Travel Diary: Beijing and Opposite House

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Last September David and I traveled to Beijing for a friend’s wedding and stayed for a week so David could get his first taste of Asia. The test trip was a big success, and we’re so excited to be back in Asia for two more months of exploration!

Here’s a recap of our favorite places and activities from Beijing:

STAY.
We LOVED our stay at the Opposite House in Sanlitun. Designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the Opposite House is a stylish 99-room boutique hotel that mixes contemporary style with traditional Chinese designs and a clever use of light and space. A work of art in-and-of itself, Opposite House also hosts a rotating collection of installations and artwork in their massive central atrium. (Just a week after we checked out, Lisa Roet’s Golden Monkey took over The Opposite House – climbing King Kong style on the hotel’s glossy facade.)

“Opposite House” isn’t meant to imply the hotel is topsy-turvy, but instead is named after the guest house opposite the primary residence in a traditional Chinese courtyard home. An apt name since personalized hospitality is the hallmark of their hotel. From the extensive use of warm hardwoods to the thoughtful personal touches we felt like guest at the consummate host’s home. We loved the spacious, uncluttered rooms with oversized soaking tubs that proved to be the perfect retreat after a day exploring the busy streets of Beijing. Each evening we’d return to a new little treasure left beside our bed – a beautiful wooden bookmark, a postcard to send to someone you love, or vintage luggage stickers.

DO.
Dumpling Making at The Orchid – Tucked into an up and coming Hutong neighborhood on the northern side of Beijing, we booked a dumpling making class for our first night in town so we wouldn’t be tempted to head to bed early. A very fun class, where you and 6 others learn the basics of dumpling making, and enjoy dinner together afterwards!
Sunday Antiques Market at Panjiayuan – I loved this market but would caution you that many of the items are not antiques! It’s still fun anyway, as there are lots of beads, ceramics, calligraphy tools, musical instruments and busts of Emperor Mao. (The list goes on.) There are also a shocking number of walnuts for sale, which we were told are supposed to be rolled through your fingers to promote circulation. Hmm!
798 Art District – Contemporary Chinese Art in a Brooklyn-esque neighborhood with many small galleries. Be sure to check opening days and times before you go to ensure your favorites are open! If you arrive early, as we did, you’ll likely see several Chinese Instagrammers shooting their looks in the street.
Jingshan Park – A sprawling public park on the northern side of the Forbidden City, with fantastic bird’s-eye city views from the top of the hill.
Pop-Up Beijing – A beautiful lifestyle store within walking distance of Opposite House with a mix of antique and new home furnishings. I wanted everything in sight!

We also loved visiting the Summer Palace, shopping on Dashilan Street and an evening spent trying lots of snacks and candies along S. Luogu Alley.

EAT.
The breakfast at Opposite House was incredible and kept us full until late afternoon on most days. We’d order a mix of western and Chinese dishes (the dumplings are a must-try) and read the China Daily. We’d usually snack from food trucks throughout the day then settle in for a big dinner each night. Here are 6 of our favorite restaurants from our time in Beijing:

Jing Yaa Tang – Can you say bottomless dim-sum brunch? Though this stylish restaurant at the Opposite House is known for it’s Peking Duck we couldn’t resist sampling a wide variety of their dishes at their Sunday Brunch.
Dali Courtyard – This is an expat favorite in a traditional, open-air courtyard but a magical experience with authentic and delicious Chinese food. A great introduction to local cuisine since they have a set menu that changes every night and all you have to choose is what you’d like to drink!
1949 – Great atmosphere and a beautiful Peking duck presentation. This seemed like the kind of place locals go when they want to impress their date.
SuSu – Delicious Vietnamese tucked into a traditional Chinese-style home with a pretty, palm-filled courtyard. Just the thing when you’re looking for a fresh and healthy meal!
The Georg – Upscale, great for brunch (ask for a seat by the fire) or a drink.
Great Leap Brewing – Fun happy hour hangoutwhere you can order delivery to accompany your beer. I can vouch for their IPA.

Thank you Opposite House for making us feel so at home in the center of Beijing!

xx, SF

All photos by David and Stacie Flinner for stacieflinner.com.

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