How to Get off the Tourist-Beaten Path in Beijing
Project Pengyou intern, Karisma Wilson, shares a few of her favorite hidden gems around Beijing.
For a first timer in Beijing, the city can be pleasantly overwhelming. Beijing is absolutely enormous, and has one of the highest counts of UNESCO World Heritage sites of any singular city. Most people are aware of the major tourist highlights that the city has to offer, including Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall, but in a city this big there’s never a shortage of nooks and crannies to explore.
If you’re excited by the idea of the path less followed or perhaps looking for a few quirky things to do and see in China’s capital, here’s some of our favorite, lesser known spots to enjoy Beijing off the beaten path.
1. Beijing Urban Planning Exhibition Hall
This hidden gem is located right next to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, so it’s perfect for a quick break from the elements after visiting some of Beijing’s more famous landmarks. The Urban Planning Exhibition Hall has a 1:750 scale model of the city, fully showing how massive Beijing is (it’s also pretty fun to try to find your favorite spots on the miniature). The four-story building features other models and videos of Beijing’s geography and expansion over the years, showcasing the charms of the modern, cultural city.
2. Zhengyici Peking Opera Theatre
Built in 1667, this is one of the oldest, best-preserved wooden structures in Beijing. The theatre, originally built as an ancestral shrine, has the magnificent core of a Chinese temple, but now provides a unique operatic experience. The venue features a perfect balance of traditional culture and modern aesthetics, sure to impress architecture and music aficionados alike. It feels like you’re traveling back in time, experiencing Peking Opera in a venue as old as the art itself.
3. Jian Club
The Jian Club shoots away from the basic bar scene by adding the fun (although seemingly dangerous) element of archery. The combination of alcohol and weaponry may be questionable, but this spot in the heart of the Sanlitun district is sure to inspire some stories and laughs. I didn’t hit a single target, but I think my lack of athleticism is more to blame. It was still a great evening and a surprisingly fun way to release some aggression.
4. Mr. X Escape Rooms
For those looking to test their non-athletic skills, Mr. X escape rooms provide the perfect opportunity to flex your brain. After being locked in a room with no obvious way out, friends will have to rely on each other and logic to escape. This unique concept combines secret doors, revolving bookcases, hidden keys and concealed codes to bring puzzles and video games to life. Using the website to make a reservation requires mandarin fluency, but I was happy to find English and Chinese instructions for all of the clues.
5. Haidilao Hot Pot
This gem admittedly might not be so hidden for those more familiar to Beijing/China. Haidilao offers traditional Chinese hot pot, but with an added twist. This Sichuan specialty is accompanied by a manicure as you wait for food to cook, and I’ll never say no to combined comfort and convenience. They also offer “noodle shows” where waiters come and display the fascinating noodle pulling technique right at your table.
6. Latitude Trampoline Park
The new Latitude trampoline park is great for letting real and inner children run free. The Shunyi activity center features an array of trampolines, climbing walls, obstacle courses, a dodgeball court, foam pits, and more. The indoor park is also perfect for getting in some exercise on smoggy days, and is sure to work off the guilt from that extra plate of dumplings.
7. Qinglong Xia
Qinglong Gorge Scenic area is just a short bus ride from Beijing and offers a wide variety of activities along with gorgeous views. The park hosts not only bungee jumping, but also rock climbing, bamboo rafting, temples, zip lining, and glimpses of the Great Wall. It took me a few hours to talk myself into taking the plunge, but when I had resigned that I wouldn’t bungee jump (even though I did), I was satisfied to have made the trip for the views alone.
8. Sirena Cat Café
This stunning, Santorini themed café will easily transport you to a Grecian seaside, but with a few furry travel companions. This cat café is located in the heart of the Wudaoying Hutong, just a short walk from the Lama Temple. It’s one of my favorite places to study in the city with beautiful open air rooms upstairs. It quickly starts to feel like home when a cat makes himself cozy on your textbooks.
Did we miss any of your favorite hideaways in the city? Leave a comment and let us know!