5 Hour Activities


THE FORBIDDEN CITY
Changan Dajie
+86-(0)10-6513-1892

CONTEXT TRAVEL
BUSINESS ADDRESS
1-800-691-6036
contexttravel.com/cities/beijing

BLACK SESAME KITCHEN
28 Zhonglao Hutong
+86-(0)1369-147-4408
blacksesamekitchen.com

EXPLORE FORBIDDEN FRUITS

  • In the heart of the city, experience history at this ancient imperial palace
  • Take a lunchtime cooking class or let the professionals prepare a 10-course communal dinner

There are at least as many ways to visit the Forbidden City as there are rooms, and that’s 9,999½. Why the fraction? According to Chinese numerology, a 10,000-room palace would belong only to the celestial emperor. Here on earth, Gugong, as it’s called in Chinese (literally “former palace”) served as the royal crash pad to 24 Ming and Qing emperors between 1420 and 1924. No one could access these grounds without permission from the emperor, which makes the Forbidden City your most compelling entrée to imperial Chinese intrigue. An orientation before you dive in: Come as early as possible—gates open at 8:30 a.m.—and only on weekdays (except Monday, when it’s closed). We recommend one of two strategies for your visit, both of which cover the greatest hits, from the Hall of Supreme Harmony (used for state occasions) to the Palace of Earthly Tranquility (where emperors and empresses spent their wedding nights). Prefer to move at your own pace but want the backstory on what you’re seeing? Opt for the Palace Museum’s official audio guide, narrated by none other than 007 himself, Roger Moore. Alternatively, we also love Context Travel’s intimate, scholar-led three-hour morning tours. Their fascination with this bygone metropolis and its illustrious inhabitants rubs off on us every time. If you planned your trip for a Wednesday, we suggest you conclude the outing with the newly launched lunchtime cooking class at Black Sesame Kitchen on Zhonglao Hutong, just 10 minutes on foot from the southern exit of this imperial maze (call ahead and someone will guide you down the alley to their charming siheyuan courtyard). Eat what you create, or let the professionals do wok duty by joining one of the nightly 10-course communal dinners paired with two wines (RMB300 per person). Hungry for more? We devoured owner Jen Lin-Liu’s autobiographical Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China.
Located directly behind the Forbidden City, take Jingshan Front Street to Wusi Street and then turn left at Jiaolou Hotel to put you on Zhonglao Hutong. The private courtyard of Black Sesame Kitchen is found directly after you pass a small park to your right.

THE FORBIDDEN CITY
Changan Dajie
+86-(0)10-6513-1892

CONTEXT TRAVEL
BUSINESS ADDRESS
1-800-691-6036
contexttravel.com/cities/beijing

BLACK SESAME KITCHEN
28 Zhonglao Hutong
+86-(0)1369-147-4408
blacksesamekitchen.com

MAKE A DATE WITH GREATNESS

  • Lace up your walking shoes and journey down China’s ancient world-wonder landmark

The Great Wall, known to the Chinese as Wanli Changcheng, stretches almost 4,000 miles and was built between the 7th and 17th centuries to repel Mongols and Turkic tribes. Today’s invasions of the tourist variety center around a stretch of fortress closest to Beijing called Badaling—so forge on 30 minutes further to the less crowded Mutianyu, a 90-minute drive north from the hotel. Not to state the obvious, but be sure to wear walking shoes with a good grip. While we’re at it, go on weekdays, and never when it snows (these old stones get slippery), and try to arrive by 7:30 a.m. to grab some (almost) alone time with this massive monument. Buy the two-hour ticket at the park entrance, then board the designated shuttle bus that brings you to the four-person cable car (which we prefer to the shakier two-person chairlift) to the top. The cable car deposits you close to Tower 14 of Mutianyu’s 23 watchtowers; from there, walk east for the Wall’s most made-for-social-media landscapes. Have kids in tow? Walk in the other direction to Tower 6, then ride the speed-controlled toboggan down. We’ve also learned to bring our own water and snacks, rather than pay tourist prices. Beijing Hikers organizes stellar outings for the fittest of travelers to the Wall’s most obscure but scenic reaches.
Great for a day trip into the wild and luxuriously green mountains of China, Mutianyu is around a 90 minute drive from the Conrad. Take the S11 Jingcheng Expressway heading out of Beijing to pass the small towns of Gaoliyingzhen, Beishicaozhen and Qiaozizhen. As you head north, the crowded city soon transforms into a lush, verdant landscape.

