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When it comes to mega-cities, no city is grander than Beijing. China’s capital is one of the world’s most populous and harmoniously blends age old customs and traditions with modern day technology and design.

It is a city rich in history that dates backs some 3,000 years, with numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, and the Grand Canal. Beijing is truly the cultural, political, and economic heart of China, attracting scores of every type of traveler, from all around the world.

Beijing is one of those rare cities that offers something special for every kind of traveller. Browse a never ending supply of world-class museums, sample the finest in authentic Chinese cuisine, marvel at innovative architectural wonders of old and new, and be introduced to the nation’s top artists, musicians, and writers.

The only hardship Beijing presents is finding enough time to experience all the city has to offer. When it comes to such a large city as Beijing, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

To that end, the following are things to do in Beijing for every interest – great ideas for your itinerary no matter what your interests!

Things to do in Beijing …

For History Lovers

Beijing is thought to be the best preserved of the four ancient cities of China. From its earliest beginnings over 3,000 years ago as Jicheng, it is now home to 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites including parts of the Great Wall of China.

Touring the Great Wall via unique sections such as Huanghuacheng, where you can witness part of the wall beneath the waters of a reservoir dam, will provide an unforgettable experience without having to compete with a large number of tourists.

A visit to the Forbidden City is also a must. It served as the imperial palace for dozens of emperors during the Ming and Qing Dynasties and was the political centre of the Chinese government for nearly 500 years. It now is home to the Palace Museum where you can witness nearly a thousand traditional buildings that have survived until today.

There are many other historical locations in Beijing, and history lovers will truly delight in spending time here. Though the above are two highlights you shouldn’t miss.

➡ Find a Great Wall of China tour.

Great Wall of China

Photo credit: Craig Maccubbin

For Architecture Lovers

Beijing presents many architectural styles including the traditional imperial style you will find in the Forbidden City, the boxy Sino-Sov style, and the modern skyscraper marvels like the CCTV (CMG) Headquarters.

A simple Beijing city day tour will allow you to see a wide number of buildings and temples such as Lama Temple, where you will find the biggest standing Buddha in China, as well as Tiananmen Square and Beijing National Olympic Stadium.

The Olympic stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest, will host the 2022 Winter Olympics which will make Beijing the first city to host both a Summer and Winter Olympics.

Don’t forget to check out Galaxy Soho, an incredible futuristic building with dynamic curves and style. Taking an illuminated night tour is also a great way to appreciate Beijing’s architecture as the city’s many landmarks are beautifully lit once the sun sets.

➡ Book an illuminated night tour.

beijing-corridor-in-beihai

Taking an illuminated night tour is also a great way to appreciate Beijing’s architecture as the city’s many landmarks are beautifully lit once the sun sets.

Photo credits: Good Free Photos & Craig Maccubbin

For Nature Lovers

At large, nature around Beijing is very limited, though there are a few possibilities for escaping the urban sprawl in favor of nature and the great outdoors.

For those wanting to inject nature into an otherwise urban itinerary, explore the Huaijiu and Huaisha Rivers for giant salamanders and mandarin ducks, or head to the Beijing Milu Park to view one of the largest herds of Père David’s deer.

The nearby mountains provide habitat for leopards, wolves, civets, and tanukis and the city sees hundreds of species of migratory birds each year. Pay a visit to Fragrant Hills in autumn for its stunning vibrant foliage.

While the Beijing Zoo is one of the oldest and largest zoos in China, zoo’s in China are not recommended for foreigners to visit. The living standards of the animals are poor, which can be heartbreaking for those who are used to high standards of animal care.

For Foodie Travellers

No trip to Beijing would be complete without trying the local favourite and best-known culinary export, Peking Duck (pictured below).

The simple act of consuming the dish is an art, with the duck often freshly carved at your table and instructions given on the best way to manage the dish with chopsticks.

Well over 50,000 restaurants offer dishes originating from all over China. The best way to sample fine dishes such as Jiaozi (Chinese dumplings), Gangou Potatoes, or donkey burgers is to take a Beijing Food Tour.

