Translating literally to “bright horse bridge,” Liangma Qiao is one of Beijing’s most popular expat neighborhoods. Located on subway Line 10, Liangma Qiao offers shopping, eating, and playing in equal measures. Families can relax by the water at Chaoyang Park, bargain with shopkeepers on Ladies’ Street, pick up imported groceries at the newly-renovated Sanyuanli Market, or catch a movie at Solana – Liangma Qiao’s got it all. This self-guided tour is best done on a bicycle or with lots of time, energy, and comfortable shoes if you’re walking.
Start your day from exit C of Liangma Qiao subway station. Walk northeast along Liangma Qiao Lu for about 10 minutes, turn right on Chaoyang Gongyuan Lu, and breeze by Lucky Street. Don’t be put off by the gaudy décor; Lucky Street is home to a number of family-friendly restaurants, including lots of Japanese fare and brunch favorite South German Bakery. The latter offers fresh-baked baskets of German bread with every breakfast platter, highchairs, and takeaway deli options. You can also pick up pizza or ice cream (only RMB 10) at Elisa’s Italian Restaurant right next door.
For something really decadent, there’s also The Westin Beijing Chaoyang’s Bubbalicious Sunday brunch with a mega spread of fresh seafood, Asian and Western hot dishes, free-flow champagne, and an entire room reserved for desserts. The hotel is located just outside exit A of Liangma Qiao subway station.
Once you’re sated, cross the street to arrive at family mainstay Solana Lifestyle Shopping Park. This village-style mall is known for having popular stores like Zara, H&M, and American Eagle Outfitters, as well as a huge selection of baby- and child-related retail outlets (Mothercare,Motherswork, Okaidi, Leyou, and more). Recently, a slew of new restaurants have opened up at Solana. Riverside dining now includes Let’s Burger, Element Fresh, Va Va Voom, Lavagna, and more. Escape the heat by taking in an English-language movie at Saga Cinema or head to All Star Champion Skating Club to practice those figure eights.
Chaoyang Park, another family staple, is located just southeast of Solana. Once the site of a former imperial palace, the park features paddle boat rides, a fairground with kiddie rides and roller coasters, a treetop obstacle course, a science museum, and a huge Lego store. On a hot day, visit the artificial beach – the site where beach volleyball games were played during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.The sand is famed for its softness and was imported from Hainan Province. You can practice volleyball with the kids or take a dip in the outdoor pool. On Sundays, you can also sweat it out with Heyrobics’ outdoor sessions or a HeyRunning camp in a large clearing near West Gate 3.
If you’re not up for going to Chaoyang Park, head back up Chaoyang Gongyuan Lu from Solana, turn left at the traffic lights, then make a right at the first light on to Tianze Lu. About 400m up the road is the open-air market, Ladies’ Street (also known as Nv Ren Jie). You’ll know you’re there when you spot pastel banners waving over outdoor stalls and hear playful music coming from the rows of shops. Vendors sell everything from women’s clothing to toys, children’s shoes, and mobile phones.
Adjacent to Ladies’ Street is Laitai Flower Market, which sells potted plants, fresh flowers, and seeds of all types. Be sure to bargain; some vendors will cave in quickly, while others will remain steadfast and stubborn. Hold your ground, and as a last resort, walk away. Luckily, there are many shops that sell similar items at different prices; if a shopkeeper won’t bargain, simply go to one that will.
From Ladies’ Street, head left to Xiaoyun Lu for a bite at gargantuan-pizza favorite Kro’s Nest, which features not only delicious curly fries and salads, but also an arcade for the young or young-at-heart. Or, head back down Tianze Lu, make a right on Anjialou Lu, and turn left on Dongfang Donglu. On the right, next to Israeli Embassy, is The Grand Summit. Have burgers and fries at Fatburger or a sophisticated family meal at Tavola Italian Dining. Tavola stops serving lunch every day at 2.30pm and doesn’t reopen for dinner until 6pm, so plan your day accordingly.
Finally, pick up some imported groceries from City Shop. Located in the basement of The Grand Summit, City Shop features a deli, fresh breads, and a large selection of imported goods, some of which cannot be found in stores like Jenny Lou’s or April Gourmet. Parents, older kids, and teens will also enjoy Dragonfly Therapeutic Retreat, a Shanghai-based spa chain that offers massages (a foot massage start at RMB 150), spa services, and nail treatments. Book your place ahead of time to be safe.
You can also head back west on Xiaoyun Lu, past Third Ring Road to the newly-reopened Sanyuanli Market. It’s a bit tricky to find the first time around, but it’s simple once you know where to turn. From Xiaoyun Lu, turn right on Xinyuan Jie (新源街) and right again on Shunyuan Jie (顺源街). Sanyuanli Market will be on your right. The renovated premises feature glass-encased stalls selling fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, meat, and imported products.
Sanyuanli Market is one of the most reliable places in Beijing to find more exotic fruits, such as Thai limes, avocadoes, lemongrass stalks, tamarind, and more. You’ll also find reasonably-priced homemade peanut butter, cheese, Norwegian salmon, big bags of frozen berries, hard-to-find spices, and more. There’s a bit of room for negotiation in the produce sections, but not every vendor is willing to lower their prices.
Photo by Judy Zhou and Simon Lim
This article originally appeared on p32-35 of the beijingkids August 2013 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com