Where should I wander off to in Beijing?
September 24, 2010 5:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm spending the next 2 months in Beijing. Where are places that are slightly off the beaten path? Any favorite eateries, bars, clubs? Also, what are some places I could travel to when given a week of complete free time?

I'm in Bejing as a part of a study abroad program my university offers. From what I understand, we will only have 4 hours of class a day for 4 days a week, leaving me free with 3 days to hopefully roam around the city for a bit. What are some places I should hit up during my stay here? Or perhaps, are there certain places I should avoid?

I'll also have a week of no classes where we'll be allowed to travel anywhere we want and given it's my first time in China, I'm pretty overwhelmed by the choices that are out there! I'm looking to spend time in 2-3 places other than Beijing in that weeklong period.
posted by astapasta24 to Travel & Transportation around Beijing, China (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Da dong for the best roast duck you've ever had.

Cheng du for the terra cotta warriors.
posted by TheBones at 6:10 AM on September 24, 2010

Best answer: i liked the 798 art zone. pedestrian friendly area with art galleries, shops, food and bars, people watching.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 6:20 AM on September 24, 2010

Skip any offers of a Tea Ceremony.
posted by jquinby at 6:50 AM on September 24, 2010

TheBones is completely wrong, ChengDu is a city in Sichuan province (worth visiting on its own merits, it is supposedly famous for its beauties, and is apperently a very laid back food oriented city), the Terra Cotta Warriors are located in Xi'An which is Shaanxi (to the north of Sichuan, I went there during my break week when I studied abroad in Beijing, it was alright).

For duck, ask the locals, will you have Chinese roomates? Everybody knows a place there, and great KaoYa is easy to find.

Also, if this is a language immersion program, you will need to spend a shitload of that free time studying, trust me, if you are serious about this it will account for a good 4-5 hours a day.

Also dont be shy about using what you are learning, Beijing is a fantastic city.
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:12 AM on September 24, 2010

Best answer: 中国人民革命军事博物馆!!

Da dong for the best roast duck you've ever had.

Unless you've eaten at Liqun. So good the CCP saved it when they leveled the entire neighborhood. Of course there are tons of little holes in the wall with incredible food. Try and get some local friends to take you out.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:26 AM on September 24, 2010

Best answer: Also, again I am assuming you are in a language program (I really cannot fathom spending a semester there and not knowing or learning Mandarin), but do not try and do an over the top Beijing accent, it will make you look like an ass, I promise.

For actual things to do in the city;

Dirt Market early in the morning (like 530-6am), you can find some really cool stuff there, and its just a fascinating place to walk around, especially on a cold winter morning.

Pearl Market is sort of overrated, but if you want to get a decent knock of north face jacket that will fall apart within two years for 15-20 bucks its the place to do it, make sure you are comfortable and good at haggling before you go, or else you will get ripped off.

There is a theater district south of Tiananmen, but watch your pockets, also Chinese performing arts are (subjectively) not the high point of the culture.\

Mao'Er Hutong, this is not a tourist destination, this a neighborhood with people in it, but its very interesting if you keep that in mind and are respectful.

Forbidden City - touristy, still amazing (there are 8,886 rooms!)
Temple of Heaven - see above, except for the rooms part
Summer Palace - ditto
Ho Hei

The Zoo, I am biased because I went to school in this neighborhood, and the zoo itself it sort of shitty (at least it was when I was there), but its also totally different from western zoos and worth a look.

Honestly though, my favorite feature of Beijing are the Beijing-ren, get to know them, get out of your presumptive bubble, they are rightly proud of their city, and they love to show it off.
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:29 AM on September 24, 2010

Try a lot of food from other regions in China. For delicious, authentic, and cheap, I'd go for the restaurants run by the various provincial offices.

Beijing Boyce keeps track of bars. In Beijing you can afford more interesting, classier drinks than in America.

There used to be a really cool Uighur lesbian bar somewhere on Nanluoguxiang (even if you're not gay, it's really chill and interesting).

I recommend picking up a copy of the 300-page insider's guide to Beijing produced for expats.

Try to make friends with someone interning at the Forbidden City. Best kept secret of Beijing = it's totally possible to have a (forbidden) sleepover there, tucked away in some quiet area.
posted by acidic at 8:02 AM on September 24, 2010

If you are outdoorsy enough try hiking from the Jiankou section (closed off section) of the Great Wall to the Mutianyu section (new, restored section). This isn't directly in Beijing but I did it this summer and it was definitely worth it, though it was pretty scary at times. You'll definitely need to do a little bit of research before hand however so that you can get to the right location. The driver we hired actually got lost and dropped us off in the wrong section. Also, it is worth mentioning that my group actually started hiking in the afternoon and then camped on the Jiankou section, and then continued on to the Mutianyu section the next day. If you end up doing this, message me if you have any questions or want a photo of the entrance of the trail so you know you're going to the right place!
posted by lucy.jakobs at 8:28 AM on September 24, 2010

I really liked the Cow Street Mosque
posted by MXJ1983 at 8:45 AM on September 24, 2010

MeMail me or bokane when you're here and we'll have an impromptu meet-up at our favourite hidden Mongolian bar off Nanluoguxiang. We will then proceed to bore you with more trip advice than is sensible or clever.
posted by Abiezer at 10:14 AM on September 24, 2010

Best answer: Datong in Shanxi Province is ~4 hours away from Beijing by train (maybe faster by bus). You can visit the Hanging Monastery and Yungang Grottoes nearby. I wish I had spent more time in Datong; there's an old section of town that looks like it's worth a visit.

Taiyuan is the capitol of Shanxi, and is about 3.5 hours away (if you take the D train). From there, you can get a taxi to take you to an old city called Pingyao, which was my favorite place the last time I went to China. Don't forget to try their local food - the best meals I had were in Shanxi (much, much better than in Yunnan Province).

I also recommend Liqun in Beijing. The fried duck liver was especially good. The night market on Wangfujing was really touristy, but some of the smaller streets to the side had cheaper food.
posted by extramundane at 5:04 PM on September 24, 2010

Not familiar with Beijing, but for travel, Xi'an is pretty decent (beautiful walled city, terracota warriors, very, very different from Beijing) by train. Chengde, the site of the Summer Palace would be a good getaway for a weekend. Among other things, there are half-size replicas of the main temples in Tibet, built when the then emporer was trying to convince the Dalai and Panchen Lamas to visit him (they never came).

If flying is an option, Yunnan is beautiful, and again, totally different from Beijing. By train, you could make a slightly rushed tour of Nanjing, Souzhou, and/or Shanghai.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:31 AM on September 25, 2010

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