What should I do and eat in Beijing for 36 hours?
July 4, 2009 6:51 AM   Subscribe

TravelFilter: I have 36 hours in Beijing. What should I see (serious amateur photog) and where should I eat (dim-sum preferable.) Bonus: Good hotels with Internet access. Any help or suggestions appreciated!
posted by damiano99 to Travel & Transportation around Beijing, China (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Visit the Confucius Temple. The Yonghegong lamasery is just across the way and you can also wander around some of the surrounding back alleys and look at old courtyard doors and some street life. There's a various cafes and bars along the same street and the parallel hutong to the north. Also various hotels close by; the Lusongyuan is fairly fancy and there's cheaper hostels just up the way from there. Almost anywhere will have good internet access.
posted by Abiezer at 7:26 AM on July 4, 2009

Have you been in Beijing before? If not then you should definitely do all of the tourist favorites. The touristy things alone will eat up all your time.

The Great Wall: I would recommend the Secret Wall tour offered by Leo Hostel. Beware that on Firefox the website has an annoying password pop-up that you can't get rid of!

Tian'anmen Square / Forbidden City

The Olympic Green, possibly better at night when the Water Cube is lit up.

Houhai / Gulou Bell and Drum Tower district - this is where you can meander around the old alleyways (hutongs) of Beijing, with their courtyard houses. Houhai is a popular lake area that is where the emperors used to have their pleasure palaces.

Dim sum in Beijing is on the expensive side and mostly found in the hotels. That said, I like the Kerry Center's Horizon restaurant, where there is an all-you-can-order buffet for 88 RMB. There's a cheaper place called Jin Ding Xuan that is very popular as it is open 24 hours but personally, as a Cantonese person, Horizon's dim sum is much better.

Na Jia Xiao Guan is a great restaurant, extremely popular, where you can have the specialties of a Manchurian imperial banquet. I've been here in large groups and small ones, and the restaurant has never failed to please.

Hotels: I loved the Lusongyuan when I first came to Beijing. It's a courtyard hotel in the heart of the hutong district. From what I remember, they do have internet access, but I can't remember if they have Wi-Fi.

Hope that helps, and enjoy your trip to Beijing!
posted by so much modern time at 7:28 AM on July 4, 2009

Best answer: Ok, the fun of taking pictures in China is mainly the small things. And the people. They are wonderful, open and smiling. I'm mixed in how to advise you. If this is a Once-in-a-lifetime experience, then you should see at least some of the sites (I'd pass on the Olympic stuff). If you are here on business and have the chance to come back, then maybe pass through one or two sites and then go exploring.

A few of questions. What's your budget for the hotel? What's the likelihood of coming back? Are you looking for a tourist experience or taking interesting, edgy photos? Is this part of a business trip? Are you bringing your own laptop? Why 36 hours?

Internet access is ubiquitous. As much as it pains me to say it, there are Starbucks everywhere and the majority of them have free wireless. Most of the hotels (including the Kerry Centre) also have free wireless access.

If you have the budget, I'd suggest staying at a place such as The Emperor hotel. Otherwise, look for any of the modern western hotel chains. Most of them are around the 3rd Ring Road on the east. close to most of the modern parts of Beijing. The best, accessible restaurants are also in the area in and around the embassy areas between the 2nd and 3rd ring roads on the east side.

To the sites and photog stuff and your 36 hours. I'd say you have a harsh decision to make.

See the tourist sights, get the Great Wall experience and take some great snaps for awesome memories. It's good stuff just don't expect it to get many opportunities for great shots. The Great Wall will take a day but you could combine it with HouHai in the evening. Tian'ammen is best experienced as a taxi ride (half-way kidding). It's a huge square, but not much visually interesting other than the people. Maybe get there early in the morning to watch the flag raising ceremony. Should be around 7am. There will be hoards of domestic tourists there to see it.

Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven are also fun to go to. BeiHai is the large park that connects the gardens next to the Forbidden City with HouHai which connects to other smaller parks that lead to the Summer Palace.

I love walking through the Hutongs. The ones the hotels won't tell you about, the ones you only find by going through a small entrance in a large commercial street that looks like you really shouldn't be going there. These are the portals to the real Beijing. I could tell you where they are, but then I'd be giving up my photography secret locations. But, spending time sitting in off the beaten path areas just watching will net some good shots.

