MAKE A DATE TO DINE WITH HISTORY
- Witness incredible views atop a Ming Dynasty tower, once guarding the Forbidden City
- Enjoy a magnificent dinner with an iconic view overlooking Tiananmen Square
- Indulge in a Dragon’s Pearl cocktail on the chic wraparound terrace
Climbing up 15th-century Qianmen Gate tops the list of nightlife maven Michelle Garnaut’s favorite Beijing activities, and doubles as an ideal preamble to dinner at her Capital M located directly behind this Ming Dynasty tower—which, along with its twin, the Arrow Gate, once guarded the southern entrance to the Forbidden City. Sip a Dragon’s Pearl—Absolut Raspberri, fresh lychees, cranberries, and lime—on the wraparound terrace overlooking Tiananmen Square, then migrate to a coveted window table (you’ll need the Conrad concierge’s guanxi, or connections, for this particular pleasure) for two of our favorite dishes: green pea risotto and decadent crab soufflé in lobster sauce.
Via taxi, the journey to Capital M should take about 25 mins. When you find yourself pulling into Qianmen East Street or East Chang’an Avenue, you’re getting close. The restaurant is just off Zhengyi Road next to the China Minsheng Bank.
EAT YOUR WEIGHT IN DUCK
- Get your Peking fix at a casual, cozy restaurant with plenty of character
- For something fancy, try an elegant eatery with a high end menu of roast duck
- Sample some innovative variations on the traditional duck in a charming loft space
No visit to Beijing is complete without Peking duck: impossibly crispy roast bird. A little pregame intel: We recommend a light lunch, to make room for an evening’s feast of tasty skin and thinly sliced meat wrapped inside a fluffy steamed pancake with sweet bean sauce, some cucumber, and a sliver of spring onion. For the delicious duck alone, we suggest Li Qun Duck Restaurant. Wear clothes you don’t mind spilling on and don’t expect service with a smile. The unpretentious restaurant, just south of Tiananmen Square, is a 25-minute taxi ride from the Conrad. Lean in to the inevitable wait by stopping at the open window of the corner shop to order a well-chilled Tsingtao, then settle onto stools in the alleyway until summoned to your table. For something fancier, book ahead at Da Dong on Workers Stadium Road, a favorite of British chef Heston Blumenthal’s. Though the skin is sweet already, follow the lead of locals and dip your slices in sugar before popping it in your mouth. Reserve or come prepared to wait. If you’re craving a new spin on this Chinese classic, try Duck de Chine, within walking distance of the hotel. Inside this exposed-beam-and-raw-wood loft space—the erstwhile Beijing Machinery and Electric Institute—nibble on innovative variations like duck tacos, a flavorful combination of stir-fried bird, water chestnuts, red peppers, and lettuce shreds nestled in a crunchy pancake.
Li Qun Duck Restaurant is located in the middle of Caochang 3rd Alley on the corner of Hongfu Tongle Hutong. If you fancy a 40 minute walk to work up an appetite for a gourmet feast, head along Dongsi 10th Alley to find Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant.
12 Yonghegong St.
2 Wudaoying Hutong, Yonghegong
LOST AND FOUND
42 Guozijian St.
TEMPLE OF CONFUCIUS
13 Guozijian St.
28 Guozijian St.
SEEK OUT THE SERENE
- Escape to a Tibetan Buddhist temple, a peaceful refuge from the busy streets below
- Try an exquisite vegetarian restaurant whose chef is a former Buddhist monk
- Amp up your travel wardrobe at a local boutique and shop handmade Chinese toys
- Tour a temple built for scholars, then relax at a teahouse overlooking the Confucian shrine
In this capital of the most populous country on the planet, a 15-minute ride brings you to a peaceful refuge at the Lama Temple. Built in 1694 by Qing Dynasty emperor Kangxi, an extreme makeover in 1744 turned this into an all-lacquered Tibetan Buddhist temple. Mao’s most worldly deputy, Premier Zhou Enlai, protected the religious shrine known here as Yonghe Gong during the Cultural Revolution. Exchange a few renminbi for a handful of sandalwood-infused incense sticks, then follow crimson-robed Gelugpa monks from the main Hall of Harmony and Peace to our favorite Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses, where the towering 26-meter-tall Buddha of the Future was carved from a single piece of sandalwood. Next, head north along Yonghegong Street toward King’s Joy, an exquisite vegetarian restaurant where the chef is a former Buddhist monk. Continue on to Guozijian Street and Lost and Found. The buttery-soft leather club chairs and sleek 1950s-inspired black-walnut tables here can be ordered online, so focus instead on adding a well-cut linen frock to your travel wardrobe. Craving more culture? Head to the Temple of Confucius where, for 600 years, China’s best and brightest came to take their civil-service exams. Today, you may very well see high school students from around the country, here to pray for high scores on their gaokao (higher-education exams). Finally, cross the street to Liuxianguan Teahouse to gaze back at the Confucian shrine’s crimson walls and sloping saffron roofs as you sip Yunnanese pu-erh and snack on candied kumquats.
