TRY TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE
- With over 40 years of practice, this traditional specialist is a master at massage
- Arrange a house-call, or hotel-call, and let his highly trained hands come to you
- With your deepest muscular knots untangled, hop off the table truly refreshed
Our most plugged-in friends in Beijing spell relief D-E-N-G. Ende Deng, a 64-year-old traditional-Chinese-medicine doctor, does not speak English, so your concierge should arrange your treatment time. Deng makes house—and hotel—calls for an extremely reasonable RMB200 (US$30) per hour. Don’t be fooled by his wizened appearance; this traditional specialist, who has been practicing for more than 40 years, possesses the strength and technique to manipulate you into some astonishing positions. Deng’s gymnastics will untangle your deepest muscular knots before his highly trained fingers meticulously work their way up your central energy meridian (a.k.a. the spine), kneading each vertebra along the way. We always climb off Deng’s massage table feeling genuinely refreshed.
LISTEN TO THE SOUND AND MUSIC AT A TAOIST SHRINE
- Visit a sacred medieval temple tiled in blue to represent the sky
- Soak in surrounding culture; observe locals singing, dancing and practicing tai chi
- Shop a local market featuring high-quality silk pajamas and authentic pearl jewelry
If tackling the 17 palaces and 800 buildings of the Forbidden City sounds overwhelming, a 20-minute ride to the Temple of Heaven might be the perfect introduction. Built in 1420 and tiled in blue to represent the sky, emperors of the Ming and then Qing Dynasty made an annual pilgrimage to Tiantan to pray for a good harvest. Set out from the hotel around 7 a.m., ideally on a Sunday for the most captivating people-watching. Getting to the temple takes twice as long underground, so book a taxi for the 20-minute ride. (We especially like using the service in Beijing because inputting your destination minimizes language issues en route.) On arrival at the East Gate, unfurl your Chinese silk butterfly or lucky goldfish kite and let it flutter skyward as you watch the nonagenarians singing, dancing, and practicing tai chi. The temple itself opens at 8 a.m., when you should buy the Through Ticket (RMB35) to avoid paying separate fees at each venue. You must not miss the Echo Wall within the Imperial Vault of Heaven: its acoustics allow two people to stand on opposite ends and converse without a shout.
Though this is officially a cultural outing, you may consider a five-minute detour to Hongqiao Market where high-quality Chinese silk pajamas and real pearls hang alongside an abundance of fake handbags, jeans, and sneakers. Bargain—hard!
The Temple of Heaven is located in Temple of Heaven Park, a large park in Beijing containing many historical and cultural sights. Tiantan Road lies directly to the North of the park, with South 2nd Ring Road and Yongdingmen East Binhe Road to the South.
SEE BEIJING’S BEST SUNSETS
- See the sun plunge behind the Forbidden City from an oasis of flowers and trees
- Sip expertly mixed rice liquor cocktails and watch the sunset from a rooftop bar
On weekends, beautifully landscaped Jingshan Park, directly behind the north gate of the Forbidden City, is a mecca for Chinese opera singers and ballroom dancers. Come dusk, climb less than 10 minutes (we promise!) to the top of Coal Hill, constructed from earth dug up to make the royal moat. No other vantage point beats this one for witnessing the sun plunge behind the Forbidden City’s red-lacquer, wing-tipped sprawl. Less motivated? The two-story rooftop Yin Bar confers a solidly second-best imperial sunset with hundreds of swooping tiled roofs in all directions. Mixologists here favor baijiu, China’s famously potent rice liquor otherwise known as Chinese firewater, so we blame the bartender on nights that end in the bar’s Jacuzzi.
Located to the north of the Forbidden City, Jingsham Park lies on the edge of Xicheng District, the largest suburb of the old city. A good way to approach the park is via Jingshan Front Street which takes you past lush landscapes on the way up Coal Hill.
