The best city has offered—contemporary galleries, restaurants, pagoda-studded parks, sunset vantage points amid ancient vermilion walls—in a one-day wander through Old Beijing.
Begin at C&C (Culture & Creative) Park (77 Meishuguan Hou Jie), a former printing factory that has been transformed into an enclave of galleries and creative studios. Fuel up with a latte from Meridian Space, a warehouse-like performance venue and café; then check out the epic private showroom of Ma Ke, the fashion designer who makes pieces for China’s first lady (by appointment only; 86-10-5753-8089).
Continue on to Old Beijing’s Sino-French university. The stunning, century-old campus is now home to Yishu 8, a private gallery that cultivates Chinese-European artistic exchange through residencies and exhibitions of sculpture, photography, and painting.
TRB Bite (menus from $43) is the newer, laid-back sibling of the capital’s top finedining destination, Temple Restaurant Beijing (menus from $60). The set menu features a selection of savory and sweet dishes such as mangococonut rice and octopus with red pepper, chorizo, and potato. Best of all, the restaurant sits right by the moat of the Forbidden City, overlooking its scarlet walls.
Walk off lunch with a stroll through the Forbidden City. Some areas were recently opened to the public for the first time, and a marked route takes you through exhibition halls showcasing imperial treasures and parts of the perimeter walls.
Exit the Forbidden City at its northern end and continue through the front gate of the 57-acre Jingshan Park. Climb the hill for a lovely 360-degree view of Beijing, and wait for the show at sunset, when the light catches the yellow-tiled rooftops of the Forbidden City. A less strenuous (but equally memorable) option: enjoy a well-earned gin and tonic on the terrace of Capital M, which faces Tiananmen Square.