Top Things To Do
The Great Wall
Without a doubt, one of the top tourism destinations in the world, The Great Wall of China is a stunning, ancient monument that is over 5,000km long. Stretching over the mountains to the north of Beijing, this wonder of the world took a millennium to build and involved multiple dynasties. It is inseparable from the rich cultural history of China, and a not to be missed highlight of any trip to Beijing!
Tian’anmen Square is unarguably the key historic centre of Beijing. It was here, on 1st October 1949, that the former Communist Party leader, Mao Zedong, officially founded the People’s Republic of China. The square is over 400,000 square metres, and with its famous red building and giant portrait of Mao, this is one of the most commonly thought of places when thinking about Beijing. Every morning thousands of people pack into this enormous square to witness the daily patriotic flag-raising ceremony. A sight not to be missed!
The Forbidden City
Directly north of Tiananmen Square is The Forbidden City, also known as The Palace Museum. Built by Emperor Chengzu at the beginning of the 15th century, The Forbidden City was once the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and over a period of 500 years, it was home to 24 different emperors and their families. The city spans an area of over 720,000 square metres, has more than 800 buildings and 9,999 rooms. In addition to this, The Forbidden City also houses over a million unique and priceless artifacts, so it’s not a surprise that this cultural phenomenon was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1987. For anyone visiting Beijing who would like a glimpse into the luxurious, imperial life of the past, this place is an absolute must-see!
Away from the big tourist attractions, if you want to experience the real China during your time in Beijing then the best way to do this is by exploring the Hutongs. Hutong is the name given to the ancient streets and alleyways in Beijing that are shaped by the narrow walls of traditional Chinese homes know as ‘Siheyuan’. When viewed from above, the intertwined alleyways resemble a maze and although many in Beijing are disappearing as the city modernises, some Hutongs are remaining defiant. Many Hutongs haven’t changed much over the years and give a brilliant insight into the lives of ordinary Beijingers. Some, however, have been slightly altered and are now lined with trendy bars and cafes for tourists to visit.
Located in the northeast of Beijing City, The Lama Temple (also known as The Yonghe Temple) is the largest and best-preserved lamasery in all of China. The Lama Temple is an active Buddhist temple where you can see monks going about their daily activities, as well as civilians burning incense and praying. On the first and fifteenth day of every lunar month, the temple holds religious ceremonies, during which you can watch lamas praying and chanting if you go early. Its elaborate construction, including sweeping tile roofs, decorative archways, and imposing statues, along with its vivid history, make this gorgeous temple well worth a visit during your time in Beijing.
The Summer Palace
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, The Summer Palace is regarded as the best-preserved imperial garden in the world, and the largest in China. Constructed in 1750 this 550-acre imperial garden was designed to imitate a classic view of Southern China so that the emperors and their families could enjoy a new atmosphere without having to leave Beijing. Set around the man-made Kunming Lake, The Summer Palace boasts more than 3,000 ancient structures, including hillside temples, pagodas, and bridges, all of which create a stunning sight to behold.
The Temple of Heaven
Built in 1420, The Temple of Heaven occupies an area three times bigger than The Forbidden City and is the largest existing complex of ancient sacrificial buildings in China. For over 500 years The Temple of Heaven was where both the Ming and Qing Dynasties held the Heaven Worship Ceremony, in which they would worship the God of heaven and pray for good harvests. The park hosts several unique buildings. In the north of the park, a stone-carved stairway leads up to the entrance of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, which has a great blue-tiled roof and a beautifully decorated ceiling. In the south, you will find the Round Altar on a three-tiered marble platform.
798 Art Zone
Set within a defunct 1950s factory complex, the 798 Art Zone is located in the northeast corner of Beijing. Here you’ll find photographic exhibitions, video installations, sculptures, street art, and hip cafes. The 798 Art Zone boasts work from both Chinese and international artists and is a great way to spend a day in Beijing.
Situated in the very centre of Beijing, Jingshan Park is a beautiful royal landscape garden. It is located on one of Beijing’s few hills, Jingshan Hill, the summit of which is the highest point in the city. Given its central and high position, Jingshan Park offers some truly breathtaking views of Beijing, which are an absolute must-see for any visitor to the city. To the north, you can see the Olympic Bird’s Nest stadium, to the east the skyscrapers of the bustling CBD, to the south a full view of the sprawling Forbidden City, and to the west, you can see Beihai Park and its famous white dagoba!