Beijing Travel Guide for Foodies
FOOD & DRINK YOU MUST TRY IN BEIJING
Noodles in Soybean Paste
炸酱面 zhá jiàng miàn
While all types of Chinese noodles are loved in Beijing, these are the most local and you’ll only find them in the capital city. Zha Jiang Noodles are so much more than just regular noodles. Authentic shops will first roll them out by hand, then top the fresh noodles with homemade savory soy bean paste, shredded cucumber, radish, and beef or tofu.
驴打滚 lv dâ gûn
Don’t let the name fool you! This dish doesn’t have any donkey meat, although many locals would suggest you to try Beijing’s version of a Donkey Burger which, as the name suggests, does include the meat from a donkey. The Donkey Roll, however, is a dessert that was first created to serve a Qing Dynasty Empress in the imperial courts of China. The Donkey Roll is made up of beaten and sifted glutinous rice flour and stuffed with sweet red bean paste all rolled up in one chewy, sweet layered wrap.
Door Nail Meat Buns
门钉肉饼 mén dīng ròu bîng
A traditional Muslim dish, the door nail meat bun was first created for, you guessed it, the same Qing Dynasty Empress that enjoyed the Donkey Roll. The story goes that at the time when the chef was asked for the name of this exquisite dish by the Empress, he simply looked at the door nail in front of him and came up with this creative name. Now, the door nail meat bun comes in the shape of a round thick pancake stuffed with freshly ground meat, usually beef. There are only about a dozen places left in Beijing serving this dish, and to find one you’ll have to join our Beijing Evening Tour to discover this special dish!
Candied Hawthorn Fruit
糖葫芦 táng hú lu
Many snacks in Beijing are made from hawthorn, a lightly sweet but mostly sour fruit that can be easily preserved. A combination of sour hawthorns coated in syrupy sweet sugar, this treat is served on a stick and is not only a must try dessert but also symbolic of every local child’s winter memories. You’ll see these all over Beijing in the winter because the cold temperatures allow the sugar coated fruit to stay fresh without spoiling or melting. Nowadays, you’ll often find a selection of fruits in addition to Hawthorn like strawberries, oranges and tomatoes.
Beijing-Style Mutton Hot Pot
涮羊肉 shuàn yáng ròu
Each region in China has its own style of Hotpot. Many visitors immediately think about chili filled Chengdu Hoptpot (which you can enjoy on our Chengdu Food Tour), but in Beijing hotpot is ideally freshly sliced lamb in a bronze pot heated by coal. There’s even a special order of what to cook that locals live by: first goes the meat, then the vegetables, and finally the noodles. After each ingredient is cooked in the soup, it is dipped in a light sesame paste mixed with spring onions, garlic and cilantro.
Chinese (Savory) Crepes
煎饼 jiān bîng
Originally a snack only found during breakfast, you’ll now find Jian Bing carts all over the city at any time of day. In fact, we think it’s just as good for breakfast as it is an after dinner snack! Everything about Jian Bing has us drooling over them every day…savory, hearty, prepared in under 2 minutes, and cheap (always under $2). The Jian Bing starts with a thin layer of corn-flour batter topped with a cracked egg, soy paste, chili paste, green onions, cilantro, sesame seeds and spring onion. It is then folded around a fried savory cracker and served in a perfect little pouch ready to eat. The best part? This street food is prepared to order right in front of you!
北京烤鸭 bêi jīng kâo yā
For anyone who comes to Beijing, the first go-to food should be Peking Duck, one of the oldest and most well-known foods from Beijing. You’ll likely research some popular restaurants like Quanjude or Dadong, but of which are worth checking out. There also exists many smaller chains inside the hutongs of Beijing who have been roasting duck for generations in traditional ovens providing a rich combination of crispy and slightly burnt duck skin with juicy meat while preserving a thin layer of fat in between. Check out our favorite place to get Peking Duck in our Beijing Restaurant Guide below!
Chinese Cream Puffs
奶油炸糕 nâi yóu zhá gāo
Desserts and sweets are rare in China, but there are a few popular items to find in the streets of Beijing. Drawing its roots from the Muslim minorities, the fried cream puff is made of sugar, eggs, oil, and cream. Despite it being fried, the cream cake is a protein rich snack made from egg whites and a nice alternative to more traditional Chinese treats made with glutinous rice or sweetened bean paste.
Fermented Soybean Milk
豆汁儿 dòu zhī er
Only a true Beijinger can truly appreciate the this drink. With its intense sour taste and strong smell, the fermented soybean drink may drive away most people at first glance. However, many locals treasure this drink for its nutritious qualities, containing protein, fibre, vitamin C, and aiding in digestion, thus treat it as a breakfast staple paired with fried dough to dunk inside.
OUR FAVORITE RESTAURANTS IN BEIJING
Siji Minfu Roast Duck (四季民福烤鸭店)
This is our favorite place for Beijing’s famous roasted duck! With its exquisite quality, fair price, and large windows situated right across from the Forbidden City, the Siji Minfu Roasted Duck is a must go not only for food but also for a cultural experience. Stay tuned for the Lost Plate list of recommendation for best Peking ducks in Beijing! Click Here for more info.
