GO BACK TO THE FUTURE

Explore the city’s backstreets for a unique urban tourDine in a 300 year old Tibetan templeAt a captivating art installation, experience the interplay between artificial and natural lightThose up for an urban adventure will want to hop the Subway Line 6 four stops to South Luogu Alley. Make your way out Exit B at the northeast, then walk south for three minutes down Donghuangchenggen Bei Jie. Congratulations for getting this far: you’re ready to face the true challenge of this trip. Turn right onto Shatan Bei Jie where you’ll start to zigzag into this city’s snaking alleyways known as hutong. Say “Zhizhusi” to those two old men playing mah-jongg on the crumbling stone stoop. You will not be the first waiguoren (foreigner) to ask directions from this warren’s notably friendly residents, some of whom will happily guide you by the elbow. Keep an eye out for smooth round stones above the door arches; these imperial vestiges denote that high military officials once resided here. Your adventurous spirit gets rewarded in awe (and plenty of Instagram-worthy angles) from the moment you set foot onto the timeworn stones surrounding the 300-year-old Tibetan Buddhist Temple of Wisdom. Trivia buffs will appreciate knowing this former home was constructed of pine without a single nail, then restored by a small army of artisans, to whom unesco bestowed the Asia-Pacific Cultural Heritage Conservation Award in 2012. The temple also happens to be home to one of Beijing’s best no-expense-spared brunch spots, Temple Restaurant Beijing, but we prefer to make this an afternoon-into-evening outing, followed by a romantic dinner at the restaurant instead. Roam around the calm, leafy grounds; peek into the contemporary art exhibition space. Fifteen minutes before sunset, lie down on the padded mats inside the whitewashed box that is Gathered Sky, James Turrell’s only work in China. You’ll watch through an aperture in the ceiling as the setting sun illuminates a captivating interplay between artificial and natural light. When that’s finished, your reserved table for two (ideally in the quieter, back dining room) at Temple Restaurant awaits. ​From South Luogu Alley, walk straight until you get to Donghuangchenggen Bei Jie. Alternatively, work your way down into Dongbanqiao Street, past the Xinglin Hotel and left into Nafu Hutong. This will take you right to the corner of the Temple complex.​​TRB: 23 Shatan Bei Jie; 86-(0)10-8400-2232; trb-cn.com​​GATHERED SKY: 23 Shatan Bei Jie; 86-(0)10-8401-5680 (ext. 8013); thetemplehotel.com