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Beijing | © vincentraal / Flickr
Beijing | © vincentraal / Flickr

An Introvert's Guide to Beijing

Picture of Julianna Tetreault
Contributer
Updated: 8 December 2017

Beijing is a fast-paced city with millions of inhabitants, and for the introvert, this can be daunting. For those who fear that their time to recharge will fall by the wayside, never fear – here’s our list of the most introvert-friendly activities in China‘s capital city.

When you’re in need of a drink

Whether you’re running on a caffeine deficit, or need a stronger drink to help you relax, Beijing has a number of places to quench thirst. From bars to cafés, introverts have their choice of secluded seating and hushed ambience.

The Bookworm, a café, bar, and bookstore dedicated to bringing quality coffee, literature, and liquor is an introvert’s dream. With floor to (almost) ceiling bookshelves lining the walls, and on an average day, nothing more than hushed murmurs and the clicking of laptop keys, the three-in-one bookstore proves to be a perfect place to recharge. The Bookworm’s book selection is diverse, boasting both Chinese and Western literature, and their alcohol is top-shelf, with high-end gin, whiskey and wine to choose from. The bookstore makes for a wonderful place to spend a day curled up in one of their chairs with a book in one hand, and a latte in the other – recharging has never felt so easy.

Similarly, the elusive hutong bars serve as a great place to unwind the introverted-self. Modernista, a hutong bar with a speakeasy feel, hosts drink and draw nights every week on Tuesdays. The bar has a different theme each week, which is displayed on their tiny, wooden stage with the use of live models and props. Whether you’re an artist or not, the intimate hutong bar makes for a wonderful place for an introvert to unwind, grab a drink and draw the night away.

The Bookworm – Building 4, Nan Sanlitun Road, Beijing, China, +86 010 6503 2050

Modernista – Baochao Hutong 44, Beijing, China, +86 136 9142 5744

For the active introvert

Hidden among the busy sidewalks and expansive highways are beautifully maintained parks and walking paths that are quiet and on average days, devoid of most people. With sprawling green areas and lakes, and biking, hiking, and walking opportunities that any active introvert could appreciate, Beijing makes immersing oneself into nature easy.

For a rewarding and relaxing hike, climbing to the top of Jingshan Hill is the way to go. On weekdays, the park is typically pretty quiet – the sound of footsteps and the breeze that blows through the park’s trees are all that can be heard. Among the concrete paths and trees are reminders of Beijing’s past, making the climb to the top nostalgic and serene.  Upon reaching the peak of Jingshan Hill, the park opens up into a breathtaking bird’s eye view of Beijing’s city skyline and Imperial Palace – making everything seem so small, the peak is the perfect place for an introvert to just be.

If hiking isn’t really your thing, and riding a bike sounds more appealing, then you’re in luck. With the rise of bike-sharing companies in Beijing, riding bikes is both extremely accessible and affordable. Alongside many of Beijing’s bustling streets are wide, beautifully maintained canals, which couldn’t be any more perfect for a stress-free bike ride. Without having to worry about vehicles, or pedestrians either for that matter, the winding canals are both peaceful and sequestered.

Or, if neither hiking or biking appeal, then maybe paddling a boat on one Beijing’s lakes will. Beihai Park is a wonderful park to view from a paddle boat – rentals are relatively inexpensive and can last up to a few hours. Floating on the park’s lake proves to be more exclusive and makes for a wonderful place to people watch and think the day away.

Jingshan Park – No.44 Jingshanxi Street, Beijing, China

Beihai Park – No.1 Wenjin Street, Beijing, China

For the introvert who has been a little too active

Spending a day hiking, biking, and paddling can leave an introvert feeling relaxed mentally and emotionally, but maybe not physically. If, by the end of your activity-filled day your body feels exhausted, one of the best things someone trying to recharge can do is get a massage.

For many introverted people, dark, quiet rooms are necessary for recharging properly. So, getting a massage while recharging in a dark, quiet room? Even better. Beijing is home to many massage parlors – too many to count – making the venue and price options feel endless. Getting a massage is a surefire way to achieve some unadulterated ‘me-time’ in the metropolis that is Beijing.

When you’re looking to immerse yourself in culture

Cultural immersion in Beijing is effortless. Even through all of its urbanization, the city has an undeniable historical presence that can be felt at all times. Mandarin is unsurprisingly everywhere, and plaques explaining the historical significance of a certain building, or place is common to stumble upon. And, although it feels like the cultural exposure couldn’t be any more than it already is, curious introverts have already discovered this as blatantly false through the exploration of Beijing’s art scene and museums.

The 798 Art District is a ho tspot for artists, introverts, and tourists alike. Typically void of masses of people, the sprawling art district gives introverted Beijingers a look into the city’s art scene through shops, exhibits, galleries, museums, classes – you name it. Between its many picturesque areas, pop-up shops, and quaint restaurants, spending a day people and art watching here is easy to do.

Showcasing a different form of art in Beijing’s art scene, is the Peking Opera. A historically significant stage production, the Peking Opera is the official opera of Beijing. For centuries, it has retold stories of life in the city all the while encapsulating the culture through song, dance, and costume. For introverts, the Peking Opera is a wonderful way to relax in a plush theatre seat and soak up Beijing.

For a place both culturally significant itself, while also being filled with culture, the National Museum of China is the place to venture to. While here, introverts can enjoy quiet, spacious areas to wander through, while immersing themselves completely into Beijing as it once was and now is. With its countless, ever-changing exhibits, it is both difficult to grow tired of this colossal landmark, and also feel too acquainted with it, making it a perfect getaway.

798 Art District – No.4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Beijing, China

National Museum of China – No.16 East Chang’an Street, Beijing, China

For the hungry introvert

While many meals in China are served ‘family style,’ Beijing has a plethora of places where dining solo is a non-issue. This being said, on the days where you’re feeling particularly introverted and the thought of having to communicate with anyone during your meal is intimidating, filling your stomach with malatang is a perfect solution.

The ordering process is simple: upon entering the restaurant, diners grab a plastic bin, and fill it with ingredients of their choice with the tongs provided. After choosing all desired soup dressings, the customer then gives the bin to the cashier, pays for the weight of the food, and then waits for their order number to be called, which is the cue that it’s time to dig in. Malatang is a simple meal with little human interaction, and is massively delicious – it doesn’t get any better for an introverted Beijinger.

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张亮 | Julianna Tetreault / © Culture Trip