The Lama Temple is just a 15 minute cab ride away. You’ll find the Temple near where North 2nd Ring Road meets Hepingli West Street. From here, head down Yonghegong Street, and turn left before you reach Beixin Hutong.
12 Yonghegong St.
2 Wudaoying Hutong, Yonghegong
LOST AND FOUND
42 Guozijian St.
TEMPLE OF CONFUCIUS
13 Guozijian St.
28 Guozijian St.
RISE AND SHINE
- Take an early morning trip to Tiananmen Square
- Discover all the heroic monuments and museums within the historic site
- Wander through a thousand-year-old park that was once an imperial playground
Suffering from jet lag? Use it to your advantage to see Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest, before sunrise in all its uncrowded glory. Expect a 15-minute car ride from the Conrad to the spot where Mao proclaimed the founding of his People’s Republic of China in 1949. At this hour, it’ll be just you and the young Chinese soldiers raising the fire-engine-red national flag. Pack your kite to optimize your exploration around this massive piece of real estate ringed by the Great Hall of the People, the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Mao Ze-dong Mausoleum, and the National Museum of China, all worthy (if standard) tourist attractions for another day. While your kite flutters freely overhead, you are closely monitored on video cameras fitted to the imposing lampposts. Now, hail a taxi to the other side of the Forbidden City where the thousand-year-old Beihai Park attracts locals practicing ribbon-dancing, Chinese opera, kung fu, and tai chi. As you enter the main gate, look for the small shop selling local snacks. Once inside, hunt around for the white ceramic “Old Beijing” yogurt bottle with its blue paper top. Sip this fresh and healthy breakfast, then return the recyclable container to the shopkeeper. Continue onward, kite in hand, to roam around this well-preserved imperial playground of Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming, and Qing emperors. For an unbeatable panorama, climb the small hill leading up to the 17th-century Tibetan-style White Pagoda. Return to the Conrad for a second, bigger breakfast on Subway Line 6 direct from Beihai North Station to Hujialou.
As well as going by cab which ought to take about 15 mins, you can also get to Tiananmen Square via train; get on at Tuanjiehu and take subway lines 10 and 1 to Tian’anmen East. From here, it’s just a few minutes down Guangchang East Side Road.
SOUTHERN COMFORTS IN THE NORTHERN CAPITAL
- Feast on authentic Yunnanese specialties inspired by the Ancient Tea Horse Trail
- Try traditional dishes at a no-menu restaurant celebrated by in-the-know locals
- For a welcome detour, check out an impressive and historic tower built in 1272
It may be walking distance from Tiananmen, but Lost Heaven transports us to China’s borders with Southeast Asia. Authentically pungent specialties of the Dai, Bai, Yi, and Miao minority groups fill the menu here, along with dishes inspired by the Ancient Tea Horse Trail that winds through Yunnan and Tibet. We prefer to come after dark, if only for cocktails made with fresh coconut shavings and chili flakes, tamarind, and palm sugar. After your Yunnanese feast, it’s a mere 20-minute taxi ride back to the Conrad. Want still more spice? Follow in-the-know Beijingers to the no-menu Dali Courtyard to dine on whichever traditional dishes (lemongrass fish; seaweed infused grilled prawns) the Yunnanese chef decides to cook that evening. But leave your high heels at the hotel: your taxi will have to drop you off at the hutong and you’ll have to find your way to the restaurant yourself (look for the red lantern). If you arrive early, detour down Gulou East Street to see the imposing Drum Tower—originally built in 1272 under Kublai Khan to house musical instruments.
