• Image about Beijing

China’s capital city has been undergoing massive redevelopment for the Olympics. Let these local luminaries guide you through their labyrinthine metropolis.

David G. Brooks
Vice president of Coca-Cola (China) Beverages Ltd. and general manager of the 2008 Olympic Project Group
“What I think takes you to the spirit of Beijing more than any place is to have an early-morning experience in one of the main parks, like Temple of Heaven or Ditan Park. Go [between] six and seven and see how Beijing citizens gather in the early morning light to dance, do exercises, and play badminton. There is an amazing spirit of community and an easy social exchange that is inspiring and all too rare in the world today.”

Meg Maggio
Owner and director of Pékin Fine Arts gallery
Caochangdi is a destination everyone should visit. It’s a creative industry neighborhood with many [international] art galleries, architect studios, a documentary-filmmaker’s studio, a contemporary-dance studio, and a very good homestyle-cooking Chinese restaurant called Big Copper Coin [Da Tong Qian]. For lack of a better comparison, I would compare Caochangdi Village to [New York’s] Chelsea or lower Bowery.”

Li Hu
Partner at Steven Holl Architects
“The Fragrant Hill Hotel was designed by the famed architect I.M. Pei in the late ’70s [and has] a Suzhou garden–inspired architectural [feel]. It is worth spending the night. Take a hike in Fragrant Hills in the early morning, a 500- meter climb with a beautiful view back to the city. At the North gate [is] the Biyun Temple [Temple of Azure Clouds], a beautiful hillside Buddhist temple built in AD 1331.”

Jim Ruderman
Vice president of communications, American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China
Le Lan is a Philippe Starck–designed restaurant that’s worth going to at least once, if only for the crazy decor. It’s very expensive by Beijing standards but actually has quite decent food, with a Chinese menu and a Western menu. Face Bar, a 10- to 15-minute cab ride away, is a comfortable international hangout with a bar, an outdoor patio, and separate Chinese, Thai, and Indian restaurants in a distinctive, very attractive setting.”

Luke Xiang
China business director of Twentieth Century Fox
Xiao Wang Fu [Little Prince’s Palace] in Ritan Park [has the best] roast duck and crispy fried bean curd. [It also has] great service and very reasonable prices. You can dine on the roof or at the front gate by leafy trees and watch locals play traditional games in the park, including dancing and tai chi . At the northern gate of the park are dozens of boutiques selling fashionable clothes and accessories at bargain prices.”

Eileen Wen Mooney
Author and Time Out Beijing contributor
“[Visit] Nanluoguxiang, a charming old neighborhood [northeast of the Forbidden City] made up of many hutongs ( alleyways), which were laid by the Mongols during the Yuan dynasty. Nanluoguxiang has cute, rustic buildings now converted to quaint coffee shops, small restaurants, and boutiques. Drop by Dali for dinner, a great Yunnan restaurant set in a lovely siheyuan (courtyard house).”

J.C. Ning
Magazine publisher (Men’s Uno, Collezioni Report, China International Business)
“Peking duck is good. But skip all the places you have read about. The best duck in Beijing is at Xiang Man Lou, a Shanghainese restaurant. They don’t accept reservations, so go there after eight p.m. to avoid the lines. And the view of the Forbidden City from the rooftop bar of the Grand Hotel at dusk cannot be beat.”

Yuki Tan
President of Folli Follie China, a chain of accessories stores
“A good area to visit is Houhai, behind the Forbidden City. There’s a lot of life … You can see people dancing in the street. There are a few private restaurants, including one called Mei Fu Jia Yan [Mei Mansion], which was [named after] China’s most famous opera singer. It’s [set] deep into an alley. Also, visit Fangshan, which has imperial food. [It’s] based in Beihai Park next to a lake. You can see parts of the Forbidden City [from there].”

Olive Wang
Regional marketing director of Nike, Beijing
“Visit the National Grand Theater [currently the National Centre for the Performing Arts] , a.k.a. the Egg, to see where the old and new China meet -- where art meets politics. The best time to go is at night, when most of the tourist crowd is gone. Ghost Street is where the locals hang out late on summer nights. You must order spicy crayfish and cold beer. And for the best pizza and Belgian beer in town, go to the Tree.”

Alan Paul
Wall Street Journal correspondent by day, blues man by night
“[To] really feel the pulse of Beijing, veer slightly off the beaten path and visit some city parks. Beihai Park, [northwest of] the Forbidden City, was the emperor’s gardens for 1,000 years and retains a regal splendor. Out the north gate of the Forbidden City lies Jingshan Park; the view from the top is superb. At Ritan Park, you can stop for a drink at the relaxing Stone Boat Café.”