Beijing, the capital of China, is a rich city in history and culture. With a population of over 21 million people, Beijing is a bustling metropolis that offers many activities for tourists to enjoy. From exploring ancient palaces and temples to indulging in delicious local cuisine, there is something for everyone in Beijing.
One of the most iconic attractions in Beijing is the Great Wall of China. This ancient wonder of the world is a must-visit for anyone traveling to Beijing. Visitors can hike along the wall and take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Another popular attraction is the Forbidden City, the former imperial palace now a museum. This sprawling complex is home to over 900 buildings and offers a fascinating glimpse into China’s rich history.
In addition to its historical attractions, Beijing is known for its vibrant food scene. Visitors can indulge in various delicious dishes from street food stalls to high-end restaurants. Some popular local specialties include Peking duck, dumplings, and hot pot. With so much to see and do, Beijing is a city that should not be missed.
Top 10 Things to Do in Beijing
1. Visit the Forbidden City
The Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, is a must-visit attraction in Beijing. It was the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors can explore the vast palaces, halls, and courtyards and learn about China’s imperial past.
2. Hike the Great Wall
No trip to Beijing is complete without hiking the Great Wall of China. The wall stretches over 13,000 miles and offers stunning views of the surrounding scenery. Visitors can hike different wall sections, such as the popular Mutianyu or the more rugged Jinshanling and Simatai.
3. Explore Tiananmen Square and Qianmen Street
Tiananmen Square is the largest public square in the world and is home to several important landmarks, such as the Monument to the People’s Heroes and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Qianmen Street, located south of the square, is a popular pedestrian street with traditional architecture, shops, and restaurants.
4. Experience the Hutongs
The hutongs are Beijing’s traditional alleyways and courtyards. Visitors can take a rickshaw tour or explore on foot to discover the city’s old neighborhoods and learn about local culture. Popular hutongs include Nanluoguxiang and Ghost Street.
5. Discover the Summer Palace
The Summer Palace, also known as Yiheyuan, is a beautiful imperial garden and palace complex located northwest of Beijing. Visitors can stroll around the lake, admire the pavilions and temples, and learn about the life of Empress Dowager Cixi.
6. Tour the National Museum of China
The National Museum of China is the largest in the country and offers a comprehensive collection of Chinese art and history. Visitors can learn about the country’s ancient civilizations, imperial past, and modern developments.
7. Enjoy Peking Duck and Other Local Cuisine
Beijing is famous for its delicious cuisine, and Peking duck is a must-try dish. Visitors can also sample local specialties like jianbing (Chinese crepes) and rice wine.
8. Visit the Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is a beautiful imperial temple complex in southern Beijing. The emperors used it to pray for good harvests and is now a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can admire the stunning architecture and learn about Chinese religion and culture.
9. Relax in Jingshan Park and Beihai Park
Jingshan Park and Beihai Park are two beautiful parks located in central Beijing. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful stroll, picnic, or climb the hill for a panoramic view of the city.
10. Shop and Dine in Sanlitun
Sanlitun is a trendy neighborhood in Beijing with many shops, restaurants, and bars. Visitors can shop for designer brands, dine at international restaurants, or enjoy a drink at a rooftop bar.
Overall, Beijing offers various attractions and experiences for visitors to explore. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, food, or scenery, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant capital city.
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is one of the most iconic landmarks in the world, and a must-visit attraction for anyone traveling to Beijing. The wall is over 13,000 miles long and stretches across northern China. It was built over 2,000 years ago to protect China from invaders.
Overview of the Great Wall
The Great Wall of China is divided into different sections, each with unique features. Some sections are well-preserved and offer stunning views, while others are more rugged and challenging to hike. Visitors can explore the wall on foot, by bike, or cable car.
Best Sections of the Great Wall to Visit
The best sections of the Great Wall depend on the traveler’s preferences. Some of the most popular sections include:
- Jinshanling: This section is known for its stunning views and well-preserved watchtowers. It’s a great option for visitors who want to avoid crowds.
- Simatai: This section is known for its steep inclines and challenging hiking trails, and it’s a great option for adventurous travelers.
- Mutianyu: This section is one of the most well-preserved and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. It’s a great option for families and visitors who want to avoid strenuous hikes.
Tips for Hiking the Great Wall
Hiking the Great Wall of China can be a challenging but rewarding experience. Here are some tips to help make the most of the hike:
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing: The hike can be steep and rocky, so it’s important to wear comfortable shoes and clothing.
