After a day of sightseeing in the Chinese capital, once the sun goes down, what is there to do? Answer is…quite a lot.
Beijing has a few evening shows to entertain after dark. I went to two shows, the acrobatic show at Chaoyang Theatre and the Peking Opera at Chang’an Grand Theatre.
The Chaoyang Theatre is the most famous place to catch Chinese acrobatics and I reserved a discount ticket in advance at their web site. They emailed a booking number and I arrived at the theatre a half hour early and paid for the ticket there. The ticket was about 200 yuan and I had a seat near the stage. The show was quite impressive and lasted about an hour. The theatre was mostly empty to my surprise, but possibly because it was winter. The few others at the show were foreign tourists. The theatre has a stand for popcorn, snacks and drinks.
The Peking Opera was an interesting experience. There’s a few theatres to catch a show at but I really recommend the Chang’an Theatre. I didn’t reserve a ticket for this one, I had planned to show up early but then wound up getting there a half-hour before the show started, and managed to get the last available ticket. The ticket was 100 yuan and in the middle of the theatre. The second floor back seat tickets are cheaper, and I think the theatre is small enough that the show could still be enjoyed from there.
Unlike the acrobatic show, the opera theatre was completely full and I was the only foreigner there, everyone else was Chinese so it felt very local and authentic. The audience was quite enthusiastic and really seemed to be enjoying the show. The opera went on pretty long — about two hours, but the theatre provides English subtitles for the dialogue, so I could actually understand what was going on. But the Peking Opera is more about the costumes, makeup and spectacle than the plot generally. Chang’an is reachable from Jianguomen station, exit A.
I thought both shows were worth seeing, but I would say that the Peking Opera at Chang’an felt a lot more local than the acrobatic show. However the acrobatic show might have overall more entertainment value to some people than opera singing.
Another popular night activity is a stroll at the Hou Hai back lakes. The shops are all lit up and the area gets very busy after dark. Plenty of guesthouses and hostels are located in this area and there are many restaurants and food stalls selling Chinese snacks. It’s also dotted with souvenir shops for tourists.
For street food, also check out the Donghuamen Night Market. It’s located near Wangfujing, and includes a lot of the freaky stuff seen in Wangfujing snack street during the day like tarantulas and centipedes on a stick. It’s not an old market as it only opened in the 1980’s. However there’s plenty of good food here, such as pork and lamb skewers, dumplings, fruit on a stick, desserts and other snacks. Be sure to barter because the prices the vendors quoted were more expensive than I thought they would be.
Beijing has a lot of great food to try, the most famous of which being Peking Duck. There’s plenty of restaurants serving this dish, and I did some searching to find one of the best restaurants to try it at. The Quanjude branches (the oldest branch located on Qianmen street) are the most famous, but a lot of reviews also recommended Dadong Duck Restaurant. I decided to try Dadong restaurant at the Dongsishitiao branch (exit D from the Dongsishitiao subway station) and it was excellent.
The price came to 202 yuan, this included half a duck, condiments, some mandarin oranges, and two soups so I thought it was worth the price. Ducks at smaller local establishments are probably cheaper but I wanted to be sure to get one of the best.
Roast duck is one of the pricier dishes in Beijing, but generally speaking the local food in the city is very cheap. Baozi (dumplings) are very popular, some shops are open 24 hours so they can be eaten anytime. Pretty much all standard Chinese restaurants will have zhajiangmian, hand-pulled black bean sauce noodles, where the Korean jajangmyeon originated from. The dishes are similar but I noticed the sauce is a lot stronger tasting in the Chinese version.
Another good food to try is the donkey burger. Donkey burgers are made using donkey meat, and they’re surprisingly delicious. The most famous restaurant for donkey burgers is Wang Pang Zi. There was a branch near my hostel and they are open 24 hours. One burger is only 10 yuan.