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Insider Guide: What to do in Beijing

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What to do in Beijing

Important things happen in Beijing. You can feel this everywhere in the city of nearly 20 million people.

There are the majestic imperial buildings, perfectly preserved in their gold and blood red, sharing the same sidewalk with Soviet masterpieces designed to intimidate.

In the years before and after the Beijing 2008 Olympics, modern wonders of glass and chrome have appeared.

It all makes Beijing’s cityscape a study in superlatives; the grand scale of the city planning a campaign for headlines.

And yet, there’s a Beijing that’s growing organically on a human scale, particularly within the narrow hutongs, tiny alleys that separate traditional courtyard homes.

Unique restaurants, music venues and boutiques are opening in these fast-gentrifying neighborhoods. You’re never short of options when planning what to do in Beijing.

This adds up to a city of drama and juxtaposition.

Visitors return home with pictures of epic monuments and cute alleyway cats resting with elderly people in faded Mao suits.

Here’s where to start and what to do in Beijing.

Few hotels capture the bustling energy of cosmopolitan Beijing like the Kerry Hotel.

Style and service runs through the veins of the downtown hotel.

Bright, airy rooms are equipped with space age bathroom equipment.

The list of amenities feels like what you’d get at a luxury resort.

Guests get complimentary fitness classes at the gym, complete with running track and sports courts. Kids can romp on the slides and ball pit at the Adventure Zone playroom.

There’s a deli, as well as a deluxe Peking duck restaurant. Every night, award-winning bar Centro is  packed with Beijing’s glitterati kicking back over fashionable cocktails and live jazz.

The Aman knows imperial luxury.

The resort is a period Qing Dynasty structure of crisscrossing courtyards, halls and suites, unfolding symmetrically like a miniature Forbidden City.

Attached to the Summer Palace, where the Empress Dowager intended to retire, Aman is Beijing’s most expensive hotel.

There’s all the comforts “Aman junkies” take for granted: huge bathrooms, period furnishings, a packed program of tours and cultural events and fine dining at Naoki Restaurant, which serves Japanese kaiseki cuisine.

Some distance from the city center, this one is designed for escape, not exploration.

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