East of central Beijing, in a corridor between the Second and Third Ring Roads, is the district of Chaoyang. It’s not an area that is particularly old and it doesn’t have very many significant monuments, but it is home to two main clusters of international embassies, and it is where a large proportion of the city’s expatriate community chooses to live. As a result, Chaoyang is the city’s entertainment and nightlife center, and, for the visitor, it is the prime area for eating and shopping.
6524 2202 • Subway: Jianguo Men • Open 9am–5pm Tue–Sun • Adm
Dating to 1442, Beijing’s observatory is one of the oldest in the world. In fact, there was an even earlier Yuan-dynasty (1279–1368) observatory also located on this site but no trace of that remains. Today, a collection of reproduction astronomical devices lies in the courtyard, some of them decorated with fantastic Chinese designs. There are more impressive instruments on the roof.
Subway: Jianguo Men, Yong’an Li, Guomao or Dawanglu
The Central Business District is Beijing’s business hub, housing more than 60 percent of the city’s foreign-funded companies. Marked by the CCTV Tower in the northeast and by the Twin Towers of the China World Trade Center in the southwest, the area is also home to about half of the city’s luxury hotels and two of its glitziest shopping malls, China World and Parkview Green.
South gate of Workers’ Stadium • 6591 3397 • Subway: Chaoyang Men • Open 8am–8pm daily (Dec–Apr: 8:30am–6:30pm daily) • Adm; children under 3 ft (1 m) free • www.bluezoo.com.cn
Not a zoo at all, but a modern aquarium, reckoned to be the best of its kind in Asia. The main attraction is a central tank holding thousands of fish, plus there are also 18 additional tanks with specifically themed displays (see Blue Zoo Beijing).
Beijing’s main expat-friendly shopping, dining, and drinking district is centered around Taikoo Li and Nali Patio on Sanlitun Bei Lu, and around the Workers’ Stadium on Gongren Tiyuchang Bei Lu. It has a high concentration of international restaurants and lots of boutique shopping (see Sanlitun SOHO). Streets around here, although modern, are tree-lined and, with plenty of cafés for refreshment stops, it is a very pleasant district to wander in.
South of Jianguo Men Nei Dajie • 8512 1554 • Subway: Jianguo Men • Open 8am–4:30pm daily • Adm
Just south of the Second Ring Road, a chunk of the old city wall survives, including the 15th-century Dong Bian Men watchtower. Visitors can climb onto the battlements, walk along the wall and see the graffiti carved by soldiers during the Boxer Rebellion.
9 Maizidian Xi Lu, Chaoyang District • 6463 5588 • Open 9am– 5:30pm daily (to 6pm Fri–Sun)
This massive glass-fronted building flanked by stone elephants is much more than a flower market. Wander the jungle-like rows, or browse shops for quirky furniture, ceramics, cut bamboo, decorative boxes, and even tropical fish. Wear layers – it can get steamy in here.
Gui Jie, or Ghost Street, is a 1-mile (2-km) stretch of Dong Zhi Men Nei Dajie that come nightfall is jammed with cars double-parked outside its 100 or so restaurants, many of which open 24 hours. The air smells like Sichuan peppercorn and chilies while most establishments favor corny, old-China decor with plenty of red lacquer and pagoda motifs, and waitresses in silk tunics. This is the home of one of the most popular dishes in Beijing: the hot pot, although all regional Chinese cuisines are represented here.
Gongren Tiyuchang Bei Lu • 6522 5665 • Subway: Dong Si Shi Tiao
With an estimated capacity of 72,000, the stadium is home to Beijing’s premier soccer club, Beijing Guo’an, and it is the city’s main venue for large-scale rock and pop concerts. Perplexingly, it is also a hub of Beijing nightlife, with numerous clubs and bars clustered around its north and west gates, and some very good restaurants too. Even oldies get in on the act, with mass open-air dancing taking place on the forecourt of the north gate most summer evenings.
141 Chaoyang Men Wai Dajie • 6551 0151 • Subway: Dongdaqiao • Open 8:30am–4:30pm Tue–Sun • Adm
This colorful, active temple dating to the early 14th century is tended by Daoist monks. The main courtyard leads into the Hall of Tai Shan, with statues of gods and their attendants.
Guanghua Lu • 8561 6301 • Subway: Jianguo Men • Open 6am–10pm daily (Nov–Mar: to 9pm)
One of the city’s oldest parks, Ri Tan was laid out around a sacrificial altar in the 16th century. The round altar remains, ringed by a wall, but this is very much a living park, filled daily with people walking and exercising. The park is well maintained and is surrounded by restaurants and cafés.
Ri Tan Park’s Altar of the Sun is one of eight such cosmologically aligned structures, along with the Altar of Heaven (Tian Tan), the Altar of Agriculture (Xiannong Tan; now part of the Ancient Architecture Museum), the Altar of the Moon in the west of the city, the Altar of Earth (Di Tan), the Altar of the Country in Zhong Shan Park, the Altar of the Silkworm in Bei Hai Park, and the lost Altar of the Gods of Heaven.
