The capital of China, compared to other cities like Shanghai – well-famous for its fashion and trendy vibe – is a reality in continuous expansion. With a history dating back three millennia and a population of over 21 million people, Beijing displays a double identity, consisting of a traditional and cultural presence, well-preserved still today, and the feature of an extremely modern city, fast-changing and always in movement to research new trends and innovations. Explore the artistic and design scene with its underground vibes and don’t miss the historical sites that contribute to its charm: The Forbidden City complex, the spectacular Summer Palace and the famous Tiananmen Square with Mao Zedong’s mausoleum and the National Museum of China. Keep reading our Beijing Design Guide to know more about Beijing and all its attractions!
BEIJING DESIGN GUIDE
WHERE TO STAY
VUE HOTEL HOUHAI BEIJING
With its amazing location, Vue Hotel Houhai Beijing couldn’t be more perfect: set at the edge of the Houhai Lake, the building’s 80 rooms and suites offer spectacular views of the lake or the park, thus creating an out-of-this-world experience, impossible to forget.
The historic building – presenting multiple structures – from the 50s had been transformed and designed by Singapore-based studio Ministry of Design: the results are gold accents on a dark background, art installations influenced by traditional Chinese culture and little animals that create a connection with the natural spaces outside.
This boutique hotel’s charm is set on the contraposition between the modern elements and the traditional soul of the building; but if you think it’s only a place to rest think again: the lakeside bar with the rooftop pool and DJ booth render this hotel definitely a place to party.
THE TEMPLE HOTEL
Discovered as a 600-year-old Tibetan Buddhist in decay by Belgian entrepreneur Juan van Wassenhove, The Temple Hotel won a Unesco conservation award for its restoration, becoming a small boutique hotel of only eight guest rooms but capable of providing a luxurious experience, based on the rich history of the building. The hotel’s highlights are Gathered Sky, the only James Turrell art installation in China, and the various exhibitions of contemporary Chinese and Robert Doisneau’s photography. An acclaimed French restaurant – run by Belgian Ignace Lecleir – gives an ulterior splendid touch to an already opulent atmosphere.
WHERE TO EAT
On the fourth floor of Muji Hotel, prominent for its traditional Chinese architecture with bamboo and recycled bricks, Muji Diner offers a spectacular view of Tiananmen Square and World Heritage sites such as the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. Try the homemade feelings behind the expertly-prepared Chinese and Japanese cuisine, with top-notch ingredients and the proficiency that comes only from true mastery.
If you are nostalgic for some European food – especially Italian – book a table in Bottega Jinshang, in Xinyuanli neighborhood, and order their typical Neapolitan pizza: the owners, the Salvo brothers, come from long generations of “mastri pizzaioli” and offer one of the best pizzas you could find in Beijing. Sit at the brown leather bench and dine under the knowing gaze of the family portraits: it will feel like dining with an Italian blessing.
Al fresco dining is a super hit in Beijing and El Barrio – a Mexican place located in Nali Patio – displays two terraces: one excellent for tequila-infused sunset aperitivos and the other an outdoor dining area with typical colorful Mexican accessories, ornamental arches, and glowy neon signs.
The venue is very lively and vivacious – the perfect hotspot during the long summer nights – and it will become a top spot in the Beijing nightlife.
WHAT TO DO
SONG ART MUSEUM
As a private art institution founded by Zhongjun Wang, the Song Art Museum displays 80 art pieces from his private collection, located in a spectacular glass building that enhances the beauty of the contemporary Chinese and Western art. Like a typical museum, it invites meditation with the surrounding garden of flat-topped pine trees, resulting in a zen-like vibe.
Geometric white walls respond to Wang’s request of a minimalistic and eco-friendly space – a feat from Shanghainese design company Vermillion Zhou Design Group – and 22,000 square meters give space to 12 simple exhibition halls that highlight the art pieces within. For that reason alone, the museum won a Golden A’ Design Awardfor Architecture, Building and Structure Design in 2017.
Despite having expanded with store in Shanghai and New York, Spin Ceramics‘s Beijing store still remains a favorite for ceramics lovers. The innovative and modern setting combines itself with the traditional techniques used for creating the ceramics pieces – original, homemade and singular – created by a team of domestic and international designers.
WHITE IS GOOD
With the creative Chinese scene growing more and more, many concept stores are appearing in the capital, famous for its underground vibe. White is good, a petite boutique, shows a special feature: everything sold in the store displays a monochromatic hue, just like the name suggests. Meng Qi and his partner Yvonne follow a special motto: “Life is white, white is good”.
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