Here are the top 20 best things to do in Beijing
China has undoubtedly has one of the longest history, dating back to ancient times. While Beijing has only been the capital for about 800 years, it’s still as old as most of China. The city beautifully combines the old and modern architecture, giving it a contrasting but very interesting style. It’s a hub in all imaginable aspects, including culture, fashion, entertainment, technology, innovation, history, politics and business. It’s one of the most populous and largest cities in the world, so be prepared for a crowd, especially at tourist locations. Even then, Beijing is still definitely worth seeing, and for that, we have collected the top 20 best things to do in Beijing.
- Great Wall of China
A trip to China and Beijing is not a trip without visiting the legendary Great Wall of China. As it is very long, visiting only a section of it more than enough, and conveniently part of it is quite close to Beijing. While it can be crowded, visitors should still see and climb the wall at least once, since it’s a magnificent structure. The view from the wall is also very beautiful, making it a top tourist attraction in China. Other sections are less crowded, but are further away, so that decision is yours.
2. Tiananmen Square
The Tiananmen Square is just as popular as the Times Square of New York or the Red Square of Moscow. It’s located at the center of the city, and can’t be missed. It’s mostly made of concrete, and at first it might not look anything special, but considering its significance and the surrounding buildings, it’s actually quite interesting. It’s a popular meeting place, and festivals and protests are both held here.
The Tiananmen, or the Gate of Heavenly Peace, is the name of the square. It’s a famous gate to the Imperial City, and thereby to the inner Forbidden City. The large red wall is decorated with statues of lions, as they are said to be protecting humans from evil spirits, and two stone columns, called huabiaos with animal designs on them, like dragons and phoenixes. A large portrait of Mao Zedong, the communist revolutionary and founder of the People’s Republic of China is displayed above the entrance, in his memory. It’s often vandalized by protesters, but it’s either repaired or replaced by a spare.
4. Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was the residence and seat of power for Chinese emperors for about 500 years. It’s a great example of the Chinese palatial achitecture. It’s a beautiful and spectacular structure, that’s a must-see on the list of things to do in Beijing. The area can be visited by anyone, as it is now only used as the Palace Museum. It holds works of art and artifacts with great historical and ceremonial value. It’s the most visited art museum in the world, with at least 14 million visitors every year. Almost a thousand buildings are located here, with big ceremonial palaces and halls.
5. Imperial Garden
The Imperial Garden of the Imperial City is a beautiful garden that should not be missed for those who love nature even just a little. The garden has numerous little shrines, bridges and other structures. It’s a tranquil experience among the wonderful plants and trees, and people can get a feel of what is used to be like as the private garden of the royal family, and as they came here to play chess, meditate, drink tea or just relax.
Nanluoguxiang is a neighborhood close to the Imperial City. It consists of narrow alleys that offer a less crowded experience with many little boutique shops, vendors and of course food stalls. Even being so close to the center of the city, this small part of the city avoided the urbanization, and remains in its own style.
7. Gulou and Zhonglou
The Gulou and Zhonglou are the Drum Tower and Bell Tower of Beijing. These structures were both used to announce the time of the day for the government and the citizens. Time-keeping was very important even back then, so this was the unique way of China for that. It was until the expulsion of the last emperor, and after that, China adopted the western-style of clockworks. Now the two stand as tourist attractions.
8. Yonghe Temple
The Yonghe Temple is a so-called “lamastery”, a monastery for lamaist monks. The temple was originally a residence for eunuchs, but it’s not the center of the Tibetian Buddhism in Beijing. The temple is beautiful both inside and outside, but be mindful while you are visiting, as it’s still used for prayers by the religious people.
9. Ming Tombs
While not directly in Beijin, the Ming Tombs are still worth visiting, as it is the final resting place of the emperors of the Ming Dynasty, who ruled between the 14th and 17th centuries. Unfortunately, most of the treasures have been taken elsewhere, but the tombs that were uncovered are still spectacular enough. One of the most convenient ways to come here is while you are making your way to the Great Wall.
10. Dashanzi Art District
The Dashanzi Art District, or the 798 Art Zone, is an old military factory that is now used as a huge art gallery. It offers several different art exhibitions with both famous and less famous Chinese artists. The galleries are everchanging, so there is always something new. The place has a unique style thanks to being set up in a factory, so that alone is worth visiting, even if you not as interested in art.
11. Summer Palace
The Summer Palace was, just like its name suggests, the official summer residence of the emperor. It’s a huge area with many palaces, temples, lakes and gardens. Since the palace grounds is so vast and so full of buildings, it’s a very popular tourist destination in Beijing, as each part of it has a history.
12. Kunming Lake
Located at the Summer Palace, the Kunming Lake is the largest lake there, and one of the central features of the area. It’s actually man-made, and only about 1.5 m deep, but it’s just as beautiful as any. A long 17-arch bridge connects the central island to the main hill, and going around the lake in a boat is also possible. Statues and other structures surround the lake in all directions.
13. Long Corridor
The Long Corridor is a covered walkway in the Summer Palace, and very famous for both its length (728 m) and the large amound of decorations it has (14 thousand paintings). The beams and ceilings of this long walkway are richly painted with artworks of legendary figures, folk tales, historical battles and much more. Tourists love taking photos of these, as they offer a peaceful but at the same time very interesting experience, like an outside museum next to the shores of Kumming Lake.
14. National Museum of China
Located near the Tiananmen Square, the National Museum of China holds a large collection Chinese art and historical artifacts, from ancient times to the less older ones. It’s one of the largest museums in the world. The artifacts are very well preserved, and the design of the building itself is also inviting and wonderful. If you want to learn about the history of China, this is high on the list of things to do in Beijing.
15. Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is an imperial complex consisting of religious buildings. This was the place the emperors of China came to every year to pray for the wellbeing of the nation and good harvest. The buildings, the gates and the courtyards are all beautiful, and are surely worth a visit.
16. Olympic Park
The Olympic Park of Beijing was built for the 2008 Olympic Games and the effort put into the entirety of the park is clearly visible. The stadiums of the games are all beautifully designed, all of them being different in their own way. The stadiums and faculties have been repurposed for public use since then. Visiting this is recommended at twilight, as the sunset can give them an ever more wonderful look, or at night, because some of the buildings light up in spectacular ways.
17. Dragon Escalator
The Dragon Escalator is not directly found in Beijing, but is quite close to considering the size of China. This escalator brings tourists up to the largest dam of China, and it’s the longest escalator in the world. Not to mention that it’s shaped like a Chinese dragon, a legendary creature. Unfortunately, it only goes up, but it’s definitely something everyone should experience.
18. Beijing World Park
The Beijing World Park is a park with scaled-down replicas of famous landmarks throughout the world. These include stuctures like the Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramids, the Leaning Tower, the Big Ben, the Statue of Liberty, the Taj Mahal and many more.
19. Beijing Ancient Observatory
As one of the oldest observatories in the world, the Beijing Ancient Observatory offers a great experience as it shows the history of China as innovators and great researchers. These instruments use science based on both Western and Eastern teachings, but are all made with excellent Asian style with dragon decorations and such. Astronomical sextants, armillary spheres and quadrants can be found here, among others.
20. National Centre for the Performing Arts
The National Centre for the Performing Arts, or as sometimes called, The Giant Egg, is an arts centre and an opera house in one. It’s a giant ellipsoid dome of titanium and glass in a half-egg shape, and surrounded by an artificial lake. Apart from the art exhibitions, it houses three big halls: the Opera Hall, the Music Hall and the Theatre Hall. The building is wonderful both inside and outside, so it’s worth visiting even without going to one of the performances or the galleries.