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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 10 attractions in Beijing

#1

Mutianyu Great Wall

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Located 56 miles (90 kilometers) northeast of Beijing, the Great Wall at Mutianyu was restored in 1986 after the section at Badaling rose in popularity. This section of the great wall includes a long, flat segment winding along the heavily forested hilltops of the area. This segment extends 1.6 miles (2.5 kilometers) with 22 watchtowers spread out along the way, allowing you to walk the wall for more than an hour, sometimes in solitude. If you have a full day to spare for a Great Wall tour, the Mutianyu segment is a good choice. It’s less crowded than Badaling but is still easily accessible and incredibly scenic, particularly on a misty day. Visitors can either climb to the top, with steps in good condition and handrails the entire way, or take a cable car to the top. When you’re ready to return to the bottom, either take the cable car back down or ride a toboggan back to the base.More
#2

Forbidden City (Palace Museum)

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Have you ever wondered what's so forbidden about the Forbidden City? It's called that because it was closed to the outside world for 500 years. This was the seat of the Ming and the Qing emperors, and no one could enter - or leave - the imperial domain without their permission. These days, the Chinese mainly call it Gu Gong, or Former Palace. The Forbidden City, or Beijing Imperial Palace, is BIG - you'll need to allow at least one day for your visit. UNESCO have listed it as the largest collection of ancient wooden structures in the world. There are nearly 1,000 rooms in over 800 buildings. However, because it's been ransacked by invaders and gutted by fire several times (wooden buildings, lanterns, you do the math) most of the structures date from the 18th century on. As you move around the gardens and palatial buildings, which have now been converted to museums, you'll start to get a feel for what it was like to live the imperial life.More
#3

Summer Palace (Yiheyuan)

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The Summer Palace - also known as Yiheyuan - was built in 1750. In those days, it was called the Garden of Clear Ripples, and was a lakeside oasis where the royal court could escape the dust and heat of the Forbidden City in summer. It was razed twice by foreign armies and completely rebuilt, most extensively by Empress Dowager Cixi in the 19th century. To fund her projects, she's said to have diverted a bunch of money destined for the Chinese navy. Ironically, one of her grand schemes was a marble boat that sits at the edge of the lake. The grounds were declared a public park in 1924. These days, the 290 hectares (716 acres) of the 'Gardens of Nurtured Harmony' are madly popular with both tourists and locals. The gardens are liberally scattered with temples, covered walkways, pavilions and bridges. Longevity Hill, one of the garden's main features, was constructed from the earth excavated when the lake was extended.More
#4

Tiananmen Square (Tiananmen Guangchang)

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Mao built the largest square in the world to flaunt the epic scale of the Communist project. This square is bounded by the Museums of Chinese History and Chinese Revolution, the Great Hall of the People, and the Chairman Mao Mausoleum. In 1989 pro-democracy rallies ended in the massacre of protesters in the streets, yet, it can be a bright, bustling sort of place, full of kids flying kitesMore
#5

Temple of Heaven (Tiantan)

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A Ming temple, Temple of Heaven or Tian tan was built by the Yongle Emperor, who also built the Forbidden City, as a stage for the important rituals performed by the emperor, or Son of Heaven. Chief among these were the supplication to the heavens for a good harvest and the Winter Solstice ceremony, which was supposed to ensure a favorable year for the entire kingdom. In those days it was believed that heaven was round and earth was square, so the architecture of the buildings (round, set on square bases) and the layout of the park (squared off at the Temple of the Earth end, rounded at the Temple of Heaven end) reflect this belief. The buildings are rich in symbolic detail - variations on the number nine, which represented the emperor; coloured glazes which represent heaven and earth; and pillars which represent the months of the year, the seasons and time. There are also echo stones where you can stand to hear your voice reverberate.More
#6

Great Wall at Badaling

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Few bucket lists are complete without a walk along the Great Wall of China, famously one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988, and undoubtedly the most visited section is the Great Wall at Badaling. Often visited on a day trip from Beijing, Badaling was the first part of the wall to open to tourists back in 1958 and now draws up to 10 million annual visitors. Built in 1502 during the Ming Dynasty, the wall at Badaling runs for 2.3 miles around the Jundu mountain, reaching an altitude of over 1,000 meters and spanning almost 6 meters at its widest point – wide enough for 5 horses to gallop abreast. The popularity of Badaling means that it is often overrun with tour groups, but there are still many good reasons to visit - not only is Badaling the most thoroughly restored section of the wall and offers magnificent views, but it’s the most accessible, with a cable car and pulley train available for those who don’t want to walk to the top.More
#7

