Everyone knows Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China and the seat of the famous Forbidden City. This fast changing metropolis, which combines old and new is also the political, educational and cultural centre of the country. It is rich in historical sites as well as significant government and cultural institutions. A trip to this historic city wouldn’t be complete without walking through Tiananmen Square, a climb up the Temple of Heaven or a trek along the Great Wall of China.
But like any other historic city, Beijing is chock-full of hidden alleys full of character, underrated parks and quaint cafes. And if you are adventurous enough to venture out of the city, you might also find yourself standing in the middle of a classic Chinese village.
Here are a couple of Beijing attractions you won’t find written down on your regular travel brochure:
Tianqiao Le Cha Yuan Theatre
If you are a lover of the arts, stepping into the Tianqiao Le Cha Yuan Theatre is like stepping back in time. You will find yourself riveted to your seat as you soak up a cultural experience rich in acrobatic performances. You’re lucky if you chance upon a show with English subtitles, but if not, then brace yourself for a truly Chinese show dripping with that old Beijing variety charm.
Renmin University’s English Corner
What better way to connect with the locals than spending a whole day conversing with them? Held every Friday, the University’s English Corner offers a unique way for English-speaking foreigners to meet new friends while simply conversing with them using the English language. Students, as well as workers come in droves and if you’re up to it, be ready to spend a few hours talking about something you are passionate about and earn yourself a couple of new local friends.
White Pagoda Temple
The fact that this temple retains the majority of its original structure makes it the oldest temple in the city. It is said to have been designed by a Nepalese architect and built in a strict Tibetan style. A series of temples located right in front of the pagoda will give you a chance to see unique and stunning examples of Tibetan art and brass work.
Baoguosi Flea Market
Forget about the usual souvenir shops selling the usual souvenir wares. If you are on the look out for something unique to take home, head over to the North End of Guangan Dajie in the Xuanwu District where this flea market is open daily, attracting locals selling a unique and interesting mix of antiques and old toys, books and a whole lot of cultural revolutionary relics.
Located along Longfu Temple Street in the Dongcheng District, Fengnian boasts being one of the places that still serves traditionally prepared guanchang, a savoury snack of steamed sweet potato drizzled with garlic juice. They have been serving it the same way for the past 60 years, making them one of the oldest restaurants in the city.
Hidden away from Mentougou’s bustling tourist centre, Yubai is your quintessential Chinese village. The place is surrounded by mountain vistas with a nearby lake to boot. Aside from the usual trekking activities, you can also go fishing in the reservoir. Spend a night at one of the local family guesthouses to complete that authentic Chinese village experience.