, this is (by general consensus) most authentic Yunnan restaurant in Beijing; try shousiji (chicken salad with lemon grass, lime juice, pickled peppers, and green onions), and/or liangbanbohe (mint salad with thin, flat tofu skin); also can try zharulao plate (goat cheese).
●Bath House Residence – 318 Hegezhuang (Chaoyang, at Cuigezhuang Village, Green T. House Living); 011-86-013-6011-37132; green-t-house.com.cn; spa; long way out.
●Imperial Tours – 2-2004 Wanguocheng, Xiangheyuan Lu 1 (Dongcheng); 011-86-010-8440-7162 or 888-888-1970; imperialtours.net; private tours of Forbidden City, including Chonghuagong, Qing Dynasty’s Emperor Qianlong’s private chambers (filled with his calligraphy and jade collection); additionally or alternatively, as best way to see Great Wall, ask for bespoke 4-hour hike along wall between Jinshanling and Simatai (about 75 miles north of Beijing).
●Natooke – 19-1 Wudaoying Hutong (Gulou); 011-86-010-8402-6925; natooke.com; rents bikes.
●Serk – 40-2 Beixingiao San Tiao (Gulou); 011-86-134-2647-4634; serk.cc; rents bikes.
●Beijing Postcards – Donsi Bei Dajie (Dongcheng); 011-86-156-1145-3992; bjpostcards.com; vintage postcards; worth special trip; also offers walks, etc.
●BNC – 9A Sanlitun Village North (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-6416-9045; name stands for “Brand New China”; up-and-coming Chinese designers, such as Pari Chen and Uma Wang.
●Dong Liang Studio – 26 Wudaoying Hutong (Dongcheng); 011-86-010-8404-7648; avant garde fashion, including Chinese designer Uma Wang’s, Wang Lei’s, and Na Too’s women’s wear.
●Exception de Mixmind – 1 Jianguo Men Wai Dajie, BB104 China World Shopping Center; 011-86-010-6505-2268; mixmind.com.cn; Ma Ke’s ready-to-wear women’s separates line.
●Galerie Paris-Beijing – 4 Jiuxianqiao Road (Chaoyang, at 798 Art District); 011-86-010-5978-9262; parisbeijingphotogallery.com; photography.
●Lost & Found – 42 Guozijian Street (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-6401-1855; lostandfound.cn; 2nd-hand shop with both Chinese and US homewares.
●Mega Mega Vintage – 241 East Gulou Street (Gulou) 011-86-010-8404-5637; mmvintage.blogbus.com; clothing.
●Monster – 81 Baochao Hutong (Dongcheng); 011-86-138-1061-8591; goth boutique; local illustrator He Jin and his wife Xiao Qiu both love horror movies and monsters so much they opened space devoted to all things gory (and undead); cabinet houses giant Nosferatu bust, Van Helsing statues on display; graphic novels and variety of more teenage-style lit.
●Natooke – 19-1 Wudaoying Hutong (Gulou); 011-86-010-8402-6925; natooke.com; fixed-gear bike shop that doubles as juggling shop.
●O Gallery – Ceramics 3rd Street, Dashanzi Art Zone, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-8459-9676; ogilvy.com; blurring lines between art and furniture, sources steady stream paintings, prints, sculptures, sofas, and tables from Chinese and international designers; innovative design and own Zizao label.
●Pace Gallery – Ceramics 3rd Street, Dashanzi Art Zone, 2 Jiuxianqiao Road (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-5978-9781; pacebeijing.com; contemporary art.
●Panjiayuan – 18 Huaweili, Panjiayuan Road (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-6774-1869; panjiayuan.com; Beijing’s central, open-air market.
●Sanlitun Village North – Sanlitun Road (Chaoyang); sanlitunvillage.com; where wealthy Chinese shop for designers such as Lanvin and Prada; note, however, in Mall’s basement, Chinese designers; make sure to check out, also, Nali Patio (restaurant and shop cluster within Sanlitun Village).
●Serk – 40-2 Beixingiao San Tiao (Gulou); 011-86-134-2647-4634; serk.cc; bar, bike shop, and cafe.
●Studio Regal – 2 Jianguomenwaidajie, #319; 011-86-010-8517-1820; studioregal.com; Chinese elites’ evening and wedding gowns by Ye Mingzi.