Found in the very centre of Beijing, Lost Heaven is on Qianmen Dong Dajie just South of the National Museum of China. Look for two small side streets, leading off to Caochang 3rd Alley; it’s nestled roughly in the middle between them. Dali Courtyard is around a 20 minute journey away by taxi, situated in the north of Dongcheng province.
Unit G, 23 Qianmen Dong Dajie
67 Xiaojingchang Hutong, Gulou Dong Dajie
Dianmen Wai Dajie, Dongcheng
GO BACK TO THE FUTURE
- Explore the city’s backstreets for a unique urban tour
- Dine in a 300 year old Tibetan temple
- At a captivating art installation, experience the interplay between artificial and natural light
Those up for an urban adventure will want to hop the Subway Line 6 four stops to South Luogu Alley. Make your way out Exit B at the northeast, then walk south for three minutes down Donghuangchenggen Bei Jie. Congratulations for getting this far: you’re ready to face the true challenge of this trip. Turn right onto Shatan Bei Jie where you’ll start to zigzag into this city’s snaking alleyways known as hutong. Say “Zhizhusi” to those two old men playing mah-jongg on the crumbling stone stoop. You will not be the first waiguoren (foreigner) to ask directions from this warren’s notably friendly residents, some of whom will happily guide you by the elbow. Keep an eye out for smooth round stones above the door arches; these imperial vestiges denote that high military officials once resided here. Your adventurous spirit gets rewarded in awe (and plenty of Instagram-worthy angles) from the moment you set foot onto the timeworn stones surrounding the 300-year-old Tibetan Buddhist Temple of Wisdom. Trivia buffs will appreciate knowing this former home was constructed of pine without a single nail, then restored by a small army of artisans, to whom unesco bestowed the Asia-Pacific Cultural Heritage Conservation Award in 2012. The temple also happens to be home to one of Beijing’s best no-expense-spared brunch spots, Temple Restaurant Beijing, but we prefer to make this an afternoon-into-evening outing, followed by a romantic dinner at the restaurant instead. Roam around the calm, leafy grounds; peek into the contemporary art exhibition space. Fifteen minutes before sunset, lie down on the padded mats inside the whitewashed box that is Gathered Sky, James Turrell’s only work in China. You’ll watch through an aperture in the ceiling as the setting sun illuminates a captivating interplay between artificial and natural light. When that’s finished, your reserved table for two (ideally in the quieter, back dining room) at Temple Restaurant awaits.
From South Luogu Alley, walk straight until you get to Donghuangchenggen Bei Jie. Alternatively, work your way down into Dongbanqiao Street, past the Xinglin Hotel and left into Nafu Hutong. This will take you right to the corner of the Temple complex.
SHOP THE MARKET
- Hidden treasures abound at the city’s best arts, crafts, and antiques market
- Find vintage cameras, Chinese silks, Buddhist altarpieces, Tibetan necklaces and more
- An insider tip, always negotiate to get the best price
Every weekend, Panjiayuan Antiques Market, Beijing’s largest, convenes many of the city’s savviest sellers. To begin your treasure hunt, set out before 10 a.m. on either Saturday or Sunday and take Subway Line 10 from Tuanjiehu Station (a 10-minute walk from the hotel) towards Chedaogou to the Anzhenmen stop. Take the Panjiayuan exit, turn right, and walk for around eight minutes. At this consumer extravaganza, you’ll find vintage cameras, silk Chinese opera costumes, Buddhist altarpieces, Cultural Revolution propaganda posters, every kind of Mao memorabilia, Tibetan turquoise necklaces, and porcelain-beaded calligraphy brushes. We’ve learned to offer 50% to 80% of the vendor’s opening price.
Beijing Panjiayuan Market is located at the southeast of Panjiayuan, South road of East Third Ring road, Chaoyang District, Beijing. It covers an area of 48,500㎡, and is divided into six sections: Roadside stands, Ancient Architecture, Classical Furniture, Modern Collection, Sculpture and Stone Engraving, and Catering.