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Beijing’s best food & drink

  • Beijing, China

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 17 April, 2024

Eating is the most cherished activity in China, and Beijing is no different. Naturally, the capital attracts Chinese chefs and restauranteurs from across its 34 provinces and regions, which means you can feast on fragrant Yunnan rice noodles one day and hearty Inner-Mongolian lamb the next.

With its icy northern winters, Beijing’s own food is hearty and filling – think stews, wheat noodles, potatoes, steamed bread and mutton – generously laced with garlic and salt.

What to try

Traditional Peking duck is roasted in open ovens over burning fruitwood, then carved tableside. The dish was first served to emperors, before the recipe found its way out of imperial kitchens.

Another must-try is hotpot (both the spicy Sichuan kind and the more austere Beijing variety) where diners cook meat, tofu and veggies in cauldrons of bubbling soup.

Donkey-meat sandwiches are an unusual treat, while traditional Beijing sweets include candid hawthorn fruit, pea cake, and old Beijing yoghurt.

Although street food is on the wane as Beijing, you can still find delicious jianbing (savoury egg crepes), paper bags of hot roast chestnuts, and baozi (steamed pork buns) sold throughout the city.

The Dining Scene

Beijing has options to suit every budget. At the bottom end are street sellers hawking snacks like baked sweet potatoes from bicycle carts. Then there are the cheap hole-in-the-wall restaurants selling noodles, or Xinjiang joints grilling lamb skewers and flatbread.

Hot pot restaurants are a delicious mid-range treat to enjoy with other diners. First you must choose your soup base (spicy, plain broth, tomato, etc), and then the ingredients to cook in it at your table. Often, you can mix your own sesame-based dipping sauce at a station inside the restaurant.

Laozihao are restaurants boasting a famous and longstanding brand. These included Bianyifang and Quanjude for Peking duck, both established in earlier centuries though rather touristy these days. Another name to look out for is Dao Xiang Cun which sells old-timey Beijing snacks and sweet treats, but be warned that this laozihao has many ersatz pretenders using its name.

Who to go with: tour operators

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Peking duck at Dadong

  • Beijing, China

Peking duck at Dadong

Experience

One of China’s top chefs, Dong Zhenxiang (aka Dadong) devised his own ‘superlean’ take on Peking duck, blending tradition with gastronomic innovation. As well as his flagship Dadong restaurants, there is Taste of Dadong, a cheaper express option found in shopping malls.

Good for age: 18+

Hotpot at Haidilao

  • Beijing, China

Hotpot at Haidilao

Experience

This excellent chain is known for its customer service almost as much as its spicy hotpot feasts. Diners can enjoy free beers, snacks, and even manicures while they wait for a table. Order the hand-pulled noodles for a deft twirling performance.

Good for age: 18+

King’s Joy

  • Beijing, China

King’s Joy

Experience

Inspired by the adjacent Lama Temple, this tranquil, Zen-like restaurant serves immaculate renditions of meat-free dishes typically served to abstentious Buddhist monks. It’s also a lovely spot to come for a unique take on afternoon tea, accompanied by a harp performance.

Good for age: 18+

Website >

UnTour Food Tours

  • Beijing, China

Aerial view of street cart

Experience

A fun way to get your foodie bearings, UnTour’s ‘Old Beijing Dinner Tour’ visits several hidden hutong restaurants and bars, introducing local specialities like Beijing-style hotpot and the city’s famous sorghum-based firewater, Erguotou. 5 stops and 15 tastings.

Adult price: 75

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 3 hours

Website >

Wang Pangzi (Fatty Wang’s)

  • Beijing, China

Wang Pangzi (Fatty Wang’s)

Experience

The delicious speciality at this local chain is lurou huoshao, or donkey meat in baked bread. The practice of eating donkey came with the rise of the railways in northern China, when their transport services were no longer required.