BEIJING HIKERS
BUSINESS ADDRESS
+86-(0)10-6432-2786/a>
beijinghikers.com

SUMMER PALACE
19 Xinjiangongmen Lu, Haidian
+86-(0)10-6288-1144

ESCAPE LIKE THE LAST EMPRESS

  • Marvel at a masterpiece of Chinese landscape and design
  • Be astonished by Empress Cixi’s Boat
  • Admire the aesthetics of the palaces, temples, bridges and halls

A 35-minute drive northwest from modern Beijing leads to the bucolic Summer Palace, used during the Qing dynasty as an imperial sanctuary from the punishing heat of the Forbidden City. Fast-forward four centuries, and the 290-hectare garden estate dotted with palaces around the placid Kunming Lake draws visitors seeking similar respite. Invariably, tourists flock to the marble replica known as Empress Cixi’s Boat. Spend just enough time to snap a selfie in front of this unique vessel. Then, turn your focus upward and on the magnificent, locally crafted kites bobbing overhead. We especially like early weekday mornings. Get there early enough and you’ll see old-timers in their Mao-collared suits playing mah-jongg by the Palace’s east gate.
From Yiheyuan Road, turn into Suzhou Street and cross over the moat; this brings you to the winding paths and gentle hills of the Summer Palace. Head to the south of the park for exceptionally beautiful views looking out over Kunming Lake.

SUMMER PALACE
19 Xinjiangongmen Lu, Haidian
+86-(0)10-6288-1144

798 DISTRICT
+86-(0)10-5978-9798
798district.com

TIMEZONE 8
4 Jiuxianqiao Lu
+86-(0)10-5978-9917

ULLENS CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
4 Jiuxianqiao Lu
+86-(0)10-6438-6675
ucca.org.cn

CONTINUA
2 Jiuxianqiao Lu
+86-(0)10-5978-9505
galleriacontinua.com

TANG CONTEMPORARY ART
Gate 2, Jiuxianqiao Lu
+86-(0)10-5978-9610

LONG MARCH SPACE
4 Jiuxianqiao Lu
+86-(0)10-5978-9768
longmarchspace.com

CHINA ART ARCHIVES
200 Caochangdi
+86-(0)10-8456-5152
archivesandwarehouse.com

THREE SHADOWS PHOTOGRAPHY ART CENTRE
155A Caochangdi
+86-(0)10-6432-2663
threeshadows.cn

URS MEILE GALLERY
104 Caochangdi
+86-(0)10-6433-3393
galerieursmeile.com

PÉKIN FINE ARTS
2412 Caochangdi
+86-(0)10-5127-3220
pekinfinearts.com

GET ART SMART

  • Spend the day surrounded by art in a district where galleries abound
  • Take your pick, from contemporary art centers to photography galleries
  • Look at the future of art, visit a gallery with boundary-pushing exhibits

Galleries abound in the Dashanzi Art District, better known as 798 after a Bauhaus-style, Soviet-funded factory designed by East German architects in the 1950s. Direct your taxi to the main Number 4 gate which is a can’t-miss Communist shade of red, then start your crash course on contemporary Chinese art at Timezone 8 [CK: please confirm that still open] bookshop. Then, it’s off to the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, showcasing modern Chinese works and international art in China through exhibitions, film screenings, and discussions. (The gift shop, too, is a must if you want to snap up some of China’s chicest souvenirs.) Even the tableware at UCCA’s restaurant, Super Ganbei, is designed by some of our favorite homegrown artists. After lunch, drop in to see what’s on the walls at Continua, Tang Contemporary Art, and the always boundary-pushing Long March Space. This is where Sotheby’s and Christie’s darlings such as Yue Minjun, whose menacing “laughing face” pictures sell for millions, got their start. To hunt for tomorrow’s art stars, hop back into your trusty taxi to the less touristed Caochangdi Village, a mere five minutes’ drive from 798. Pop in and out of this next-gen crop of art spots including the Ai Weiwei-designed China Art Archives and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, the first gallery in China dedicated exclusively to photography and video art. Urs Meile Gallery also deserves your attention, as does a gander around China art pioneer Meg Maggio’s 6,000-square-foot Pékin Fine Arts for one last glance at what’s ahead for Asia’s most dynamic art scene.

