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  • Last Updated: 25th July 2013

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Beijing - Lifestyle & Culture

Culture

Forbidden City (Palace Museum)

The Forbidden City is a masterpiece of Taoist architectural principles - based on a strict understanding of mathematics and geometry first devised three millennia ago in the Shang dynasty. The red city wall, for example, has an 8.6 meter wide base reducing to 6.66 meter wide at the top - the perfect proportions to make the palace’s walls almost impossible to scale. Little wonder it was called the Forbidden City! Each main hall faces south, and looks upon a courtyard flanked by lesser buildings. Within, there are a series of progressively more impressive palaces - featuring treasures from across the country (porcelain, marble lined halls, timber thrones and golden temples amongst them).

National Museum of China (Tiananmen Square)

Flanking Tiananmen Square’s eastern boundary, the National Museum is suitably imposing. Readying themselves for the 2008 Olympics, Beijing officials spent thousands on bringing this once austere collection up to speed, with improved display design and a more visitor-friendly environment. You can enjoy a good range of exhibits featuring bronze, ceramic, and jade pieces from across the country.

Natural History Museum (126 Tianqiao Nandajie)

A grove of fossilized trees guards the entrance to this imposing, old-school museum which houses everything from Chinese dinosaurs to meticulously dissected human cadavers (not for the squeamish) through to fanciful dioramas of Chinese landscapes.

Poly Art Museum (2nd Floor, Poly Centre, Dongzhimen Nandajie)

A refreshingly well-thought out (and well edited) collection of bronzes, Buddhist effigies, ceramics and sculptures from between 1700BC and 100 BC.

Nightlife

The main nocturnal attraction in a city as pulsating as Beijing is to simply take a stroll from your hotel (Beijing is, incidentally, a very safe city - street crime is low and police presence is subtle but vigilant) and soak in the sights, smells and sounds of the 22 million souls, eager to enjoy a new-found sense of fun and freedom as the neon lights are lit across the city. Whether you’re with friends and seeking a few beers in a lively local’s bar, going solo and looking for some al-fresco dining and street entertainment on Wangfujing Street, or some highbrow culture in one of its many opulent theatres, Beijing by night won’t disappoint.

The National Centre for the Performing Arts (Xicheng District)

This swanky new centre is home to traditional Beijing opera, classical music concerts, drama and ballet.

Capital Theater (22 Wangfujing Dajie)

Beijing's most respected theatre, the Capital’s eclectic programme always guarantee you’ll be getting good value for the price of your ticket, whether you’re seeing an ancient Chinese play brought to life by acrobatic dancers, or whether a touring Shakespearean production is in town. Or, for that matter, Riverdance.

Huguang Guildhall (3 Hufangqiao)

Beijng's oldest Peking opera theater, the ornately decorated Guildhall has staged performances since 1807. Richly atmospheric and elaborate - this is the perfect place to take in the complexities and colour of traditional Peking Opera.

Cloud Nine Dance Club (7, Sanlitun Bei Jie)

Superclubs are a relatively new phenomenon in China but, relatively quickly, this place has gained a reputation for offering a stylish, hip night out for lovers of modern, house-based music, with a good sound system and occasional international DJs.

Poacher's (43 Bei Sanlitun Lu)

Bars come and go with frightening speed in central Beijing, that Poachers has outlasted many is testament to this friendly, relaxed venue’s appeal to a mostly young, tourist- friendly crowd. Good locally brewed beers.

Jam House (Dongdaqiao Xiejie)

Another stalwart, this time aimed at a slightly older 35+ crowd who appreciate a broader musical spectrum than the pale imitations of europop and trance churned out across town. Jam’s reputation is built on rock, blues and world music.

World of Suzy Wong (Nongzhanguan Lu)

Wonderfully decadent hang-out that’s so chilled it’s almost horizontal - at least you will be, reclining on silk pillows and chaise-longues in this thoroughly dramatic cocktail bar where, in case you’re asking, ours is a daiquiri.