The Forbidden City is definitely on your itinerary while you’re visiting Beijing. Once the stately royal residence of the emperors for more than half a millennia during the Ming and Qing dynasties, it’s a must-see. However, we’d argue that the more important piece to plan out is where you’re going to eat after you’ve walked up an appetite.
The palace draws in more than 50,000 visitors daily and is surrounded by many other fantastic sights (Tiananmen Square, Jingshan Park, etc.) so you will likely be in the area for a while. Perhaps lunch first, followed by some sightseeing, and then an early dinner?
With so many visitors flocking to the area, tourist traps started to spring up along the ancient hutong alleyways and finding a good local eatery has become a bit of a challenge. We’ve got you covered, with this list of our favorite restaurants in the Forbidden City neighborhood beloved by locals and travelers alike, where you can rest your feet after that long walk in the Palace and indulge in some of the most authentic food the city has to offer
四季民福 Sijiminfu — Best Peking Duck in the city
15 min walk (1.4km) from Forbidden City north gate
If you are visiting Beijing, Peking duck is a must have. One of our favorite Peking Duck joints, Sijiminfu, has long been a classic among Beijingers. Offering fantastically juicy roast duck paired with the amazing sweet dipping sauce in their many branches all over old Beijing and around town, there are pretty much always families and visitors lining up at their door, even an hour before dinner time.
This popular location is located right next to the palace moat just east of the Forbidden City, a short 15-minute walk from the north exit. Snatch up the window seats for a fantastic view of the corner tower and Donghuamen 东华门 — the east gate of Forbidden City.
Here you can get the complete experience sitting among locals – you can see through to the kitchen where the ducks are roasted in the traditional stone ovens; they also have carving stations all around the seating area so you get to watch your own duck being carved right in front of you.
Order the half duck if you are dining by yourself or for a lovely couple’s meal; and a whole duck should easily satisfy 3-5 people. Some other fantastic Beijing specialty dishes on offer include爆肚 – flash blanched tripe paired with roasted sesame sauce (a traditional local favorite), 芥末鸭掌 – mustard duck feet (these are coated in stone grind local mustard, a must have for cartilage fans), and 炸酱面- soybean paste noodles (amazing chewy noodles paired with a wonderful umami-laden fermented soybean sauce).
Address: No. 60 Donghuamen Dajie 东华门大街60号
Directions: Walk along the palace moat to your right after you exit from the north gate of the Forbidden City, turning right when the moat does, then turn left at the first traffic light onto Donghuamen Dajie. The restaurant is across the street just after the turn.
成都驻京办 Beijing Administrative Office of Chengdu – Authentic Sichuan
5min walk (540m) from Forbidden City North gate
Rejoice spicy food lovers! If you are a die-hard Sichuan food fan, this is as authentic as you can get in Beijing. This restaurant is located just a short 8-minute walk from the north gate and is operated by the Chengdu government’s Beijing administrative office, boasting some of the best Sichuan food the national capital has to offer.
Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province, and an unchallenged foodie center throughout China. Known for their bold and spicy flavors, Chengdu was the first city to be inducted into the list of UNESCO City of Gastronomy in Asia. Eating here is like going straight to the source – it’s where the Chengdu government hosts their own business dinners, so you know you are getting the whole local Chengdu package.
As you walk in the door you will be greeted by the iconic aromas of Sichuan food – chilies, Sichuan peppercorns, and a mouthwatering blend of spices and herbs all mixed in with the wonderful smell of fried and stewed meats.
Chengdu favorites like the simple but amazing dandan noodles 担担面 or wonton in red chili oil 红油抄手 are must orders, and other iconic dishes like 麻婆豆腐 mapo tofu, 回锅肉 twice fried pork, 宫保鸡丁 kungpao chicken, and 水煮鱼 spicy fish stew are beloved by their patrons as well.
Address: No.30 Shatan Houjie 沙滩后街30号
Directions: Turn right after you exit from the North gate of the Forbidden city and walk along Jingshan Park, turn left onto the first side street and then take your first right. The restaurant is located in the Beijing administrative office of Chengdu hotel.
大槐树烤肉馆 Big Pagoda Tree BBQ Joint – Old Beijing Style Stovetop BBQ
15 min walk (1.3km) from Forbidden City North gate
A local’s favorite and a well-guarded secret nestled in the hutongs to the east of the Forbidden City, this little barbeque joint offers a heartwarmingly cozy environment tucked inside a 四合院 – a Hutong courtyard home where the wonderful aromas of sizzling beef and pork belly draws in hordes of locals and travelers alike.
