In the center of Beijing, surrounding the much-visited Temple of Heaven, lies Tiantan Park. While you’ve probably heard about tai chi sessions in China’s green spaces, you probably didn’t know about the early-morning gatherings at Tiantan, where the city’s older residents congregate to enjoy music rehearsals and dance lessons.
Head there before 9am and you’ll be greeted by a wave of sound, color and movement—it’s guaranteed to surprise and makes for great people-watching away from the busy main streets.
When: 6 am–10 pm every day
How: Tiantan Dongmen subway station (exit A)
Beijing’s hutongs—the narrow alleys lined by siheyuan, or traditional courtyard residences—form an important part of the city’s long and mixed history. Wudaoying hutong is situated near Lama Temple, and is a great place to poke around cafes, restaurants and boutiques without feeling rushed. Known as one of the city’s hipper hutongs, Wudaoying has a relaxed and easy-going vibe. It’s the perfect place to get purposefully lost for a few hours and appreciate old-time Beijing.
When: During the day for shopping and coffee
How: Yonghegong Lama Temple subway station (exit D)
It’s easy to miss Cats 44, which is what makes it so special. Nestled at the back of a dingy courtyard, the cafe’s out-of-the-way location hasn’t prevented it from becoming extremely popular—particularly with Beijing residents whose busy lives or small apartments make pet ownership impossible. Unlike at other local cat cafes, Cats 44’s feline frequenters are rescues, not pedigrees—a nice alternative to a shelter, if you ask us. Feast on some cat-shaped chocolate cake while you read and enjoy the company of your new four-legged friend.
Where: 44 Bei Luo Gu Xiang, Dongcheng District
When: 12–9 pm
How: Andingmen subway station
Photos: Alamy, Getty