Nice Rice (百米粒)
Just by hearing its name, Nice Rice may sound like the usual white collar urban Beijing city café, however when you walk inside, you will find an array of traditional Hunanese spicy dishes from pepper fried pork to dry pot cauliflower. In a place in like Beijing, where many complain about the food not being spicy enough, Nice Rice takes a turn by infusing all the flavors of the south into the food and topping it with the best rice in Beijing. Click Here for more info.
Da Xian Jiaozi Yuan Xin (大馅饺子圆鑫餐馆)
A huge selection of handmade dumplings await at this cheap and cheerful courtyard restaurant hidden in a Beijing hutong. If you can’t stop eating dumplings, this is a very local place to go. Apart from dumplings, Da Xian Jiaozi also offers a wide selection of side dishes, including many pickled vegetables and salads. At a dumpling shop like this, it will be guaranteed that you will not see any tourists around, and the air filled with old Chinese uncles and aunts with their strong Beijing accents. Click Here for more info.
THINGS YOU MUST DO IN BEIJING
Climb the Great Wall
Explore Quaint Hutong Alleyways
Take a Local Cooking Class
Traverse Through Houhai Lake By Boat or Ice Skate
Watch the Sunset from the Top of Jingshan Park
People Watch at the Old Drum Tower
Go for a Run at the Olympic Forest Park
Stroll Through the Forbidden City
WHERE TO STAY IN BEIJING
To see our full list of our favourite places to stay, check our Beijing Top Hotels Guide.
Hidden inside of the hutongs of Beijing, The Orchid offers a traditional style of hospitality in the heart of Beijing while ensuring the utmost comfort of the guests with their modern sun-bathed rooms homes upgrading the China experience of their guests. In conclusion, The Orchid is not only a hidden gem of the hutongs.
The Opposite House
When you first step into The Opposite House, you may have mistaken it for a MOMA-esque contemporary art museum situated in one of the newest and hottest areas of Beijing. Amidst the noisy and crowded bars of Sanlitun, The Opposite House offers a tranquil counterpart for its guests to not only appreciate its artistic construction but also all the services they have to offer.
Red Wall Garden
The Red Wall Garden has been long known as one of the traveler’s top choices for stay in Beijing. Within walking distance to the Forbidden City and the busy streets of Wangfujing, the Red Wall Garden Boutique Hotel not only offers a luxurious place to stay, but also private dining, bars and cultural experience centres for gusts to fully merge into the city and have the most comfortable stay.
GETTING AROUND BEIJING
Currently there are 19 subway lines connecting all parts of the city. The subway is the quickest, cheapest, and most commonly used ways to travel within Beijing. With its numerous exits, subway maps, and announcements in English, the Beijing subway is also the easiest to navigate!
Although the Beijing bus is not as commonly used by visitors as the subway, it is still one of the cheapest and most convenient ways to travel. With literally hundreds of bus routes going across the city at all times, there is always a route to take you to your destination.
Apart from public transportation, it is also easy to catch a taxi in all parts of town. Now with the app in English, anyone can call a cab or private driver online through the official Didi website or the app, just like Uber back home and available in English.
TIPS FOR BEIJING
Prep for your Food Tour
Plan for the basics: arrive hungry, dress for the weather, and don’t bring any large bags/purses to ensure a comfortable ride with less hassle. Read our full FAQ Page for more insider info and tips!
China Travel Tips
Our co-founder is a foreigner in China, and over the years he has learned a lot about what makes traveling in China different than anywhere else. To learn more about traveling in China, read our China Travel Guide written by our very own co-founder!
Questions? Ask Us!
All of our guides are locals from Beijing, which means we have a ton of insider information to share. We’re happy to help our customers with any questions you have, even if it’s not about food. Get started by taking a look at some of our Beijing Guide’s Recommendations, or feel free to contact us at any time.
LAY OF THE LAND
Although Beijing’s history is not quite as old as some other ancient cities, the capital is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Beijing has also experienced rapid growth and modernization within the past decade which means there are plenty of unique sights with modern skyscrapers side by side with traditional courtyard homes and alleys. Beijing has risen to become one of the most diverse cities in China with not only people coming from all over China, but also a growing expat population. With the extremely fast pace of the city and growing population, you will find yourself in an emerging metropolis.
Climate and Weather
Despite its notorious reputation for pollution, Beijing enjoys a year-round livable climate that is not too cold in the winter and not too hot in the summer. Although Beijing does not receive much regular precipitation, it can get blustery in the winter and see occasional thunderstorms during summer. During popular travel seasons in the spring and fall, it’s best to pack several layers as the temperatures can change quickly (even in one day!) and check the weather forecast before going out. Want to know more about what it’s like to live in Beijing? Make sure to join our Beijing Food Tour to learn about it from a local!
Traveling in Beijing
Although Beijing is officially one city with 16 different districts and an area over 16,000 sq km, it matches the size of a small nation in Europe. Thus, there is a lot to see in every single district and would be impossible to visit all destinations in a day. We suggest you plan at least 4-5 days in Beijing to make sure you can explore all of its alleyways, historical monuments, urban centers and natural scenery. Giving yourself plenty of time will give you the chance to learn from others you meet along the way (including us!) and ensure that you don’t get burnt out.