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Things to do in Beijing

Check out Beijing’s flourishing contemporary art scene

This former industrial complex in the Dashanzi district is the hive around which all Beijing’s contemporary artists swarms. 798 Art District (www.798district.com/en) has a wealth of galleries that hold revolving exhibitions from local and international artists, and there are cafes, bars and art shops to ensure you won’t have to go more than 30 minutes without cashing some of those holiday tokens.

Get on your (ice) bike

In summer, Shichahai Lake's glass-like surface is dotted with lotus flowers, whilst weeping willows huddle round the edges. In winter, it turns into a giant skating rink where you can hire ice bikes, thus hopefully avoiding the indignity of sore knees and elbows. You can hire everything down at the lake, which is open during daylight hours.

Get yourself a good Cupping

One of China's most offbeat medicinal treatments is cupping: the act of applying heated cups to skin to effect suction. It can help all manner of bodily ailments, from skin and blood disorders to rheumatic problems. There's not many places left that still do it so if you want to give this most ancient of treatments a whirl, book a session (www.klook.com/activity/2064-traditional-cupping-beijing).

Lose yourself in the worlds weirdest food market

Even if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool meat and potatoes hound, a trip to Beijing will be incomplete with visiting Donghuamen Night Market. Culinary weirdness abounds - get those chops round spiders on sticks, deep fried scorpions, sheep’s penis and maybe even a seahorse.

Stoke your fire at Dragon Gorge

Set 80km (50 miles) from downtown Beijing is Longqing Xia, otherwise known as Dragon Gorge. Take the dragon escalator up to the gorge - an escalator claimed to be the longest in the world. Climb up the mountains or take a cable car, before taking a river cruise between the lush great pillars that jut from the water. Adrenalin enthusiasts will get their fill here too, with bungee jumping, rock-climbing and abseiling on offer. Beijing Trip will get you there (www.beijingtrip.com).

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Featured Hotels

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Red Capital Residence

Located in a 200-year-old courtyard residence, this boutique hotel moves the historic theme forward to the Liberation era, with rooms and communal spaces decked out with Communist antiques and Mao memorabilia. The five suites are fit for a Communist Party bigwig, with some of Beijing’s most unique interior design, and the bar is set in a converted underground bomb shelter.

The Orchid

Hip and perfectly located in a lane just a short stroll from the Bell Tower and Drum Tower, the Orchid is a slice of wood-floored, design magazine modernism in the heart of old Beijing. Rooms are compact but calming, with contemporary designer furnishings. There’s even a roof terrace with views over the hutongs.

Jingshan Garden Hotel

A cute budget hotel with calm, comfy rooms set around a similarly serene courtyard, Jingshan Garden Hotel is in easy striking distance of the Forbidden City. It feels just like you'd imagine a Chinese hotel to feel, down to the odd piece of old-fashioned lacquered furniture in the rooms. It has a decent restaurant too.

Double Happiness Beijing Courtyard Hotel

Most guests agree with the name when they stay at this low-key but friendly hotel in the lanes near the Lama Temple. The small, simple rooms come with Chinese-style furniture, TVs and a computer for checking your email, plus an extra serving of homespun charm, but it can get a little cold here in winter.

DuGe Courtyard Boutique Hotel

Housed in a wonderful, Qing-dynasty courtyard home (formerly home to one of Emperor Xianfeng's ministers), this unique Beijing hotel blends tradition and modernity in equal measures. Rooms are trendy, yet elegant, and full of modern amenities, but still romantically old-fashioned. The location, amongst the old hutong alleys of Nanluoguxiang, couldn’t be better.

Temple Hotel

This former Tibetan Buddhist temple from the Qing Dynasty was saved for posterity by a UNESCO-endorsed restoration project. Buildings at the hotel have been standing for 250 years and they still swim with the air of times past. There are just eight well-appointed rooms, each with traces of the building's former life, firstly as a temple, then as a television factory after the Cultural Revolution.