●Tang’ Roulou – 30 Sanlitun North Road (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-6416-9761; qipao are re-engineered into children’s clothing, blankets, etc.
●Tokyo Gallery BTAP – Ceramics 3rd Street, Dashanzi Art Zone, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-5978-4838; tokyo-gallery.com; contemporary art.
●UCCA – Ceramics 3rd Street, Dashanzi Art Zone, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-5780-0201; ucca.org.en; contemporary art.
●Vega Zaishi Wang – B1 Jianwai SoHo Building, 6th Floor, Boutique 662 (Chaoyang District); 011-86-010-5900-2279; vegazaishiwang.com; high concept women’s fashion.
●Yan Club Arts Center – Ceramics 3rd Street, Dashanzi Art Zone, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road (Chaoyang); 011-86-010-5978-9172; yanclub.com; art gallery by day, boite by night.
●Xander Zhou Studio – 18 Baiziwan Road (Chaoyang); 011-86-139-1031-1724; xanderzhou.com; high concept men’s fashion.
●Yashow Market – 58 Gongti Beilu (Chaoyang, at Workers’ Stadium North Road); 011-86-010-6416-8945 or 011-86-010-6415-1726; knock-off ground zero.
SIGHTS & SITES
●Beijing Zoo – 137 Xishimen Outer Street (Xicheng); 011-86-010-6831-5131; beijingzoo.com; pandas.
●Bell & Drum Towers – Dianmen Dajie’s north end (Dongcheng); bell tower stands closely behind drum tower; drum tower situated at Inner City’s central axis’ northern end; can climb either tower’s steps; Drum Tower’s upper chamber has traditional drum replicas, showcased in performances several times per hour; Hou Hai Lake view to west.
●Dazhalan Xi Jie – 5 minutes south from Mao’s Mausoleum (on Qianmen Daijie); turn right after 3-4 blocks onto Dazhalan Xi Jie; restored hutong (shopping alley); make sure to check out giant singing crickets caged on shop doors.
●Great Wall – Shanhaiguan (on Bo Hai Sea) to Jiayu Guan (Gobi Desert); whc.unesco.org/en/list/438; world’s largest historical site; origins date back to Warring States Period (453-221 BCE); during Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), extended west; Ming Wall (Beijing) unrelated to Qin Wall (far north); most easily visited sections are Ba Da Ling and Juyong Guan, while Mutianyu, Jin Shan Ling, and vertiginous Simatai require full day’s outing.
●Great Wall at Juyong Guan – 37 miles northwest of Beijing; 011-86-010-6977-1665 (ticket office); whc.unesco.org/en/list/438; most touristed and tacky section; most conveniently accessed section is also most historically significant; guarding 1 of 2 crucial passes to Beijing (other is to northeast, at Gu Bei Kou) and vast North China Plain, was site of pitched battles, involving Jurchen, Mongol, and, more recently, Japanese invaders; climbing steep section to left offers views of Ba Da Ling, snaking up mountains to north, and south to Beijing (on clear day); worth stopping to view ancient and remarkable Yun Tai (Cloud Platform), which once stood astride old road running northwest into Mongol territories; central tunnel is carved with elephants, Buddha figures demonstrating different mudra (hand positions), 4 heavenly kings, and 6 different scripts; consider staying at Red Capital Ranch or Commune.
●Great Wall at Mutianyu – 56 miles northeast of Beijing; 011-86-010-6162-6505 (ticket office); whc.unesco.org/en/list/438; slightly less crowded than Ba Da Ling portion; in heavily forested area; especially photogenic in misty or rainy weather; can hop fence to see more tempting, unrestored sections; cable car to help those who need it.
●Great Wall at Jin Shan Ling – 81 miles northeast of Beijing, 56 miles southwest of Chengde (Hebei Province); 011-86-010-8402-4628 (ticket office); whc.unesco.org/en/list/438; among least visited and least spoiled Wall section; good condition; features unusual circular towers and elaborate defensive walls leading up to towers; cable car; walk to Simatai is reason enough to visit.