- Bring snacks and water: There are limited food and drink options on the wall, so it’s important to bring snacks and water.
- Be prepared for the weather: The weather on the wall can be unpredictable, so it’s important to bring sunscreen, a hat, and a rain jacket.
In conclusion, the Great Wall of China is a must-visit attraction for anyone traveling to Beijing. Visitors can choose from various sections to explore, each with its unique features. With the right preparation and mindset, hiking the Great Wall can be a challenging but rewarding experience.
Forbidden City and Surrounding Area
The Forbidden City is a must-visit destination for anyone visiting Beijing. Located at the northern edge of Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of China’s most popular tourist attractions. The area around the Forbidden City is also worth exploring, with plenty of historical and cultural landmarks to discover.
History of the Forbidden City
The Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, was the Ming and Qing dynasties imperial palace. It was built in the early 15th century and served as the home of the emperors and their households for nearly 500 years. The Forbidden City is a symbol of China’s rich cultural heritage and is considered one of the most important historical sites in the country.
Main Attractions in the Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is a vast complex with over 980 buildings and covers an area of 72 hectares. Some of the must-see attractions in the Forbidden City include:
- The Hall of Supreme Harmony: This is the largest hall in the Forbidden City and was used for important ceremonies and imperial meetings.
- The Palace of Heavenly Purity: This was the residence of the emperors and was where they held private audiences.
- The Hall of Mental Cultivation: This was the residence of the Qing emperors and was where they conducted state affairs.
- The Imperial Garden: This is a beautiful garden used by the emperors and their families for relaxation and entertainment.
Exploring Tiananmen Square and Qianmen Street
Tiananmen Square is located just south of the Forbidden City and is one of the largest public squares in the world. It has historical significance as the site of several important events in Chinese history, including the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. The square is also home to several important landmarks, including the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the National Museum of China, and the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall.
Qianmen Street is a famous commercial street located just south of Tiananmen Square. It is a pedestrian street lined with traditional Chinese architecture and home to many shops, restaurants, and cafes. Qianmen Street is a great place to explore if you want to experience traditional Chinese culture and cuisine.
Overall, the Forbidden City and surrounding area offer a fascinating glimpse into China’s rich cultural heritage. Whether you are interested in history, architecture, or just want to experience the vibrant energy of Beijing, this is a destination that should not be missed.
Hutongs and Old Beijing
What are Hutongs?
Hutongs are narrow streets or alleys typically found in Beijing’s old neighborhoods. They are formed by rows of traditional courtyard residences, surrounded by high walls and interconnected by narrow alleyways. The word “hutong” is derived from the Mongolian word “hottog,” which means “water well.” Hutongs were originally built around wells, and as the population grew, they expanded outward.
Best Hutongs to Visit
There are many hutongs in Beijing, but some of the most popular ones to visit include:
- Nanluoguxiang: This is one of the most famous hutongs in Beijing, known for its trendy shops, cafes, and bars.
- Yandai Xiejie: This hutong is located in the heart of Beijing’s old city, and it is known for its traditional shops and stalls selling souvenirs, snacks, and tea.
- Wudaoying Hutong: This hutong is located near the Lama Temple, known for its trendy shops and cafes.
Experiencing Old Beijing
Visiting the hutongs is a great way to experience old Beijing and taste traditional Chinese culture. In addition to exploring the narrow alleyways and traditional courtyard homes, visitors can also try local street food, such as jianbing (a Chinese crepe) or roujiamo (a Chinese sandwich).
Another popular attraction in old Beijing is the Old Summer Palace, which was once a magnificent imperial garden filled with pavilions, lakes, and sculptures. Unfortunately, much of the palace was destroyed during the Second Opium War in 1860, but visitors can still explore the ruins and get a sense of its former grandeur.
Finally, visitors to old Beijing should also take the time to learn about Empress Dowager Cixi, who was one of the most powerful women in Chinese history. She lived in the Forbidden City and was known for her beauty, intelligence, and political savvy. Visitors can learn more about her life and legacy by visiting the Palace Museum and other historical sites in Beijing.
Summer Palace and Yiheyuan
The Summer Palace, or Yiheyuan, is a stunning imperial garden in northwest Beijing. It is considered the best-preserved imperial garden in the world and the largest of its kind still in China. The palace is only a short drive of 15 km (10 miles) from central Beijing, but it seems like another world. Most people must spend at least half a day there, as there’s so much to see and explore.
