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The Top Things To Do In Beijing


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Fayina Beaman


Forbidden City

The Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most iconic landmarks in Beijing. It was the imperial palace for 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties, spanning over 500 years. With its grandeur and rich history, it is no wonder that the Forbidden City attracts millions of visitors each year.


Spanning an area of 180 acres, the Forbidden City is the largest palace complex in the world. Its stunning architecture, characterized by intricate carvings, colorful roofs, and magnificent halls, showcases the sophistication of traditional Chinese craftsmanship. The moment you step through the imposing Meridian Gate and onto the central axis, you are transported back in time to a bygone era of imperial majesty.


As you explore the various buildings and courtyards within the Forbidden City, you will be immersed in the cultural and political significance of this historic site. The Hall of Supreme Harmony, the largest building in the complex, was where the emperor held important ceremonies and conducted state affairs.


Another highlight is the Hall of Clocks and Watches, where an impressive collection of timepieces from different eras is displayed. This unique exhibit showcases the luxurious lifestyle of the royal family and their appreciation for precision and craftsmanship.


Make sure to visit the Imperial Garden, a tranquil oasis within the palace complex. With its carefully landscaped gardens, elegant pavilions, and ancient trees, it offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.


When visiting the Forbidden City, it’s helpful to hire a guide or join a guided tour to fully appreciate the historical context and fascinating stories behind each building. The audio guide, available in multiple languages, is also a great option for self-guided exploration.


Remember to wear comfortable shoes, as there is a lot of ground to cover within the Forbidden City. Also, don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the breathtaking beauty of this architectural marvel.


Visiting the Forbidden City is a must for anyone traveling to Beijing. It offers a glimpse into China’s imperial past and allows visitors to truly appreciate the grandeur and splendor of ancient Chinese architecture. Prepare to be awed by the incredible craftsmanship and historical significance of this UNESCO World Heritage site.


Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is an awe-inspiring man-made marvel that stretches across the northern part of China. Spanning over 13,000 miles, it is one of the most iconic and recognizable structures in the world. Built over centuries, the Great Wall served as a formidable defense system to protect China from invasions and played a significant role in shaping the country’s history.


Visiting the Great Wall of China is a truly unforgettable experience. There are several sections of the wall that are accessible to visitors, each with its own unique features and characteristics. One of the most popular sections is Badaling, located just 43 miles northwest of Beijing. This section is well-preserved and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.


If you’re looking for a less crowded and more adventurous experience, consider visiting Mutianyu or Jinshanling. These sections are known for their natural beauty and well-preserved architecture. Hiking along the Great Wall, with its watchtowers and steep inclines, allows you to appreciate the sheer magnitude of this ancient structure and offers panoramic vistas of rolling hills and majestic mountains.


For those seeking an immersive experience, camping on the Great Wall is a unique option. Several tour operators offer camping trips where you can spend a night under the stars, surrounded by the ancient bricks and stones that hold centuries of history. This is a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect with the Great Wall on a deeper level and experience its grandeur in a more intimate way.


While exploring the Great Wall, take a moment to appreciate the incredible craftsmanship and engineering that went into its construction. The wall boasts impressive features such as watchtowers, beacon towers, and fortified gates, all designed to bolster its defensive capabilities. It’s a testament to the ingenuity and determination of the ancient Chinese people.


When planning your visit to the Great Wall, it’s important to come prepared. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing, as there may be steep inclines and uneven terrain. Don’t forget to bring water and snacks, as there are limited facilities along the Wall. Additionally, be mindful of the weather conditions and plan accordingly.


Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply seeking an adventure, the Great Wall of China is a must-visit destination. It represents the rich cultural heritage of China and offers a glimpse into the country’s ancient past. Standing atop this magnificent structure, you will feel a sense of awe and appreciation for the human endeavor that created such an enduring masterpiece.


Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square, located in the heart of Beijing, is one of the largest public squares in the world and a symbol of China’s rich history and culture. Spanning over 100 acres, it serves as a venue for national celebrations, gatherings, and protests. Visiting Tiananmen Square offers a glimpse into the political and social significance of this iconic landmark.


The most iconic feature of Tiananmen Square is the Monument to the People’s Heroes, a towering obelisk dedicated to those who fought for the liberation of China. Surrounding the square are other significant structures, such as the Great Hall of the People and the National Museum of China, both of which represent the country’s governmental and cultural institutions.


At the northern end of the square is the Gate of Heavenly Peace, where the famous portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong is displayed. This gate leads to the Forbidden City, creating a symbolic connection between the political center and the imperial past of China.


