Underground Beijing

By Rosewood Hotels & Resorts  •  April 1, 2017

Nowhere in China is the country’s history more on show or more impressive than Beijing, where government buildings are jaw-droppingly huge and marvels like the Forbidden City are correspondingly awe-inspiring. But while Beijing’s major sights are some of the best in the world, it’s the smaller, less-touristed places that are the most fascinating. Schedule your itinerary so that after each mega-attraction, you have time to delve into the lesser-known jewels of Beijing, each one hiding in plain sight.

DONGCHENG

Dongcheng is Beijing’s centre, its business and commercial district, and home to three of the city’s unmissable sights: the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and Lama Temple. Once you’ve ticked those off your to-do list, dig deeper into this dynamic neighborhood for some truly exceptional treats. Lunch at King’s Joy, Beijing’s foremost vegetarian restaurant, where items like braised spicy tofu and chilled papaya milk are made with ingredients brought from local organic farms. The Yung Ho Chang-designed space resembles a courtyard home or siheyaun, and has a peaceful bamboo grove for quiet al fresco dining in the middle of the city.

Post-lunch, pop into Red Gate Gallery, China’s first private contemporary art gallery and still one of the leaders in promoting new Chinese artists. Exploring fabulous Gulou can take most of an afternoon – this historic area, somewhat incongruous in the most modern part of Beijing, offers Nanluogu Xiang, a small street packed with hipsters patronizing its trendy cafés, bars and designer t-shirt shops.

CHAOYANG

Once bordering on the subversive and now a linchpin of the country’s arts culture, 798 Art District in Chaoyang is a series of small streets and repurposed factories packed with art galleries that range from the unknown to the world-renowned. After a couple of hours exploring (you never know if you’re scoping out the next Ai Weiwei), refuel with an Illy coffee or Chinese tea at artist-owned At Café, where the exposed brick and brightly lit loft remind guests of its former incarnation as a factory. Then stop by UCCASTORE, the chic shop in the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, to pick up a piece of limited-edition artwork as a souvenir. For clotheshorses, Fei Space, filled with an eclectic and trendy assortment of brands, is perfect for discovering chic finds from around the world.

In Chaoyang’s Central Business District, Beijing’s oversized grey government buildings are slowly giving way to a wave of daring new architectural experiments that are a testament to the way China is looking to the future. While the name “CCTV Tower” is extremely pedestrian, it belongs to a dazzlingly modern feat of architecture in the shape of an angular, three-dimensional loop. Across the road, go from the new to the old (school) at Country Kitchen in Rosewood Beijing. This rustic-chic restaurant has an open kitchen and wood-fired ovens that turn out top-notch Northern Chinese comfort food, from Peking duck to hand-drawn noodles to an organic roast Mongolian leg of lamb. It’s worth having a wander around the three-story hotel lobby while you’re there, just to gawk at the incredible art and calligraphy that illuminate it – they were inspired by Beijing-born Bei Dao’s book of poetry, “The Rose of Time.”

XICHENG

The Dashilan neighborhood in northwestern Xicheng District, packed with tiny hutongs (alleyways), is cramped but fascinating. The historic buildings, sitting low to the ground, are filling with art galleries and boutiques that draw the city’s foreign residents. Step into Ubi Gallery, housed in a former brothel, which sells contemporary ceramics and jewelry. Spoonful of Sugar, a newly opened, socially conscious and very chic café, is ideal for stopping for an organic coffee or glass of wine, and a sneak peek at how Beijing’s creative class is developing a sustainable lifestyle in the city.

Details

King’s Joy: 2 Wudaoying Hutong, Yonghegong, Dongcheng District; +86-10-8404-9191

Red Gate Gallery: Dongbianmen Watchtower, Dongcheng District; +86-10-6525-1005

At Cafe: 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District; +86-10-5978-9942

UccaStore4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District; +86-10-5780-0215

Fei Space: Building 1, Area B, 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District; +86-10-5978-9580

Country Kitchen: Rosewood Beijing, Jing Guang Centre, Hujialou, Chaoyang District; +86-10-6597-8888

Ubi Gallery62 Yangmeizhu Xiejie, Xicheng District; +86-10-6301-2382

Spoonful of Sugar: 62 Yangmeizhu Xiejie, Xicheng District; +86-10-6308-3971

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Written By: Rosewood Hotels & Resorts

4.1.17

Locations: Beijing

See more: Art & Culture, Food & Drink

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