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When most people think of Beijing, China, the first thing that comes to mind is the Great Wall of China. While this is a must-see attraction when visiting Beijing, there are many other attractions and activities to enjoy.
From historical sites to trendy nightlife districts, Beijing has something for everyone. Here are some of the hottest spots to visit during your next trip to this cultural and vibrant city.
Top 10 Attractions in Beijing
To help you make the most of your trip to Beijing, we've compiled a list of the top 10 attractions.
1. The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is a well-known landmark and a popular tourist destination. It's located close to Beijing, making it easy to visit. The wall is an impressive structure, dating back to the 16th century. It's made of stone and stands up to eight meters high.
Visitors can enjoy a walk along the wall, taking in the views of the surrounding area. There are also towers and parapets, providing an opportunity to take in even more of the scenery. For those who don't want to walk, a cable car takes visitors up to the wall.
The section at Badaling is jam-packed, so it's best to try and arrive early if possible. One of the most popular spots is Mutianyu, which has parts that date back to the 6th century. It's been rebuilt and expanded over time, and it's become increasingly popular due to its stunning views during spring and autumn.
2. Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square is located in the heart of the city and is surrounded by some of the most important landmarks, including the Monument to the People's Heroes and the Tiananmen Gate. The square was designed to hold up to a million people, and it's a popular place for political rallies and demonstrations.
In 1919, Tiananmen Square became a symbol of the Chinese national movement after student protesters gathered here to express their discontent with specific provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. Today, it remains a popular destination for tourists who come to admire its impressive architecture and historical significance. Some of the highlights include the Monument to the People's Heroes, a 38-meter tall obelisk made of 17,000 pieces of granite and marble, and the Tiananmen Gate, also known as the Gate of Heavenly Peace.
3. The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was the home of 24 Qing and Ming Emperors. It is an immense palace that covers 720,000 square meters. The walls are 10 meters high with towers in the four corners and a 50-meter-wide moat.
The palace is divided into ceremonial and administrative areas and private quarters. It is undoubtedly one of the most significant attractions in China and a must-visit for any traveler to Beijing.
Other highlights include the impressive Meridian Gate, built-in 1420; the beautiful Golden River Bridges, a network of five intricately decorated white marble bridges; and the ornate Hall of Preserving Harmony, which was once used as an imperial banquet hall.
4. The Temple of Heaven
Dating back to 1420, the Temple of Heaven is a group of sacred buildings that remain some of Beijing's most popular tourist destinations. The beautiful temples and shrines are set out in two sections, a rectangular one that symbolizes Heaven and a semi-circular one that represents Earth. The lush vegetation surrounding the temple grounds makes it a particularly picturesque site.
On the winter solstice day, the Chinese Emperor would ascend the Heavenly Altar to pray for a good harvest. The Temple of Heaven was built in 1420 and is constructed entirely out of wood without any nails. It also has a roof that is covered with 50,000 blue glazed tiles. There is also a marble plaque on the floor representing the dragon and the phoenix stone, symbols of the Emperor.
The temple's highlight is the Hall of the Vault of Heaven, which was used to store ceremonial plaques of Heaven and the Officials. The temple is also home to the Echo Wall, which echoes to even the quietest of voices. The Echo Wall is made up of three unusual echoing stones.
5. The Summer Palace
Dating back to the 12th century, the summer palace is a large and picturesque complex with a large artificial lake and beautiful gardens. It's an easy 30-minute journey by car, bus, or taxi from the center of Beijing, making it a great spot to visit. The Summer Palace was once a royal summer retreat and is now a popular spot for tourists to enjoy the scenery.
The best places to visit here include the Longevity Palace, the Marble Ship, and the Great Theater. The Longevity Palace is an impressive 19th-century building home to an ornate throne room and a beautiful courtyard. The Marble Ship is a western-styled and popular attraction on organized tours, while the Great Theater is an excellent venue for enjoying traditional Chinese plays and music.
You can enjoy various activities here, from taking a ride on one of the charming dragon-themed boats to exploring temples and shopping at traditional markets along scenic Suzhou Market Street.
6. Beihai Park
A short distance from the Imperial Palace, Beihai Park is one of Beijing's oldest and most beautiful imperial gardens. Dating from the 10th century, this park features several interesting structures, including the Round Fort and the spectacular Hall of Enlightenment. Built in 1690, the hall houses a giant Buddha statue carved from white jade and an impressive black jade vase from the early 12th century.
This striking park is famous for its beautiful scenery and opulent architecture, including the lavish residence of Song Qingling, the widow of Sun Yat-sen, which now serves as a museum.
Other highlights of Beihai Park include the Living Quarters of Mei Lanfang, a famous male star of the Peking Opera who specialized in playing female roles, and the stunning 17th-century White Pagoda on the Island of Exquisite Jade. Visitors can also explore the residence of Guo Moruo, a renowned writer and historian who lived here from 1963 until he died in 1978.
