The Summer Palace is just gorgeous and definitely a must-see spot for those visiting Beijing for the first time. The sheer size of the grounds is inconceivable; I don’t think I’ve covered everything yet, but the marble boat and Seventeen Arch Bridge are well worth a visit. Close to the east gate also lies Aman, which offers great afternoon tea; the complex is housed in a series of pavilions, some of which date back over a century and were originally used by guests of the Summer Palace awaiting an audience with the Empress Dowager Cixi.
Summer Palace, Yiheyuan Lu, Haidian District, Beijing, China
Current city: Beijing
Zara Arshad was born and raised in the UK, but has also lived in Syria and Indonesia. She now resides in China as a graduate of the BA (Hons) Design course, Goldsmiths College. Strongly influenced by Bruce Mau, Troika and Graffiti Research Lab, she continually promotes internationalism and the potential of design to solve social and political issues.  As well as practicing as a freelance, multi-disciplinary designer, Zara currently works on the Organising Committee for Beijing Design Week 2011 and writes for Design China.

More Places in Beijing 5

Established by Melbourne-born restaurateur, Michelle Garnaut, Capital M is one of my favourites, especially for afternoon tea. During pollution-free springs (when we have them) and summer (when the heat is not too suffocating), the view of Qianmen from the terrace is breathtaking, whilst cooler months see the use of the indoor fireplaces, which create a cosy, intimate environment. They also hold some great events here and the decor is trippy.
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Amazing place to spend a day in Beijing, a lot of amazing emerging and established art and good for shopping.
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Posted by Zara Arshad
A hutong is a type of narrow street or alley most commonly associated with Beijing. Since the mid-20th century, the number of Beijing hutongs has dramatically decreased as they are facing demolition to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history. I love walking around the hutongs when I need a break from the office (my current office is located in a particularly interesting hutong neighbourhood); they are a great exemplar of ancient urban planning and architecture, and breathe "the old way of life".
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I didn't expect much from NAMOC when I first visited to be honest, but most of the exhibitions I've seen here have blown me away. Themes have varied from the art of Chinese shadow puppetry to abstract paintings from Taiwan, and even socially responsible design.
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My go-to place when I need a break from Beijing. CAFA is, surprisingly, not known by many, which makes it even more perfect. It is the only art institution of higher learning operated by the Ministry of Education and was founded in April 1950 when the National Beijing Art College and the Fine Arts Department of Huabei University were transformed into a single institution. The School of Design holds graduate exhibitions every year, which are well worth a visit, and also houses AIGA China. Equipped with an art museum (designed by Japanese architect, Arata Isozaki) as well as art supplies and book stores.
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