Escape to: Beijing, China

Sprawling diversity and culture

by Sarah Forman | Wed, November 22, 2017

Known for its sprawling streets, Beijing houses some of China's oldest and most important cultural artifacts. While firmly traditional, the capital is more diverse than you might expect. From craft beers to hutong-style architecture, Sarah Forman shows us a taste of what this city is all about.


Beijing Hutong

Exploring Beijing’s hutongs might seem daunting, but Wudaoying, located in the Dongcheng District, is perfect to get lost in. These classic structures are home to Instagram worthy artisanal pottery, tea courtyards, vegan-friendly restaurants, and dozens of cafes. Just outside the maze sits Lama Temple, offering a quieter cultural alternative to the bustling alleyways. After an hour or so in the temple, head back to have a drink at Arrow Factory Brewing or Hot Cat Club. While much of Wudaoying’s contents might seem surprisingly western, the stone walls, tiled roofs and rusting bicycles make it distinctly Beijing, as do the residents living amidst the tacos and local beer.

To get there, take the metro to either Andingmen station, (line 2), or Lama Temple station (lines 2 and 5). They're about equidistant, so whatever's most convenient for you is the way to go. 

From Andingmen station, take Exit B and turn left and walk along the traffic circle. The entrance to Wudaoying will be right there (next to the public restroom), and visibly marked, so you won't have to worry about missing it.

From Lama Temple, take Exit D off line 5, and just behind the subway exit you’ll find the other entrance to Wudaoying.

Historical sights

Beijing Great Wall of China

As one of China’s 53 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, The Great Wall is a must see for anyone in Beijing. For around ¥700, you can hire a private car to take you to Mutianyu – a less-populated section of the wall – where for fees between ¥50 and ¥200 a head, you can cableway or bobsled up and down the mountain. For a different experience, you can stay at Hatchery by the Great Wall, an Airbnb run by the Beijing-based food incubator. 90-minutes outside the city center, this five bedroom house is tucked into the hillside and maintained by a local cook, who upon request will prepare meals for you from the property’s fresh vegetable garden. With access to local trails and a canopied courtyard sporting views of the wall, this getaway stands apart from crowds.


The Georg Beijing

With so much to choose from, it’s hard to know which dining direction to take. You can find Scandinavian-fusion plates while seated in a beautiful Chinese mansion at The Georg. The menu features everything from scallops to leg of lamb – though you won’t want to pass up on the desserts (¥78) highlighting ingredients like osmanthus and the fruit, yang mei. Head to Beijing Dadong Roast Duck in Dongcheng for the city’s staple dish, but don’t be afraid to take advantage of the north to try some of China’s less-prevalent cuisines. Get a taste of Mongolia with an evening of their lamb hot pot, featuring milder broths but the same meats and veggies you love. With a lighter flavor pallette, you can enjoy the base food's natural flavors, so head to any of Little Sheep Hot Pot's location for a less intense experience than your traditional Sichuan. Look for the characters, 小肥羊(xiǎo féi yáng), as you're not likely to be seeing many signs in English.

Find yourself a mouthful of jiaodong style Shandong seafood at Kam Yuen, the cuisine that initially set the high-end standard for the entire country. Featuring quality ingredients, Shandong food is often prepared with large amounts of garlic and onions, cooked in thick sauces for hearty meals. Go for the braised king prawns, or hong shao da xia – the shellfish are a special type, migrating between the Bohai Sea and the brackish Yellow River. Cooked in a soy-sauce base, this dish is bound to have you planning your next seaside vacation.

Find it: The Georg: 45 Dongbuyaoqiao Hutong, Di’anmen Dong Dajie; 地安门东大街东不压桥胡同45号; 8408-5300

Beijing Dadong Roast Duck (Jinbao Hui): Jinbao Place, No.88 Jinbao Street, Dongcheng District; 东城区 金宝街88号金宝汇购物中心5楼(近王府饭店); 10-8522-1111

Little Sheep Hot Pot: No.34, Xibahe Zhongli, Chaoyang District; 北京市朝阳区西坝河中里34号; 10-6465-1106 (Multiple locations)

Kam Yuen at the Hotel Kunlun: 2 Xinyuan Nan Lu; 朝阳区新 原南路2号; 10-6590-3388


Beijing Craft Beer

One could easily spend an entire weekend sampling from Beijing’s craft breweries. If you’re a pulled-pint kind of man or woman, you can’t afford to miss out on Jing-A Brewing Co. Their seasonal taps are made in small batches and run out quickly, but staples like their Full Moon Farmhouse Ale are stocked year round, made with distinct flavors like sweet osmanthus flower, wasabi root and coriander seed. Their Chaoyang taproom has a beautiful sculpture laden courtyard for the kids to run in, and their sliders made with Yunnan fried goat cheese are impeccable (¥50). They've also just opened a new location in Xing Fu Cun - just don't head over on a Monday, as it's the only day of the week they're closed. Hop on a Mobike and you can also check out the ¥35 pints at Great Leap Brewing, or for crafted cocktails like a Black Truffle Martini (¥95), head to the apartment bar, Botany – but be sure to call ahead, as reservations are extremely popular here.,

Find it: Jing-A Brewing Co.: 1949, The Hidden City, Courtyard 4, Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyand District; 工体北路4号院; 6501-8883

57 Xingfucun Zhong Lu, Chaoyang District; 市朝阳区幸福村中路57号; 152-1090-7612

Great Leap Brewing: XinZhong Street B 12, Zi Ming Mansion, DongCheng District; 新中街乙12号; 10 6416 6887 

Botany: 1209, Unit 2, Yonglee Plaza, Gongti Bei Lu, Sanlitun, Chaoyang District; 永利国际2单元1209室; 158-1023-8900


Hutong Court Suite

A short walk away from the cultural center of the city, The Waldorf Astoria Beijing lives into the quality and narrative if its 5 star, New York City roots, while embracing China’s history. Filled with curated artwork, the halls covered in hand-painted wallpaper embody an attention to detail that is reflected throughout the hotel. Onsite, Zijin Mansion serves impeccable Cantonese food, offering around 400 wines from New Zealand, South Africa, Chile and more. The rooms are equipped with customizable systems controlled on a bedside tablet, and with ample space for relaxation, or families, they also sport a comfortable desk that makes sending those last minute emails feel less of a chore. Visit their beautiful, dark marbled, indoor pool, or their oasis of a spa – which is guaranteed to turn any trip into an instant refresher. 

Find it: 5-15 Jinyu Hutong, Dongcheng District; 金鱼胡同5-15号; 8520-8989


For more, check out the top 5 family-friendly destinations in Beijing.