7. Beijing National Stadium and National Aquatics Center
The National Stadium, more commonly known as the Bird's Nest, is an iconic structure recognized worldwide. It was built for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and has since been used for significant cultural events and performances. In winter, it turns into the world's largest indoor ski slope.
Consider visiting the National Aquatics Center, more popularly known as the Water Cube, when looking for things to do near the Beijing National Stadium. As its nickname suggests, the building's unique cuboid design is illuminated at night, making it look like a massive ice cube. In addition to being where Olympic swimming events were held, the Water Cube now houses a waterpark open to the public.
After exploring the Water Cube, take a stroll through the Olympic Green, a beautiful parkland created for the 2008 Olympics. The park is home to many of the most famous buildings from the Olympics.
8. Beijing Ancient Observatory
The Beijing Ancient Observatory, located in the east of Beijing near the station district, is a fortress-like structure used continuously until 1929. It is still widely considered one of the oldest observatories in the world. The observatory features a variety of instruments that were used to observe the sky and track celestial objects.
There are many fascinating old pre-telescopic instruments in the 10,000-square-meter facility, including a celestial globe from 1673 and an armillary globe depicting the planets. Plus, several large bronze instruments were designed by Jesuit missionary Ferdinand Verbiest, all of which were once part of the old city walls. This impressive tower museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the knowledge of stars and planets.
9. Yuanmingyuan Park
The Old Summer Palace is located in Yuanmingyuan Park, in northwestern Beijing. It is a must-visit attraction that was once the imperial residence of the Qianlong Emperor and is renowned for its beautiful architecture and lush gardens. This place is mostly in ruins today, but it is still considered one of the most fabulous examples of the architecture in China and garden design; it is even sometimes referred to as the "Garden of Gardens."
The British and French looted and destroyed the Old Summer Palace – a vast and substantial collection of art and antiquities – during the Second Opium War in 1860. Today, the grounds are a popular public park, and visitors can explore the old ruins, which feature reconstructions and models in a small museum on site. Despite its tragic history, the palace is still a spectacular sight and a must-visit for anyone interested in Chinese history and art.
10. 798 Art Zone
The 798 Art Zone is a former military manufacturing complex turned into an art community. It is home to galleries, studios, and exhibition spaces that host events dedicated to the arts. The area is also known for its hip shopping, book stores, designer fashion boutiques, cafés, and restaurants.
Despite its ongoing gentrification, the 798 Art Zone remains a popular and exciting place to explore the arts. With its diverse range of artists and artworks, this unique district is a must-visit destination for those interested in contemporary Chinese and international art. Whether you're searching for the latest trends or want to soak up the vibrant atmosphere, there's something to appeal to every visitor.
As you can see, there are plenty of historical and cultural sites to visit while in Beijing. However, the city is also home to many other attractions, such as restaurants, and you can even take some day trips to the surrounding areas.
Top Day Trips From Beijing
This list is just a small selection of some of the best day trips you can take from Beijing.
1. Great Wall of China
The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China is a less crowded and more scenic alternative to the popular sections near Beijing. On this full-day tour from the city, you'll be accompanied by an English-speaking guide who will share the history and significance of this ancient structure with you while enjoying breathtaking natural scenery all around.
You can also choose to take an optional cable car ride for views of the wall from above (own expense) and enjoy a tasty Chinese-style lunch in between exploring this incredible piece of history. Pickup and drop-off at your hotel are included, making it easy and convenient to experience everything the Great Wall offers.
Do you want to see one of the most impressive attractions in Xian but don't want to worry about getting lost or dealing with long lines? Then this tour is perfect for you! After being picked up from your Beijing hotel, you'll travel by train to Xian, where an English-speaking guide will meet you and visit the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum.
The entrance tickets are included to enjoy hassle-free access to this incredible UNESCO World Heritage site. You'll also enjoy a delicious lunch during your tour, making it truly memorable.
This action-packed day tour will take you to two of China's richest and most historical sites - the Huangyaguan Great Wall and the Eastern Qing Tombs. You'll escape the crowds at the Great Wall and explore a more rugged and less-visited stretch of this ancient barricade.
At the tombs, you'll be able to explore one of the largest mausoleum complexes in China, surrounded by beautiful scenery and rich historical context. You'll stop at a local village for a delicious lunch, giving you a glimpse into life outside the city. A tour like this is a great way to see two of China's most popular attractions in one trip!
The perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of busy Beijing is to take a leisurely trip to nearby Tianjin, where you can enjoy stunning views along the Haihe River on a sightseeing boat tour. As you stroll along the bustling walking street, you will be surrounded by the city's rich history and culture and treated to various local snacks. This tour also includes a round-trip high-speed bullet train ride.
5. Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, and Forbidden City Tour
On this private Beijing tour, you'll visit some of the city's most famous attractions, including Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace. Your guide will provide in-depth information about each site's history and significance while handling all transportation, planning, and logistics. This allows you to relax and enjoy your trip. In this tour, a tasty and Beijing's famous Peking duck lunch and a special boat ride are included.
This tour is the perfect way to explore Beijing's hidden culinary gems. You'll be whisked away by private tuk-tuk to family restaurants and homes in the city's old alleyways and courtyards. You'll get to sample some of Beijing's most iconic dishes, including Beijing wraps, noodles, flame-grilled meats, and more. You'll also get to enjoy a tasting at a local craft brewery, with unlimited beers included. Whether you're a foodie or love exploring new places, this tour is the perfect way to discover some of Beijing's hidden culinary treasures.
The capital city of China, Beijing, is a massive metropolis home to a wide variety of cuisines. From street food to upscale restaurants, there is something for everyone in Beijing. Here are some of the best places to eat in Beijing:
1. Ju BaoYuan Hot Pot
The people of Beijing have a great love for hotpot, and Jubaoyuan restaurant is the perfect place to experience this popular culinary tradition.
In a hotpot, raw ingredients are placed into a pot of simmering broth to cook. The cooked food is then dipped in a sauce made from sesame paste before eating. This is a widely-enjoyed in the winter months. People enjoy hotpot in groups of four or more, as it is best paired with large amounts of tender meat, fresh vegetables, and other delicious ingredients. Due to its popularity, long queues stretching down Niujie Street can often be long queues. To avoid the crowds, it is recommended to avoid popular mealtimes.
Address: Niu Street West Li ShangYe 1 Building 5-2, Beijing China Phone: +86 10 8354 5602
Xin Rong Ji (Xinyuan South Road) has been awarded the prestigious status of "2021 Three Michelin Stars Restaurant". This Beijing-based eatery is adjacent to the Bulgari Hotel. It is the flagship restaurant of Xin Rong Ji Restaurants Inc. Xin Rong Ji takes its culinary offerings very seriously, striving to provide diners with the perfect gourmet experience. This means sourcing only the finest ingredients and preparing them in a way that highlights their original flavor, nutrition, and health benefits.
The restaurant's interior is styled with classical Chinese elements combined with modern touches, such as a bar and open kitchen. The highly personalized service at Xin Rong Ji even extends to customizing dishes to suit individual preferences.
Address: Xicheng District JinRong Main Street 11, ZhouJi Hotel b1 Floor, Beijing China Phone: +86 10 6618 0567
Qing-Feng, a Beijing bun shop famous since 1948, features simple interiors and no-nonsense service. However, the main attraction here is the variety of steamed dumplings available, with fillings such as juicy pork and fennel, egg and chives, and more. The breakfast menu is also noteworthy, with options like millet porridge and fried dough sticks. This shop is also notable for being where Chinese president Xi Jinping once ordered a ¥21 (£2.40) bun set. If you're a fan of dumplings, Qing-Feng is worth checking out!
Address: No.57 Dengshikou Main Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing China Phone: +86 10 6526 5357
Najia Restaurant is one of the most luxurious and exquisite restaurants in Beijing. The restaurant is styled after the imperial-era cuisine popularised by the last emperors of China. The décor is elegant, with carefully chosen furnishings and birds chirping in cages. The most notable dishes on the menu are the crispy-skin prawns and the eight-banner eggplant – a cold appetizer of salted and pickled aubergines named after the eight military divisions of the Manchurian army. The Najia experience is of luxury and refinement, sure to please even the most discerning palate.
Address: XiangShan YiKe Song 29Hao, Beijing China Phone: +86 10 8259 8588
Li Qun Roast Duck Restaurant is a must-go for those visiting Beijing. Founded by Zhang Liqun in the 1990s, this restaurant is famous for its roast duck dish, which is said to be one of the best. The restaurant is located in a 100-year-old Qing Dynasty property, small in size but offers excellent food and service. In addition to the succulent roast duck, diners should also try the spicy duck gizzards and intestines for a truly authentic Chinese dining experience.
Address: No 11 Beixiangfeng, Zhengyi Rd Qianmendong St, Beijing China Phone: +86 10 6705 5578
At King's Joy, vegetarians can enjoy flavourful vegetable-based dishes and creative mock-meat creations. The peaceful surroundings and delicate presentation of the food make this a top pick for La Liste's ten best restaurants. The chefs are dedicated to creating beautiful plates of food that are delicious and visually appealing. The restaurant is next to a beautifully restored courtyard with a bamboo grove, making it the perfect place to relax and enjoy a meal.
If you're planning your trip to Beijing or are already in the area, we've covered the hottest spots to visit. From ancient temples and palaces to trendy neighborhoods, don't forget to enjoy some delicious Chinese food unique to Beijing while you're there! We wish you all the best on your adventures, have fun, and take care!
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