FOOD IN BEIJING
Almost every kind of food found in China — including fiery Hunan and Sichuan dishes, Mongolian hot pot, Uighar Muslim dishes, Cantonese wild animal dishes and delicacies from Tibet, Yunnan and Zhejiang Prefecture — can be found in Beijing. One of the biggest problems with Beijing is that are there are so many restaurants it is difficult to find the good ones and when you do find one it is difficult to figure out how to get there. Most people end up eating at restaurants near their hotel
Noodle stalls, steam dumpling shops and local Chinese-style restaurants are everywhere. They best way to choose a good one is find one with a lot of customers. Restaurants that specialize in Peking Duck are also fairly common and they range from hole-in-the-wall places with ducks hanging in the window to fancy places with Mercedes, BMWs and Bentleys park outside,
On one trendy restaurant in the early 2000s, Nancy Trejos wrote in the Washington Post: “For dinner another night, we hit the elegant new Sichuan restaurant Transit in Sanlitun North. A few friends had told me not to expect to eat well in Beijing. I suspect they’d been to Beijing a decade ago, before the city’s culinary scene exploded with new restaurants and world-class chefs. Transit’s modern Sichuan menu included a spicy prawn dish with chocolate sauce, which worked surprisingly well. The service was impeccable, and I loved the soothing decor with its plush banquettes, gray-cushioned chairs and bonsai trees. [Source:Nancy Trejos, Washington Post, October 7, 2011]
Alan Richman wrote in Conde Nast Traveler: “China, because of its size and history, boasts innumerable regional cuisines. Beijing, being the capital, has something from everywhere. That makes it difficult to know which food best represents the city. Still, there are specialties, chief among them the legendary Peking duck, which is the fat-free skin and meat wrapped in a crêpe.There is also home-style cooking typical of the region. [Source: Alan Richman, Conde Nast Traveler, December 2005]
Restaurants in Beijing
Street dumplings The first private restaurants in Beijing opened in 1980. Now there are over 20,000 dining establishments, including cheap sidewalk joints with benches for seats and fancy places with internationally-known chefs. Restaurants in Beijing generally fall into six categories: noodles stalls, steamed dumpling shops, local Chinese-style restaurants, fancy Chinese-style restaurants, fast food places and restaurants that serve international cuisine such as Italian, French, Russian and Indian food.
Bianyifang Roast Duck Restaurant
Location: 3F, the second-phase project of Chong-wenmen New World Plaza, Beijing
Location: 5/F Beijing APM Plaza, Wangfujing St., Beijing
Location: In the East Gate of Beihai Park, Jingshan W. St., Beijing
Location: 83 Zhushikou W. St., Beijing
Gongdelin Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: 2 Qianmen E. St., Beijing
Jing Fun Café
Location: No. 1 Ground Floor Store, Bishuiyun Build-ing, Wanliu Mid Rd., Beijing
Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant
Location: 32 Qianmen St., Beijing
Location: 6 Wengxing Rd., Beijing
Restaurant Areas in Beijing
The Qiamen area is a good places to sample food from cheap food stalls and restaurants. Sanlitun, a 1¼-mile, festively-lit boulevard, is as famous for its 100 or so restaurants that showcase food from all over China as its is for its bars and nightclubs.There are large food courts in the major shopping malls. The night markets are good places to sample street food (See Below). “Sifangcai” (literally “private home cuisine”) restaurants have become popular in recent years. Some have only one table. Others have a dozen tables, capable of accommodating 50 people, set up in a courtyard.
Many of the best restaurants are located in the large hotels. American-style fast food restaurants found in Beijing include 50 or so McDonald's, as well as Pizza Huts, Dairy Queens, Shakey's Pizza, Carl's Jr., and Chinese-style fast food restaurants. There used to be a Starbucks inside the Forbidden City.
Lists of restaurants and guides are sometimes available from the tourist office, major hotels, bookstores and newsstands. Also check lists of restaurants in Beijing websites, the Lonely Planet books, and other guidebooks. Also check out the shopping areas listed below. Web Sites: Travel China Guide ; Beijing Travel Tips .
