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It’s been a busy couple of days, but what did you expect trying to explore one of the biggest and oldest cities in the world in just 72 hours? Stretch out your tired legs from that Great Wall hike yesterday, drink some coffee – or maybe tea since you’re in China after all – and get back out there for your third and final day in Beijing.
For your last day in Beijing, spend the morning wandering around the Summer Palace (颐和园 – yí hé yuán). You can get there by bus, subway, or taxi, so take your pick. On a clear day, there isn’t much that beats hanging out at the Summer Palace. Featuring gardens, temples, and a lake, this massive palace was where the emperor would escape the intense summer heat of Beijing. During the warmer months, you can even rent a boat to take a spin around the lake. Whatever you do, be sure to head to the top of the Tower of Buddhist Incense to take in the views.
Forego eating in the expensive restaurant inside the Summer Palace and instead jump on buss 331 or 375 and take it to Wudakou (五道口 – wǔ dào kǒu), known by many simply as “The Wu.” This student hangout is home to China’s top universities, as well as plenty of great restaurants. For Chinese, we highly recommend a little spot called Lanzhou Old Horse Beef Noodles (兰州老马牛肉拉面 – lán zhōu lǎo mǎ niú ròu lā miàn), more commonly referred to amongst our friends as “Meat Table.” Don’t let our silly nickname throw you off – this place is cheap and delicious, and it’s definitely a legit local favorite. Even after 5+ years of living and traveling around the country, it’s still my favorite meal in China. If you’re looking for something else, you can also find ½ price sushi at Isshin, sandwiches and burgers at Lush, pizza at Sugar Shack, or burritos at La Bamba.
From the Wu, you can hop on the subway and take it to the Lama Temple (雍和宫 – yōng hé gōng) station on line 2. Head in and check out this impressive Tibetan Buddhist monastery, which features a 26-meter tall wooden statue of the Maitreya Buddha. From there, it’s an easy walk to the Confucius Temple (孔庙 – kǒng miào). This is the second largest Confucian temple in China, behind only the one in Master Kong’s hometown of Qufu. Check them both out in this short video:
Around the temples, you’ll find plenty of traditional alleyways, known as hutong (胡同 – hú tòng). Cruise down any of these and get lost in old Beijing for a while. If you get deep enough into the hutong, it’s hard to imagine you’re still in the middle of an overcrowded, bustling metropolis. After a few hours of exploring, you’re bound to get hungry. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of great restaurants in the surrounding hutong. Should you find yourself on Wudaoying, you’ve got a great vegetarian spot in the Veggie Table, a quaint courtyard with the Vineyard, and some incredible Mexican food at Sand Pebbles Lounge. Over in Fangjia, you’ll find the amazing Aimo Town, a Yunnan restaurant that cooks up fantastic grilled fish and more.
Stay in the hutong after dinner, where wandering in any direction will eventually land you at a bar or live music venue. Any night of the week, you’re sure to find people hanging out with drinks or rocking out at a show. Beijing has a variety of venues large and small, and there’s always something going on in terms of live music. From rock, to jazz, to drum & bass, to folk, you’re sure to find a place to get down. Some of our favorite spots for live music are: Temple Bar, 4 Corners, Salud, Jianghu, and Yugong Yishan.
Thus ends an amazing 3-day trip to Beijing. If you have the luxury of time and can spend a few more days exploring the city, there’s still tons to see and do. Consider checking out the 798 Art District, visiting a few more local parks, or even getting out of the concrete jungle on a day trip. Despite the smog, the traffic, and the crowds, Beijing is an incredible city. I thoroughly enjoyed my four years living there, and I hope you get a good taste of what it has to offer on this 3-day trip.