50 things to do in Beijing: food & drink

Beijing's most unique culinary experiences


The best things to eat and drink in Beijing, from duck and dumplings to donkey burgers.

This article is part of our 50 things to do in Beijing feature.

Eat Peking Duck

This is the ultimate ‘must-have’ dish of the capital – and for good reason. Traditionally roasted over Chinese red date wood,the crispy skin and ultra rich meat of Beijing kaoya are surefire crowd-pleasers. Options abound in the capital.

More expensive versions can be relied on for a top-notch duck, though you don’t necessarily have to break the bank. Made in China at The Grand Hyatt is an excellent option if you have your eye on the prize and go there for duck only. For an upscale hutong atmosphere, Duck de Chine on Jinbao Jie can’t be beat. The Opposite House’s Jing Yaa Tang is a solid choice in Sanlitun,especially for broader pan-China cuisine to accompany your roast duck.

To bring it way back, try the old-school Li Qun,tucked into the winding hutongs of Qianmen.

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Try a donkey burger

Sea cucumber, abalone, bird’s nest,scorpion – it’s old news, right? Even if your local business associates haven’t strong-armed you into these Chinese ‘specialities’ yet, we’re guessing your palate isn’t quite refined enough to fully appreciate their worth (ours aren’t either).

Donkey burgers on the other hand? Let’s take a moment to savour those bad boys. Lürou huoshao (驴肉火烧) are Beijing’s most unsung street food heros. Tender, flavourful meat, chopped and tossed with green pepper and fresh coriander is jammed in a warm, flaky bun – all for under 10RMB a pop.

Any hole-in-the-wall will do, but we particularly like the 24-hour Wang Pangzi chain.

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Treat yourself to Temple Restaurant Beijing

Housed in the digs of a former television factory, which was at one time a temple, TRB hits all the right notes – fine contemporary European cuisine located in the hutongs north of the Forbidden City.

Spend a lazy weekend brunch sipping on champers like a modern-day emperor.

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Make a Jianbing

Ah, the noble jianbing. Translations fail to capture its true beauty. ‘Chinese crepe’? ‘Egg pancake’? Yes, but it’s so much more.

A grain-based batter poured onto a hot griddle with two eggs,a crispy wafer and some sauce sounds easy enough, but our Bucket List kitchen goal is making one ourselves.While there aren’t regular classes available in town, Sue Zhou Does Food offers personalised classes on request. Or you could always just be an apprentice to your local street food vendor…

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School yourself on local spirits

Admittedly, there’s not much to know about Beijing spirit Erguotou that can’t be learnt in one regrettable blur of a night. Still, an evening at your local hole-in-the-wall throwing back the fiery stuff is an experience worth having at least once.

The guys behind Capital Spirits on Daju Hutong argue that baijiu’s another story.

Stop by and try a flight to see if you agree. And we haven’t even started on the milder rice wines of south western provinces like Yunnan. There’s a lot to learn.

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Eat a bowl of Zhajiang mian

We don’t mean the low-brow kind made with instant noodles, pre-packaged sauce and little in the way of anything green – that’s just sad.

Head to Beijing Noodle King for this old Beijing classic. Zhajiang mian (炸酱面, literally ‘fried sauce noodle’) is a heady combination of thick wheat noodles topped with a fermented, salty yellow soybean and minced pork paste.

Toppings like sliced watermelon radish, cucumber, scallion, white onion and fresh soybeans come in small dishes to be mixed in at the last minute.

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Eat your way through China without leaving the city

Who said you needed to leave Beijing to experience the eclectic tastes of China's regional cuisines?

Don’t know your Jiangsu from your Zhejiang? Bone up with our handy guide and discover the best restaurants in Beijing to try these tasty dishes.

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Get your craft beer on

Beijing has gone craft beer crazy over the past few years.

If you haven't tried at least a few pints from home-grown brewers like Great Leap, Jing A and Slow Boat you're missing out.

The breweries' bars themselves are also well worth seeking out: seek out Great Leap Original #6 or Slow Boat if you fancy a hutong hideaway or go to Jing A or Great Leap Brewing #12 Brewpub in Sanlitun for a slice of American cool.

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Eat at a North Korean restaurant

You don't need to breach the borders to get a taste of North Korea.

China is one of the few countries to have notionally friendly relations with the Hermit Kingdom which means there are several restaurants staffed by North Korean citizens with decidedly North Korean ideas about dinner entertainment (think accordion playing in glittery dresses and synchronised dancing).

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Eat at the city's first privately run restaurant

Nowadays, privately owned restaurants run the length of practically every street in Beijing – but that wasn’t the case 30 years ago when Beijinger’s only options for eating out were state-run cafeterias.

Yuebin became the first privately owned restaurant in China in 1980. So, if you're in the mood for some authentic, simple grub then take a trip to the hutongs to discover China's historical eatery.

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Eat at the old Royal Icehouse from the Qing Dynasty

The Royal Icehouse was used to store ice, for the imperial family during the Qing dynasty and, more recently, was also used by the China's governmental elite to store seafood.

In 2008 it was renovated into a beautiful fine dining restaurant.

Needless to say, this restaurant is best appreciated in summer. No air conditioning needed.

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Have afternoon tea and a cocktail on the terrace at Capital M with spectacular views of Qianmen

If you're after a 'noon with a view', then look no further than Capital M. When the air is clear and the weather is warm, sit back and relax away from the hustle and bustle and take in the sights that this beautiful city has to offer.

Go to Huguosi snack street for old Beijing treats

If you're in the mood for some traditional Chinese munch that's kind to your wallet, Huguosi snack street is definitely worth a visit.

Make sure to find Huguosi Xiaochi (护国寺小吃) - the flagship branch of the eponymous store.

Visit an organic farm on the outskirts of Beijing

Shared Harvest is a sustainable farm with a mission to promote local, seasonal, and organically grown produce. They thrive off of volunteer workers and urban visitors looking to expand their personal knowledge about not only eating in a sustainable manner, but also creating an environmentally conscious lifestyle.

Visits are free for those willing to work.

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Picnic on Behai

Hidden behind high walls, it’s easy to forget about sprawling Beihai Park despite its central location northwest of the Forbidden City.

Formerly an imperial garden, Beihai is perfect for breezy spring afternoons. Pack some sandwiches, baozi and a few beers and you’ll be sorted for a lazy afternoon on the water. Live large and go for the duck paddle boats, we say.

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