Night Markets Night Markets have a wide variety of dumplings and other street foods. Donganmen, the Night Market on Xiaocho Jie, an alley off Wangfujing Street behind the Beijing Hotel, is the most obvious place to enjoy street food. The market is open from around 4:30pm to about 10:30pm. Most of the vendors work out of identical carts topped by red-and-white-stripped awnings. Among the goodies are dumplings, noodles, Chinese-style crepes, wontons, fruits, skewered meats, Muslim dishes, candied apples covered sesame seeds, quail eggs, marinated octopus, and barbecued crawfish as well as weird food such as skewered locusts, scorpions, silkworms, seahorses, snakes and frog on a stick.
Wangfujing Food Market features things like skewered scorpions, snakes, sea horses, silkworms and dragonflies. Visitors can chew boiled testicles, taste skewered centipedes and swallow golf ball-sized pupa. According to the Global Times: “Most agree the scorpions taste like a mouthful of toothpicks, seahorses like fishy sponges and snakes like, well, what you'd expect snakes to taste like. But the trip still provides a great taste of culinary exoticism.”
Formerly Largest McDonald's in the World (Subway Line 1 Wangfujing station, on the corner of Wangfujing shopping street) was the largest McDonald's in the world after it opened in 23, 1992, in Beijing. It has 700 seats, 29 cash registers, and served over 40,000 on its opening. In the mid 2000s, the Chinese government was trying to break its 20-year lease with the restaurant company so that it can build a new high rise development and the restaurant is currently surrounded by torn down buildings and construction fences. As of 2004, there were over 50 McDonald’s in Beijing.
Peking Cuisine is famous for its freshness, tenderness, mild seasoning and use of many ingredients. Typical dishes include celestial beef, noodles, steamed dumplings, various kinds of steamed buns and baked bean curd. Peking duck is one of the best known Chinese dishes. The duck is marinated many hours, skin-roasted in a special oven, carved up into pieces that are rolled up in paper-thin pancakes with spring onions or leeks and hoisin sauce or plum sauce. Sometimes the meat is wrapped in doughy sesame buns rather than pancakes. The meat is very rich.
Beijing duck Peking duck was reportedly invented 1,200 years ago in the Tang capital of Chang'an when two nobleman put live ducks in an iron cage that was placed over a charcoal fire. As the temperature rose the thirsty ducks drank from a bowl, accidently placed before them, filled with a mixture of vinegar, salt, honey, malt and ginger, and kept drinking the mixture until they died. The noblemen ate the ducks and were delighted with the taste. The flavor of the meat was delicious because the duck had been poached their own sweat and the ingredients in the mixture. The ducks used to make Peking Duck are 35 days old and have been fattened for the last 10 days when they are slaughtered. Properly prepared Peking duck is roasted in an apricot-wood-fired oven for one hour and 15 minutes and cut up with a giant clever at the diner's table. Diners are first presented with a plate of crispy skin and meat then a platter of moist duck meat. Sometimes the pancakes arrive in a bamboo steamer. Usually they arrive piled on a plate. Diners place some meat on the pancake along with hoisin sauce, salt and scallions or cucumbers and roll it up and pop it in their mouths.
Other popular duck dishes include wind duck, made by air curing ducks outside in the winter for several months; juicy pepper-and-salt roast duck; duck and chestnut soup; and duck wings in sweet and sour barbecue sauce.
Houhai Lake Bar and Restaurant Scene
Nancy Trejos wrote in the Washington Post: “Perhaps nowhere was that more apparent than in the capital’s Houhai lake district, where many traditional hutongs still remain. Lots of Chinese complain that too many foreigners have opened up restaurants, bars and shops in the hutongs. But Houhai’s residents have managed to embrace modernity while holding on to parts of their past. As fascinating as I found the new, sleek Sanlitun area, I was happy to explore a part of Beijing that still retained elements of the old China. [Source: Nancy Trejos, Washington Post, October 7, 2011]
“One night, a group of us, expats and tourists, strolled through the district’s narrow cobblestone passageways, some lined with small restaurants with Chinese-only menus, where locals dined on food I didn’t recognize. Just a few blocks away, we walked past restaurants advertising American and other non-Chinese fare. Shops sold antique tea sets alongside contemporary clothing.
“We visited a siheyuan, a traditional Beijing-style dwelling consisting of four structures surrounding a courtyard. In the past, these belonged to working- or middle-class Chinese families. Now, Chinese live in these homes alongside foreigners and wealthy locals.