Tiananmen Square is not only a historical and political site but also a cultural hub. It hosts important national events, including the flag-raising ceremony at sunrise and the lowering of the flag at sunset. Visitors can witness these ceremonies, which are performed with great precision and pomp, to gain a deeper understanding of China’s patriotic fervor.


While Tiananmen Square is a place of national pride, it is also associated with the tragic events of June 4, 1989. The square is where the pro-democracy movement took place and where the Chinese government responded with force. Today, Tiananmen Square serves as a reminder of the struggle for freedom and the importance of human rights.


When visiting Tiananmen Square, it is important to observe the rules and regulations. Security measures are in place, and large bags or backpacks are not allowed. It’s also essential to respect the significance of the square and its historical context. Remember to dress modestly and behave respectfully during your visit.


For a more immersive experience, consider visiting the Tiananmen Square Museum, located underground near the Monument to the People’s Heroes. The museum provides a comprehensive overview of the historical events that took place in and around Tiananmen Square, allowing visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of Chinese history.


Tiananmen Square is a site that encompasses both triumphs and sorrow, representing the resilience and aspirations of the Chinese people. It is a must-visit destination for travelers who want to delve into the country’s past and witness the spirit of China in action.


Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is a magnificent religious complex located in Beijing, China. Built during the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The Temple of Heaven is not only a place of worship but also a testament to the architectural brilliance and spiritual significance of ancient Chinese culture.


The main structure within the Temple of Heaven complex is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, a circular building with striking blue roof tiles and intricate wooden carvings. The hall was used by emperors to offer prayers and sacrifices for a bountiful harvest and the well-being of the nation. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is surrounded by a beautiful park, providing a tranquil environment for contemplation and relaxation.


Another notable structure within the Temple of Heaven is the Imperial Vault of Heaven, which houses the legendary Echo Wall. This circular wall is known for its unique acoustic properties, where a whisper on one side can be heard clearly on the other side, reflecting the mystical nature of the site. The Circular Mound Altar, located at the center of the complex, is a circular stone platform where ceremonies were conducted to worship the heavens.


Exploring the vast grounds of the Temple of Heaven allows visitors to appreciate the exquisite architecture and design of the complex. The buildings are characterized by their traditional Chinese style, with vibrant colors, ornate decorations, and precise symmetry. The meticulous attention to detail is a testament to the importance placed on aesthetics during the Ming Dynasty.


Visiting the Temple of Heaven provides a glimpse into ancient Chinese religious practices, where emperors played a significant role as intermediary between heaven and earth. It is also a popular destination for locals to engage in traditional activities such as tai chi, ballroom dancing, and kite flying. These activities showcase the vibrant living culture that still thrives within the temple’s serene ambiance.


When visiting the Temple of Heaven, it is recommended to arrive early in the morning to witness the local community practicing tai chi and other traditional exercises. This provides a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and witness the harmonious blend of ancient traditions and modern life.


Don’t forget to explore the surrounding gardens and park areas, where you can relax, enjoy nature, and witness locals engaging in various recreational activities. The Temple of Heaven is not just a religious site but a vibrant cultural space that offers a glimpse into the daily lives of Beijing residents.


Visiting the Temple of Heaven is a truly enriching experience, allowing you to delve into the spiritual and cultural heritage of China. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of this sacred site and marvel at the architectural splendor that defines the Ming Dynasty’s influence on Chinese culture.


Summer Palace

The Summer Palace, located in the northwest suburbs of Beijing, is a stunning imperial garden that spans over 700 acres. Built during the Qing Dynasty in the 18th century, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular destination for both locals and tourists. The Summer Palace is renowned for its beautiful landscapes, exquisite architecture, and rich historical significance.


The Summer Palace was originally built as a retreat for the royal family to escape the sweltering heat of Beijing’s summers. As you explore the palace grounds, you’ll be captivated by the tranquil Kunming Lake, which covers a large portion of the complex. Surrounding the lake are lush gardens, temples, pavilions, and bridges, creating a picturesque scene that reflects the harmony between human-made structures and nature.


One of the highlights of the Summer Palace is the Longevity Hill, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding area. Climb the stairs to the top, and you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking vistas of the lake and gardens below. Along the way, you’ll encounter various architectural gems, such as the Tower of Buddhist Incense, the Hall of the Sea of Wisdom, and the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity.