Beijing Olympic Park

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In just a few years since Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympic Games, the structures built within the Olympic Green (Olympic Park) have become just as representative of the Chinese capital as the Forbidden City or the Great Wall. While the Olympic Green houses half a dozen different venues, most visitors come to see the two most iconic, the Beijing National Stadium (more popularly known as the Bird’s Nest) and the Beijing National Aquatics Center (Water Cube). Today, the Bird’s Nest is used mostly for concerts and other high-profile sporting events, while the Water Cube has been transformed into a recreational swimming facility open to the public. You can visit the interiors of either for an extra fee, but both are arguably more impressive from the outside, and it doesn’t cost anything to walk the grounds of the Olympic Green. If you want to see the Olympic Green at its most beautiful, plan your visit for the evening hours with both the stadium and the Water Cube are lit up.More
#8

The Legend of Kung Fu Show

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The Legend of Kung Fu at Beijing’s Red Theater tells the story of a young monk who dreams of one day becoming a Kung Fu master. The boy’s story is told through Kung Fu, dance and Chinese acrobatics staged by the leading stage production company in the country. The best Kung Fu practitioners from around China are scouted for the production, and the average age of the performers is only 17 years old, a testament to their talent. While the 80-minute production contains no dialogue, a screen above the stage tells the story with English subtitles to help foreign visitors follow along; most Chinese tourists are already familiar with the tale. The Legend of Kung Fu premiered on the Red Theater stage in 2004, and the theater has hosted daily or twice daily performances of it ever since. Since the show is popular with both international and domestic tourists and is often included in package tours, it’s best to book your tickets ahead of time.More
#9

Great Wall at Jiankou

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Considered by many to be the most picturesque section, the Great Wall of China at Jiankou sits 43 miles (70 kilometers) northeast of Beijing. This portion of the wall hasn’t received the renovation treatments of more popular sections, so it has a wild appearance that many visitors find appealing. Tourist buses rarely if ever come here, so you won’t have the crowds or touts to mar the experience. This section of wall was originally built during the Tang Dynasty but then heavily renovated during the Ming Dynasty, stretching over 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) along steep, jagged cliffs. Unlike the sections of the wall closer to Beijing that were made mostly of brick, the wall at Jiankouwas constructed of locally sourced dolomite, making it much stronger than other sections. If you choose to visit the Great Wall of Jiankou, be sure to set aside an entire day for your visit. Wear good walking shoes and be prepared for a climb up steep and very uneven steps.More
#10

Imperial Garden of the Palace Museum

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As you walk along the north-south axis of the Forbidden City, you’ll eventually walk through the Gate of Terrestrial Tranquility and into the Imperial Garden of the Palace Museum, the final section of the palace before the north gate exit. Built in 1417 during the Ming Dynasty, the 3-acre (12,000-square-meter) traditional Chinese garden served as a private green space for the imperial family living within the palace. Unlike gardens in the West, Chinese gardens typically contain various structures, ponds and pavilions with pathways winding between, and the Imperial Garden is no exception. You’ll find around 20 structures within the garden, including the Hall of Imperial Peace in the center. Just in front of the hall, you’ll notice a pair of trees that appear as if embracing. These 400-year-old consort pines are thought to symbolize harmony between the emperor and empress. Pavilions at the four corners of the garden represent the four seasons.More

Trip ideas

Exploring the Hutongs of Beijing

Exploring the Hutongs of Beijing

Top activities in Beijing

Private Mutianyu Great Wall Trip with English-Speaking Driver

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Private Mutianyu Great Wall Trip with English-Speaking Driver

