To get a true perspective of Beijing - from imperial to contemporary times - savvy visitors take the ear-popping ride to the 80th floor of the China World Summit Wing hotel, where, on a clear day, the vast city can be viewed in its entirety.
Needless to say, the recently opened hotel, which occupies the upper levels of the skyscraper, has become a hugely popular spot. It is the latest addition to the China World complex, which already makes up a large slab of the central business district.
'Beijing is a pumping city, with a variety of restaurants and bars opening almost every day, you almost can't keep up,' says the hotel's resident manager Bernhard Wimmer. 'The cultural opportunities are enormous. The Olympics Games means more and more people would consider visiting the city, which they would probably not have done before.'
The city's present dining hotspot is Nali Patio, where a slew of new restaurants and bars have opened in the past year. Among the standouts are Aqua, serving top-notch Spanish food and Apothecary, a Manhattan-style bar that does killer cocktails. A few strides away is the Village South shopping mall, also owned by the Swire group, which has expatriate-oriented outlets serving beers, burgers and sandwiches.
Just across the busy street is Duck de Chine, run by the Hong Kong entertainment group Elite Concepts, an elegant restaurant known for its excellent Peking Duck. There are various other wining and dining options in the same compound, including the Hidden City, a lifestyle complex that was once an electronics factory.
Dining outside, preferably in a traditional courtyard, is one of the great joys of being in Beijing during the summer months. One of the best spots is Hua's restaurant, located along the lesser-known Ghost Street restaurant strip.
'I regularly host wine-tasting events there and it always goes down well with people from overseas, especially if they go there straight from their modern hotel,' says Damien Shee, Beijing-based marketing manager of wine importer Torres China. 'It's like being transported back in time to the Beijing of old. The restaurant courtyard is really quiet and the food is great; the chefs there can do traditional Beijing food, Japanese food and even Western food.'
There is no shortage of other courtyard-style options. Palette Vino, run by Beijing-born oenophile [wine connoisseur] John Gai, serves Western-style food in a converted alleyway home; Xihe Yaju, which cooks Peking Duck in traditional, wood-fired ovens, is a courtyard restaurant located in the perimeter building of 500-year-old Ritan Park.
Overlooking the central, vermillion-walled temple is Xiao Wang Fu home-style restaurant, which has great food at reasonable prices. Close by is the Stoneboat bar, just by the lake, which serves simple dumplings and noodles to accompany cold Tsing Tao draught. Visitors who find that a little too quiet can stroll across the street to Chocolate, one of the city's wildest nightclubs. It is particularly popular with new-money Russian traders and expense-account expatriates.
Among the myriad options in the central business district is the Mad Men-style cocktail bar Centro, where the glamorous waitresses are hired from a modelling school; Room, the restaurant-cum-nightclub of master chef Brian McKenna; and the Summit Wing's dizzyingly high nightspot, Atmosphere.