This Beijing Travel Guide is packed full of tips for what to eat, drink, do, and where to stay, plus a lot more!
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 soybean paste, shredded cucumber, radish, and beef or tofu. These are also known as Beijing noodles because they are so local to this city, and today still is a bit of a hunt to find. You can enjoy this dish on our Beijing Hutong Evening Food Tour!
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.
A traditional Muslim dish, the doornail meat bun was first created for the same Qing dynasty empress that enjoyed the donkey roll. Legend has it that the chef who invented it was asked to come into court and asked about the dish. As he didn’t have a name for it, in a panic he just named it after the first thing he saw in the room. Now, the doornail 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 Imperial dish, and to find one you’ll have to join our Beijing Evening Tour to discover this special dish!
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 even tomatoes. View some of our other favorite winter treats here.
Each region in China has its own style of hot pot. Many visitors immediately imagine chili-filled Chengdu hot pot (which you can enjoy on our Chengdu Food Tour,) but in Beijing hotpot is different: 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.
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, and prepared in under 2 minutes. 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? You’ll get one made fresh to order on our Beijing Breakfast Food Tour!
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 are also 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!
Desserts and sweets are rare in China outside of festivals or holidays, but there are a few popular items to find in the streets of Beijing. Drawing its roots from the Muslim minorities, this fried cream puff is made of sugar, eggs, 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.
Only a true Beijinger can truly appreciate this drink. It’s probably the most extreme version of an acquired taste. With its intensely sour taste and stubborn pungency that lingers impossibly, the fermented soybean drink may drive away most people. Its aroma has been compared to stinky cheeses and every imaginable body odor. However, many locals treasure this drink for its nutritious qualities, containing protein, fiber, vitamin C, and aiding in digestion, thus treat it as a breakfast staple paired with fried dough to dunk inside. If this isn’t for you, then check out our list of Beijing’s Best Cafes instead.
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 recommendations for best Peking ducks in Beijing! Click Here for more info.
Just by hearing its name, you’ll know the Beijing Pie specializes in pies, and specifically, meat pies! What makes their meat pie different that the other restaurants’ is that they are extremely juicy and flavorful, but unlike the rest, they are not greasy at all. Munch on a super fragrant beef meat pie here to get your meat fix! Click Here for more info.
A huge selection of dumplings with some awesome vegetarian options. Man Jie Dumpling is a clean and modern restaurant on the main thoroughfare near Dongsishitiao station, and although the waitstaff don’t speak English, the menu has good and well-translated English on it. All dumplings can be made with vegetable broth dough for an additional 1 RMB per 50 grams of dumplings. FYI – Orders of dumplings cannot come in less than 10! Click Here for more info.
Don’t miss our food tours while you are in Beijing! Many of our guests told us that our tours were the highlights of the trip. Other than our classic breakfast food tour and evening food tour, we also offer Flavors of China Beijing Restaurant Tour where we take you to 4 restaurants in Beijing representing amazing regional cuisines. If you do not have time to travel across China, this tour will be perfect for you! If you are a beer lover, don’t miss our Craft Brewery Tour. Try over 10 local craft beers, born and brewed in Beijing, all in one night! Find more information about our Beijing Food Tours.
China’s number one miraculous wonder is definitely not to be missed! There are many sessions of the Great Wall, each showing a different side of Beijing’s landscape. Badaling Great Wall is the most visited part of the wall and the most touristy part. This portion of the wall running through the site was built in 1504 during the Ming Dynasty, along with a military outpost reflecting the location’s strategic importance. Mutianyu Great Wall is older than Badaling, also built in the Ming Dynasty, it is one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall. Other worth-visiting sessions also include Jinshanling, Jiankou, Simatai, Huanghuangcheng, etc. Find out how to visit the Great Wall here.
In 1213, Genghis Khan and his Mongolian army besieged Beijing and burned it to the ground. 50 years later, his grandson Kublai Khan rebuilt this city to be centered around today’s Drum Tower. Unlike other imperial Chinese cities that organize neighborhoods by social class, Kublai’s new city was to be organized around hutongs, the Mongolian word for water wells.
Hutongs are to be found in the inner city of Beijing, well-known parts include hutongs near Lama Temple (Guozijian, Wudaoying, etc), South Luogu Alley & North Luogu Alley, hutongs around Drum & Bell Tower, etc. Learn more history and cultural facts on our Instagrammable Beijing Hutong Photo Walk.
