Because Tyler Cowen is going to Beijing, I made a list of suggestions:
1. Don’t go to the Great Wall. It’s a long drive. I preferred to see it on the Today Show. The only interesting bit was a guy who sat in a chair on the path to the wall and charged 30 cents to go further. We paid the 30 cents but in retrospect I wish we hadn’t.
2. Visit some of the many “markets” that consist of a building full of tiny booths. There are markets devoted to cameras, jewelry, clothes, electronics, furniture, etc. There can be more choice of furniture in one building (say, 100 manufacturers) than exists in the entire Bay Area. Along similar lines there is a whole neighborhood full of tea sellers — if you like tea.
3. Peking duck is a good dish but I cannot tell the difference between the better restaurants serving it. So don’t go out of your way to go to an especially good place. I usually go to Quanjude which has a branch very near my school (Tsinghua).
4. Middle 8 is a very good restaurant (in Haidian and Chao Yang).
5. Din Tai Fung is a very good dumpling restaurant. It is a big international Taiwanese chain. So it isn’t even mainland Chinese food exactly.
6. There are grilled chicken wing restaurants near the west gates of both Peking University and Tsinghua University. I don’t know their names but they are very good. Popular with students.
7. I have never found a nice place in Beijing to walk. Even in parks there is a lack of shade.
8. In my neighborhood (Wudaokou) there are excellent Korean restaurants.
Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.