GO FLY A KITE
- Experience Chinese history through the art of kite-making
- Choose from a stunning selection of hand-painted silk and paper kites
- Head over to a beautiful local park to see your new toy soar skyward
Beijing is a fascinating place, but not everyone will feel an instant connection with its cultural heritage. Rather than rely on tech gadgets to entertain your youngest traveling companions, make the Three Stones Kite store your first family outing in the Chinese capital. This kaleidoscopic mini emporium located near the Forbidden City—15 minutes by car from the Conrad—introduces your kids to China’s history through kite-making, an art which dates to at least the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.). Your light and easy-to-pack purchase will come to great use at Beijing’s all-star attractions, including the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, and the Summer Palace. Owner Liu Bin learned to hand-paint silk and paper kites on bamboo frames from his grandfather, who in turn had been taught by his father, a kite-maker to the Qing court. We always feel spoiled by the selection here, from eagles and wide-eyed owls on paper (approx RMB150) to elegant dragonflies and the goldfish locals believe bring good luck. Antsy to watch your new toy soar skyward? Tuanjiehu Park offers 20-plus car-free acres. But do avoid summer weekends when all of Beijing seems to come here to cool off and swim.
You’ll find Three Stones Kite near the corner of Di’anmen West Street and Di’anmen Inner Street. Tuanjiehu Park is a short walk from the Conrad Beijing and can be accessed by crossing East 3rd Ring Road North and heading along Tuanjiehu Nanli.
LEARN TO READ CHINA’S TEA LEAVES
- Discover all the tea you can drink in one market with over 900 tea sellers
- Celebrate authentic tea culture at a boutique dedicated to showcasing China’s finest
- Sip Organic Jadesword Green Tea in the shadow of the Temple of Confucius
To discover what feels like all the tea in China, trek out to the city’s southwest, and the Maliandao Tea Market, a riotous strip of 900-plus tea sellers proffering jasmine, oolong, and prized Yunnanese pu-erh cha. Seek out cooling green teas from Hangzhou in the summer and black blends in the winter to ward off the chill. More-casual enthusiasts may prefer sipping white peony tea at Tranquil Tuesdays, a socially responsible tea business and boutique in the shadow of the Temple of Confucius. The shop was founded by American diplomat Charlene Wang and is staffed entirely by women from disadvantaged backgrounds. Aside from admiring Wang’s stylishly pared-down porcelain teapots made in Jingdezhen, China’s original ceramics capital, we come here to satisfy our addiction to the Organic Jadesword Green Tea that weaned us off coffee for good.
Maliandao Tea Market is a 35 minute cab ride away from the Conrad Beijing via South 2nd or 3rd Ring Road which will take you to Liyuan Road or Guang’an Road respectively. The market runs along Maliandao Road and Chama North Street.
SHOP FOR CERAMICS
- For an ultra-modern take on traditional ceramics, shop this stylish design shop
- Pop in a Parisian-inspired cafe with decadent eclairs and macaroons
- Grab lunch on the wooden terrace of a cafe with their not to be missed smoothies and summer rolls
While we deeply appreciate traditional Chinese tea culture, its accessories often don’t suit our 21st-century tastes. Which is why we’re such fans of ceramic homewares store Spin. Here, you’ll find modern zisha clay teapots or a Knot Vase, perhaps the ideal souvenir as it recalls the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Beijing National Stadium, a.k.a. The Nest. Spin’s English-speaking staff is well-versed in the logistics of shipping, leaving you marvelously unburdened by cumbersome shopping bags as you saunter next door to 27 Café & Bakery for éclairs and macaroons that transport our taste buds to Paris. Looking for something a bit more substantive? Cross the street to slide into seats on the wooden terrace of Element Fresh for their killer avocado, coconut, and banana smoothie along with generously sized summer rolls stuffed with shrimp and mango.
You’ll find these shops in Chaoyang, the most populated in Beijing and home of its central business district. This was also the site of the 2008 Summer Olympics. By car, you should find yourself heading up past Side Park via Fangyuan West Road.