Start the day exploring Beijing’s cutting-edge architecture. Designed by French architect, Paul Andreu, the National Grand Theatre’s egg-shaped titanium shell appears rising out of the lake. Inside you may notice a more traditional concert setting but no less spectacular, lined with Brazilian rosewood and glass panels.
Your guide will then take you to the National Aquatics Centre, otherwise known as The Water Cube, which housed the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Stroll around its pillowed facades before visiting the National Stadium, across the green, whose steel frame resembles a bird’s nest.
Head to Factory 798, a thriving artists’ hub. Once a series of abandoned military factories, the industrial complex is packed with work by China’s most relevant contemporary artists. Wander through art galleries and studios as well as trendy design shops and bars - your savvy guide will point you to the best ones.
Then step back in time tracing the history of old Beijing from a pedicab. Wind through its narrow alleys (hutongs) where you can watch local life play out. Hutongs, the traditional lifeblood of the city, have survived modernization with their low-slung imperial architecture. Pop in for tea at a local family’s home for a rare glimpse into ‘real’ Beijing.