1.Dumplings. Nowhere else is fast food done so well. A few pounds will get you plate after plate of dumplings filled with everything from pork, beef and lamb to squash and shrimp. Eat them hot with lashings of chilli, washed down with Tsingtao. Perfect.
2.Peking Duck. Watching a Chinese chef expertly carve Peking Duck into 108 pieces (for luck) at the table is almost as much of a delight as eating it. From a taster of skin dipped in sugar, and constructing succulent little pancakes with cucumber & plumb sauce, to finally slurping the soup rustled up from the carcass as you wait, it’s an experience to remember.
3.Great Wall. Jinshaling may be a good three hour drive from central Beijing but it’s worth the trip to get The Great Wall (almost) to yourself. Clamber up the wall and make friends with the locals who’ll only be too happy to help you over the difficult stretches in return for buying a pack of postcards or a carving at the end of your walk.
4.Temple of Heaven. Pause to watch the locals playing cards and putting the world to right before marvelling at China’s largest complex of sacrificial buildings. Huge (273 hectares), ornate and steeped in history, it’s quite something.
5.Hutong Tour. Open your eyes to the real life of Beijing’s backstreets by bike. Hop on board and let a student show you her part of the city, a grandma cook you lunch and an old teacher or shop keeper tell you about how The Olympics, the economy and global warming are affecting them.
6.Beihai Park. Take a breather from the smog and escape Beijing’s hustle and bustle in Beihai Park. One of the oldest and best preserved imperial gardens in China centres round a huge lake and features several temples. Climb up – a tower, hill or monument – and be rewarded with some spectacular views back across the city.
7.Tea ceremony. Out to prove tea shouldn’t be served with milk and sugar, Beijing’s tea ceremonies are a highlight when visiting the city. Learn about the rituals that go with China’s favourite drink then choose your favourite to take home.
8.798 Art District. Just to the north of the city centre 798 is an impressive mix of photography, sculpture, contemporary art and independent galleries housed in a disused electronics factory. Set aside at least a couple of hours to soak up the atmosphere.
9.Wángfǔjǐng Snack Street. Starfish, scorpion and seahorse on sticks jostle for attention alongside pans of steaming noodles and yoghurt drinks. Among the weird and wonderful offerings to shock the tourists there are some pretty tasty snacks at pocket friendly prices.