Despite developing rapidly in the past decade, Beijing is both old and new, slow and fast at the same time
Beijing is global city and a booming metropolis. Filled with numerous palaces, temples, and old neighbourhoods, Beijing is China’s arts, cultural and political centre. Moreover, with the Chinese capital city set to host the 2022 Winter Games, it is getting ready in quick time, with the $13 billion airport expected to open in 2019.
Beijing is known for its breakfasts. Try jianbing, one of China’s most popular street breakfasts. The savoury crisp-fried crêpes are all about bold contrasts of flavour and texture: eggs, spread over the surface of the wheat and mung bean flour pancake as it cooks.
Start your exploration at Tiananmen Square, most famous for the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, a pro-democracy movement. Here you’ll find Chairman Mao Memorial Hall where you can pay respects to China’s revered founder in his mausoleum. The square opens 40 minutes before the morning flag raising ceremony.
For lunch, try Baozi, steamed, bread-like buns filled with meat or vegetables. Cross over and you’re in one of the most-visited sites in the world, the Forbidden City. The place that served as the home of emperors for almost 500 years, The 9,999 rooms in the Forbidden City has 980 magnificent wooden buildings.
Your next stop should be The National Centre For the Performing Arts (NCPA), a gigantic oval-shaped exterior made with an astonishing number of titanium plates and ultra-white glass. Time permits, catch a performance at one of the three in-house venues. It’s noteworthy.
Try lamb hot pot for dinner. A perfect dish to relish on cold winter nights, it features a mild broth boiled in distinctive conical copper pots heated with charcoal, into which diners dip thin cuts of lamb and vegetables.
As Day One mostly comprised of history, Day Two is kept for fun. While it may be quite hectic to squeeze in a day-trip to the Great Wall, it’s definitely a sight you don’t want to miss. It would take you approximately 90 minutes via car from Beijing’s city centre to The Great Wall of China. There are many different entrances to the wonder; after all this ancient site spans across 5,500 miles!
If you have some time in the afternoon, make your way to the Summer Palace and then take a boat trip on Kunming Lake to get to the Temple of Heaven. Here you may find impromptu performances of Chinese opera, crowds intently observing games of Chinese chess, fan dances and more.
For shopping, head to Wangfujing Street, the most famous pedestrianised shopping street in Beijing. It is lined with a slew of antique shops, modern fashion stores, souvenir stands and street food kiosks. Food choices range from exotic fare like deep-fried scorpions and star fish to lamb meat skewers and tang hu lu (candied fruits on a stick).
You can’t come here and not try the famous Peking duck. Originally invented in the imperial kitchens, today this dish is available across the capital.
Words: Rui Dong