Suffering from jet lag? Use it to your advantage to see Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest, before sunrise in all its uncrowded glory. Expect a 15-minute car ride from the Conrad to the spot where Mao proclaimed the founding of his People’s Republic of China in 1949. At this hour, it’ll be just you and the young Chinese soldiers raising the fire-engine-red national flag. Pack your kite to optimize your exploration around this massive piece of real estate ringed by the Great Hall of the People, the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Mao Ze-dong Mausoleum, and the National Museum of China, all worthy (if standard) tourist attractions for another day. While your kite flutters freely overhead, you are closely monitored on video cameras fitted to the imposing lampposts. Now, hail a taxi to the other side of the Forbidden City where the thousand-year-old Beihai Park attracts locals practicing ribbon-dancing, Chinese opera, kung fu, and tai chi. As you enter the main gate, look for the small shop selling local snacks. Once inside, hunt around for the white ceramic “Old Beijing” yogurt bottle with its blue paper top. Sip this fresh and healthy breakfast, then return the recyclable container to the shopkeeper. Continue onward, kite in hand, to roam around this well-preserved imperial playground of Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming, and Qing emperors. For an unbeatable panorama, climb the small hill leading up to the 17th-century Tibetan-style White Pagoda. Return to the Conrad for a second, bigger breakfast on Subway Line 6 direct from Beihai North Station to Hujialou.
As well as going by cab which ought to take about 15 mins, you can also get to Tiananmen Square via train; get on at Tuanjiehu and take subway lines 10 and 1 to Tian’anmen East. From here, it’s just a few minutes down Guangchang East Side Road.
TIANANMEN SQUARE: Dongcheng
BEIHAI PARK: 1 Wenjin St.; 86-(0)10-6403-3225; beihaipark.com.cn