Beijing is, so far, my favorite city in China. I never thought I’d feel this way about any city in China, but I really don’t think I’ll get tired of visiting it. One moment the streets are bland and gray and in the next turn, you find yourself in a charming hutong alley crammed with little shops of trinkets and tea and Tibetan jewelry. I guess first impressions do last sometimes. I know I return to Beijing with biased eyes, wearing rose-colored glasses that were tinted by my awesome first visit to the city in 2009.
It was a two-week vacation with my friend, Knox, and we did our best to live like the locals did — locals who had no work, that is. We found the people so nice and warm, willing to help lost tourist girls on their way to both touristy and feeling-like-locals spots. It was an awesome awesome time with so many moments finding its way to my thankful list.
On this return trip, I had work to do but it was really nice to go with someone who is visiting the city for the first time. I was quite determined that she’d fall in love with the city as much as I did.
And so, apart from visiting the must-see sights in Beijing, here are my top 5 things to do while in Beijing:
1. Walk down Nanluoguxiang. It’s an old lane renowned for its long history, culture, specialty stores, and distinctive foods. It is 768 meters (2,519 feet) long and 8 meters (26 feet) wide.
2. Spend a late afternoon to dinner at Houhai Lake. It’s a nice place to just chill and hang out with friends.
3. Check out the modern art scene at 798 Art Zone.
4. Haggle your way to great finds at Panjiayuan Market, also known as the Dirt Market.
5. Eat the weirdest things at night along Wangfujing Street.
Finally, while in Beijing, it’s awesome to plan to take the overnight train to Xi’an and see the terra cotta warriors.