With historic parks, gaming arcades and luxe spas aplenty, there’s more to Beijing’s Central Business District than skyscrapers and traffic jams.
Beijing’s Central Business District (CBD) is all about, well… business. All glass and skyscrapers, CBD is populated by global company headquarters and is the city’s economic centre. But it’s not all work no play; dig a little deeper and you can find a Ming Dynasty-era park, contemporary art galleries and a wholesale silk market. Here is a definitive list of the best things to see and do in Beijing’s CBD.
Touristy? Sure. Fun? Absolutely. Sitting a couple of blocks from the Temple of the Sun and right next to Yong’anli subway station, the Silk Market is a six-storey mall that sells so much more than just fabric. With almost 1,700 retailers in one building, this gigantic market sells almost everything you could possibly want to stuff in your suitcase: knock-off luxury goods, clothing, jewellery, counterfeit branded goods, electronics and, of course, silk. Up to 50,000 people visit the thousand-odd shops and stalls at weekends, haggling to get their souvenirs at a good price.
See the city from above at China World Summit Wing’s Atmosphere bar
Bar, Cocktail Bar, British, $$$
The CBD area is stacked with vertigo-inducing spots from which to see the city. China World Summit Wing’s Atmosphere bar affords the highest vantage point, while Park Hyatt’s China Grill comes close. Both locations offer stunning views of the CCTV ‘Underpants’ Headquarters, Chang’an Avenue and Tiananmen Square. Or you can step outside onto one of the CBD’s many terraces, such as the China World Mall or the Rosewood Hotel’s MEI Bar, for a breath of fresh air and a view worth Instagramming.
Green spaces in Beijing are far and few between. And they’re even more sparse in CBD, making Ritan Park particularly noteworthy. Located in Jianguomen, the park was originally home to the Temple of the Sun (the Temple of the Moon lies in West Beijing), an altar that was built in 1530 during the Ming Dynasty. Now, it’s a spot where the city’s senior citizens get together to dance, sing and play music. Unlike other parks in Beijing, Ritan Park is free to enter and open 24 hours a day.
The CBD isn’t lacking in quality cafés, but only one is inspired by ’90s sitcom Friends. Featuring brick walls and that iconic orange sofa, Central Perk is a faithful rendition of the gang’s hang-out space. TVs screen reruns of the show with Chinese subtitles, while the menu even includes food that’s namechecked in the series (the menu marks which episode each item appears on). Order a coffee, sit back and let the nostalgia seep in. If that wasn’t enough, next door you’ll find a copy of Joey’s apartment, complete with foosball table.
From hotel spas to time-honoured brands, the Central Business District is spoiled for choice when it comes to spa and beauty treatments. The Rosewood Hotel’s Sense Spa offers a range of lush treatments; its Lost Remedies series, inspired by traditional Chinese medicine and ancient royal rituals, is particularly unique. Try an Empress Dowager Cixi Facial, a jade roller facial massage; or Sand and Wood, an acupuncture-based treatment. For a more local experience, try Liangzi. The treatments offered here are more reasonably priced and options include a range of traditional Chinese medicine massages by a trained practitioner.
Today Art Museum, located in Shuangjing’s Pingod community, is a privately owned museum that showcases local and international artists. Past exhibitors include Chinese artist Yue Minjun – his A-maze-ing Laughter sculpture is a permanent fixture outside the museum – and British designer Paul Smith. If you’d rather shop at the same time, check out Parkview Green near Dongdaqiao. The glass building is packed with larger-than-life contemporary artworks – many suspended from the ceiling – including a farting bull and a crushed-up MINI Cooper.