Dining out has become one of the main social activities that locals and visitors enjoy and it is over cuisine where many important life events are created or celebrated within the city. There are many vegetarian and vegan restaurants too.

Breweries are also a big-thing now in Beijing. Beer has been brewed in China for over 5,000 years and is the country’s second most consumed beverage – right behind tea of course. Some of the best breweries in Beijing include Slow Boat Brewery, Peiping Machine Brewing, and Arrow Factory Brewing.

➡ Book a Beijing food tour.

Peking Duck

Peking Duck by InterContinental

For Art Lovers

Beijing is filled with exceptional art galleries and leading art education institutes. Be inspired or simply blown away by a visit to Red Gate Gallery or Central Academy of Fine Arts.

Meanwhile over to the music side, Chinese music has burst onto the scene the past few decades as way of expressing emotion, ideas, and political protest. Finding a live music gig in the city is quite easy and music styles vary considerably. You will find everything from pop and country to underground metal and punk.

Pro tip: For one of Beijing’s finest live music venues, head to the energetic Mao Livehouse for the latest and greatest bands. Another good area to search for great live music is the hutongs of Gulou where you will find places like the Hot Cat Club among numerous others that offer free entry to both musical acts and comedy.

China has the world’s second largest film market after the United States as it annually puts out and showcases over 600 feature films. This makes it the world’s fastest-growing film market.

Don’t forget 798 art zone which is a must-visit for any first-time-to Beijing art lovers. 798 Art Zone is Beijing’s main concentration of contemporary art galleries, boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants.

➡ Book a private guided tour.

798 Art Zone is Beijing’s main concentration of contemporary art galleries, boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants.

Photo credit: Mitch Altman

The Best Time to Visit Beijing

Anytime of the year can provide a wonderful Beijing experience, but generally the finest weather is experienced from March to May and from September to October.

If you are looking to explore the city’s historic and sacred sites, you will want to avoid travelling during national public holidays as you will compete with an abundance of domestic Chinese tourists which sends hotel prices soaring. Winter is very cold and dry, less recommended to travel then.

Like any destination, the more time you spend in Beijing the more secrets of the city you will unlock. The key is to get off the beaten path to go beyond the tourist route in search of authentic Chinese experiences.

My personal favourite time of year to visit is autumn due to the vibrant foliage. Gingko Boulevard in Diaoyutai becomes a magical scene much like the landscape of Fragrant Hills.

Things to do in Beijing

Photo credit: xiquinhosilva

Most Popular Beijing Tours

Whether you’re interested in a classic tour of Beijing or you’re searching for a more unique experience, you can find a variety of different options on ChinaClickGo.com.

Their team has personally tested great tours and activities all over Beijing and listed them all in one place so that you can build your own personalized itinerary.

There are a variety of Great Wall tours, food tours, walking tours, Kung Fu show tickets, and more. Simply jump on over to find things to do in Beijing, whatever your interests may be.

OUR FAVORITE CHINA GUIDES: CLICK TO LOOK INSIDE ↓

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

    34 Comments

  1. Range is a must for me Meg. Especially in a place like China, which can get intense I imagine. I base this assumption on the behavior of Chinese tourists I see all over the globe LOL. If I can do a bunch of things I am less likely to stress.

    • Absolutely Ryan – Beijing definitely has a wide range of different things to keep you busy – it’s a truly fabulous city!

  2. Would love to go – maybe one day ….

    • It’s a great city! I hope you do have the opportunity to visit soon 🙂

  3. We loved our time in Beijing. Such fond memories!

    • Glad to hear it Susan! Such a great city isn’t it!

  4. Sad to hear that the zoos are falling short of ethical animal treatment standards. Thankyou for making this point though, we should not be giving tourist dollars in support of such treatment.

    • Yes 🙁 I agree, we really can affect change if unethical practices stop being profitable. We have a huge amount of power as travelers to speak with our wallets in what we support.

  5. Beijing is such a study in contrasts. I had a quick weekend getaway by myself from business and went to Beijing from another city in China. Will have to get back at some point to fulfill more of the ideas on your list.

    • It is indeed! Glad you had a great time Alex. Definitely one of those cities that demands multiple return trips 😀

  6. The wall is famous worldwide for a reason! We went to Mutianyu Great Wall. Photos online do not compare to seeing the Great Wall in the flesh. It was a truly amazing experience to view something that is aesthetically, a marvel of human creation and beyond that, historically fascinating.

    I visited on a Monday and it surprisingly quite busy but it did not taint the experience.

    • So glad to hear you had an incredible time Kate – such a magical experience isn’t it!!

      Mutianyu is definitely the place to go to avoid the most mass tourism, glad to hear that it was still a special experience though despite being busy 🙂

  7. So many tours with ChinaClickGo.com – I was just on their site and it looks like they cover everything. Thanks for the tip 🙂

    • Absolutely, they’re great! A one stop shop for anything you could want to see or do in Beijing 🙂

  8. Great advice on the 798 Arts District. The galleries these days are hit or miss but the district is still a great arts hub.

    • Thanks Matthew, glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  9. I am all of the above! I like doing things from all of your categories. It’s a nice balance that way 🙂 I hope to get to Beijiing one day.

    • Fabulous Briana! I enjoy a bit of everything too 😀

  10. I’m traveling to Beijing next month, definitely taking in a food tour. I actually find most food tours include a lot of contextual history about a city, and take in many of the sights too, so you learn a lot more than just the cuisine. Will look at the one you recommended. Cheers.

    • Hope you have a fabulous time Willer. Definitely check out the food tours with ChinaClickGo.com 🙂 ANd I agree, they’re always so much more than food tours!

  11. Walking along the Great Wall of China is my dream.

    • I hope you have the chance to make it happen soon 🙂

  12. I would also recommend taking in the Summer Palace (new Summer Palace). See the Long Corridor, Marble Boat, Longevity Hill, the lake, the seventeen-arch bridge. Look for Suzhou Street which most tourists miss. There is also an old Summer Palace which is a lot of ruins.

    • Thanks for the tip Blair! So many fabulous thing to do, an obvious oversight on my part for missing it off our list 🙂

  13. You only need to remember that museum and the Forbidden city close on Mondays.

    • Thanks for the extra info Roselia – definitely a good tip to remember when planning out your itinerary 🙂

  14. This was my Bejing itinerary:

    1st Day : Morning visited Badaling section of wall, as client contact provided a car, so wasn’t my place to suggest otherwise (and wasn’t wedded to Mutianyu anyway). Very happy with the viewing and the hike to the top of the section (despite the commercialism and crowds). Forbidden City in the afternoon, with lots of walking / wandering around the city before and after. Evening had some drinks with /boss at bar strip locations including Houhai. (other area name don’t recall)

    2nd Day: (solo) Morning Tienanmen square. Waited in line for Mao’s tomb all the way to security check, and was turned away (camera). They referred me to the bag check, but frankly i didn’t trust leaving my camera there, and there clearly was no assurance I could return to my previous spot in line. Then off to Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Olympic Sites (nest and cube), a couple Hutongs (in that order), primarily using subway that day. Peking roast Duck dinner at Quan jude.

    Stayed both nights at the Peninsula, which I would recommend given location and amenities.

    • Thanks for sharing your itinerary Ace, it sounds like you hit all the main highlights – and the Peninsula is a spectacular choice of hotel 🙂

  15. Sounds like there are a lot of interesting and exciting things to do in Beijing! We have Chinese food every Saturday night with my family and it’s the best day of the week – the takeaway down the road from us is DIVINE. I’m looking forward to the day when I can enjoy Chinese food in China. I think I would spend the whole holiday eating. My version of bliss!

    • Absolutely Daniela – it’s said that we’ve not truly tasted food until having been served it in its country of origin!

  16. We had an itinerary for Beijing but adjusted it daily, swapping things around for various reasons. I booked tours to the Great Wall, Ming Tombs and a country village so on those days couldn’t fit in any other tourist sites.

    • Sounds like a great approach Aren, locking in the main highlights but keeping the rest of your itinerary flexible to see where the day leads 🙂

  17. Great post!

    • Thank Nicholas, I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

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