Treat yourself to a staycay
There’s arguably no better time to take a break from your own cold, crumbling bed and spend the night in a swanky hotel than winter: hotels are havens of warmth and comfort and, even better, low season means you can get some cheap deals.
Make it all about the food at East Beijing’s one-night weekend ‘Steakcation’
(1,688RMB) with a semibuffet surf and turf dinner and breakfast for two at Feast. For families, China World Summit Wing’s winter staycay
(from 1,988RMB) offers tickets to Beijing’s big attractions and breakfast at Grill 79 for two adults and a child. Alternatively, explore a bit of Beijing’s countryside at the Sunrise Kempinski Hotel
, a mountain-view retreat by
Yanqi Lake. The deal (2,400RMB) includes a night in a suite with breakfast, BMW bicycle hire and a 25-minute back and shoulder massage for two. Prices plus 10 percent service and 6 percent VAT and subject to validity.
Have some spa time (in your own home)
Why go all that way to the spa when you could just bring the spa to you? Helijia – a one-stop beauty shop app – will set up salon in your living room, office or wherever takes your fancy. The list of services is extensive, encompassing everything from massages, manipedis, hairstyling and waxing to, er, Tarot readings. Staff are on-call seven days week, and while it’s recommended you book a couple of days in advance, same-day appointments are usually available. Helijia (河狸家; Chinese only) is free to download from Apple and Android app stores.
Soak your troubles away at the hot springs
A hotbed of geothermal activity, Beijing is blessed with the gift of hot springs. Full of all manner of minerals, the steaming pools are a great way to escape (if only temporarily) the onslaught of winter. A lot of the more famous hot spring resorts are clustered outside the Fifth Ring in the north of the city – Jiuhua Resort, Chun Hui Yuan Hot Spring Resort and Feng Shan Hot Spring Resort – so best make it a full day or weekend trip. But for a quick dip somewhere a little closer to the city centre, Number 8 Hot Springs Club and Shunjing Hot Spring will do the trick (daylong sessions from 198RMB). Keep an eye on dianping.com for weekday deals. Check out Beijing's top hot springs.
Wrap up warm baoan style
Essentially a thick duvet with sleeves sewn in, a vintage Chinese military jacket won’t only keep you uncommonly warm – covering you from the neck to just below the knee – the look can be yours from as little as 70RMB on Taobao
or at Tsinghua’s Tiaozi second-hand night market (depending on how hard you bargain). Matching military-style mittens (from 20RMB on Taobao) are designed with a separate ‘trigger finger’, ideal for extra dexterity.
Soothe your muscles with a hot stone massage
It’s slated that heated stones have been placed on various body parts as a way to encourage healing for more than 2,000 years in China. Although we can’t back-up any medicinal claims, we’re still totally into it. Hot stones help to relax tense muscles during a massage and provide a bit of extra warmth. For the ultimate luxury, The Peninsula Beijing’s two-hour Jade Hot Stone Massage
(1,280RMB plus 10 percent service and 6 percent VAT) combines silky smooth hot jade stones with acupressure, essential oils, a ‘scalp mud’ head massage, a quick facial and a foot buff. Don’t have 1,000 kuai
to drop on a spa treatment? Dragonfly's
offers a full-body hot stone massage (90 minutes) for 580RMB.
Get in the festive spirit at the Christmas markets
’Tis (nearly) the season to be jolly, and places don’t come much jollier than a Christmas market. The bazaars bring together local artisans, food vendors and vats of steaming mulled wine to get you in (and under the influence of) the holiday spirit. Beijing’s usual suspects – including the German Embassy, Embassy House, The Hutong, BSB and WAB markets – pop-up anytime from mid-November till the end of December. Check our guide to Beijing's Christmas markets for more info.
Calm down and master the art of mindfulness
Thanks to harsh weather conditions, high levels of pollution and – for us, anyways – a burning desire to carboload, winter is tough on the mind and body. Working on mindfulness, or the act of living in the moment, is thought to help reduce the effect of daily stresses and calm the mind. A small sanctuary tucked down Qian Yongkang Hutong, Beijing Mindfulness Centre
holds regular mindfulness sessions (100RMB). Encompassing everything from mindful listening to mindful eating, the sessions deal with the art of self-observation and paying attention to thoughts and feelings for an even better you. Follow ‘Mindfulnessbeijing’ on WeChat to find out more.
