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Although Beijing desires to be a sophisticated international city, visitors usually beeline to explore its centuries of imperial history at its marquee palaces and temples. A more modern political imprint is evident in the Mao-era edifices around Tiananmen Square; the remnants of a quieter, less globalized Beijing linger in the backstreet hutong alleys. 

Things to do in Beijing

Dashanzi, 798 Art District

This renovated industrial complex in north Beijing is the hub of China’s white-hot contemporary arts scene. Hip cafes and restaurants complement the labyrinth of galleries, art stores, and artists’ studios.

4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, 011-8610-6437-6248,
Tags: editor pick | art | things to do | culture

Forbidden City

Beijing’s formerly golden-roofed imperial palace was once off limits to mere mortals, but today it attracts thousands of visitors daily. The scale is astonishing; the high-walled compound contains six main palaces and 800 smaller buildings.

Dongchang’an Dajie,
Tags: family | editor pick | historic | things to do | architecture


Created seven centuries ago, the ponds of Houhai are lined with teahouses, trendy shops, and lantern-lit pubs – an idyllic Old Beijing backdrop for sunset cocktails, rickshaw rides, and sauntering with the locals.

between QianHai and XiHai, just north of QianHai,
Tags: shopping | editor pick | things to do

Hutong tour

Learn about the genesis and enduring cultural significance of the fast-disappearing hutong neighborhoods that once comprised the capital. Most five-star hotels arrange private guided tours of hutongs for guests; Rickshaw Beijing also runs excellent guided visits.

Rickshaw Beijing, 011-8610-6716-0201 x1006,
Tags: editor pick | things to do | history | tour

Lama Temple

Also known as Yonghe Temple, this 18th-century temple – one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in the world – spans five halls and courtyards and encompasses an excellent collection of statues and art.

12 Yonghegong Dajie, 011-8610-6404-3769
Tags: things to do | culture | architecture | religious

Nanluo Guxiang

Unfairly dubbed the “Disney Hutong,” this renovated half-mile chunk of old Beijing real estate avoided the bulldozers to become a tourism hotspot. Its 700-year-old lanes have morphed into a happening district of bars, restaurants, cafes, stores, and small hotels.

Nanluo Guxiang, near Di’anmen on Ping’an Dajie,
Tags: editor pick | historic | things to do | architecture | culinary

Olympic Park

The spectacular 91,000-seat ‘Bird’s Nest’ National Stadium and the luminescent blue ‘Water Cube’ aquatics center are the signature attractions of the 4.7-square-mile 2008 Olympic Park.

Olympic Green,
Tags: things to do | architecture | spectator sport

Tiananmen Square

The gathering point of China’s capital, this vast square is cloaked in Communist-era architecture, such as Mao Zedong’s Mausoleum, Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, and the giant Mao Portrait at the entrance to the Forbidden City.

Dongcheng’an Dajie,
Tags: family | historic | things to do | architecture | history

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