Stroll along the beautiful promenade that runs alongside Kunming Lake, or rent a traditional paddleboat to leisurely explore the tranquil waters. The Seventeen-Arch Bridge is a mesmerizing sight, with its elegant curving structure and intricate carvings. This bridge is not just a functional pathway but also a symbol of artistic achievement.


Another noteworthy feature of the Summer Palace is the Marble Boat, an elaborate structure located on the lake. Despite its name, the boat is actually made of wood but coated in marble. It serves as a reminder of the extravagance of the imperial court and their appreciation for the finer things in life.


Throughout the Summer Palace, you’ll come across ancient trees, manicured gardens, and hidden pathways that invite exploration. Take your time to meander through the shaded corridors and uncover hidden pavilions, where you can find respite from the bustling crowds and immerse yourself in the peaceful ambiance.


Visiting the Summer Palace is not just about appreciating the physical beauty of the structures and gardens but also a chance to delve into Chinese history and culture. The palace has witnessed the rise and fall of dynasties and played a significant role in shaping China’s imperial past. Take a guided tour or utilize audio guides to learn the fascinating stories and historical context of each area within the palace.


When planning your visit, be sure to allocate ample time to fully explore the vast grounds of the Summer Palace. Wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be doing a fair amount of walking. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water, especially during the hot summer months.


The Summer Palace is not only a visual feast for the eyes but also a place where you can escape the urban hustle and immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature. Visit this iconic landmark and experience the grandeur and elegance of one of China’s most exquisite imperial gardens.


Hutong Tour

A Hutong tour is a unique and immersive experience that takes you through the traditional alleyways and courtyard homes of old Beijing. These narrow lanes, lined with siheyuan (traditional courtyard houses), offer a glimpse into the city’s rich history and vibrant local culture. Exploring the Hutongs allows you to step back in time and witness the charm of traditional Beijing.


During a Hutong tour, you can walk or ride a rickshaw through the maze-like network of alleys, accompanied by knowledgeable guides who will share stories and historical facts about the area. You’ll have the opportunity to visit local homes, interact with residents, and learn about their daily lives and the preservation efforts of these ancient neighborhoods.


Each Hutong has its own unique character, reflecting the different dynasties and architectural styles that have shaped Beijing’s history. Wandering through these narrow streets, you’ll encounter hidden courtyards, traditional architecture, and small shops selling various crafts, snacks, and souvenirs.


One famous Hutong is Nanluoguxiang, known for its vibrant atmosphere and trendy shops. Here, you can find a mix of traditional and modern elements, with small cafes, boutiques, and traditional Beijing snacks. It’s an excellent place to experience the fusion of old and new that defines the city’s contemporary culture.


A Hutong tour also provides a fascinating glimpse into the daily life and traditions of the local residents. Many Hutong residents have preserved the traditional way of living, and visiting their homes offers a chance to learn about their customs, traditions, and values. It’s an opportunity to witness firsthand the deep sense of community that still exists within these neighborhoods.


As you explore the Hutongs, you’ll notice the distinctive architecture of the siheyuan, with their gray brick walls, ornate doorways, and beautiful courtyards. Some of these courtyard homes have been converted into boutique hotels, restaurants, or museums, allowing visitors to experience the beauty of traditional Chinese architecture in a unique setting.


A Hutong tour also offers a window into the history and transformation of Beijing. While many Hutongs have been lost to modernization, efforts have been made to preserve and restore the remaining ones, ensuring that future generations can appreciate the city’s cultural heritage. By supporting these preservation efforts, you contribute to the survival of these historic neighborhoods.


When embarking on a Hutong tour, it’s best to choose a reputable tour operator or guide to ensure an authentic and informative experience. Wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the weather, as you’ll be spending time outdoors. Remember to be respectful of the residents’ privacy and follow any guidelines provided by your guide.


Exploring the Hutongs is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Beijing. It provides an intimate and authentic glimpse into the city’s past, cultural traditions, and the resilience of its people. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply want to connect with the local community, a Hutong tour will leave you with unforgettable memories and a deeper understanding of Beijing’s unique identity. 

Beijing National Stadium (Bird’s Nest)

The Beijing National Stadium, popularly known as the Bird’s Nest, is an iconic architectural masterpiece located in Beijing, China. It was built for the 2008 Summer Olympics and has since become an enduring symbol of the city. Designed by renowned architects Herzog & de Meuron, the Bird’s Nest is a true marvel of modern engineering and design.


