Beijing’s revamped cultural center promises food, culture and family fun
Centrally located at the south end of Tiananmen Square, the neighborhood surrounding Qianmen was recently renovated and opened to the public in late July. Filled with history, culture and a host of new attractions, Qianmen now ranks as one of the most fascinating areas in the capital for families to explore. Revel in the ancient architecture, eat roast duck (Beijing’s most exalted delicacy), and discover an underground labyrinth in this quintessential part of lao Beijing (“old Beijing”) that dates back to the 15th century.
For more information about the Qianmen area, check out the walking tour offered in Beijing by Foot (RMB 100, published by Immersion Guides). Contact email@example.com to order a copy, or visit beijingbyfoot.immersionguides.com for more information.
Da Guan Lou Theater
Known as the cradle of Chinese film, this theater was built in the Qing dynasty. Ding Jun Shan (定军山), the first Chinese film, featuring performances by erstwhile Peking opera performer Tan Xinpei, screened here in 1905. Stroll the halls to see famous film photos and old film projectors. Visit the traditional teahouse on-site. Some films have English subtitles. 36 Dashilan’r Jie, Qianmen Dajie, Chongwen District. (6308 3312) 大观楼影城, 崇文区前门大街大栅栏街36号 www.zhdyy.com.cn
Shadow Puppet Theater
The Sky Shadow Puppet Cultural Club is a combination theater and museum, celebrating the traditional art form that has been popular since the Song dynasty. Here, kids can enjoy hands-on play time with shadow puppets and afterward, purchase books, DVDs (with English captions) and puppets to their heart’s content. All performances are in Chinese only, but the charm and spectacle are universal. RMB 50 per person. Tue-Sun 10am-9.30pm. 7 Pedestrian Street, Dashilan’r, Qianmen, Chongwen District. (8315 2311 ext 103) 龙在天皮影文化俱乐部, 崇文区前门大栅栏步行街7号
Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall
Get a bird’s eye view of Beijing’s cityscape by standing above a massive scale model of the capital that encompasses an entire floor of the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall. The “mini-city” is located just east of the of the old railway station, a stone’s throw from Qianmen. Visitors can check out the buildings’ “before and afters” and catch a glimpse of Beijing’s future architecture. Old photos, three-dimensional models and multimedia displays occupy the four floors of this hall. Don’t miss a showcase of the runners-up of the Olympic Stadium design competition. All displays have Chinese and English descriptions. RMB 30. Tue-Sun 9am-4pm. 20 Qianmen Dongdajie (just east of the old railroad station), Chongwen District. (6702 4559) 北京规划博物馆, 崇文区前门东大街20号(老火车站东边)
Beijing Underground City
Few people know that a huge network of tunnels, air-raid shelters and escape routes exist right beneath Beijing. When the little-known “mini-city” was completed in 1979, it was purportedly large enough to hold the city’s entire population at the time. The two-meter-wide tunnels run for more than 48 km (about 30 miles). Opened for tourists in 2000, the Underground City is decked out with Mao statues, posters and slogans, as well as photo displays of old tanks, planes, soldiers and the workers who dug the tunnels. Chinese-speaking guides in camouflage uniforms lead tours, though photography is forbidden. RMB 20, RMB 10 (students). Daily 8.30am-4.30pm. 62 Xidamochang Hutong, Qianmen, Chongwen District. (6702 2657) 前门地下城, 崇文区前门西打磨厂胡同
Beijing Police Museum
Wander down historic Dongjiaomin Xiang, Beijing’s old legation quarter, and find a museum displaying a collection of more than 7,000 police items and weapons dating from the Ming dynasty to the present. On the first floor, discover the origin and history of the Chinese police force, and don’t miss the fourth floor, where kids can shoot laser pistols at moving targets. Other floors highlight police investigation methods. Displays are in Chinese and English. RMB 5. Tue-Sun 9am-4pm. 36 Dongjiaomin Xiang, Dongcheng District. (8522 5018) 北京警察博物馆, 东城区东交民巷36号
Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant
Dine in a traditional Beijing courtyard at this famed restaurant situated in a hutong off Zhengyi Lu, northeast of Qianmen. A family-friendly eatery, Liqun is known for its delectable roast duck – a must-have for visitors and long-term Beijingers alike. Reserve in advance. Menus are in English and Chinese. 11 Beixiangfeng, Zhengyi Lu, northeast of Qianmen, Dongcheng District. (6705 5578) 利群烤鸭店, 东城区前门东大街正义路南口北翔凤胡同11号
Families can dig into a tasty, healthy meal at this restaurant that offers a range of vegetarian dishes in a peaceful environment. Since remodeling late last year, this Buddhist vegetarian spot now specializes in the creative use of ingredients like soy and vegetables to emulate the taste of lamb, beef, fish and shrimp in its signature dishes. The ingredients of each dish are clearly labeled, making it easy for diners to choose healthy options and avoid food allergies. Menus are available in English and Chinese. Daily 11am-9pm. 2 Qiangmen Dongdajie, Chongwenmen, Chongwen District. (6702 0867) 功德林, 崇文区崇文门前门东大街2号