Start the day at the Southeast Corner Watchtower, for an aerial view from one of Beijing’s last remaining city walls. Walk to the Ancient Observatory to see ancient brass instruments (and another rooftop view). Keep heading north, but take a break in Ri Tan Park, one of the city’s more picturesque green spots. The park is home to a lake and the ruins of a sacrificial altar, but it is better known for the countless locals who come to exercise, fly kites, do morning tai chi, or to simply enjoy the view.
Head out of the park via the eastern exit and grab lunch at one of Ri Tan Lu’s many cafés before continuing north to the vibrant Dong Yue Miao temple. Go to the south gate of the Workers’ Stadium to visit the popular Blue Zoo Beijing, then keep heading north into Sanlitun for an afternoon of shopping at Taikoo Li. Check out the best Chinese designers at BNC, pick up some chic ceramics at Spin, and restock your coffee-table books at Bookworm. For cheap eats, try the Taco Bar, or go to Jing Yaa Tang for something more upmarket. Enjoy a nightcap at La Social or Hidden House before going dancing on Migas’ terrace.
Yashow’s side streets (off Gongtibeilu) and Sanlitun Xijie
The streets to the west of Taikoo Li are full of custom tailors who can accommodate your schedule.
8 Xiushui Dongjie, Jianwai Dajie • 5169 9003
This five-story market is the place to get silk goods, such as ties, tablecloths, traditional clothes and dressing gowns. It is also filled with counterfeit designer goods (see Silk Market).
1 Jianguo Men Wai Dajie • 6505 2288
The Silk Market sells the counterfeits, but this elegant shopping mall is where you come for the originals.
87 Jianguo Lu • 8078 8888
Opened in April 2007, Shin Kong is a temple for luxury shopping and gourmet dining. It also marked the debut appearance of many elite brands in mainland China.
South side of Gongren Tiyuchang Bei Lu • 5878 8888
Characterized by some colorful funnel-shaped buildings, Sanlitun SOHO is a vast complex of shopping malls, offices, hotels, and private apartments. Numerous brand stores, banks, restaurants, and cafés occupy the first floor.
NLG-09a, B1, Sanlitun Village North, 11 Sanlitun Lu • 6416 9045
Created by media celebrity Hung Huang, BNC celebrates Chinese fashion. Collect emerging designers’ works while they’re still affordable.
9 Dongdaqiao Lu • 5690 7000
Chic, eco-friendly mall with a range of fashion wear and accessories – from fashionable traditional Chinese women’s wear by Amelie Wang to watches and jewelry by Van Cleef & Arpels, plus displays of contemporary art and Salvador Dalí sculptures.
6 Dingfu Zhuang Xili, Chaoyang District • 6437 8649
These stylish ceramics are more affordable here than in Spin’s other bases in Shanghai and New York. Check out the “Seven Fortune” pots.
6 Gongren Tiyuchang Bei Lu (corner Sanlitun Bei Lu) • 6417 6110
The upscale Village has many brand stores including Apple and Adidas, plus a range of restaurants and bars.
6 Sanlitun Bei Xiang • 6461 6928
Expat heaven, with Dutch cheese, German bread, and French wines.
1/F The Opposite House Hotel, 11 Sanlitun Bei Lu • 6410 5230 • ¥¥¥
This elegant restaurant specializes in Beijing roast duck and regional Chinese dishes such as Kung Pao chicken and dim sum.
Unit 10, Electrical Research Institute, Gongti Bei Lu • 6501 6026 • Closed Mon & lunch Tue–Fri • ¥
The fish tacos here are addictive. Add a pitcher of margarita, and you’ll never want to leave.
Nali Patio, 81 Sanlitun Bei Lu • 5208 6030 • ¥¥
A stylish restaurant (see Mosto) featuring Mediterranean cuisine. Try their delicious risotto and the superb cocktails served after dark.
2nd floor, Heqiao Building C, 8a Guanghua Dong Lu • 6415 3939 • ¥¥
A class act: this stylish Japanese restaurant has fresh fish flown in daily. The sushi is excellent.
Rosewood Beijing, Jingguang Centre, 1 Chaoyangmen Dajie • 6597 8888 • ¥¥¥
The chefs here masterfully reinvent traditional Chinese recipes in an open kitchen. Be sure to try the excellent hand-pulled noodle dishes (see Country Kitchen).
18 Sanlitun Lu • 6416 1752 • ¥¥
This popular pizzeria offers pizzas and calzones with charcoal crusts made with imported ingredients.
6th Floor, Nali Patio, 81 Sanlitun Lu • 5208 6061 • ¥¥¥
Known for its rooftop bar and dance patio, Migas serves Spanish sharing plates such as salted cod and steamed eggplant, and oxtail in red wine.
N4-36, 3/F The Village, North Sanlitun Bei Lu • 6417 9090 • ¥¥
Enjoy beautifully spiced Sichuan cuisine at this sophisticated but unpretentious restaurant.
Four Seasons Beijing, 48 Liang Ma Qiao Lu • 5695 8520 • ¥¥¥
Enjoy Beijing’s best dim sums, along with top Cantonese fare (see Cai Yi Xuan).
Bdg 3, Tuanjiehu Beikou, Dongsanhuan Bei Lu • 6582 4003 • ¥¥
It is the opinion of a great many Beijingers that there is no finer duck than that served here.