Beijing, fast becoming one of the most dynamic cities in the world, also has a booming restaurant scene. For a short visit, the capital of China offers a string of obvious must-see attractions: The Forbidden City, The Great Wall, The Olympic Park, Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace should all be at the top of the list.
With a few more days to spare, there is opportunity to dig deeper, and there is no shortage of temples, parks, and ancient hutong districts to pick from.
However, what should absolutely not be neglected are the foodie delights, of which Beijing is full. The capital offers the range of regional Chinese cuisines, which often differ considerably from one another, and there is an admirable selection of international fare on offer as well.
For a 3-day stay, it is advisable to leave the Peking duck to the last evening so as to cap off your visit with this most quintessential of Beijing feasts. Never mind if locals admit that the famous duck was actually a recipe invented in Shandong province. If there is anything that should not be missed in Beijing, it is the duck.
To start off on the first day, it is a good idea to begin with some local staples. What that involves is a good helping of steamed buns and dumplings, of which there is plenty to be had in town, though arguably the best is to be found at Dingtaifeng restaurant in Xinyuanxilizhongjie.
That should fill you up pretty good before an afternoon of sightseeing, after which a stroll along the crowded street of Nanluoguxiang is much advised. Tucked away along a quiet side street you’ll find Mao Mao Chong, an excellent place to explore an inventive range of cocktails and unwind or get ready for a night out.
If you are still peckish, then stay away from the touristy Wangfujing food market. Try instead some of he stuff locals would prefer to eat on the street, such as malatang, a selection of skewers, meat, tofu vegetables, cooked in a spicy soup. For a real meaty feast, there is also Leg of mutton in the alley of beixinqiao santiao, which offers exactly that, roasted on a coal-fired grill at your street-side table.
The second day is the perfect time to sample the Chinese food that even the locals would find exotic. For an excellent introduction to food from faraway Yunnan province, the place to visit is Zhongbalou in the Sanlitun district. Crisply fried mushrooms and tropical juices are among the highlights.
Otherwise, there is the quaintly rude staff at Crescent Moon in Dongsiliutiao in Dongcheng district, serving up succulent dishes from the midst of Central Asia.
When it comes to the last day, there are many options. There is the sumptuous surroundings of Dadong in Wangfujing, where free wine is served as you wait to be seated. There is the elegance of Duck de Chine situated within a modern style courtyard in Chaoyang district. However, for the most unforgettable experience, the best pick is probably Huajiayiyuan. Housed within an endless foray of courtyards at the city’s number 1 food street Guijie, the restaurant offers suitably authentic outdoor surroundings and an unbeatable ambience. As with all Chinese meals, it is a communal feast, and the duck is only the icing on the cake. There are plenty of other dishes to pick alongside and the cod soup comes much recommended.
Striking tourist attractions notwithstanding, follow some of the above suggestions, and the most unforgettable aspect of your visit to Beijing is likely to be the food.