“After sipping Italian wine in the courtyard of one siheyuan, we stopped by a food stand for stinky tofu, which was a bit too stinky for my taste buds. Then we crossed the bridge over the lake to satisfy a craving for Peking Duck, passing by many restaurants with outdoor seating that overlooked the water to settle on the tucked-away Quan Ju De, which had no outdoor seating and lacked the ambiance of the other restaurants. But the duck, steamed broccoli and bok choy made up for that. Most of the diners were locals speaking Chinese. Not even the waiter spoke English.
Dao Jia Chang
Dao Jia Chang (in Dongsishitiao) is popular for its home-style cooking. According to expatsinchina.com: “Atmosphere comes first at Dao Jia Chang (Come and Taste Home) at the Dongsishitiao. Service comes at top volume, and not just because the restaurant is heaving with loud customers. A spin-off from Dao Jia Chang in the northern Beijing's Xibahe, the restaurant is beautifully done out in olde worlde fashion, with the clean lines and simple decoration characteristic of Chinese design before it all went horribly wrong at the fag-end of the Qing dynasty.
Alan Richman wrote in Conde Nast Traveler: “Chinese food expert and novelist Nicole Mones, had instructed me to go to Dao Jia Chang. My Chinese family and I drove there very slowly, because Beijing has persistent traffic jams despite its wide boulevards and interior expressways. Enormous buildings of no consequence loom over every street. Were I searching for the missing link between the totalitarian systems of fascism and communism, I would look no further than the architecture of Beijing. I can't believe China wasn't once ruled by Benito Mussolini. [Source: Alan Richman, Conde Nast, Traveler, December 2005]
“Dao Jia Chang is homey and wonderful, despite its modern design. It's also clamorous, the noise level enhanced by a pair of screeching caged birds. The waiters prevail by screaming. The ambience is intensified by fat guys eating with their shirts pulled up under their armpits, laying bellies bare. (Later I asked a Chinese woman about this, expecting an explanation of restaurant comportment, and she misunderstood my point. She said, "In China, when a man is married and becomes thirty, he gets a belly. It's from beer, I think. The other reason is that the wife is very, very good and takes care of things and men do not work at home."
“The staff are patient, but the menu is not in English and nobody speaks English. Having an accompanying Chinese family is a good idea. They ordered soft, well-cooked duck in brown gravy that would not have been out of place in a French country restaurant. The sliced lamb with leeks also seemed absolutely familiar, except that the lamb here was intensely flavorful. But the one dish not to be missed consisted of slivers of pork and julienned leeks accompanied by paper-thin tofu wrappers. My family's favorite dish was mashed, fermented mung beans with lamb oil?literally food that Grandmother used to make. To me it lingered at the edge of the murky world of too-pungent ethnic cuisine.
Qianmen Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant
Quanjude is a Chinese restaurant known for its Peking roast duck that has been in operation since 1864. It is now chain that sells over 2 million roast ducks served in 400 different styles to over 5 million customers annually. After a merger in 2004 with Beijing New Yansha Group, Quanjude is now a part of the Beijing Tourism Group. There are 50 affiliates across China. The original location operates in Qianmen with seven other branches in other locations in Beijing. There is a seven-story restaurant on Hepingmen Ave., a location hand-picked by former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. Serving up to 5,000 meals a day, this restaurant covers a floor area of 15,000 square meters with over forty private dining rooms and can simultaneously seat 2,000 guests[Source: Wikipedia]
Alan Richman wrote in Conde Nast Traveler: ““Of course we went out for Peking duck. I insisted. Not only that, but I picked the most famous, fabulous, and touristy of establishments, Qianmen Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant. It bills itself as "number one restaurant under heaven for one hundred years." It's not far from Tiananmen Square, and the street fronting the place is a bazaar (or a nightmare) of hawkers, kids, beggars, and grifters. The restaurant is stuffed with celebrity photos of delighted diners, including Fidel Castro and Yanni, and has an electric sign touting the number of ducks sold, now well past 11 million. For sale in the gift shop is a cup that changes color when hot water is added. [Source: Alan Richman, Conde Nast, Traveler, December 2005]
“As for the duck, the skin was the best I've ever eaten, and I've eaten a lot. It was everything Peking duck should be greaseless, savory, and crisp, with a depth and complexity of flavor I'd last experienced in a 1953 Château Margaux. After the duck came a little cup of duck soup?a thin, milky, salty, flavorless hot broth. There are various duck oddities on the menu, including a tongue and maidenhair combo plate, but I can't believe that even that could taste worse than the soup.