The stadium’s unique design resembles a giant bird’s nest, hence its nickname. The outer structure is made up of steel beams intertwined in a lattice pattern, creating a visually stunning and intricate façade. The interplay of light and shadow on the stadium’s surface adds to its awe-inspiring beauty, especially during sunrise or sunset.


Not only is the Bird’s Nest a remarkable piece of architecture, but it also carries significant historical and cultural importance. It was the main venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics, as well as various sporting events. The stadium’s grandeur and capacity to hold over 80,000 spectators created a memorable atmosphere during the games.


Today, the Beijing National Stadium continues to host major sporting events, concerts, and other cultural performances. It has become a popular destination for tourists who admire its architectural prowess and want to capture stunning photos against its iconic backdrop.


Visitors can explore the stadium’s interior and witness firsthand the state-of-the-art facilities that were designed to accommodate various sports. Inside, you’ll find interactive exhibits detailing the history of the stadium and its role in the Olympics. There are also opportunities to walk on the track, experience the view from the stands, and even catch a glimpse of athletes training in the stadium.


For a truly unforgettable experience, consider attending a live event at the Bird’s Nest. The stadium hosts a variety of sporting competitions, concerts, and performances throughout the year, offering a chance to witness world-class talent in this awe-inspiring setting.


Outside the stadium, there are vast open spaces and landscaped gardens where you can relax and enjoy the surrounding area. During the evening, the Bird’s Nest is illuminated, creating a stunning display of light and color that further enhances its visual appeal.


When visiting the Beijing National Stadium, remember to bring your camera to capture the beauty of the structure from different angles. It’s also advisable to check the event schedule in advance and plan your visit accordingly, especially if you’re interested in attending a live event.


The Bird’s Nest is not only a testament to China’s architectural ingenuity but also a symbol of Beijing’s transformation into a modern and cosmopolitan city. It stands as a striking reminder of the city’s global influence and its commitment to hosting major international events.


Whether you admire it from a distance or venture inside, the Beijing National Stadium, the Bird’s Nest, is a must-see attraction that will leave you in awe of its grandeur and the enduring legacy of the 2008 Olympics.


Lama Temple

The Lama Temple, also known as Yonghe Temple, is a renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple located in Beijing, China. Built in the 17th century, it is considered one of the most important and well-preserved Tibetan Buddhist temples outside of Tibet. The Lama Temple is not only a place of worship but also a cultural and architectural gem that offers a unique glimpse into the rich heritage of Tibetan Buddhism.


As you approach the Lama Temple, you’ll be greeted by an impressive red gate, decorated with intricate carvings and majestic guardian lions. Stepping inside, you’ll find yourself in a peaceful and spiritual environment surrounded by beautifully crafted buildings, stunning artwork, and fragrant incense.


The highlight of the Lama Temple is the magnificent statue of Maitreya Buddha, also known as the Future Buddha. Standing at an astounding 26 meters tall, it is carved from a single piece of sandalwood and holds the Guinness World Record for the largest Buddha statue carved from a single tree. The statue is an awe-inspiring sight, radiating a sense of serenity and tranquility.


Aside from the impressive Buddha statue, the temple complex features various halls, pavilions, and courtyards, each housing intricate Tibetan-style artwork, ornate sculptures, colorful thangka paintings, and ancient scriptures. The elaborate architecture and the attention to detail reflect the devotion and spirituality of Tibetan Buddhist culture.


Visitors have the opportunity to witness monks and devotees engaging in prayer, making offerings, and spinning prayer wheels as they traverse the temple grounds. The soothing chants and the sweet aroma of incense create an atmosphere of spiritual contemplation and reverence.


Exploring the Lama Temple provides a deeper understanding of Tibetan Buddhism and its practices. The temple serves as an important spiritual center for locals and a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists from around the world. It offers a chance to learn about the principles of compassion, wisdom, and enlightenment upheld by Tibetan Buddhist traditions.


When visiting the Lama Temple, it is important to respect the religious customs and traditions observed by the temple and its visitors. Dress modestly and behave respectfully, keeping in mind that this is a sacred place of worship for many.


Exploring the surrounding Hutongs, narrow alleyways that intertwine the Lama Temple area, can also be an enriching experience. These historic lanes offer a glimpse into local everyday life, with shops selling traditional crafts, tea houses, and small eateries where you can sample authentic local delicacies.


The Lama Temple is not just a religious site, but a cultural treasure that invites visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty and spirituality of Tibetan Buddhism. It is a serene oasis in Beijing, where you can find solace and learn about one of the world’s most ancient and profound religions.