Get steamy at the Beijing Botanical Gardens
Naturalists will argue that spring and autumn are the best seasons to visit Beijing’s Botanical Gardens
, and they’re probably right. But the indoor Tropical Conservatory (50RMB) is a winner year round. Pleasantly humid and home to over 3,000 varieties of colourful and exotic tropical plants that otherwise have little hope flourishing anywhere within the city limits, it’s the ideal space to breathe some life back into your oxygen-starved lungs in the depths of winter. Make it a day trip and pair it up with a visit to the neighbouring Fragrant Hills.
Take up hot yoga
With most hot yoga studios set to a toasty 36-42°C, it’s more like the tropics in there than China’s frosty capital. Besides providing a sanctuary of warmth, hot yoga is great for you: the heat helps to loosen muscles improving flexibility, the copious sweating flushes toxins, and it relaxes your mind. A number of gyms offer different styles of hot yoga class – Nirvana, Pacific Century Club, Powerhouse Gym to name a few – and there are a load of studios dedicated to the practice that have classes for all levels of yogi. Check out some of Beijing's hot yoga studios.
Keep the endorphins flowing at Heyrobics
When the AQI starts soaring, you’ve been eating all the wrong things and motivation is at an all-time low, you need a pick-me-up. Things don’t get much more feel-good than a workout with the exercise fiends at Heyrobics. Through winter the high-energy aerobics sessions are held inside at spaces kitted out with air filters; classes are 50RMB and there are sessions to suit all levels of fitness. We’re fast running out of excuses not to go. Find the full schedule and sign-up info at heyrobics.com
Quiz nights are a dime a dozen in this city. They’re all free and they’ve all got drink prizes for winners – most often a bottle of booze – and sometimes the losers. The Local's pub quiz
(Tuesdays, 8pm) not only offers the normal prizes for winners and losers, every participating team gets a pitcher of Tiger draft – even if you’re just middling – and happy hour privileges until the quiz ends. There's nothing like an alcohol blanket to take the edge off the chill.
Thanks to Alpha Wing, you can perfect your golf swing whatever the weather, all the while catching renditions of karaoke classics coming from a nearby room. The basement bar on Lucky Street houses four virtual golf courses and two KTV rooms. Unfortunately, karaoke and golf can’t be combined – but at 160RMB an hour for either (up to five people), there’s no reason why one shouldn’t immediately be followed by the other, and another round of cold Asahi.
Unwind with a great value massage
If winter's got you beat, you're feeling frazzled and you've got a heap of knots in your back that need some kneading make your way to Song Lin Massage (松霖保健). Tucked away on the third floor of a somewhat-questionable complex full of massage parlours, this no-frills spa offers above-board (based on our experience) fully-body tuina massages from 80RMB per hour. If you're just looking for a little bit of luxury, try Bodhi Therapeutic Retreats's Foot Reflexology Treatment (80mins; 188RMB). While you stuff your face with free snacks, massage therapists start with a relaxing back-and-head massage before tending to your weary feet.
For more ideas, take a look our roundup of truly great value massages all for 200RMB or less.
Collect 200 for passing Go
On the first Saturday of every month from 2-6pm, shut yourself inside Moroccan restaurant Caravan
for the Beijing Bookswap and Board Games Meet-up. As simple as it sounds, it’s an afternoon of book bartering and dice rolling. There are plenty of board games at your disposal – Risk, Settlers of Catan, Uno, Scrabble, the list goes on – but you can BYO board games if the selection doesn’t do it for you.
Bone up on your TCM
According to TCM, there are a few golden rules that you can follow to help fend off sickness during the winter months. Two of the most important are: don’t eat and drink cold things; do eat and drink hot things. Why? TCM practitioner Alex Tan explains, ‘eating warm foods like soups and stews in winter creates warmth, supports the kidneys’ yin and yang and encourages the qi to flow down and in.’ Tan also recommends herbal tonics such as ganoderma mushroom (ling zhi) and astragalus (huang qi) to build immunity. Doctor Zhang from the TCM Department of Capital Medical University explains that winter is an important time for accumulating energy, so it’s better to eat foods that are rich in high-quality calories (not that we need any excuse there) and protein, like chicken, lamb, salmon and chestnuts.