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Things to do in Beijing

Things to do in  Beijing

Welcome to Beijing

Classic and contemporary Chinese culture collide in Beijing, the People’s Republic of China’s capital. Home to six UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a sublime food scene—it is the birthplace of Peking duck, after all—Beijing is a cultural nucleus teeming with imperial delights. If you’re visiting Beijing for the first time—or if you’d like some help navigating the city, the language, or both—orient yourself on a full-day sightseeing tour that hits the highlights: the Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square. For many travelers, Beijing’s top draw is its proximity to the iconic Great Wall of China, one of the world’s greatest engineering feats. Visiting options are plentiful, with tours covering the Mutianyu, Jinshanling, Huanghuacheng, and Badaling sections and appealing to travelers’ diverse interests: Rise early for a sunset tour, combine the Great Wall with a visit to the Ming Tombs, embark on an invigorating hike from Simatai West, or enjoy personalized historical commentary on a private tour. After ticking off historic icons during the day, embrace Beijing’s artistic and culinary heritage in the evening. Combine a Peking roast duck banquet or street-food tour with tickets to the Beijing Opera (Peking Opera) or the famous ""Legend of Kung Fu Show"" at Red Theatre. And don’t miss out on touring Beijing’s hutongs (narrow alleys) by rickshaw or taking a day trip to Hebei, home to the imperial summer residence of the Qing dynasty emperors.

Top 15 attractions in Beijing

Forbidden City (Palace Museum)

The Forbidden City, or Palace Museum, is the world’s largest palace complex, with more than 800 buildings and some 8,000 rooms set in the heart of Beijing. Deemed off-limits to visitors for some five centuries, today this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the city’s most popular attractions.More

Mutianyu Great Wall

The Mutianyu Great Wall was fully restored in the 1980s as an alternative to the increasingly popular Badaling section of the Great Wall of China. The Mutianyu section is farther away from Beijing (about an hour and a half by car) than more popular sections, but it's also significantly less busy and features some fun, modern amusements, such as a cable car, chairlift, and toboggan. The long, flat segment—the longest fully restored section open to travelers—winds along heavily forested hilltops with 23 ancient watchtowers dotting the landscape.More

Tiananmen Square (Tiananmen Guangchang)

Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest public plaza, has always been a symbol of Mao’s epic Communist project—and resistance to it. Despite its bleak history, the site of the 1989 massacre is today a bustling place, often teeming with tourists and local kids flying kites.More

Summer Palace (Yiheyuan)

In 1750, the grand Summer Palace was commissioned by Emperor Qianlong as a lavish lakeside retreat from the heat of Beijing. With pavilions, walkways, gardens, and bridges, the UNESCO World Heritage site on Kunming Lake served as the seat of government for Empress Dowager Cixi during the last years of her life.More

Temple of Heaven (Tiantan)

Built by the Yongle Emperor, the Ming Dynasty builder of the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan or Tian Tan) was a stage for important rituals performed by the emperor, or Son of Heaven. Chief among these were supplication to the heavens for a good harvest and the winter solstice ceremony, meant to ensure a favorable new year.More

Great Hall of the People

Sitting to the west of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the Great Hall of the People is where the National People’s Congress is held, along with other administrative, social, and ceremonial events. The Stalinist structure was built in just 10 months and completed in September 1959. It’s worth stepping inside to see the 10,000-seat auditorium.More

Great Wall at Badaling

The best-known and busiest stretch of China’s iconic Great Wall, Badaling was restored and opened to tourists during the 1950s. The scenery is striking, with views of the wall winding its way over the rugged hills. A cable car leads up to the top, and the site offers everything from souvenir stalls to restaurants.More

Imperial Garden of the Palace Museum

Located within the grounds of the Forbidden City, the Imperial Garden of the Palace Museum was built in the Ming Dynasty as a private imperial garden. Covering around 129,000 square feet (12,000 square meters), the garden features numerous pavilions, halls, shrines, ponds, rock gardens, ancient trees, and sculptural objects.More

Meridian Gate (Wumen)

Overlooking Tiananmen Square, the Meridian Gate (Wumen) is the southernmost and largest of the Palace Museum gates, and one of the most recognizable landmarks of the Forbidden City. Comprised of five towers and five gateways, the Meridian Gate currently provides the only entrance into the Forbidden City.More

Jingshan Park (Jingshan Gongyuan)

Just across the moat from the Forbidden City, Jingshan Park (Jingshan Gongyuan) is one of Beijing’s most popular open spaces. The 57-acre (23-hectare) park is a great place to watch elderly Beijingers take their morning exercise, with beautiful flowers in spring. The central hill offers sweeping views over the city on a clear day.More

Ming Tombs (Ming Shisan Ling)

A series of temple-like structures and burial mounds, the Ming Tombs contain the remains of 13 of the 16 emperors who ruled China during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644). Visitors come from all over to see the imperial grandeur of this UNESCO World Heritage site and learn about the cultural importance of ancestor worship.More

