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July 31, 2008

Beijing: Cultural Revolution

With clocks on every corner of the city counting down the minutes, Beijing couldn’t be more ready for the Olympics to begin. And with the opening ceremony just over a week away, excitement is rising and the temperature, literally, couldn’t be any hotter. While the government has improved transportation, lowered pollution levels and erected the Olympic Bird’s Nest and Water Cube at the speed of light, Beijing’s cultural offerings have undergone a quiet revolution of their own. Local noodle shops are now sharing street corners with Michelin-starred restaurants, big hotels have been joined by kitschy boutique properties and centuries old hutongs are now home to the most sought after nightlife spots. If you thought the stadium was the only place to find excitement in this city, think again. Join us for an insider’s tour of the best of Beijing… beyond the rings!

South American competitors who are missing home will be bouncing off the walls at Salt, a chic, new lounge and restaurant that serves inspired fare from acclaimed Venezuelan chef Daniel Urdaneta (1/F, Trio Building, Jiangtai Xi Lu, +86 10 6437-8457, or Alameda (Nali Mall, Sanlitun Jiuba Jie, +86 10 6417 8084), a swish spot that specializes in traditional Brazilian cuisine.

Masters of stamina, we challenge you to a race of a different kind. First stop, aperitifs at Les Baie des Anges, a cosy bar in a Houhai hutong alleyway with fab French snacks and a great wine list (5 Nanguanfong Hutong, Xicheng, +86 10 6657 1605, Next, kick things up a notch with cocktails at Yin, a glam rooftop bar in a prime spot overlooking the Forbidden City (33 Qihelou St, Dongcheng, +86 10 6523 6877 Last, head to the super sleek new I-Ultra Lounge for a round of shots and some serious dance floor action (Block 8, 8 Chaoyang Gongyuan Xi Lu, Chaoyang, +86 10 6508 8585,

Toast to a dazzling duel in style at Whampoa Club Beijing, which serves up delightfully modern Chinese food in a stunning courtyard (23A Financial St., Xicheng, +86 10 8808 8828, Or go a bit more cutting-edge with daringly contemporary seafood and unique gastronomic combinations at Blu Lobster (1/F Shangri-La Beijing, 29 Zizhuyuan Lu, Haidan, +86 10 6841 2211).

When precision counts, look no further than Maison Boulud à Pekin, the latest creation from renowned chef Daniel Boulud, which has just opened its doors in the meticulously restored new lifestyle complex Legation Quarter, located just steps from Tiananmen Square (23 Qian Men Dong Da Jie, Tiananmen, +86 10 6559 9200, You’ll find that Le Pré Lenôtre, sister of triple Michelin-starred Parisian eatery Le Pré Catelan, is also set to make its mark on Beijing’s culinary scene (Sofitel Wanda Beijing, Tower C, Wanda Plaza, 93 Jianguo Lu, Chaoyang, +86 10 8599 6666 ext. 6340).

If art’s your racket, swing over to 798/Dashanzi Art District, a complex of old factories and warehouses, which is now home to Asia’s most competitive contemporary art scene ( Raise the score at the new, expertly curated Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, +86 10 6438 6675, Or, aim outside the lines at nearby high-concept modern Chinese restaurant Green T. House Living (318 Cuige Zhuang Xiang Hege Zhuang Cun, Chaoyang +86 10 136 0113 7132,

Take the plunge into Pan Jia Yuan weekend market for antique goodies, furniture, art and jewelry in porcelain, bronze and lacquer (Panjiayuan Qiao, Chaoyang). Go deep…into your pockets at By Zhang, for stylish jade jewelry (Store 5678, 5/F, Silk Street Market Building, +86 10 5169 9158) or Torana for the finest Tibetan carpets (Kempinski Hotel, Shop 10, 50 Liangmaquao Lu, Chaoyang, +86 10 6465 3388 ext. 5542).

Can’t find the perfect Beijing hotel? Don’t flip out! Tumble into Hotel Cote Cour S.L., a traditional courtyard house in a historically protected hutong, which has been renovated to perfection (70 Yanyue Hutong, Dongcheng, +86 10 6512 8020, Take a leap over to the supremely modern architectural wonder Hotel Kapok (16 Donghuamen Street, +86 10 6525 9988, Or turn your world upside down at brand new boutique property Opposite House, which resides above a new underground restaurant and bar complex conceived by celebrity chef David Laris (The Village, Building 1, 11 Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang, +86 10 6417 6688,

If dining, drinking, shopping and traveling are your sports of choice, it looks like you’ve come to the right place. Let the games begin…

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