Beihai Park

Located in the heart of Beijing, Beihai Park is a stunning imperial garden that dates back over a thousand years. It is one of the oldest and most well-preserved imperial gardens in China, spanning an area of 171 acres. Beihai Park offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling city and provides visitors with a serene environment to embrace nature, history, and cultural heritage.


The centerpiece of Beihai Park is the expansive Beihai Lake, with its sparkling blue waters and picturesque surroundings. The lake is dotted with small islands and adorned with elegant bridges, including the iconic Nine-Dragon Wall. Taking a leisurely boat ride on the lake offers a unique perspective of the park and its beautiful landscape.


Beihai Park is also home to a number of historical buildings and structures. The White Pagoda, located atop Qionghua Island in the middle of the lake, offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area. The intricately designed pagoda is a symbol of harmony between the human-made and natural elements in Chinese garden architecture.


Another notable structure is the Yong’an Temple, which houses an exquisite statue of Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The temple is a place of pilgrimage for many devotees seeking solace and enlightenment.


Along the lake’s shores, you’ll find beautiful gardens with lush vegetation, colorful flowers, and ancient trees. These scenic spots provide an ideal setting for strolling, picnicking, or simply finding a peaceful spot to relax and enjoy the tranquility.


Beihai Park is also known for its unique and iconic features, such as the Circular City, a circular-shaped structure filled with beautiful pavilions, corridors, and gardens. It served as a private retreat for the imperial family during the Qing Dynasty.


Another highlight is the Jade Island, accessible via the iconic Jade Flowery Islet Bridge. The island is adorned with lush greenery, intricate rock formations, and the Five-Dragon Pavilions, offering a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.


Visiting Beihai Park provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in Chinese history and culture. The park has witnessed the rise and fall of dynasties, and the temples and structures within its grounds are a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Beijing.


When exploring Beihai Park, make sure to take your time and appreciate the intricate details of the architecture, the serenity of the lake, and the beautiful landscapes. As you wander through the park, you’ll find hidden corners, stone bridges, and serene pavilions that invite contemplation and reflection.


Beihai Park is not only a picturesque destination but also a living testament to the rich history and cultural traditions of Beijing. It offers a harmonious blend of nature and architecture, providing a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city.


National Museum of China

The National Museum of China, located on the eastern side of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, is one of the largest and most comprehensive museums in the world. It showcases China’s rich history and cultural heritage, spanning over 5,000 years of civilization. With its vast collection of artifacts, immersive exhibitions, and striking architecture, the National Museum of China is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in understanding and appreciating Chinese culture.


The museum is housed in an impressive building that seamlessly combines traditional Chinese architectural elements with modern design. Its expansive exhibition halls cover a wide range of topics, including ancient Chinese history, art, calligraphy, archaeology, and minority cultures.


Exploring the National Museum of China offers visitors a unique journey through China’s past. The museum’s collection includes invaluable artifacts, such as ancient bronzes, ceramics, paintings, and jade carvings. These treasures provide insight into the artistic and technological advancements of various dynasties.


Be sure to visit the gallery dedicated to the iconic Terracotta Warriors, which showcases a selection of the life-sized clay soldiers excavated from the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. This exhibit offers a fascinating glimpse into the military and artistic achievements of ancient China.


Another notable highlight is the exhibition on ancient Chinese calligraphy, which showcases the exquisite beauty and skill of the art form. From delicate brushstrokes to intricate seal scripts, this collection illustrates the evolution of calligraphy throughout different periods in Chinese history.


The National Museum of China also provides insight into modern Chinese history. Exhibits covering the Chinese Revolution, the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and key historical events provide a comprehensive understanding of the country’s recent past.


It’s important to note that the museum’s exhibits are largely presented in Chinese. However, there are English translations available for some displays, making it accessible to international visitors. Guided audio tours and information booklets are also available in multiple languages to enhance the museum experience.


When planning your visit, allocate sufficient time to explore the museum’s extensive collection. The sheer scale of the exhibits can be overwhelming, so it’s advisable to prioritize areas of interest to make the most of your visit. It’s also worth noting that the museum can get quite crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons.


Visiting the National Museum of China offers a profound cultural experience, allowing visitors to delve into China’s ancient past and gain a deeper understanding of its remarkable civilization. From ancient artifacts to modern historical exhibits, this museum is a treasure trove of exploration and knowledge.


Be prepared to be captivated by the sheer breadth and depth of Chinese history and culture as you immerse yourself in the exhibits of the National Museum of China. It is an enriching journey through time that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the country’s vibrant heritage.