Fangshan Restaurant (inside Behai Park) is Beijing’s oldest imperial restaurant, featuring favorite dishes of the Dowager Empress Cix and waitresses dressed like Manchurian courtesans among opulent, historical decor. The 14-course "Emperor's Dinner" is their main claim to fame.
Alan Richman wrote in Conde Nast Traveler: “Believing I should try imperial-style cuisine, another specialty of the city, I arranged to meet my family at the famous Fangshan, located in Beihai Park, which covers about 170 acres. I only point out the measurements because when I made a reservation at Fangshan, nobody told me where in the park it was. I kept walking and walking?around vast lakes, up stone steps, past ancient buildings?and every time I'd ask somebody to point the way to Fangshan, I'd be sent in a different direction. Lest you think I resented this, I should mention that walking through that park was my favorite 40 minutes in Beijing, and for once in my life I was able to honestly tell my wife that I got exercise. [Source: Alan Richman, Conde Nast, Traveler, December 2005]
“The imperial structures, most of them badly maintained, seemed to capture ancient China marvelously, as did the breathtaking exterior of Fangshan, once I located it. Inside, the restaurant is a bad joke, cheesy glitter. The prices are high, the food simplistic, and the service nonexistent — we ordered a tasting menu of 12 dishes, which were literally piled up on the table, two layers deep. The individual plates each of us ate from were never replaced in the course of a long, tedious, sloppy, expensive, and unappealing meal. Only the sweets were tolerable. Fangshan has been open to the public since 1925. Its time is up.”
Tourist Information in Beijing
Beijing boasts more than 200 tourist attractions, including the Forbidden City (Palace Museum), the largest imperial palace in the world, The Temple of Heaven where the emperors used to pay homage to Heaven, the Summer Palace, an imperial garden, the Great Wall at Badaling, Mutianyu and Simatai.Prince Gong’s Residence is the largest quadrangle in the world. The metropolis contains 7,309 historical sites, of which 42 are under state protection, and 222 under city protection.Zun China in Beijing is the 10th tallest building in the world (as of 2020). It is 528 meters (1,732 feet) tall. It has 108 floors. [Source: CNTO, Wikipedia]
There are 20 or so Beijing Tourist Information Centers in Beijing. They are open 7 days a week, 8 hours a day. Some operate year round; others are seasonal.Although their primary duty is to sell tours they sometimes also offers travel information and can book train and plane tickets for a small fee. They generally have some maps and brochures about destinations and attractions.
T3 Beijing Capital Airport
Location: Inside T3 of Beijing Capital Airport
T1 Beijing Capital Airport
Location: Inside T1 of Beijing Capital Airport
T2 Beijing Capital Airport
Location: inside T2 of Beijing Capital Airport
Beijing Railway Station
Location: 16 Laoqianju Hutong, Dongcheng District
Beijing West Railway Station
Location: Northen Exit 2, the north square of Beijing West Railway Station
Nearest Subway Station: Wangfujing Station
Location: Ling2, 269 Wangfujing Street Wangfujing Roast Duck Restaurant
Location: 9 Shuaifuyuan Wangfujing Street, Dongcheng District Beihai Park
Location: West Gate of Beihai Park, 1 Wenjin Street 1 Jinshan Park
Location: Inside Jingshan Park, 44 Jingshan West Street, Xicheng District Houhai Area (Shichahai)
Location: 17 Gulou Xidajie, Xicheng District
Prince Gong Mansion
Location: Inside Prince Gong Mansion, 17 Qianhai West Street, Xicheng District
Beijing Zoo (Panda House)
Location: Beijing Zoo, 137 Xizhimen Beiwaidajie
Beijing Olympic Sites
Tel: 84370526, 84370660, 84370468
Location: Inside the Olympic Site Qianmen Dashilan
Location: Inside Neiliansheg Shoes Store, 34 Dashilan, Xicheng District
Changfu Gong Center Hotel
Location: 26 Jianguomenwai, Changyang District
Beijing curio city
Location: 21 Sanhuan South Road, Changyao District
Yansha Outlets Shopping Center
Location: Yuanda Lu 1, Haidian District 1
Ming Dynasty City Wall Relics
Location: Inside Ming Dynasty Wall Relics Qianmen Area
Location: East side of Zhengyang Gate
Location: South gate of Yuanmingyuan Laoshe Teahouse
Location: Building 3, Zhengyang Market, Qianmen Xidajie, Xicheng District 3
Location: Inside Hongbaotang, Liulichang Xijie, Xicheng District
