24 hours in Beijing

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Think Beijing is a city of bureaucrats while Shanghai has all the fun?

Think again. As China rises to assume its place among the planet’s most powerful nations, so too does Beijing emerge as one of the world’s great cities for visitor enjoyment. While the Forbidden City and 798 Dashanzi Arts District are by now well-known to those planning a visit to the Chinese capital, Beijing offers surprisingly personal travel experiences amidst its architecturally daring glass skyscrapers. Where else would you stumble across a cricket market – the insects, not the sport – or see Mao Zedong’s famous portrait from the back of a European luxury sedan? Catch Mao in the right light and his face almost seems to contort with incredulity; in 21st-century China, that happens to a lot of people.

Devotees of taijiquan begin their days
with purposeful movements to focus mind and body in spiritual and physical harmony. Observing the morning ritual in the shadow of Tiantan Park’s Temple of Heaven is an especially uplifting experience.

Jump into the action at Panjiayuan Market,
Beijing’s traders’ market where merchants from across China sell an array of uncommon items ranging from geological specimens and extra-large calligraphy brushes to 1950s toy robots and beautifully carved furniture.

Take a taxi north on East Ring Road South
from Panjiayuan and exercise your credit card at one of the many dazzling shopping malls such as China Central Place, China World, and Oriental Plaza along Jianguomennei Dajie and Dongchang’an Jie.

A delicacy in other countries,
the delicious Peking Duck has been served since the Imperial era, and in its home town the dish is not taken for granted. Order it for lunch and watch the server carve the bird with expert precision right at the table.

One of Beijing’s most unusual and least-visited attractions,
Dongyue Temple’s three large halls open onto a courtyard containing hundreds of stone stelae. The main attractions are the ‘departments’ displaying bizarre statues representing vices of the underworld.

Onwards to the peaceful Ritan Park –
a centre for Wushu practitioners – to enjoy a rest amid classic Chinese landscape architecture. Visitors arrive towards sunset to watch the sun fade behind the mountains.

Take a taxi to the chic Sanlitun Village
for a stroll around the complex’s offbeat art galleries and quirky boutiques. Head to Bei, at The Opposite House – a chic urban hotel – for delicious dishes inspired by North Asian flavours.

Catch China’s famous Beijing Chaoyang Theatre,
or see the latest production at the National Centre for the Performing Arts – known as The Egg and especially beautiful in its evening illumination surrounded by reflecting pools.

Cosmopolitan Beijingers unwind at The Bookworm
by enjoying literary readings, discussion groups, or just a good cup of coffee with the latest imported magazine. Open until 1am.

Beijing’s club scene, one of the most sophisticated in the world,
parties all night long. Dao Club next to Beijing Zoo and the Gongti area’s glitzy Club LA, famous for its elevator dance floor, are extremely popular.

Beijing, China
Distance: 6,164 km
Flight Time: 7 hours, 35 minutes
Frequency: Daily

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