Chinese cuisines are full of diversity thanks to the vast region. Food in the north and the south can be very different. In the north, the signature dish is no doubt- dumplings or jaiozi. Shaped like ingots, filled usually with port & onions or leek & eggs, dumplings are traditionally served in Chinese New Year’s Eve, but now people cook and eat them all the time as a daily dish. Many restaurants also serve dumplings among many others as a type of staple food. Take a dumpling cooking class with The Hutong to see if you can master this skill!
Houhai Lake “Back Lake” is located in the Xicheng district in central Beijing. It is the largest of the three lakes, along with Qianhai “Front Lake” and Xihai “Western Lake”, that comprise Shichahai.
Houhai Park is beautiful in all seasons and always nice to go to. In the summer, you can rent a small boat to explore the lake. Simply buy a ticket at the boat ticket office near the lake and start the journey! Ice skating is the outdoor activity that you should not miss in Beijing’s winter. For less than 100 RMB, you can rent everything on the spot, such as ice skates, ice bikes, and mini rickshaws, etc.
Jingshan Park is well known as an Imperial park covering 23 hectares immediately north of the Forbidden City.
The man-made hill in Jingshan Park was once the highest point in the city. It is relaxing just to walk around, but the highlight is the temple on top of the hill, the Pavilion of the Eternal Spring (Wanchunting), which offers great panoramic views of Beijing and the Forbidden City, it also is a great spot to watch the Sunset.
You can then hop back down and walk in the park, where you can watch groups of elderly Chinese people dancing, singing operatic arias, or playing music and tai chi.
The origins of the Summer Palace date back to the Jin dynasty in 1153, it was regarded as an imperial garden in Qing Dynasty.
After being looted by the French and British during the second Opium War in 1860, the palace was restored by Empress Dowager Cixi between 1884–95, in celebration of her 60th birthday. The Summer Palace was also given its present-day Chinese name Yiheyuan (颐和园) in 1888.
Pick a nice day and come to explore the palace! Climb up the Longevity Hill if you are a hiking lover, or take a nice stroll along the Kunming lakeside. The old Summer Palace, Yuanming Yuan, is also a breath-taking place to visit if you have a bit more time.
Built in 2008 for the Beijing Olympics, the Olympic Forest Park is very easy to reach by subway line 8. It is a lovely place to go for a run surrounded by trees and blossoms. You will find people exercising here almost every day and at any time.
After a nice run, keep walking north and you will meet the Olympic Green where the “Birds Nest” and “Water Cube” sit. Take a refreshing walk here while observing the local life as many locals who live nearby come here often to play spinning tops, roller skating, etc, of course, it is also a beloved tourist spot. The best way to avoid tourist crowds is to come here very early morning or late at night. You don’t need to worry about the closing time as the open park does not close. Views here are even more fascinating after all the lights are turned on!
The Forbidden City (故宫 ) is the must-visit palace complex in Beijing. It houses the Palace Museum and was the former Chinese Imperial palace and state residence of the Emperor of China from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty. The Forbidden City served as the home of Chinese emperors and their households and was the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government for almost 500 years.
The Forbidden City remains important in the civic scheme of Beijing. The central north-south axis remains the central axis of Beijing.
It is worth taking a day here to explore the Forbidden City more thoroughly. Many locals come here in every season just to capture all sides of its magnificent beauty!
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. The Orchid is a hutong hidden-gem that combines traditional experiences with modern comforts.
When you first step into The Opposite House, you could mistake 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.
PuXuan has a reputation for being a hotel that never disappoints. Within walking distance to the Forbidden City and the busy streets of Wangfujing, the PuXuan not only offers a luxurious place to stay with fantastic dining options and perhaps the best service in Beijing. Steps away from restaurants, museums, and theatres, the PuXuan consistently delivers in every category.
Currently there are 22 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. Many DiDi drivers also have speech-translating apps, which is convenient if your Chinese is rusty or nonexistent.
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.
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!
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. Feel free to contact us at any time.
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.
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!
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.
Rated a top 10 foodie experience in the World.
Try cuisine from four of China’s regions.
Explore a traditional hutong neighborhood.
Try over 10 local craft beers brewed in Beijing.
$79 USD per person
$85 USD per person
$49 USD per person
$89 USD per person
Daily at 6pm for 3.5 hrs
M/W/Sa at 6pm for 3.5 hrs
Tu/W/F/Sa/Su at 9am for 3 hrs
Tu/Th/Sat at 6pm, for 3.5 hrs
Includes all food & beer
Includes all food & drinks/alcohol
Includes all food & drinks
Includes all beer and snacks
Fully serviced by Lost Plate tuktuks
Fully serviced by climate-controlled van
Approx. 1.5 km walking
Fully serviced by climate-controlled van
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Paused due to Covid-19.
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