Good for age: 18+

TRB Hutong

  • Beijing, China

TRB Hutong

Experience

Beijing’s most ravishing restaurant is set within a revamped 500-year old Buddhist temple complex that had been largely forgotten since the Cultural Revolution. The food is European casual fine dining, with good value lunch sets and a fabulous wine list.

Adult price: 50

Good for age: 18+

Website >

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around
Duration: -

Getting there & doing it

Beijingers love to eat, and restaurants seem to appear almost on every corner.

The historic hutong areas around Houhai Lakes, the Lama Temple and the Drum and Bell Towers are popular for casual drinking and eating at night with in-the-know locals.

Sanltun, Beijing’s embassy district, is the spot for international dining, while ‘Ghost Street’ (Gui Jie) is an all-night restaurant strip famous for spicy crayfish and hotpot.

These days, shopping malls are where you’ll find some of the most popular and creative mid-range restaurants.

When to do it

Beijingers like to eat dinner early, and you should aim to do the same; many local restaurants close their kitchens by 8.30pm.

Avoid the daytime queues at popular Peking duck restaurants by eating after 3pm.

Who to go with: organised tours

9

Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Beijing Hutong Food and Beer Tour at Local Hidden Restaurants

  • Beijing

Your small group tour travels by private climate controlled van while you and your English-speaking guide are whisked around the alleys of Beijing's hutongs to get off the beaten path with unlimited local beer and soda. You will eat where the locals eat at small, family-run businesses and try the best local food at places you can’t find on your own. After 3-4 hours, you will finish at a popular local brewery to have a pint of the best craft brew in town. Note: This tour will be a walking tour in effect from Mar 1st onwards. Walking distance for the entire route is approximately 2km.

Price $75

Min age 0

Rating 4.95 / 5 [631 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Website >

Beijing Private Hutong Food Walking Tour

  • Beijing

An authentic culinary tour through Dong Si Area, lesser tourist visited hutongs. Visit Dong Si area where you will be immersed into the real tradition of Chinese culinary culture and get the complete experience of hutong cuisine like an insider. Explore the charming traditional community, walk around the Hutong.Included will be 20+ different food tastings at various diverse locations, such as markets, shops, bakeries and restaurants. You will visit local haunts, get a chance to meet the owners and explore historical sites that few tourists have an opportunity to experience.

Price $88

Min age 0

Rating 4.97 / 5 [136 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >

Beijing Hutong Breakfast Food Tour

  • Beijing

A stroll through Beijing’s Hutongs are recommended to every visitor to the capital, but locals know that “there are as many hutongs as there are hairs on an ox” around the city. The best way to get to know the most scenic twisting backstreets that locals call home is by eating your way through them, especially at the pop-up breakfast stalls that disappear after the morning rush hour. On this tour, you’ll meet your bilingual guide and small group at a convenient location, then head out to try traditional morning dishes side-by-side with the locals who love them.

Price $55

Min age 0

Rating 4.91 / 5 [85 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >

Beijing Hutong Breakfast Food Tour

  • Beijing

Get away from the tourists and explore a traditional hutong neighborhood while enjoying breakfast like a local. On this 2-hour intimate walking tour, your small group will enjoy loads of food and drinks while visiting 4-5 eateries and street stalls. Along with your English speaking guide, you'll discover how locals live in this completely off-the-beaten path area. Finish with one of the city’s best coffees with a view!

Price $55

Min age 0

Rating 4.90 / 5 [51 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >

3-Hour Private Night Tour: Beijing Foodie Experience

  • Beijing

Combine the cultural delights and delectable bites of Beijing on this enriching 3-hour food tour of China’s captivating capital. Accompanied by a private guide, appease an appetite for authenticity as you sample 10-20 different types of local delicacy in one of the Beijing old neighborhood area - Dongsi Hutong . Gain fascinating insight into China’s rich culinary culture and traditions at night.

Price $88

Min age 0

Rating 4.85 / 5 [49 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >