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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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