Beijing, China’s exciting capital, is a modern metropolis clinging on to the vestiges of a proud imperial past. It is fast becoming one of Asia’s hippest cities with a booming art scene, gorgeous boutiques and heavenly food. Almost everyone needs a visa, unless you have a Singaporean, Bruneian or Japanese passport in which case they’ll just stamp you in at the airport. Anyway. If you have two days here, here’s all that you should do.
Let’s assume you land in the evening. Ease yourself into the chaos that is Beijing with a pre-dinner cocktail at China Bar, Park Hyatt, opposite the World Trade Centre. In no time, you’ll get hungry — you cannot come to Beijing and not eat Peking duck. Da Dong probably has the most authentic duck, but for a less touristy experience, Duck de Chine is the place to be seen. Want to get drunk? At Sanlitun is Beijing’s bar street, options range from beers and pole dancing to sultry mojitos in swish luxury. Boutique hotel The Opposite House has two great watering holes — Mesh and Punk. Down it and plonk into your bed here.
Start your day with breakfast at Vineyard, a tranquil cafe, near the splendid LamaTemple. Shop at Ya Show, it’s the place to go for everything from knock-off designe rclothes to pearls. Visit Tailor Ma on the 3rd floor for bespoke suits and jackets. Then, head next door to The Village in Sanlitun. The silk cushions, ties and bags are fabulous. Lunch at Brazilian new-wave favourite Alameda, hidden in an unremarkable lane off Sanlitun’s central bar street, comes next. Don’t forget to try their sinful almond pave.
Located next to Alameda is the Nali Mall, which has a collection of unique little stores such as Qiancaohua, with its floral belts and colourful cube cushions. Once you’re done, go down the traditional hutongs. Next: the city’s old drum and bell towers, near Nanluo Guxiang. Phew. Tired. Hungry. Three food suggestions, all Chinese. Xian’r Lao Man on Andingmen for dumplings and mustard cabbage — sounds nasty but is fantastic. The Chuan Ban near Jianguomen, for real Sichuan food in a rowdy setting. Or Dali Courtyard, for al fresco Yunnan cuisine in an old courtyard. Hope you enjoy that Beijing burp
Money matters: The currency in Beijing is the RMB, which is called ‘Kuai’ in Beijing. But you can use your foreign credit cards in Bank of China ATMs.
Shopping around:You can bargain for pretty much everything available, from local merchants.
Finding the facilities: Finding restrooms in Beijing is relatively simple, and the toilets are generally kept quite clean. Markets, Internet bars, and most public locations have toilet facilities. If you find you need to use one of the moveable versions along the road, however, expect to be charged a small fee for the convenience.
Night life: Banana Spicy is the place to go if you love disco. People in Bejing still love their disco. You can also go for karaoke, though you won’t find many English songs to choose from.
Tips for travellers
The standard of English is poor. Have your destination written down in Chinese, and get a local SIM card for your phone.
The subway is not for the weak.
Flights leaving Beijing airport are often late.
Pick up a copy of free listings. magazines in English, like Time Out
Beijing or the Beijinger, at restaurants around town.