As an increasingly cosmopolitan city, Beijing is a real treat for foodies. From the highest end of fine dining down to the dirtiest vendor selling delicious baked yams from a cart on the street, there is no shortage of eating options in the capital city. Traditional Beijing-style food is known to be rather salty. But like anyone else, Beijingers like to mix it up a bit, and the city responds with a vast array of restaurants showcasing not only international cuisine but regional delicacies from throughout China as well.
And the best part of it is the price! In Beijing, for the money you'd normally spend on a dinner at Applebee's you can eat like you're at Nobu. But the real fun comes with the opposite: finding an obscure hole-in-the-wall and treating yourself to obscene amounts of goodness for a few dollars a person. (While undoubtedly worth experiencing, many of the best local joints offer no English menus. Don't forget -- there's no shame in pointing to the happiest looking guy in the dining room and gesturing that you'd like what he's having.)
What follows is merely a taste of the countless culinary choices at your fingertips in Beijing:
Another name for Beijing is Peking, and another name for delicious is Peking duck. And indeed, when in the capital city it would behoove you to sit down for a full course menu of the city's namesake dish. Quanjude and Da Dong are two popular chains. Bianyifang is another old and reputable roast duck establishment with various locations. Duck de Chine is a comparative newcomer (Bianyifang has been in business since 1416!) but very modern and also worth patronizing. Reservations are essential at Duck de Chine and recommended elsewhere.
Each of China's 22 provinces has an official government office in the capital city, and adjacent to many of these offices are eateries representing the provincial cuisine. For an authentic taste of peppery Sichuan-style cooking, head to the Sichuan Provincial Government Office. The restaurant itself doesn't have an official name, but most locals know it as Chuan Ban. Another good Sichuan choice is Meizhou Dongpo, a chain that operates several restaurants throughout the city.
Dumplings, or jiaozi,come in countless varieties. Receiving consistently strong reviews for their colorful, innovative take on dumplings, Baoyuan Jiaozi Wu is a scrumptious delight that's very kind to the pocketbook. Soup dumplings (xiaolongbao) are more of a speciality of Shanghai to the south, but for classic southern taste all the way up in Beijing, check out Din Tai Fung, which was recently voted "Outstanding Chinese Restaurant of the Year" by reputable expat magazine The Beijinger.
At some point on your tour of Beijing, you'll inevitably wind up in the bustling embassy district of Sanlitun. Here you'll see not only plenty of foreigners, but also just as many bars and restaurants catering to the masses with every sort of international flavor you can imagine. Dining options in Sanlitun are are too plentiful to list, but if you're longing for a juicy steak or a cheeseburger so big you'll need two hands to eat it, then head to Flamme. They offer great deals every day of the week, but the lunch specials are when Flamme really gets hot.
A great way to end the day is to take in the setting sun and the spectacle of city lights that come with the night from Atmosphere, the bar on the top floor of the Shangri-La Hotel located atop the China World Trade Center. It's the tallest building (and bar) in Beijing. There's a full drink menu, as well as light meals and desserts.
You don't have to stay at a five-star hotel to enjoy the decadent comforts that lie within. Many of the city's finer properties offer all-you-can-eat-AND-drink brunches on Sundays. You'll surely gain a few pounds before you leave, but what a treat to have lobster and fois gras and Champagne brought to you on demand from waiters darting beneath countless crystal chandeliers. Good Sunday brunches can be found at the Westin Chaoyang, the Hilton Wangfujing, the Kempinski and Capital M (this one is not all-you-can-drink).
And for an taste of the bizarre, head to the Donghuamen Night Market at the north entrance of Wangfujing Street in the Dongcheng district. Here you can satisfy your late-night munchies with goodies like deep-fried scorpions, lizards or crickets. Or you can just order some spring rolls and watch everyone else eat bugs.
Editor's Note: IndependentTraveler.com is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, Inc., which also owns Viator.
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- See Beijing in a Sidecar
- Follow the Silk Road
- Have Tea for Two in Hangzhou
- Go for a Ride at the Great Wall
- Bike Xian's Ancient City Walls
- Have a Culinary Adventure
- See the World's Longest Graffiti Street
- Stay in a Tibetan Family's Home
- Explore Shanghai's Jewish History
China Lodging: Hotels and More
Getting Around China
Beijing Travel Guide
Hong Kong Travel Guide
Shanghai Travel Guide
Planning a Trip to China: First-Time Tips