China’s massive capital is ancient and grand! Displaying booming neighborhoods across the city have come alive with shops, galleries, restaurants, and bars.
A Night on the Town
Four of-the-moment spots for dinner and a cocktail.
Spice lovers, get your fix at Southern Fish, a newcomer to the hip Dashilar area that specializes in fiery Hunanese cuisines. Call ahead to book one of the nine tables in this minimalist space, where diners sit elbow-to-elbow and sample dishes like roasted green chiles covered in egg, taro, soup, or roasted pork belly. 166 Yangmeizhu Xiejie; 86-10-8315-2539; entrees $4-$14
A two-story lounge, gallery, and restaurant from Danish silverware and jewelry brand Georg Jensen, the Georg has become the talk of the town since it opened in a restored mansion along the Yu River last fall. The sleek, Scandinavian-inspired interiors are the perfect complement to the refined four- or five-course tasting menus, which feature modern European dishes like poached eggs with spinach, pear, and pecorino. Thegeorg.com; tasting menus from $67
A low-lit, speakeasy-style bar, Capital Spirits is dedicated to educating visitors and Beijingers on the nuances of baijiu, China’s national liquor. (It’s similar to grappa.) Tasting flights of more than 20 varieties, including a snake-infused baijiu from Guangdong, are accompanied by a mini-tutorial from the bartender. A nearby sister bar, the Distillery, serves small-batch, house-distilled gin. capitalspiritsbj.com
By day, Long Jing is a quiet tea lounge serving traditional Chinese brews; at night, it transforms into a bar specializing in tea-infused cocktails. (Literally, the cabinets rotate, turning their displays from tea to alcohol.) Order a Lapsang Whiskey Sour or an Oolong Old-Fashioned, and plan on ending the night here; closing time is 2 a.m. fb.com/longjingspace22
Plugged-in Beijinger Sarah Keenlyside, tour operator and founder of Bespoke Travel Company, shares what’s new and noteworthy (bespoketravelcompany.com).
“When it comes to Asian cooking, having a great cleaver is essential. I recommend buying one at the original branch of Wang Mazi [88-1 Meishi Jie; 86-10-6336-5740], a 400-year-old brand that still makes the best knives in China.”
On the weekends, I head to Panjiayuan Antique Market to hunt for cool Chinese accessories and furniture things like vintage watches, silver jewelry, hand-painted lacquer chests, and tiny stools.
If you’re interested in contemporary art, the 798 and Caochangdi districts are popular, but there are also places near the center of the city to see, including the Arrow Factory [arrowfactory.org.cn], which is set in a former vegetable stand, and the Today Art Museum [todayartmusuem.com].”
Go winter swimming with the old men in Houhai Lake, which is in the center of the city. They swim year-round, even when the lake freezes over! Anyone who joins them will immediately rank among the toughest in the world.”
Beijing’s best boutiques are housed in spaces that are as cutting edge as their merchandise.
Concealed behind tall wooden doors on distinguished Gouzijan Street, this immaculate design store sells accessories, tableware, and contemporary furniture from Chinese and Japanese designers in a restored siheyuan, or traditional courtyard home. Admire the copper utensils, leather wallets, and black-walnut chairs and tables—all beautifully arranged in a succession of rooms by owner Gao Guqi—before grabbing coffee in the sunny café. Fnji.com
The ancient lanes of Dashilar, an area that plays host to the annual Beijing Design Week, are filled with charming shops like Triple Major, which is modeled after a Chinese medicine hall and features wood-beamed ceilings and vintage tiles. On display: casual clothing from experimental brands like Lemaire, Bless, Ffixxed, and the store’s own label. Triple-major.com
The second brick-and-mortar location from one of China’s best-known e-tail sites is housed in the fashionable Taikoo Li Sanlitun shopping center. Browse slinky cocktail dresses, street wear, and accessories by some of the hottest local talent, including Luo de Lucie Luo, Bai Peng, and Uzo.Min. anyshopstyle.com
Run by Dutch expat Machtelt Schelling, this small jewelry store showcases exquisite, limited-edition pieces; everything from bold silicone necklaces by Israeli artist Tzuri Gueta to clear glass earrings by Japanese designer Kana Umeda. Schelling also has a selection of Chinese ceramics, vintage postcards, and antique maps of the surrounding Dashilar area, beautifully restored by local brand Beijing Postcards. Ubigallery.com
Set in the buzzy Sanlitun district, this concept store is ground zero for one-of-a-kind gifts. The owners, who also run an architecture studio, have stockpiled an ever-changing range of Chinese and European antiques, sculptural jewelry, and quirky souvenirs, including dumpling-print tea towels and hand-painted North Korean political propaganda posters. The adjacent wine bar also regularly holds movie nights, craft workshops, and cultural talks. Popupbeijing.com
T&L City Guide
For more info on shops, restaurants, and things to do in Beijing, go to tandl.me/beijingguide.
Walk This Way
The best the city has to offer—contemporary galleries, restaurants, pagoda-studded parks, sunset vantage points amid ancient vermillion walls—in a one-day wander through Old Beijing.
10 a.m. Begin at C&C (Culture & Creative) Park (77 Meishuguan Hau Jie), a former printing factory that has been transformed into an enclave of galleries and creative studios. Fuel up with a latte from Meridian Space (meridian-online.com), a warehouse-like performance venue and café; then check out the epic private showroom of Ma Ke, the fashion designer who makes pieces for China’s first lady (by appointment only; 86-10-5753-8089).
12 p.m. Continue on to Old Beijing’s Sino-French university. The stunning, century-old campus is now home to Yishu 8 (yishu8.com), a private gallery that cultivates Chinese-European artistic exchange through residencies and exhibitions of sculpture, photography, and painting.
1 p.m. TRB Bites (trb-bites.com; menus from $43) is the newer, laid-back sibling of the capital’s top fine-dining destination, Temple Restaurant Beijing (trb-cn.com; menus from $60). The set menu features a selection of savory and sweet dishes such as mango-coconut rice and octopus with red pepper, chorizo, and potato. Best of all, the restaurant sits right by the moat of the Forbidden City, overlooking its scarlet walls.
3:30 p.m. Walk off lunch with a stroll through the Forbidden City (dpm.org.cn). Some areas were recently opened to the public for the first time, and a marked route takes you through exhibition halls showcasing imperial treasures and parts of the perimeter walls.
6 p.m. Exit the Forbidden City at its northern end and continue through the front gate of the 57-acre Jingshan Park. Climb the hill for a lovely 360-degree view of Beijing, and wait for the show at sunset, when the light catches the yellow-tiled rooftops of the Forbidden City. A less strenuous—but equally memorable option—enjoy a well-earned gin and tonic on the terrace of Capital M (m-restaurantgroup.com), which faces Tiananmen Square.
In One Minute, Out The Next
Trends in the Chinese capital shift and change as fast as the skyline.
IN Small-scale, community-focused projects like Standard Architecture’s Micro-Yuan’er, which explores how Beijing’s historic hutongs can be rescued and repurposed for modern living by incorporating social spaces like libraries and playgrounds.
OUT Showy architectural behemoths, such as Herzog & de Meuron Bird’s Nest Stadium.
OUT Starbucks green-tea lattes and frappucinos.
IN Wearing sophisticated Chinese designers, like menswear darling Xander Zhou and couture heavyweight Guo Pei, whose dress Rihanna wore to the 2015 Met Gala.
OUT International logo worship.