One of the hottest places to visit now is Beijing. As the capital city of China, Beijing has attracted millions of tourists every year as a gateway to the most exotic country on earth. Given the sheer scale of the city and culture, there are literally dozens of places to visit and even more things to do in Beijing. This often leaves tourists stunned with the options that are presented to them.
In this article, I will highlight 5 things that you absolutely must see when you visit Beijing and 5 things that you must absolutely do to experience the culture. Make sure you put them to your “Places to Visit” and “Things to Do” list. You’ll be thankful later. OK, let’s start with the 5 things that you must absolutely visit when you’re in Beijing.
The Great Wall is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and it’s absolutely magnificent. It was built thousands of years ago, spanning about 600 kilometers long in the northern side of Beijing. There are eight major entry sections: Badaling (the most crowded one), Joyongguan, Huanghuacheng, Jiankou, Mutianyu, Gubeikou, Jinshanling and Simatai.
If you can, avoid Badaling because it’s often crowded with tourists. You won’t be able to enjoy the scenery and feeling when you go there. Also, the steps are very steep here, making walking very tough.
My recommendation is to go to the Mutianyu part. It’ll take you longer to get there but it has less tourists and the pathway is much easier than Badaling. If you can only visit one place in Beijing, let this be it. Be sure to carry sun blocks, sunglasses, comfortable footwear and plenty of water.
Image credit: kallgan
The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is the ancient capital city in the olden days of China. It still holds many important historical remnants of China and it’s a great start if you want to understand more about Chinese history. The Forbidden City consists of over 9000 rooms spread over 250 acres. The palace was burned down and rebuilt several times. If you’re planning to go here, I recommend you wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be walking quite a lot. Also, to get the most out of your trip, I recommend you hire a guide. There are guides who can speak most popular languages (such as English or Korean).
The bird’s nest is probably China’s largest investment in the recent years. Built for the 2008 Olympics, this place is a must see if you want to know what the Chinese are capable of building nowadays. Getting to the Area is free of charge. Be sure to take pictures when you’re outside the Bird’s Nest and show it to friends. Going in will cost you some money but it’s worth it if you want to experience the stadium from the inside.
The Tiananmen Square is, in my opinion, the symbol of Beijing under the rule of the Communist Party. It’s often used for parades and rallies and it’s the largest square in the world. This is where Chairman Mao established the People’s Republic of China. You can watch the rising of the Chinese flag during sunset and sunrise here.
The Summer Palace is the largest royal garden in China. This place is used by the emperors to rest. You can enjoy the scenery of mansions, pavilions, temples and bridges here while relaxing. Take your time to enjoy this park of 10 square miles of ancient history.
Now that we’re done with the list of 5 things to visit in Beijing, let’s get on with the 5 things to do list in Beijing:
Eat roast duck
Beijing is famous in the world for it’s Peking Duck and here you can find the best cooked Peking Duck. I recommend two places only: Da Dong and Quan Ji De. They use conventional ovens and tastes really great. This is one dish that you must absolutely try when you visit Beijing.
Walk 1 post on Great Wall
When you get to the Great Wall, challenge yourself to walk from one post to another. It will take you quite a while to get there so be prepared. Wear comfortable shoes and sunblocks. Also, bring enough water. The experience will be very rewarding and you’ll be presented with wonderful scenery along the way.
Watch Beijing Opera
If you’re into Opera and Chinese Art, then spend some time to watch the Beijing Opera. It includes stylized singing, dancing and dialogue to either tell a story or present different kinds of feelings including anger, happiness, sorry, fear or sadness. The Chinese opera is so different from any other kind of opera in the world and it’s well worth to experience one during your trip if you’re into it.
The 789 is an art space. It has many stores that displays and sells the modern Chinese art. 789 is a good way to familiarize your self with the modern Chinese art and the directions that it’s going now.
Explore the Hutongs at Nan Luo Gu Xiang
The Hutongs (old buildings and houses) is around 700 years old dating back to the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century. The Nan Luo Gu Xiang Hutong is about 800 meters long with 16 Hutongs. There are plenty of souvenir shops and bars along the way. The food here is quite good and priced reasonably. If you want to get some souvenirs from Beijing like silk, this is one place to look at.
Hopefully this guide will help you plan your trip better in Beijing. Remember that it’s impossible to explore all of them in one go. You’ll need to spend at least one week to visit all the iconic places so if you’re limited in time, be sure to plan and prioritize. I wish you a pleasant trip to Beijing and I hope you’ll be able to enjoy what this magnificent city has to offer.