Hepingmen Roast Duck Restaurant
Location: Xidajie 14, Xichang District
Location: Dangdai Shopping Plaza, Haidian District
Travel Agencies in Beijing
China Comfort Travel Service Co., Ltd
Location: 13 Nongzhanguan S. Rd., Beijing
China CYTS Tours Holding Co., Ltd
Location: 5 Dongzhimen S. St., Beijing
China International Travel Service Head Office
Location: CITS Building, 1 Dongdan N. St., Beijing
China Travel Service Head Office
Location: 2 Beisanhuan E. Rd., Beijing
Accommodation in Beijing
Beijing has quite a few nice hotels including the Beijing Hotel, Holiday Inn, Continental Grand Hotel, Great Wall Sheraton, Swissotel and Novotel. Often they have special deals with fairly reasonable room rates. Many hotels are in the downtown area near the second ring road and the subway loop line.The top hotel in Beijing according to Travel and Leisure in the Peninsula Beijing with the Grand Hyatt, China World Hotel, St. Regis Hotel and Shangri-La Hotel also receiving high rankings. Doubles in all these hotels begin at between $300 and $650 a night. The Raffles Hotel is another high end hotel.A total of 126 hotels with 29,000 rooms opened in 2008 around the time of the Olympics. Many missed the Olympic deadline and opened late in the year. Among these were a large number of luxury hotels, including one at the luxurious Morgan Plaza that has been given seven stars. The new 241-room Mandarin Oriental boasts restaurants with a bar suspended above them, a circular ballroom ringed by water and randomly staggered rooms that “hypnotically shift in and out of a heads-pinning 21-story atrium.”The 234-room Pangu Plaza hotel, which opened in December 2008, boasts views of the Bird’s Nest stadium and Water Cube swim center, suites that go for as much as $17,750 a night, Italian marble floors, silk walls and a sushi bar that cooks its rice in mineral water imported from Japan and offers lunch specials that start at $265.The Park Hyatt is the highest hotel in Beijing. Opened in December 2008, it occupies the upper floors of a new skyscraper and features 360 degree views from the 66th floor restaurant. In some places historic courtyard mansions have been turned into tony guesthouses The new Aman hotel is adjacent to the Summer Palace and occupies original imperial guesthouses.
Marriot opened eight hotels — including its second Ritz-Carleton and a JW Marriot — in the two years running up to the Olympics. Other new hotels include the 825-room Grand Hyatt Beijing; the St. Regis Hyatt; the Inter-Continental Beijing; Peninsular Beijing; and Raffles Beijing. Since the Olympics ended business has been so bad many are lucky to get 30 percent occupancy rates.There are also quite a few standard hotels and budget hotels. Many of these are outside the city center in southern Beijing around the Qiaoyuan Hotel and the Yongdingmen railway station. Many of the cheap hotels have traditionally been designated off limits foreigners but that may change now that China is a member of the WTO. Budget travelers also stay in hostels and university dormitories. There are several hostels near Sanlitun bar area and the Dazhalan shopping area.Try to make sure your hotel is located near a subway stop. The CITS tourist office and the hotel desk at the airport can sometimes help you find an expensive or moderately-priced hotel. The CITS has lists of deluxe, luxury and standard hotels. The Lonely Planet books have good lists of cheap accommodation options.
Beijing Capital Xindadu Hotel
Location: 21 Chegongzhuang St., Beijing
Location: 33 E. Chang’an Ave., Beijing
Beijing Landmark Towers
Location: 8 Dongsanhuan N. Rd., Beijing
China World Hotel
Location: 1 Jianguomenwai St., Beijing
Grand Hotel Beijing
Location: 35 E. Chang’an St., Beijing
Location: Dongfang Rd., Dongsanhuan N. Rd., Beijing
Huangshan International Hotel
Location: 31 Huashan Rd., Tunxi District, Huangshan
Location: 5 Jianguomenwai St., Beijing
Poly Plaza Hotel
Location: 14 Dongzhimen S. St., Beijing
Image Sources: 1) CNTO (China National Tourist Organization; 2) Nolls China Web site; 3) Perrochon photo site; 4) Beifan.com; 5) tourist and government offices linked with the place shown; 6) Mongabey.com; 7) University of Washington, Purdue University, Ohio State University; 8) UNESCO; 9) Wikipedia; 10) Julie Chao photo site.
Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), UNESCO, Rough Guide for Beijing, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in May 2020