Serving up 炙子烤肉, an old-Beijing griddle style DIY barbeque heated by a little coal stove placed at the center of the table, this little shop has been a hutong institution for more than two decades. The well-seasoned griddle top has narrow slits in the center, making it perfect for some fire-licked charring on the thinly-sliced pork belly, fatty beef strips, and local shitake mushrooms on offer.
Make sure you order their 小料, the dry rubs and sauces too. They offer both dry spice — heaps of ground cumin and chili flakes that can be sprinkled liberally on top of the meat and veggies for that iconic Northern barbeque flavor, and also a secret sweet and sour sauce – 烧烤汁 -which keeps the foodies coming back week after week. Also don’t miss their egg-battered fried 馒头 (steam buns) to get your carb fill of the day; and the muddled garlic eggplant or smashed cucumber salad makes for the perfect refreshing pairing with their barbeques. For the adventurous eaters, the sliced beef tongue is also a must-have.
Address: No.23 Meishuguan Dongjie 美术馆东街23号
Directions: Turn right after you exit the North gate of the Forbidden City and keep following the road until you’ve reached the National Art Museum metro station (ZhongGuo MeiShuGuan 中国美术馆 station), take the immediate left, the restaurant is just inside the first alley to your left.
河沿肉饼 – Beijing Pie
15 min walk (1.4km) from Forbidden City North gate
If you are saving Peking duck for a special occasion, check out this shop for the top-rated meat pies of the city according to tens of thousands of foodies on 大众点评 Dazhong Dianping, the Chinese version of yelp.
Meat pie 肉饼 is a beloved breakfast dish in Northern China. More akin to a cheese-less quesadilla than meat pies found in British pubs, these are wonderful little contraptions with a layer of minced beef or pork filling stuffed in a thin crispy flour pastry shells before they are griddle-fried and baked to the order.
They are always bursting with flavor from the minced garlic and Chinese leeks mixed in and the wonderful flavor of the freshly-made pastry shell. Aside from their popular pork or beef pies, the sugar pie 糖饼 is a must try as well; made with roasted sesame paste and brown sugar, these pastries have a delicious nutty and caramel flavor. Also on offer are炸酱面 soybean paste noodles, sour and spicy soup酸辣汤 to wash down the pies, the luffa shoot salad巧拌丝瓜尖, which is a light and refreshing dish to balance things out. A few veggies never hurt anyone!
Address: No. 60 Donghuamen Dajie 东华门大街60号
Directions: Walk along the palace moat to your right after you exit from the North Gate of the Forbidden City, turning right when the moat does then turn left at the first traffic light onto Donghuamen Dajie. The restaurant is across the street just after the turn.
小云南 Little Yunnan – Amazing Yunnan in a Hutong Courtyard
15 min walk (1.3km) from Forbidden City North gate
Tucked in a hutong courtyard next to the National Art Gallery, this Yunnan restaurant offers so many amazing dishes that you will not be able to resist a repeat trip. Yunnan cuisine has become increasingly popular in Beijing over the past few years and this restaurant proves why.
The brightly flavored dishes from the southwest province of Yunnan, reflects the vibrant diversity of the many minority tribes and ethnicities living in the region. Known for the distinct tropical palate which utilizes ingredients like lemongrass, mint, sour papaya, and pineapple, Yunnan food is always bursting with flavor.
Some of our favorite dishes include the beef and mint salad 薄荷拌牛肉, lemongrass ribs 香茅草排故, sour papaya fish stew 酸木瓜乌江鱼, and pineapple rice 菠萝饭 (which is served in actual pineapple halves!). Their house brewed rice wine is also a fantastic addition to any meal. Pro tip: they also have a tantalizing picture menu, so feel free to get creative (or make your less adventurous dining companions feel more comfortable)
Address: No.28 Huangchenggen Beijie 皇城根北街28号
Directions: Turn right after you exit the North gate of the Forbidden City and keep following the road, take a left on the third intersection onto HuangCheng Gen BeiJie东皇城根北街, the restaurant is about 400m up the road on the right.
- Susu 苏苏会 – a chic Vietnamese restaurant located in a hutong courtyard with a fantastic drinks menu (wine and craft cocktail) and a beautiful outdoor seating area in the warmer months.
Address: 10 Qianliang Hutong, Dongcheng, Beijing, China. Tel: +86 10 8400 2699 北京市东城区钱粮西巷10号
- 福汇慈源素食 FuHui CiYuan Vegetarian Restaurant – a classy Buddhist-inspired vegetarian restaurant serving up some beautifully plated dishes that taste so great you will be left asking “is there really no meat in this?”
Address: Xila Hutong, No.53, Dong’anmen Street, Wangfujing, Dongcheng District 东城区王府井东安大街 53 号锡拉胡同