Overview of the Summer Palace
The Summer Palace was first built in 1750 by Emperor Qianlong as a gift to his mother, but foreign troops later destroyed it during the Second Opium War. Empress Dowager Cixi rebuilt the palace in 1888 and used it as a summer retreat, and today the palace covers an area of 2.9 square kilometers and is home to many gardens, lakes, and palaces.
Must-See Attractions in the Summer Palace
There are many must-see attractions in the Summer Palace, including the Long Corridor, Kunming Lake, and the Marble Boat. The Long Corridor is the longest covered walkway in the world and is decorated with thousands of paintings. Kunming Lake is a beautiful man-made lake that covers over three-quarters of the palace. The Marble Boat is a unique structure made entirely of marble and was built by Empress Dowager Cixi as a symbol of stability.
Exploring Yiheyuan is an unforgettable experience. Visitors can take a boat ride on Kunming Lake, visit the many gardens and temples, or simply stroll through the palace grounds. The palace is also home to many museums, including the Palace Museum, which houses many artifacts from the Qing Dynasty.
In conclusion, the Summer Palace and Yiheyuan are must-see destinations for anyone visiting Beijing. The palace is a beautiful and historic site that offers visitors a glimpse into China’s rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re interested in history, art, or simply enjoying the beauty of nature, the Summer Palace and Yiheyuan have something for everyone.
Temple of Heaven and Surrounding Parks
The Temple of Heaven is a must-visit attraction in Beijing. It is a complex of religious buildings used by emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties to offer sacrifices to heaven and pray for a good harvest. The complex covers an area of 2.73 km2 and is located in the southeastern part of central Beijing.
History of the Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven was first built in 1420 during the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming dynasty, and was used for annual ceremonies of prayer to heaven for a good harvest. The complex was expanded and renovated during the Qing dynasty, and it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.
Main Attractions in the Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven complex is divided into two main parts: the Inner Altar and the Outer Altar. The Inner Altar is the most important part of the complex and includes the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and the Circular Mound Altar. The Outer Altar includes the Echo Wall and the Fasting Palace.
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is the most famous building in the complex. It is a circular building with a triple-eaved roof that symbolizes the connection between heaven and earth. The Imperial Vault of Heaven is a smaller circular building used to store the tablets of the gods. The Circular Mound Altar is a round platform with three tiers for the emperor’s sacrifices.
Relaxing in Jingshan Park and Beihai Park
After visiting the Temple of Heaven, visitors can relax in Jingshan Park and Beihai Park, which are located nearby. Jingshan Park is a beautiful park that offers stunning views of the Forbidden City and the city of Beijing. It is also home to the Wanchun Pavilion, a popular photo spot, is a large park with a lake, a pagoda, and many gardens, and is a great place to relax and enjoy nature.
Overall, the Temple of Heaven and the surrounding parks offer a unique glimpse into the history and culture of Beijing. Visitors can learn about the emperors’ ancient rituals and enjoy the parks’ natural beauty.
Local Cuisine and Dining Experiences
Overview of Beijing Cuisine
Beijing cuisine is known for its rich history and unique flavors, and is heavily influenced by imperial cuisine, focusing on using quality ingredients and intricate preparation methods. Traditional Beijing dishes are often characterized by their sweet and savory flavors, with dishes such as Peking duck and Jianbing being popular favorites.
Must-Try Foods in Beijing
When visiting Beijing, several must-try foods should not be missed. Peking duck is a top choice, with its crispy skin and succulent meat. Jianbing, a popular street food, is a savory crepe filled with eggs, scallions, and other ingredients. Rice wine, a traditional Chinese alcoholic beverage, is also a must-try in Beijing.
Best Places to Eat in Beijing
For those looking for the best dining experiences in Beijing, Ghost Street and Nanluoguxiang are two popular areas to explore. Ghost Street is known for its bustling atmosphere and various street food options. Quanjude is a popular restaurant chain specializing in Peking duck, and is a great place to try this traditional dish. In Nanluoguxiang, visitors can find various trendy restaurants and cafes serving traditional and modern cuisine.