798 Art District is located in the Dashanzi area, to the northeast of central Beijing. It runs between Jiuxianqiao Road and Jiuxianqiao East Road, presenting a host of galleries, art centers, artists’ studios, and design companies. Start your journey at Number 797 Road for Continua, Tang Contemporary Art, and the Long March Space.

798 DISTRICT
+86-(0)10-5978-9798
798district.com

TIMEZONE 8
4 Jiuxianqiao Lu
+86-(0)10-5978-9917

ULLENS CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
4 Jiuxianqiao Lu
+86-(0)10-6438-6675
ucca.org.cn

CONTINUA
2 Jiuxianqiao Lu
+86-(0)10-5978-9505
galleriacontinua.com

TANG CONTEMPORARY ART
Gate 2, Jiuxianqiao Lu
+86-(0)10-5978-9610

LONG MARCH SPACE
4 Jiuxianqiao Lu
+86-(0)10-5978-9768
longmarchspace.com

CHINA ART ARCHIVES
200 Caochangdi
+86-(0)10-8456-5152
archivesandwarehouse.com

THREE SHADOWS PHOTOGRAPHY ART CENTRE
155A Caochangdi
+86-(0)10-6432-2663
threeshadows.cn

URS MEILE GALLERY
104 Caochangdi
+86-(0)10-6433-3393
galerieursmeile.com

PÉKIN FINE ARTS
2412 Caochangdi
+86-(0)10-5127-3220
pekinfinearts.com

BEIJING BIKE
81 Beiheyan St.
+86-(0)10-6526-5857
bikebeijing.com

PAPER TALK
12 Fangjia Hutong
+86-(0)10-8403-8935

MR. SHI’S DUMPLING
74 Baochao Hutong
+86-(0)10-8405-0399

GREAT LEAP BREWING
6 Doujiao Hutong
+86-(0)10-5717-1399
greatleapbrewing.com

MAO MAO CHONG
12 Banchang Hutong
+86-(0)10-6405-5718

TAKE A DIY HUTONG TOUR ON TWO WHEELS

  • Take a customized bike tour of Beijing’s charming passageways
  • Refuel at a delicious dumpling house and a brewery inside a classic Beijing courtyard
  • For locally inspired concoctions, pedal to a trendy cocktail spot with inventive creations

Fifteenth-century Beijing was a city of thousands of narrow hutong lined with courtyard houses made of stone. Most of these snaking arteries have been demolished to build sky-piercing towers or turned into tourist traps like Nanluoguxiang. But around 600 of these charming passageways still represent local life in Beijing and exploring at least a few is a must. Take the Subway Line 6 from Hujialou station four stops to South Luogu Alley, following the signs to Exit B. After four minutes on foot you’ll arrive at Beijing Bike where you can rent whatever two-wheelers suit your speed: bike, electric bike, or tandem bike. Their English-speaking team will even tailor an imperial hutong tour based on your interests and abilities. Thanks to them, we found our way to Paper Talk, a small boutique stuffed with handmade sheets from Yunnan and the Himalayas as well as traditional Chinese paper-cuts of the 12 zodiac animals. For some of Beijing’s most delicious dumplings— plump cushions of lotus root and pork, lamb with shiitake, even cheese—cycle on to Mr. Shi’s Dumpling. Don’t stop now: Pedal on just a few more minutes to Great Leap Brewing for India pale ale or the Honey Ma Gold crafted by an American brewmaster and served in a classic Beijing courtyard. Mao Mao Chong is a closet-size bar hidden further down the alley, with a menu that features locally inspired concoctions like the Bloody Mao (shaken with chili) and the Mala Mule (crafted with a generous helping of Sichuan peppercorn).
From South Luogu Alley, head down Di’anmen East Street. Then take the first right turn after the China Minsheng Bank into Beiheyan Street. Beijing Bike runs adjacent to the park, just after the turning for Daqudeng Hutong.

BEIJING BIKE
81 Beiheyan St.
+86-(0)10-6526-5857
bikebeijing.com

PAPER TALK
12 Fangjia Hutong
+86-(0)10-8403-8935

MR. SHI’S DUMPLING
74 Baochao Hutong
+86-(0)10-8405-0399

GREAT LEAP BREWING
6 Doujiao Hutong
+86-(0)10-5717-1399
greatleapbrewing.com

MAO MAO CHONG
12 Banchang Hutong
+86-(0)10-6405-5718