Chairman Mao Memorial Hall (Maozhuxi Jinian Tang)

Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, also known as the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, houses the embalmed body of the revolutionary and dictator who was the founding father of the People’s Republic of China. The Soviet-style structure and the sculptures in front of it are one of the dominant features of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.More

Beijing National Stadium

The Beijing National Stadium, more commonly referred to as the Bird’s Nest, was built for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games at a cost of $423 million. Since the Olympics and all its fanfare, the stadium has become a major landmark and tourist attraction, as well as a venue for both international and domestic sporting competitions.More

Lama Temple (Yonghegong)

The Lama Temple (Yonghegong), one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist temples outside Tibet, began as a palace for Emperor Yongzheng before he became the third emperor of the Qing Dynasty. Today, the resplendent temple, with its halls, courtyards, ponds, and bronze mandala, is a lamasery for some two dozen Tibetan monks.More

Beijing Olympic Park

In the years since Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympic Games, the structures at the Beijing Olympic Park have become just as representative of Beijing as the Forbidden City or the Great Wall. While the Olympic Green houses half a dozen different venues, most visitors come to see the Beijing National Stadium and the Water Cube.More
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Trip ideas

Top 5 Temples in Beijing

Top 5 Temples in Beijing

Exploring the Hutongs of Beijing

Exploring the Hutongs of Beijing

Top activities in Beijing

Beijing Hutong Food and Beer Tour by Tuk Tuk
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All about Beijing

When to visit

One of the most memorable times to visit the Chinese capital is in mid-winter for Lunar New Year, the country’s most important holiday. Come ready for pomp and spectacle, though be prepared for crowds, too. For a calmer experience, and comparatively balmy weather, early autumn is an ideal choice.

A local’s pocket guide to Beijing

Rebecca Laband

Meant to only stay in Beijing for a year, Rebecca is an American expat who fell in love with the Chinese capital and called it home for nearly a decade.

The first thing you should do in Beijing is...

go for a walk and get some jiaozi (dumplings), a northern Chinese specialty. XianLaoMan is a local favorite.

A perfect Saturday in Beijing...

includes a visit to the Beijing Maliandao Tea Market to sample some tea—many vendors only speak Chinese, but are happy to welcome you—followed by a night out in Sanlitun.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

climbing the Great Wall of China. If you’re feeling adventurous, visit one of the unrestored sections for a more challenging hike without the crowds. Jiankou and Xiangshuihu are personal favorites.

To discover the "real" Beijing...

visit the “hutong” neighborhoods in the morning to stumble upon local markets, sample a jianbing (Chinese breakfast crepe) or baozi (steamed buns), and experience the sights and sounds as Beijingers start their day.

For the best view of the city...

climb to the top of Jingshan Park just before sunset for unbeatable views of the Forbidden City and a 360-degree panorama of Beijing.

One thing people get wrong...

is going to a Western restaurant. As tempting as pizza sounds, unless you know where to go, stick to Chinese restaurants for the best experience.

People Also Ask

What is Beijing best known for?

The Chinese capital and an Olympic city, Beijing offers thousands of years of history. UNESCO World Heritage Sites include the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and the Temple of Heaven, while 100-acre (40-hectare) Tiananmen Square is one of the world’s largest city squares. Beijing duck is famous around the world.

What is the most visited place in Beijing?

Drawing close to 20 million visitors a year, the Forbidden City (Palace Museum) is one of the world’s most visited museums and Beijing’s top tourist attraction. The home of emperors, empresses, concubines, and eunuchs for more than 500 years, the UNESCO-listed palace includes more than 900 buildings amid courtyards and gardens.

Is 3 days in Beijing enough?

No. In three days, it’s possible to eat roast duck, catch a show, and see the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, and the Great Wall. But Beijing has so much more to offer, from temples and alleyways (hutong) to clubs, bars, crafts, shopping, museums, and galleries.

What activities do people do in Beijing?

The top activities in Beijing vary by the time of year. Ice skating is a must in winter time, when frozen lakes transform into ice rinks full of toys; boat rides are popular in summer. Shows span the gamut from Beijing opera to kung fu, while food tours are a great choice whatever the weather.

Is Beijing a safe city?

Yes. Government surveillance means that it’s rare for tourists to experience serious crime in Beijing. However, pickpocketing and scams, including the tea scam and the massage scam, are quite common: do not join strangers for food, drink, or a massage, avoid unmarked taxis, and be aware that China operates a zero tolerance policy for drugs.

What can I do in Beijing at night?

Beijing has all the rich night culture you’d expect of a world city, from night markets through to bars, clubs, and restaurants, while the Forbidden City dazzles with the lights lit up. Cultural options run from dance, concerts, and theater through to acrobatic shows, kung fu performances, and Beijing opera.


Beijing information

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