●Great Wall at Simatai – 77 miles northeast of Beijing; 011-86-010-6903-1051 (ticket office); whc.unesco.org/en/list/438; somewhat tamed after series of deaths led to most dangerous stretch’s closing; most harrowing portion, steep and unrestored, is on east (right) side Miyun Reservoir; cable car; round-trip hike to Tian Qiao takes 3 hours at moderate pace.
●Great Wall at Jiankou – 43 miles northeast of Beijing; few tourist buses make journey here; no cable car; no touts selling knickknacks; for serious hikers only; start at Xin Zhai Zi Cun where road dead-ends into parking lot, following trail up to Wall; turn left once you reach Wall, and prepare yourself for intense 5-hour hike; tallest watchtower in distance is Jiankou, and just before you reach it, there is turnoff point that is marked by flat, paved Wall section that leads you back down to road; from road, 20-minute walk back to parking lot.
●Hutong Stroll – start at Lama Temple and head west down leafy, quaint Guozijian Street (named for imperial academy where Qing dynasty scholars once studied to become officials), former academy and adjacent Confucius Temple being serene places to view; next, cross Andingmen Nei Dajie Street (bustling thoroughfare, home to some of city’s best dumplings (Xian Lao Man, #252) and excellent Chinglish signage, such as “Cherish Lady Herd Living Space” above women’s herbal beauty products store); to Beiluoguxiang (hutong street, with Mai Bar “cocktail courtyard” (at #40)); then left onto Baochao Hutong; then south to Gulou Dongdajie (near ancient Bell and Drum Towers).
●Liyuan Library – Wisdom Valley, Jiaojiehe Village (Huairou); architecturally dramatic.
●Mao’s Mausoleum – Tiananmen Square (Dongcheng, at square’s south end); 011-86-010-6513-2277; among Beijing’s eeriest experiences; no telling whether cadaver version (real or waxen) on display at any given time; tour is fast and free; with no bags, drinking, photos, and/or stopping; lineup starts early (9:00 a.m.).
●National Museum of China – 16 East Chang’An Avenue (Dongcheng); 011-86-010-6511-6400; chnmuseum.cn or namoc.org.en.
●798 Art Zone (Dashanzi Art District) – Ceramics 3rd Street, Dashanzi Art Zone, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, alleys 2 & 4 (Chaoyang, south of Dashanziqiao flyover); 011-86-010-5978-9180; 798space.com; China’s contemporary art scene’s ad hoc headquarters in formerly known as Joint Factory 718.
●Temple of Heaven – Tiantan Road (Dongcheng); 011-86-010-6702-8866; tiantanpark.com; UNESCO World Heritage site; 15th Century Taoist complex.
●Ullens Center for Contemporary Art – 4 Jiuxianqiao Road (Chaoyang, at 798 Art Zone); 011-86-010-8459-9269; ucca.org.cn; comprehensive art center, founded in Beijing by collectors Guy and Myriam Ullens; intense retrospections and massive installations.
●Wuyong – by appointment; 011-86-075-6338-8566; wuyonguseless.com; Ma Ke’s couture pieces, often made from recycled materials.
●Yonghe Temple – 28 Yonghegong Dajie (Dongcheng); 011-86-010-6404-4499; formerly known as Lama Temple; ornately decorated; among city’s most popular worship places; Emperor Yongzheng once lived here; now home to mostly Mongolian monks who follow Yellow Hat Tibetan Buddhism sect; see Wanfu Pavilion, final hall, which contains 18m-high Maitreya Buddha statue, supposedly sculpted from single sandalwood block.
●Commune by Great Wall – Badaling Highway (Shuiguan exit); 011-86-010-8118-1888; communebythegreatwall.com/en; spend night next to ancient world’s architectural wonder; architectural marvel itself; 12 architects from across Asia designed homes as lodging for people seeking retreat from Beijing; guests stay in 1 of original homes, which are costly, or in 1 of many copies built after Kempinski took over management in 2005; spectacularly sited in valley at Great Wall’s foot; steep 10-minute hike to get to ancient ramparts; each house has average of 4 rooms; most popular are Cantilever and Bamboo Houses; go with enough people to rent entire house; bedrooms are comfortable, though toilet smell reported; rooms generally have wide windows looking out onto valley; original homes have Great Wall views; kitchens are functional; breakfast buffet is mediocre and insanely overpriced; standard room about $366 in late summer.