Overall, Beijing offers diverse dining experiences that will satisfy any palate. Whether you’re looking for traditional dishes or modern takes on classic flavors, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Accommodation and Transportation
Where to Stay in Beijing
Beijing offers various accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences. From luxury hotels to budget hostels, there is something for everyone. The best areas to stay in Beijing include the Tian’anmen Square, Hutong Area, Guomao CBD, Zhongguancun, Olympic Venues Area, Sanlitun & Workers’ Stadium, three railway stations, and the Capital Airport.
The top picks of hotels and price range of the best neighborhoods in Beijing are provided in the table below:
|Neighborhood||Best Hotels||Price Range|
|Tian’anmen Square||Grand Hyatt Beijing, The Peninsula Beijing||200-500|
|Hutong Area||The Orchid Hotel, Red Wall Garden Hotel||100-200|
|Guomao CBD||China World Hotel, Park Hyatt Beijing||150-400|
|Zhongguancun||Crowne Plaza Beijing, Aloft Beijing Haidian||80-200|
|Olympic Venues Area||InterContinental Beijing Beichen, Beijing National Jade Hotel||100-300|
|Sanlitun & Workers’ Stadium||The Opposite House, Hotel Eclat Beijing||150-400|
|Three Railway Stations||Park Plaza Beijing Wangfujing, Novotel Beijing Xinqiao||80-200|
|Capital Airport||Hilton Beijing Capital Airport, Langham Place Beijing Capital Airport||150-300|
Getting Around Beijing
Beijing has a well-developed public transportation system, which includes buses, subways, and taxis. The subway system is the most convenient and affordable way to get around the city. Currently, 22 subway lines are in operation, covering most of the city’s major attractions, including the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace. The subway operates from 5:00 am to 11:00 pm daily, and the fare ranges from CNY 3 to CNY 10, depending on the distance traveled.
Taxis are also readily available in Beijing and are relatively cheap compared to other major cities. The starting fare is CNY 13 for the first 3 kilometers and CNY 2.3 for each additional kilometer. However, it is important to note that some taxi drivers may not speak English, so it is recommended to have the destination address written in Chinese characters.
Overall, Beijing offers a wide range of accommodation options and a convenient transportation system, making it easy for visitors to explore the city.
Guided Tours and Experiences
Overview of Guided Tours in Beijing
Beijing is a city full of history, culture, and traditions, making it a popular tourist destination. One of the best ways to explore the city is through guided tours and experiences. Plenty of tour companies and independent guides are available that offer various tours, from walking tours to bicycle tours, food tours, and more.
Guided tours can be a great way to learn about the city’s history, culture, and traditions from knowledgeable guides who can provide insights and answer questions. They can also help visitors navigate the city’s busy streets and avoid getting lost.
Best Guided Tours and Experiences in Beijing
Here are some of the best guided tours and experiences in Beijing:
- Great Wall of China Tour: A visit to Beijing is incomplete without a trip to the Great Wall of China. Many tour companies offer guided tours to the Great Wall, but some of the best include China Highlights and Viator. These tours usually include transportation to and from the Great Wall and a knowledgeable guide who can provide insights and historical context.
- Forbidden City Tour: The Forbidden City is one of Beijing’s most iconic landmarks and a must-visit for anyone interested in Chinese history and culture. Many tour companies offer guided tours of the Forbidden City, including Beijing Walking Tours and Han Tang Tours. These tours usually include skip-the-line tickets, a knowledgeable guide, and insights into the history and culture of the Forbidden City.
- Hutong Tour: Hutongs are traditional alleyways in Beijing that offer a glimpse into the city’s rich history and culture. Many tour companies offer guided tours of the Hutongs, including Urban Adventures and China Highlights. These tours usually include a knowledgeable guide, a visit to a local family’s home, and insights into the history and culture of the Hutongs.
- Food Tour: Beijing is known for its delicious cuisine, and a food tour is a great way to sample some of the city’s best dishes. Many tour companies offer guided food tours, including Lost Plate and Beijing Food Tours. These tours usually include visits to local restaurants and markets and a knowledgeable guide who can provide insights into the history and culture of Beijing’s cuisine.
- Bike Tour: A bike tour is a fun and active way to explore Beijing’s streets and alleys. Many tour companies offer guided bike tours, including Bike Beijing and Beijing Bicycle Tours. These tours usually include a rental bike, a knowledgeable guide, and insights into the history and culture of Beijing.
Guided tours and experiences can be a great way to explore Beijing and learn about its rich history and culture. With so many tour companies and independent guides available, visitors are sure to find a tour that suits their interests and budget.