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Hutong in Gulou area | © hiroo yamagata / Flickr
Hutong in Gulou area | © hiroo yamagata / Flickr
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You’re Only a Beijing Expert if You’ve Done These 12 Things

Picture of Fran Lu
Updated: 7 September 2017
Beijing is not just a place to admire the Great Wall and eat roast duck. With a unique history dating over three thousand years and the vitality of being the capital city of the world’s second largest economy, Beijing certainly has a lot more on offer than just the obvious touristic elements. Become an expert of the city and tick off everything on this bucket list.

Try the notorious Mung Bean Milk (Douzhi)

While roast duck is the obvious choice for every tourist in Beijing, few would dare to try the Mung Bean Milk (Douzhi). Using the remnants of mung bean noodles, Douzhi is a traditional snack that old Beijingers delight over, yet the younger generation tend to shy away from, due to its notoriously potent taste. Try it, and then have a go at describing the taste to someone else – it’s exceptionally hard to define!

Mung Bean Milk (Douzhi)
Mung Bean Milk (Douzhi) | © snowyowls / Wikimedia Commons

Speak Chinese with a bit of r-coloring (Erhuayin)

You can only become a Beijing expert if you learn the local dialect. And r-coloring (Erhuayin) is the essence of its accent. It is a phonological process that adds the “er” sound to certain syllables. For example, when you order the Mung Bean Milk at a traditional snack bar, you say “Douzhi’er” rather than “Douzhi”. However, it’s not easy to decipher when the “er” sound cab be added, even Chinese migrants in Beijing can’t figure it out!

“Er…” | © gdakaska / Pixabay

Cycle around in the hutongs

Existing since the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 C.E.), hutongs are lanes that represent the old town of Beijing. Among the most famous hutongs, there are Eight Great Hutongs which used to be Beijing’s red district and the One Hundred Flowers Hidden Deep Hutong (Bai Hua Shen Chu), which is renowned for the Baihua Studio in which top Chinese rock musicians have recorded their songs since the 1980s. Instead of the rickshaws frequented by tourists, why not do as the locals do and cycle instead.

Hutong in Gulou area
Hutong in Gulou area | © hiroo yamagata / Flickr

Get your shoes wet in Beihai Park

With a history dating over one millennium, Beihai Park is the best preserved royal garden of China. The mirror-like lake covering more than half of the entire park has been a year-round playground for Beijingers for decades. You can leisurely sail around the park in the duck-head paddle boats in warm weather and ice skate across the frozen lake in winter.

Beihai Park
Beihai Park | © drnan tu / Flickr

See the Forbidden City in the snow

There’s simply no weather that suits the crimson walls of the imperial palace as well as snow. The iconic building housed the Chinese Imperial family for over 500 years and has been one of the most popular destinations in Beijing for over six centuries, attracting an estimated 14 million visitors annually.

Forbidden City in Snow
Forbidden City in Snow | © shizhao / Flickr

A ride on the Beijing Subway Line 2 train

Beijing is known for its ring roads that mediate between the main roads, together forming a chessboard pattern. The second ring road, as the most inner of the concentric ring roads circling the Forbidden City, acts as a line separating the historical hutong areas and the new, modern Beijing. While most of the Subway Line 2’s route overlaps with the second ring road (except for its south part), there’s probably no better way to learn about the historical and modern Beijing simultaneously.

Beijing Subway Line 2
Beijing Subway Line 2 | © S.I.S. Ma / Flickr

Watch a flag raising ceremony in the crowd at Tian’anmen Square

The flag raising ceremony is held at sunrise every morning. The time is calculated by Beijing’s astronomers to be the exact moment when the first streak of sunlight shines through the horizon seen from the Tian’anmen Square. You can find the timetable on the official website.

Flag Raising Ceremony on the Tian’anmen Square
Flag Raising Ceremony on the Tian’anmen Square | © Gan Quan / Flickr

An art tour in 798 District

In terms of the artistic areas in Beijing, 798 Art District is a place that you can’t miss. The avant-garde art zone is adapted from a Bauhaus-style socialist factory compound that was built in the 1950s. Some of the Mao-era slogans are still visible on the interiors of buildings which have now become galleries.

798 Art District
798 Art District | © karim amar / Flickr

A gig at Yugong Yishan Livehouse

Bar, Chinese, Pub Grub
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Watch a gig at Yugongyishan
Watch a gig at Yugongyishan | © Plastered T-shirts / Flickr

A gig at Yugong Yishan Livehouse

At first sight of the Yugong Yishan Livehouse, you may think you’ve entered the wrong place. But in the yard of the solemn Duan Qirui Former Government Building is the Yugong Yishan Livehouse, one of the most famous venues in Beijing. Here you can enjoy the performances of celebrities as well as the future stars of the music industry.

Yugong Yishan China, Beijing, Dongcheng, +86 10 6404 2711

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Watch a game at the Workers’ Stadium

Every time there’s a match in which Beijing’s Guoan football team are playing, a sea of green jerseys will be visible on the street in front of the Workers’ Stadium, stretching from Sanlitun to Dongsishitiao. It’s fun to watch the game with Beijing locals, with their cheers and swears surrounding you like a hi-fi stereo amplifier, though it may not be so pleasant an experience if you are a supporter of the opposing team.

Guoan supporters
Guoan supporters | © Jiongsiji / Flickr

A beer at Jing-A Tap Room

Bar, Chinese
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A beer at Jing-A Tap Room

It can be frustrating when you come all the way to Beijing, only to find the same beers sold in Tesco and Walmart, for six times the price they are at home. So try the locally brewed craft beer at the Jing-A Tap Room instead. Besides, it is located at the 1949 Hidden City, a perfect distance from the bustling Sanlitun bar streets.

4 Workers’ Stadium N Rd, Beijing Shi, China, 100001, +86 10 6501 8883

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A traditional mutton hotpot at Jubaoyuan

Restaurant, Chinese
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A traditional mutton hotpot at Jubaoyuan

It’s an absolute must to try the traditional Beijing copper hotpot if you are in the city. As the most time-honored hotpot restaurant, Jubaoyuan is famous for its handmade mutton slice and sesame seed bun. It comes highly recommended that you book in advance, as there’s always a long queue during their dining hours.

5 Niujie St, Xicheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100053, +86 10 8354 5602


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