Perhaps no one city in China represents the opposing yet complementary forces of yin-yang, be it dark and bright, feminine and masculine or tradition and innovation, better than Beijing. It’s a city characterized by sharp contrast and extremes that come together in mutual harmony, with old world hutongs, or alleyways, alongside starchitect-designed stadiums and buildings, the last remnants of China’s imperial dynasties (now UNESCO World Heritage Sites) scattered throughout the city’s ring roads. It’s the pulsing heart of Chinese politics, culture and education, and is particularly big on nurturing the arts, with formidable institutions, like Tsinghua and Peking University, or the Central Academy of Fine Arts, luring the country’s most brilliant talent. Its rich cultural milieu also allows the city to have a wide range of scenes, whether fashion, music or contemporary art, making it particularly fascinating to explore for first-time travelers and experts alike. So without further ado, here’s our guide of top spots for the creatively savvy and inclined.
Temple Restaurant Beijing
Contemporary European cuisine in a storied temple setting near the Forbidden City where old world meets new.
The Beijing-branch of the members’ only club from the Tang family that’s sophisticated chic and set in a classic courtyard.
Da Dong Peking Duck
Iconic Chinese restaurant famous for its award-winning roasted Peking duck with a New York outpost slated to open near Bryant Park.
Sink into the warm and comforting embrace of Chinese hotpot in this stylish setting in the Rosewood hotel.
Janes + Hooch
The choice watering hole for the city’s best craft cocktails and bar style nosh in a two-story Sanlitun speakeasy.
Glamour abounds in this trendy club-like lounge with arched ceilings and expertly mixed drinks.
798 Art District
A sprawling series of industrial warehouse spaces converted into an impressive array of contemporary art galleries and museums, with noteworthy names like the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, M Woods and Pace.
An experimental live music venue from the owners of record store Fruityshop.
I.T. Beijing Market
Stark white walls adorn the conceptual multi-brand boutique from Comme Des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo and Adrian Joffe.
One of China’s first stores selling designs from emerging Chinese talent from iLook’s Hung Huang.
Hong Kong’s pioneering department store designed by Yabu Pushelberg that brings global contemporary and high fashion to Beijing along with its sister store, Joyce.
Rare oddities and bric-a-brac in this indoor-outdoor market known for its unique finds.
Lush and layered design by Stewart Robertson of BARstudio in Beijing’s central business district with top-notch service.
Park Hyatt Beijing
Check in to a luxurious and minimal room 63 floors up in Beijing’s Yintai Center.
Opposite House Beijing
Artful intrigue at this glass-front hotel in Beijing’s Sanlitun district from Swire properties.
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