Beijing is the capital of China with a history dating back 3,000 years. There are several ancient sites to see from the Great Wall of China to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Imperial Palace.
Today, there are many stunning modern buildings and the Olympic Park to add to your trip itinerary.
Tip! Contact Grace and May with CITSBJ (China International Travel Service Beijing) to arrange a custom tour of Beijing. They are an excellent tour company and my guide May was fabulous. See their contact information at the end of this article.
Find out our top recommendations of things to do in Beijing below.
Things to Do
The Great Wall of China: The Great Wall is one of the most amazing architectural structures throughout time, stretching ~6,000 ft on the east to the west axis of China (that’s at least twice the width of the USA), and some debate that the wall’s length is up to 13,000 ft!? Our guide said that the wall can be seen from outer space. The wall and towers were built to protect the borders from enemy invasions. The wall construction started in the 7th century and its mostly made of stone and brick, of which several sections have been restored.
We visited the Badaling section of the wall, just about an hour northwest of Beijing. There’s a cable car that takes visitors to the top of one of the mountains where you can get some amazing views of the wall.
Tiananmen Square: In the heart of Beijing is one of the largest squares in the world that has been said to hold up to 1 million people within its 109 acres area. Built during the Ming Dynasty (14th century), Tiananmen was considered the “Gate of Heavenly Peace” that leads to the entrance of the Imperial City.
Within the square, visitors can see the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, former leader of the PRC (People’s Republic of China).
Forbidden City: Within the Imperial City is the Forbidden City which was home to emperors and their families between the 14th – 19th centuries (Ming & Qing Dynasties). There are almost 1,000 buildings within the palace complex and today its considered an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Jingshan Park: For some of the best views of the Forbidden City, walk up the stairs at Jingshan Park, across the street from the North exit of the Forbidden City. When you reach the main pavilion on the top of the hill, turn around and you’ll be amazed at the number of yellow rooftops in the Forbidden City. It’s one of the best views in Beijing!
Drum and Bell Towers: Located in the center of Beijing, the Bell Tower and Drum Tower are the city’s symbol. Built in the 12th century, these structures are made of brick and wood and are surrounded by the Hutong alleyways. For great views of Beijing, climb to the top of the Bell Tower.
The Hutong: Visit the old alleyways and homes in the Hutong of Old Beijing, near the Drum and Bell Towers. These lanes are historic and were once home to the imperial elites who lived in mansions, designed according to the principles of feng shui. One of the best examples of old hutong is located in an area called Wudaoying. You can stroll along and find coffee roasters, little boutiques selling porcelain tea ware, clothing designs, retro road signs and more.
Summer Palace: Visit the Summer Palace and stroll through the gardens, lakes and see the imperial palace from the Qing Dynasty. UNESCO notes these gardens are a perfect example of Chinese landscape design with hills, water, pavilions, bridges.
Temple of Heaven: Located in the southeast of Beijing are a series of religious buildings at the Temple of Heaven. This complex was used for ceremonies by the Emperors.
National Stadium: Visit the Beijing National Stadium, called the Bird’s Nest, that was used for the opening of the Olympics in 2008.
The Beijing National Aquatics Center, called the Water Cube, is the aquatics center where swimming competitions took place in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
798 Art Zone: The 798 Art Zone is a district where emerging artists and designers are showing their work in boutiques and galleries. This area was formerly military factories, also known as Dashanzi. Check out the new spaces like 798 Photo Gallery and the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art. Don’t Miss! The outdoor sculpture installations and hip cafes. Address: 2 Jiuxianqiao Rd, Chaoyang Qu, Beijing
National Theater: We wanted to see the beautiful architecture at the Center of Performing Arts, sometimes called The Giant Egg.
Architecture by Zaha Hadid: Some of Beijing’s dramatic modern architecture can be seen at Soho Galaxy and Soho Wangjing with curvilinear asymmetric towers. These complexes were designed by the late Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi female architect. I admire her work around the world and was thrilled to be able to tour both of these locations.
Shop for Jade at Beijing Dragon Land Jade: Many Chinese wear jade since they believe it will protect them and bring them good health. We bought a pair of jade earrings. Ask for sales lady Grace to help you – she is very helpful, not aggressive in her sales approach, and has an excellent knowledge of the jade selection at the store. We spoke with Manager Marc Yu and he guarantees the quality of their jade products from jewelry to sculptures. Be sure to ask for a certificate that authenticates the type of jade you purchase.
Address: No. 8 Dengzhuang.Changping District in Beijing Tel: 010-69703445
Ming Dynasty Tombs: The Ming tombs a series of 13 mausoleums built by the emperors of the Ming dynasty of China that are located between Nanjing and Beijing.
Contact Grace and May with CITSBJ (China International Travel Service Beijing) to arrange a custom tour of Beijing. My guide May spoke excellent English and helped me get around Beijing quickly via the Metro system.
Grace Zhang (Sales Manager) & May Wangjing (Guide)
Tel: 86-10-6406 3218
Cellphone: 86-135 8163 0571