Peking Duck is a must-do while in Beijing, there is just no way around it. You won’t find a more masterfully roasted crispy exterior matched with juicy, succulent meat anywhere else in the world.
Beijing’s Peking Duck Options
There are four major Peking Duck restaurants in Beijing: Sijiminfu, Bianyifang, Quanjude and Dadong. Three of them are located close to the south gate of Tian’anmen Square so you should be able to get to them quite easily from most centrally-located hotels. Those three are: Sijiminfu, Bianyifang and Quanjude.
We are pretty much unable to choose between Sijiminfu and Bianyifang, but both are perhaps slightly superior to Quanjude and Dadong. Back in the 1300s, the emperor of the time was said to have eaten a duck per day, and his chefs were constantly trying to think of new ways to prepare the ducks to please the emperor and gain his favour. The most successful of these attempts hung each duck in a small, closed oven, sealing in the juices as the duck roasted. It was ordered so regularly by the emperor that it became popular throughout his court and eventually (after he died) outside the court as well, and became known as Peking Duck. The first restaurant to begin serving it outside the imperial court was Bianyifang and they still prepare and roast their ducks the same way they did back when they started in the early 15th Century.
In the 18th Century, Peking Duck restaurants began to change their roasting method, choosing instead to build large stone ovens and hang the ducks inside. Quanjude was one of the pioneering restaurants to begin hanging the ducks to roast in the 1700s and this new method is now the method all Peking Duck restaurants in Beijing use, with the exception of Bianyifang. While Quanjude is definitely the most famous Peking Duck around China and the oldest of the open-oven-roasted duck restaurants, I think Sijiminfu more respected around Beijing.
So if you want to try the historical version of Peking Duck, choose Bianyifang, and if you want to try the Peking Duck that most Beijing resident would choose themselves, choose Sijiminfu.
Here are the addresses:
Sijiminfu/四季民福: 18 Langfang Ertiao, Qianmen (close to Qianmen Dajie) 前门廊坊二条18号(近前门大街)
Bianyifang/便宜坊: Corner of Qianmen Dajie and Xianyukou Street 前门大街东侧鲜鱼口老字号餐饮一条街
Quanjude/全聚德: 30 Qianmen Dajie 前门大街30号
So you can see they’re all really close together (Qianmen is the south gate of Tian’anmen Square). On Dianping (a yelp-like app) those branches are rated as follows:
Bianyifang – Overall Rating: 4.5 stars – Flavour: 8.4 – Environment: 8.4 – Service: 8.3
Sijiminfu – Overall Rating: 5 stars – Flavour: 9.1 – Environment: 8.0 – Service 8.9
Quanjude – Overall Rating: 4 stars – Flavour: 7.6 – Environment: 7.7 – Service: 7.4
We recommend booking in on a peking duck dinner or lunch during your time in Beijing – we do not cover duck on our culinary walking tours of Beijing, so rest assured, you won’t face any repeats if you book a tour and make a reservation for duck.