Top Things to Do in Beijing
Beijing, served as the capital of China for more than 800 years, is home to some of the best-known and most awe-inspiring world wonders including the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace. Actually, there are so many things to see and experience in Beijing, and it is overwhelming to find out where to start. Its sheer size and number of attractions makes it a destination affording for a minimum of 3-4 days trip. If you’re planning a Beijing trip, look no further, and these are the top things to do in Beijing to make the most of your stay. You could not only dig into the glorious imperial past of China, but also uncover the real local life of Beijing.
Hiking the Great Wall has always been a must for first-time visitors to Beijing. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Great Wall of China is a man-made wonder fascinated the world for centuries with its incredible structure and spectacular scenery that it crosses. Spanning over the lofty mountain ridges for 4,000 miles, the Great Wall has its most iconic sections clustered in Beijing outskirts, including the most famous Badaling Great Wall, the less crowded Mutianyu Section and nearest Juyongguan section. Mutianyu, as the longest fully restored section of the Great Wall, is highly recommended because there are fewer crowds the views are stunning. You can take a cable car up to the wall and ride a toboggan down, which may liven up the idea if you do not want to walk too much. Adventurous seekers for a more in-depth Great Wall experience can opt to hike the wild Great Wall sections like Jiankou and Simatai.
Located in the center of the capital city, Forbidden City is another must-see place in Beijing and with good reason. Built in the 1400BC during the Ming Dynasty, the Forbidden City housed 24 ruling Emperors and their households for 500 years. It is the best preserved imperial palace in China and the largest ancient palatial structure in the world, with more than 9,000 rooms spanning over 180 acres. One sixth of total cultural relics in China are collected in the Palace Museum. Once you enter the palace, you are walking into the profound history and court life of China's imperial dynasties. You could explore the hidden treasures of the palace, and discover the interesting stories about the royal families. If visiting in a clear day, you could exit and cross the street to Jingshan Park to enjoy a panoramic view of the Forbidden City from a pavilion perched on a hill.
Staying in Beijing, one cannot skip an exploration of Hutongs. Beijing hutongs are mazes of narrow alleyways clustered with historical residences of traditional courtyards that common families have lived in for generations. The appeal to visitors is the real life of locals in these neighborhoods of these twisting alleys, which offers a wonderful peek into the world of yesterday in Beijing. Taking a rickshaw is quite an interesting and popular way to tour through the centuries-old Hutong alleys and discover the authentic traditional Beijing life at a quick glance. Or you could simply wander through the lanes to find amazing souvenir stores, great street foods, hidden restaurants and old neighborhoods. Take the flavors of Beijing home with you by making a souvenir on your own. You could attend a hand-on class undergoing in a quaint residential compounds, where you have a chance to learn to paint a bright-colored facial mask of Peking Opera or learn to make a calligraphy work from expert teachers.
It would be impossible to miss out the Tiananmen Square, a symbol of Beijing and China standing on the central axis of the capital city, and it is often visited together with the Forbidden City because of its close proximity. As the world’s largest public square, Tiananmen Square has witnessed the rise and falls of China for hundreds of years. The Tiananmen Gate Tower was exactly the site where Chairman Mao proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and now a big portrait of him hangs above. Around the square are scattered with a lot of historic sites, such as the Monument to the People's Heroes, the National Museum of China, and the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall and the Great Hall of the People. In the early morning and late afternoon, you would see flows of Chinese tourists and local people attending the flag-raising and flag-lowering ceremonies to pay homage to their country.
The Temple of Heaven is something you don't want to miss when you are considering your things to do in Beijing. The Temple of Heaven, aka Tiantan Park, is the royal altar where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties offered sacrifices to the heavens in hopes of achieving a big harvest. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, it is the most sacred imperial temple in China that is crowned as a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design. The concentric circular shape of the altars represents the relationship between earthly and celestial realms. The surrounding gardens of the temple are worthy of exploration, which is a great place to soak in Beijing life. Especially in the morning, you can see flocks of locals having their morning exercises including dancing, Tai Chi, singing, Chinese yo-yo and diabolo.
When getting tired of the hustle in Beijing, you should escape to the Summer Palace as the emperors used to do. Located in the northwest suburbs, Summer Palace is a serene oasis served as a summer retreat of royal families during the imperial times. As the best-preserved imperial garden in the world, the park never disappoints its visitors by embracing breathtaking architecture and landscape. It is a stunner combining the royal splendor and tender beauty of water-themed classical gardens. Artificial spots including palaces, pavilions, bridges and corridors are elaborately laid out, demonstrating the philosophical ideas and aesthetic taste of ancient Chinese. The finest way to take in the spectacles of the Summer Palace is to take a boat on Kunming Lake, where you could capture excellent views of the bank and the islands. Moreover, the elegant Seventeen-Arch Bridge would guarantee you an amazing photo chance.
No trip to Beijing would be perfect without tasting its most famous gourmet, roast duck. Even if you are not a fan of duck, Peking Duck is something you absolutely need to try it at least once. The dish is mostly prized for golden luster, crisp and melt-in-mouth taste. Usually a whole roasted duck would be served to your table, and a sophisticated chef will slice it up with precision and artistry in front of you. There is an array of side dishes and savory dipping sauces to go with your succulent duck meat, and you will be shown how to wrap the meat in thin pancakes with plum sauce and spring onions, so that you could have that crispy skin in each bite. For the very best roast duck in Beijing, you might want to visit some time-honored brands, such as Quanjude, Da Dong, Bianyifang and Deyuan Roast Duck Restaurants. It is wise to make earlier reservations for all.
If you are done with historical sites of Beijing and seek a place for modern culture, you shall head to 798 Art Zone. Also known as Dashanzi, 798 is the most famous district for contemporary art built on a disused Mao-era factories and warehouses. 798 was revitalized into an edgy artistic community full of upbeat vibe with galleries, studios, trendy cafes and boutiques. Give yourself at least half a day to explore the 798 Art Zone by scooping up an oil painting, modern pottery, photographs, sculptures and weaving works. Wandering through the lanes, you would also encounter a lot of red Maoist slogans printed on the wall, bronze statues and abandoned industrial machinery scattered amid the trendy shops, where you could have amazing chances to snap some photographs. For a break, you could stop in at one of the cafes or restaurants in the art zone for lunch or a cup of coffee.
If you are a big fan of Chinese Kungfu or traveling with kids, you should spend a night to catch a fantastic Kungfu show in Beijing. There are plenty of Kung Fu shows to choose from, and the Legend of Kung Fu at Red Theatre is a popular one that kids love most. The wonderful performance of traditional Chinese martial arts would definitely thrill you and your children. If acrobatics suits your interest more, you could head to Chaoyang Theatre for impressive visual feast that you cannot help standing up and applauding for. There you could see marvelous shows going with ballet, bikes, human strength, jumping hoops, rotating plates, chairs, and umbrellas. Seize your time and have a fun night. Except the list above, you could actually drill deep to find more amazing sights and experiences according to your interests, and we are glad to customize a dreamy Beijing tour for you.
As the capital city, Beijing has unbeatable advantages in transportation and travel methods. A great number of international flights are operated to almost all big cities of America, Canada and other European countries. Thus most foreign travelers choose Beijing as the starting stop of their China adventure.