Temperatures are creeping up as we rapidly approach the hottest period of the year. Despite the muggy weather, one can still enjoy blue skies and a light breeze in June. What better way to spend the day than with a bike trip to explore some of Beijing’s most picturesque parts? For this extended edition of What’s Fun In, the editors bring you not one, not two, but three cycling itineraries. Pack some supplies, strap in the kids, grab your helmet, and go!
- Start point: The Bridge Cafe, Wudaokou
- End point: Wudaokou or Yuanmingyuan
- Estimated time to complete: 3-4 hours (not counting Yuanmingyuan)
- Estimated distance covered: 11km (not counting Yuanmingyuan)
- Recommended ages: 8 and above (or younger if riding in a child’s bike seat)
- Recommended time to go: Weekdays in the early morning, before the sun gets too strong
This bike trip takes you from student hub Wudaokou through the leafy and tranquil campuses of Tsinghua University and Peking University (also known as Beida). There’s always the option to visit Yuanmingyuan, or the Old Summer Palace, if you still have energy at the end of the bike ride.
Start off your day with a visit to The Bridge Cafe, a cafe and restaurant located in the Huaqing Jiayuan compound just west of Wudaokou subway. Order an Illy coffee and one of the breakfast specials (available 7.30-11.30am), then sit back to watch students who flock here from nearby Tsinghua, Beida, Renmin, and other universities. It’s not the best food you’ll ever have – the portions are small and service is largely perfunctory – but The Bridge offers a cross-section of Beijing life far removed from the expat family bubble.
Every day from 4am to 8am, The Bridge offers an early bird discount of 20 percent for the entire menu. There are western-style toilets on the second floor (which is reserved for smokers), but no changing table.
When breakfast is over, head downstairs and stock up on water and snacks at the
Korean market two doors up from The Bridge. Then, get on your bike and cycle west on Chengfu Lu (成府路). Turn right on Zhongguancun Donglu (中关村东路); you’ll spot the main gate of Tsinghua University right before the turn-off for Shuangqing Lu (双清路).
Once inside the gate, turn left on Rixin Lu (日新路), then right on Xuetang Lu (学堂路). At the intersection of Xuetang Lu and Qinghua Lu, you’ll see a massive orange building; this is the Meng Mingwei Concert Hall. Classical concerts here are open to the public, but there’s very limited English service. The main draw is the large, shaded square in front of the concert hall. Plop down on one of the benches to rehydrate and indulge in some people watching. You can also go inside for a bathroom break.
When you’re recharged, cycle west on Qinghua Lu (青华路) for about 800m, passing a large white archway on your right. Then, turn right on Jinchun Lu (近春路); you’ll soon see a peaceful lake and a bridge on your right. This is Jinchun Garden, the site of a former imperial garden. Lock your bike next to the bridge; the kids can play along the edge of the water and spot fish here. You can sometimes see locals fishing; ask if they’ll show you their catch.
If you need a pick-me-up, cross the bridge to the islet to find Lotus Cafe. Sip an Americano (RMB 22) while keeping an eye on the kids. If you need something more substantial, there’s a Chinese restaurant called Xichuanyuan
just east of Jinchun Garden on Xichun Lu (熙春路). They serve standards like braised eggplant and gongbao jiding.
When you’re done, backtrack down Jinchun Lu, turn right on Qinghua Lu, and cycle west until you get to the West Gate of Tsinghua University. Pop out the gate and head south on Zhongguancun Beidajie (中关村北大街). Peking University East Gate subway station will appear on your right. Right next to it, you’ll see a small mobile kiosk where you can restock on water. Just next to that, there’s a small road running west; follow the row of sidewalk bike rental stands to find the East Gate of Peking University.
Go straight until you see some blue construction scaffolding on your right. Turn right and go north on the path that runs through the scaffolding; in less than 100m, the famous Boya Pagoda on the southeastern bank will appear on your right. Stop if you wish or continue cycling along the north bank of Weiming Lake.
You’ll pass the David Packer Pavilion on your right; this faculty residence was restored for the 100th anniversary of Peking University. You can get a great view of Boya Pagoda from the north bank here. Continue along the path until you see a sign for the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archeology.
This teaching museum was co-founded by Peking University and American psychiatrist, philanthropist, and collector Dr. Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987). The permanent collection spans a period of 280,000 years, from Paleolithic stone tools to intricately carved objects from the 17th century. The museum offers a welcome respite from the heat, with English introductions for most of the exhibits. There are also clean, western-style toilets here. Note that you’ll need your passport for admission.
If you still have energy – and for that, we salute you – cycle north to Yuanmingyuan. Though largely reconstructed, the Old Summer Palace was where Qing Dynasty emperors lived and dealt with government business. Known in Chinese as “the Garden of Gardens,” Yuanmingyuan is renowned for the lush lotus pool that blooms in early summer.
If you’re not up for it, backtrack to the East Gate of Peking University, go south on Zhongguancun Beidajie, and turn left on Chengfu Lu. Cycle east until you’re back in central Wudaokou. You’ll probably want a bite to eat before you go home. Keep going east, turn left on Wangzhuang Lu, and pick any of the Korean barbecue restaurants on the road or head to student favorites Isshin, Sugar Shack, or Lush on Chengfu Lu.
The Bridge Cafe 桥咖啡
Daily 24hrs. Rm 8, Bldg 12, Huaqing Jiayuan, Chengfu Lu (west of Wudaokou subway station), Haidian District (8286 7026) 海淀区成府路五道口华清嘉园12号楼8号（五道口城铁站西边）
Tsinghua University 清华大学
Zhongguancun Donglu, Haidian District (6278 5001) 海淀区中关村东路
Meng Minwei Concert Hall 蒙民伟音乐厅
Daily 9am-7pm (box office closed on Tuesdays). Intersection of Xuetang Lu and Qinghua Lu, Tsinghua University, Haidian District (6278 1984) 海淀区清华大学学院内学堂路和清华路十字路口
Jinchun Garden 近春园
Jin Lu (inside Tsinghua University), Haidian District (6278 3074) 海淀区成府路西春路（清华大学校园内）
Lotus Cafe 荷塘月色咖啡店
Jinchun Garden Islet, Tsinghua University Campus, Haidian District (6279 8288) 海淀区清华大学校园内近春园小岛内
Peking University (East Gate)
Zhongguancun Beidajie (near Peking University East Gate subway station), Haidian District (6275 2114) 海淀区中关村北大街（近北京大学东门地铁站）
Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archeology 北京大学赛克勒考古与艺术博物馆
Free. Daily 9am-4.30pm. Near West Gate of Peking University, Haidian District (6275 9784) 海淀区近北京大学西门
Sun-Thu 11am-2pm, 5-10pm; Fri-Sat 11am-2pm, 5-11pm. 35 Chengfu Lu (30m north of traffic lights next to Wudaokou subway), Haidian District (8261 0136) 海淀区城府路35号院（五道口城铁站旁信号灯往北30米路西院内）
Daily 10am-1am. B1/F, Bldg 12, Huaqing Jiayuan, Chengfu Lu, Haidian District (8286 6240/54) sugarshackpizza.com 华海淀区成府路清嘉园12号楼地下1层
Daily 24hrs. 2/F, Bldg 1, Huaqing Jiayuan, Chengfu Lu, Haidian District (8286 3566) www.lushbeijing.com海淀区成府路华清嘉园1号楼2层