Also as a side note, there's construction current blocking street views of the National Theatre (The Egg) and the surrounding area. Not sure why, but it will block sight-lines.

Food. Beijing isn't a Dim Sum mecca. That's further south in the country. But there's wonderful food to be had.
posted by michswiss at 9:48 AM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

As others have mentioned Dim Sum isn't really a northern Chinese thing, although it can be found in Beijing. While you have the chance, why not try some Beijing duck? There are a lot of places that do it, although the most famous one is Quanjude.

I second seeing Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and walking around hutongs - those are the standard things you should see in Beijing.
posted by pravit at 1:35 PM on July 4, 2009

On one day, visit Tiananmen Square/Forbidden City (TS/FC). If you can make it there at dawn supposedly they do something cool, like salute the flag or something, I forgot what. Anyway 3-5 hours in the morning would be good enough for both. Then head a bit northwest of TS/FC to the Lama Temple/Confucius Temple, you can take the subway there from Tiananmen Square. Near the Lama Temple and Confucius Temple is a Jin Ding Xuan dim sum place which is a pretty popular chain and good for the price (on the cheaper side), which you can grab for lunch (probably before checking the temples out). You can probably go through both temples in 2-3 hours. If you're going on a fast pace, you can make it to the Temple of Heaven, a bit south of TS/FC. As far as I know no subway goes there (unless one of the newer ones do) so take a taxi.

At night you can check out the Lao She Teahouse, or if you want to see how modernized China is getting head to Wangfujing (nearby the Temple of Heaven and Tiananmen Square/Forbidden City) which has the biggest/most modern shopping centers in Bejing. Also in Wangfujing is a Quanjude Beijing Duck restaurant (the most popular Beijing Duck chain) as well as the largest street stall night market in Beijing full of interesting treats and eats within walking distance.

The next day arrange a trip to the Great Wall (I think the Mutianyu portion is a popular but less touristy one so you'll get less photos involving hundreds of people). This would be hard to arrange/plan without a tour guide but it is possible if you plan well and arrive early. Though that might be pushing it in your time frame. If you can't, head to the northwest part of Beijing to the Summer Palace, and if you have time, check out Peking University which is nearby.
posted by NeoLeo at 3:34 PM on July 4, 2009

Actually from the Lama Temple and Confucius Temple, you can make it to the hutongs/Houhai which are nearby, but I prefer the Temple of Heaven as a must see sight more.

If you're young and want to see what the college kids do in China, check out Wudaokou near Beijing University, too.
posted by NeoLeo at 3:37 PM on July 4, 2009

Peking University = Beijing University. Sorry...
posted by NeoLeo at 3:37 PM on July 4, 2009

Touristy things, if it is your first time - The Wall, Forbidden City and Tiananmen, etc. If you can explore some of the hutongs, do that too (you can get rickshaw tours by the Drum Tower). Probably some good photo ops there if people are out and about.

Duck is the big thing to eat in Beijing, but my favourite was the Hot Pot - if you can get a group out, it's definitely worth it - there's a good place near the accommodation I recommend below.

Avoid any locals who want to practice their English with you and take you to tea, as you'll end up getting charged a fortune for the tea.

If you're travelling on a budget, I enjoyed my stay at Sitting On The City Walls Courtyard House (link is to hostel world - their regular website seems to be down). Dorm style and single rooms, and probably easier to meet fellow travellers than at a hotel. Friendly staff, good food, and free wifi as well. They'll book tours for you if you like, and are pretty good about writing down directions in Mandarin to show taxi/bus drivers, so you're not too likely to get lost.

If it is not your first time - check out the Summer Palace, White Pagoda, and the 798 Art Zone.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:15 AM on July 5, 2009

My bestest Beijing pictures are from the Summer Palace. It has your beautiful historical stuff as well as lots of people being people. At one of the exits the locals were jumping in to swim in the river? moat? going around. Also, you can get some hutong areas not too far away.

If I had a second choice, I would go to the Forbidden City for more pictures.

The duck restaurant mentioned above is FANTASTIC and the menu is hardcover food porn. Be prepared to wait. It:ll be a $25 meal when all your others will be $1-2.

Overall, though, I second an earlier poster that found the best stuff to photograph is the people and daily life stuff. You can do this for fun and for free all over the city.
posted by whatzit at 5:35 AM on July 5, 2009

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