Where to go and what to see in Beijing: Personal suggestions for architects from people shaping the city and members of our staff.

Clifford Pearson
Deputy Editor, Architectural Record
Clifford Pearson
Photo courtesy Architectural Record
Clifford Pearson, Deputy Editor,
Architectural Record and Editor-In-Charge
of Architectural Record’s China Edition

While in Beijing, Clifford Pearson, deputy editor at Architectural Record and editor-in-charge of our tri-annual China publication, suggests strolling through Beihai Park. On clear days, the park offers wonderful views of the Forbidden City and an opportunity to watch Beijing’s older generations practicing their calligraphy—using brushes dipped in water—directly on the pavement. It illustrates “a notion of the Chinese appreciation for things temporal, as one watches the beautiful characters evaporate and disappear,” says Pearson.

Next, he says, move on to Fangshan, a restaurant located in the park, and “enjoy dishes modeled after those served to the emperor himself.” The menu is heavy on exotic imperial dishes. Pearson notes that it was at Fangshan that he tasted his first-ever braised camel paw.

Pearson also suggests dining at Source, a restaurant that is part of the Yan Club Arts Center. It is located at 14 Banchang Hutong, South Luogu Xiang, Kuan Road. Situated in a traditional Chinese courtyard, Source also offers diners live Peiking and Kunqu opera. Visit the Web site for a brief look.

And for something a bit more contemporary, Pearson recommends stopping by artist Ai Weiwei's restaurant, Qu Nar, at 16 Dongsanhuan Bei Rd. The restaurant is popular with Wei’s peers at the top of the Chinese art world. “The restaurant actually loses money because we don’t promote it... but it’s worth it because now we have a place to hang out,” he recently told the New York Times. The space is famous for its minimalist interior and cuisine from the artist’s home province of Zhejiang. Pearson warns though that finding the restaurant can be quite a challenge.

Robert Ivy
Editor-in-Chief, Architectural Record
Robert Ivy
Photo courtesy Architectural Record
Robert Ivy, Editor-in-Chief, Architectural Record

Robert Ivy, FAIA, editor-in-chief of Architectural Record, recently returned from a visit to Beijing praising a “small Yunnan restaurant deep in a Hutong.” Its name, Dali, references a town in Yunnan Province, and it has a set menu that is only revealed to diners when they call to make a same-day reservation. Ivy describes the space as a courtyard with a great room opening off to one side. But he cautions, “Without good directions, one might miss the place, but it’s worth the effort.” Dali can be found at 67 Xiao Jing Chang Hutong, Gulou Dong Da Jie, and don’t forget to call +86 10 84041430 to discover tonight’s menu.

Jennifer Richter
Editorial Assistant, Architectural Record
Keiichiro Sako
Photo courtesy Architectural Record
Jennifer Richter, Editorial Assistant,
Architectural Record

To get a unique taste of Beijing and to satisfy a knack for adventure, do not miss Dong Hua Men Ye Shi, a street market off of Wang Fu Jing Street, near Tiananmen Square. The market opens daily around 4:30 in the afternoon. The individual carts are all toped with the same red and white striped awning but below the awning is a vast amount of variety. Some vendors sell a prized steamed dumpling known as “gou bu li bao zi” that came to Beijing from the nearby city of Tianjin. Other prominent items at the market include all kinds of insects, frogs, meats, and sea creatures (including starfish and sometimes, seahorses), served on a stick and grilled upon ordering. Also try a variety of sweets, drinks, soups, or many other one-of-a-kind dishes. Prices are posted in Yuan and one can expect to eat a satisfying meal for around $7 U.S.