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Recent reviews from experiences in Beijing

star-4
Great tour
catherine_M, Dec 2020
Private Virtual Tour in Beijing
He showed the main attractions in Beijing and made me want to visitit for real!
star-5
Fantastic!
elizabethmP6375YK, Jan 2020
Mini Group: Beijing Forbidden City Tour with Great Wall Hiking at Mutianyu
So great to see so many sights all in one day, especially if you have limited time in Beijing.
star-4
Got to see everything we wanted
J3060QFstevena, Dec 2019
Mini Group: 2-Day Beijing Highlights and Great Wall Tour
This tour was great as we got to see everything we wanted to while in Beijing.
star-5
Excellent Tour
shanadurham, Nov 2019
2-Day Small-Group Tour of Beijing Highlights
Very organized and a great way to see Beijing!
star-5
Awesame experience
lesliewH3647VE, Oct 2019
3-Day Private Beijing Sightseeing Tour with Peking Duck, Hot Pot plus Optional Show
Our Tour guild Linda was excellent, very passionate & knowledgeable of China, she catered our experience to us, a very memorable experience, my husband & I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves & would like to come back to visit Beijing again in the future.
star-4
A good way to navigate a number of very busy attractions
H8395EHanthonyr, Oct 2019
Beijing Mini Group Day Tour: Great Wall, Forbidden City and Tiananmen
A good way to navigate around three of Beijings must see attractions, the guide was helpful and informative and kept us together and moving at s good pace throughout the day ,no mean feat on a very busy day .
star-5
Great tour!
Bianca C, Oct 2019
Private Beijing Day Trip: Mutianyu Great Wall and Ming Tombs
She knew the best picture spots and she was able to edit my itinerary last minute because some government celebrations in Beijing shut down the attractions at different times.
star-5
Excellent tour!
Tom S, Sep 2019
Mutianyu Great Wall Bus Tour
This trip fulfilled a lifetime ambition to visit the Great Wall (or the ‘Wall of No Return’ as the Chinese call it).
star-5
Mike was a great guide!
adrianclim, Aug 2019
Half day Tiananmen Square, Forbidden city and Jing shan park tour
We had an excellent tour of the Beijing attractions.
star-5
Great Service
chefozzy, Aug 2019
Private Arrival Transfer from Beijing Airport to Hotel
He didn't speak English but had all the information and no problems.
star-5
A great tour!
martinjadavis1, Aug 2019
Great Wall of China Small-Group Day Trip from Beijing
A great way to see a less-crowded part of the wall from Beijing!
star-4
Great way to see important landmarks
K8ehoek, Jul 2019
Mini Group: 2-Day Beijing Highlights and Great Wall Tour
We got to see the important landmarks of Beijing.
star-5
Excellent tour!
Sunshine666896, Jul 2019
Great Wall of China at Mutianyu Full-Day Tour Including Lunch from Beijing
The wall is magnificent and we enjoyed our time there, plus there were opportunities to visit a jade factory, enjoy a tea ceremony, and pick up several souvenirs.
star-5
Great Layover Tour
paulrA2505VH, Jul 2019
Mutianyu Great Wall Private Day Tour with English Driver
His english is very good and he offered some great history regarding the Wall in general and the specific section we went to.
star-4
Great tour
Tourist32354407433, Jun 2019
4-Hour Private Beijing Walking Tour of the Forbidden City
If you only have a limited amount of time to visit Beijing's highlights - this is your tour.
star-5
Amazing value for money
Jan75jan, Jun 2019
Beijing Essential Full-Day Tour including Great Wall at Badaling, Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square
So booked this trip as I only had one day to see the best bits of Beijing.
star-5
Beautiful day
MarieClaireMoro, Jun 2019
Private All-Inclusive Day Tour: Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Mutianyu Great Wall
her english perfect and she explained to me a lot of interesting things!
star-5
Great Choice
SvetoslavPanev, Apr 2019
Great Wall of China at Badaling and Ming Tombs Day Tour from Beijing
The tour guide Zoe was great with very good English and amazing attitude.
star-5
Great tour !
JacekP1088, Nov 2018
2-Day Private VIP Sightseeing Tour of Beijing City Highlights and Great Wall
The best way for couples to visit all the Beijing's attractions alone together.
star-5
Excellent Pick-Up Service
4mr1811, Jul 2018
Private Arrival Transfer from Beijing Airport to Hotel
The driver was waiting a name sign, assisted with the luggage, communicated in English, and knew an alternate route to bypass rush hour traffic on the main highway.

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