Winter in China‘s capital Beijing can be brutal; on most days, temperatures are unwaveringly cold and the air leaves much to be desired. The good news is that there are no end of winter-appropriate activities – here’s our round-up of the best things to see and do in Beijing in winter.
Nothing beats engaging in an intense game of indoor archery tag to escape the bitterness of the outside air. Archery tag is an archery-paintball fusion, where participants are given bows and arrows (and yes, they are real) as weapons during the game. The goal is to dodge your opponent’s arrows by means of hiding behind obstacles, and well, just being quicker on your feet than the others. Overall, archery tag is exciting for all ages, and will surely heat you up on a cold Beijing day.
The city hosts an Ice Lantern Festival every year at Beijing’s Longqing Gorge to celebrate the cold winter season. During the festival, celebrators can enjoy the more than 400 ice sculptures that are put on display in the gorge -portraying temples, dragons, and ice castles, the sculptures are truly incredible. The Ice Lantern Festival also hosts other activities such as ice-inspired games, folk dancing, and fireworks. Illuminated by colorful lights, the festival is beautiful and a true celebration of the icy season.
One way to escape from the balmy below-freezing air in Beijing is to form a team, and grab a table at one of the many bars that host trivia nights. Although the expat community in Beijing is typically very welcoming, to guarantee that you have a team to compete with, gather up some friends and find a venue that interests you. Many bars offer winning teams free drinks, and whether you finish the game as a winner or not, you can be sure that spending the frigid night indoors, getting your trivia on will be a blast!
Every year, when Houhai Lake freezes over, the Shichahai Skating Rink opens. Locals commonly refer to it simply as “Houhai,” and flock to the icy lake each year. Ice skating on Houhai is extremely inexpensive, costing around RMB10 (USD$1.50) for unlimited skating time. Skaters have the option to make their trip to Houhai even more interesting by opting to rent a sleigh for the ice instead. Costing roughly RMB30 (USD$4.50) for an unlimited amount of sleigh time, this choice proves to also be inexpensive, and is a fun twist to a classic winter activity.
Every Wednesday night at the Modernista, a swanky hutong bar located in Baochao Hutong, the bar hosts swing nights, where professional balboa instructors teach patrons how to swing, and the night is an all-out dancing affair. The event is very social, so even if you opt not to dance, you can still warm up with a glass of mulled wine at one of their cozy tables and people watch. All-in-all, the lessons are a surefire way to increase your body heat and combat the cold weather.
Known in Chinese as xiaolongbao, soup dumplings are a traditional dish served all over Beijing. The dumplings are steamed and served in bamboo steaming baskets, and are typically filled with pork (but vegetarian options are easy to come by as well). Because of the way xiolongbao is prepared, the soup dumplings make for a perfect winter meal, as they are both steaming hot and filling. To combat both your hunger pangs and the cold weather, soup dumplings are a must.
For an adorable, heart-warming experience, spend one of the winter days curled up with a cat (or two), and a cup of coffee at one of Beijing’s cat cafés. Places like Cat Planet, serve as both a restaurant and a cat oasis. With over 20 cats roaming around their cat room, customers have their choice of cuddly cat (read: almost too many cats to choose from) to snuggle up with, all the while being able to order drinks to the play area. A winter day spent cozying up with a cat and coffee, is a good day.
During the winter season, many venues offer customers freshly made mulled wine – a delicious seasonal drink to get you into the cold weather spirit! Restaurants like The Rug, offer a pitcher of mulled wine for RMB240 (USD$36), which is perfect for sharing with friends over a delicious brunch. Aside from being delicious and a winter-appropriate drink, the wine is sure to warm you up, making the awfully cold weather far more tolerable.