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Having friends in far-flung places means that no sooner have you arrived than they’re eager to point you to the most exciting restaurants, emerging neighborhoods, and cultural events for those in the know. It’s an invaluable advantage that makes you feel like an instant insider immersed in the local scene. Yet for most travelers, it’s also a rare scenario.

The beauty of the new Keys to the City program from the Peninsula Beijing is that it replicates that kind of intimate connection to a place—offering up exclusive experiences that you wouldn’t be able to access on your own, even with a local friend or two. Private tours of galleries, prized seats at performances, and meet-ups with luminaries are part of a curated lineup of activities, all of which give guests unique insights into contemporary Beijing life.

Whatever your passion, you’ll find that the Peninsula will enable you to pursue it more deeply while in Beijing. Here are nine ways it’s unlocking the city for guests.

If you’re seeking out Beijing’s contemporary culture…

1. Meet with the Museum of Contemporary Art’s curator Michael Suh as well as renowned artist Qin Feng and enjoy exclusive access to the artist’s studio. (Suh helped curate the art on view throughout the Peninsula; click here for a peek inside the renovated hotel.)

2. Snag exclusive front-row seats to a Chinese opera performance and immortalize the moment by taking photos with the actors on stage after the show.

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3. Go backstage after a performance or attend a sneak-peek rehearsal at the National Centre for the Performing Arts.

4. Admire the breathtaking Gathered Sky—the first and only James Turrell installation in China—during a special sunset viewing. You’ll get 20% of admission and have the option of a private tour of the historic Temple Hotel, located within a former Buddhist temple complex.

5. Explore the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art—a highlight of the 798 Arts District—outside its opening hours.

If you want a taste of Beijing’s finest food and drink…

6. As part of your meal at TRB Temple Restaurant Beijing (at the best table in the house), you’ll join the chef in the kitchen and test your culinary skills by helping to plate a dish.

7. Get guaranteed access to Yan, Beijing’s trendy “secret” bar, without required advanced reservations.

8. Witness an exclusive presentation of the finest teas during a traditional Chinese tea ceremony at Max Mo Teahouse.

9. Take part in a private house tour and savor single-malt whisky tastings at members-only Johnnie Walker House.