Thanks to the various Asian and international cuisines that converge in Beijing, there is a tremendous variety of food in the city. Peking duck is one of the classics, along with the filled pastries, jiaozi, and the Mongolian fire pot, a pot with hot stock which, like a fondue, you cook your meat and vegetables in right at the table. By the way, it is normal in China to go out to eat in large groups where everybody shares all of the dishes ordered.
If you want to get to know the everyday culture of the Chinese a bit better, take a walk through the Hutongs of Houhai and Nanluoguxiang. These traditional alleyways with their single-storey houses take you back to a long-gone time when these simple houses were the typical way of living. Tip: if you get up early enough you can see the locals doing their various morning activities in the many parks, for example sword fighting, qigong and dancing.
The monumental Great Wall of China is an awe-inspiring example of what incredible works of architecture human beings are capable of. Built gradually over many millennia, the wall was intended to protect the empire from enemies. Some parts of the wall, e.g. in Badaling, are still so well preserved that you can visit them. But prepare yourself for huge hoards of tourists!
Fitness & fun
Bird’s nest and water cube – what is that all about? You can find the answer in the Olympia Park. They are the national stadium and the swimming centre that were built for the 2008 Summer Olympics that you can now walk past in the very park-like complex. The Beijing World Park is another very international attraction. The Eiffel Tower, Neuschwanstein Palace, the pyramids at Gizeh and many other landmarks of world history have been reproduced in scale models here. A few rollercoasters round off the park with an extra adrenaline kick.
The Wadaokou student district of the city is particularly popular amongst young people with its affordable and hip bars. Speaking of affordable, peak season in Beijing is also in summer and a trip in summer can therefore be very expensive.Tip: autumn is a perfect time to travel because prices go down, it is not as busy and the weather is still pleasant without the humid heat of the summer months.
The best way to get around in the rather chaotic city without getting lost in the maze of Chinese writing is to take a taxi or the underground, where the stations are also announced in English. Alternatively, take a rental bike, avoid the traffic jams and stop off at a small restaurant, a larger tourist attraction or an intriguing alleyway full of interesting shops.
Relatively little English is spoken in Beijing. To make sure you reach your desired destination write down the name and address for the taxi driver, ideally in Chinese.
You’ll be able to get by with pen and paper or by pointing at the Panjiayuan Weekend Market, where you can find lots of great souvenirs such as Buddha statues or colourful ceramics. The night market in Wanfujing has more exotic experiences in store, because in addition to lots of tasty skewers you can even try scorpion!