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Beijing is an overwhelming place to visit. It’s massive, hectic, smoggy and filled with world famous historical sites. I’m not a huge fan of sightseeing when travelling, I love just hanging out and attempting to live like a local as much as possible as I think you then get a true mini experience of where you’re visiting. I was very lucky that my brother lives there so we had a bit of an insider’s help into working out what to do. Here’s seven of my favourite things to do, eat and shop!
1. Silk Market
A 6 story palace of very good quality fakes, fur, Chinese brands you’ve never heard of and accessories. I loved it. Be prepared to bargain.
2 Great Wall of China
Pretty much essential if you’re in Beijing. We got a taxi driver to take us for about a £30 return trip and it takes about 90mins each direction. Epic, packed with tourists but a must see.
3. Capital Spirits Bar and the Hutongs
This was one of my favourite areas of Beijing. Streets and streets of low rise worker’s cottages have been transformed into bars, restaurants and shops and there’s still a sneak peak into the lives of the people that still live there. My brother’s bar recommendation was Capital Spirits – a tiny dark cocktail bar specialising in rice wine.
4. Sample rich Chinese kid’s lifestyle at The Rug
This place wouldn’t have been out of place in one of the cooler suburbs of NYC or London. It’s a very chic brunch cafe place with a Western menu of excellent (but pricey) dishes. I had the Eggs Benedict which was spot on. Great people watching of rich Chinese kids with their Chanel bags slung over the back of their chairs.
5. Fancy views and even fancier cocktails at Mei Bar at the Rosewood hotel
You’ve got to have at least one fancy night when you visit a city and this high rise incredibly swanky bar was ours. Fancy cocktails, appetisers, great service and amazing views.
6. The Panjiayuan Market – actual rummaging interior heaven
Maybe the best market I’ve ever visited. Full of Chinese antiques and reproductions, trinkets, old Communist propaganda posters, books, baskets, jewellery, prints etc. A dream if you’re into eclectic interiors like me.
7. Dinner at Dali Courtyard
We’d read about this restaurant on the Conde Nast Traveller website and booked a table for our last night. It’s twinkly lighted and relaxed courtyard setting is right in the middle of the Hutongs. It specialises in the food of the southern province of Yunnan which is influenced by it’s Vietnamese neighbour. There is no menu, you pay a fixed price and are served whatever is on that evening – but expect a vast amount of food.
8. Peking Duck at Quanjude restaurant
Of course you have to eat this dish in it’s original home. We were lucky that we had the inside track on one of the best restaurants to go to. It was so so good, carved at the table and serviced with hoi sin sauce, pancakes and spring onion.
9. Backstreet late night drinking and eating
Touring the dimly lit Hutongs at night and you might just stumble across an awesome bar or restaurant. One evening we ended up in a a grilled meat shop/off license with a pig’s intenstines hanging in the doorway.
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