Headed to China soon and looking for things to do in Beijing?! You’ve come to the right place!
You can’t visit China without experiencing Beijing. The incredible history of the capital, intertwined with amazing food, a lifestyle unlike any other and extraordinary architecture make the city an essential on any China itinerary. The best things to do in Beijing are varied, with ancient and contemporary history, fine dining, and a nod to modern Chinese culture all featured.
Beijing Pre-Travel Guide
How to get around
Beijing is a beast of a city; it sprawls over 16,000 kilometers and has 21.5 million inhabitants. But there’s no need to fork over cash for expensive taxis; train travel in China is an efficient way to get around! The city is perfectly navigable with a wonderful metro network, and thankfully, all of the best things to do in Beijing are connected by it. Nodding to the boom of tourism in the Chinese capital, there’s even announcements in English, making the system very easily navigable by tourists.
Important things to pack
Beijing has a harsh and variable climate; with winter temperatures plummeting below -15 degrees C and summer reaching above 40 degrees C – so pack accordingly depending on what time you’ll be there! You can never guarantee dryness, so don’t forget your waterproofs. A Chinese phrasebook will prove incredibly useful, especially if you’re planning solo travel throughout China!
Where to stay
There’s lots of great hotels and hostels in Beijing that are suitable for any tastes and budget.
Budget: Leo Hostel
Leo Hostel is a great option for budget travelers looking to meet like-minded backpackers. With dorm and private rooms, there’s something to suit all tastes. The bar and restaurant is a great social space to mix with other travellers and it offers a range of Asian and Western food.
Mid-Range: Lu Song Yuan Hotel
For those who want a bit more privacy and luxury but don’t wish to sacrifice on price, head to Lu Song Yuan Hotel which is located in one of Beijing’s more artsy hutongs. All of the rooms are built around attractive courtyards which offers a great deal of space and there’s an on-site restaurant offering local cuisine.
Luxury: Rosewood Beijing
The gorgeous Rosewood Beijing features a gym, a pool and amazing large rooms. The décor is opulent and magnificent and the rooms are known to be some of the most spacious in Beijing. For those who are willing to splash a little extra cash for some affordable luxury, Rosewood is a great Beijing accommodation choice.
When to Go
As previously mentioned, Beijing has a harsh climate. You probably won’t want to spend much time outside during Late November – Early March. Travel in the summer is possible – it’s when I spent time there – but be prepared for soaring temperatures and high humidity! Autumn and Spring are good times to go. The main Chinese school holidays are in mid-July to mid-August, which is when the city will be busiest (although this is Beijing – it’s always busy!). Chinese New Year, which takes place around February but changes every year, would be a manic time to visit Beijing but also very fun![divider style=”bold” title=”” text_align=””]
Things to do in Beijing
1 | Temple of Heaven
There’s something wonderfully appealing about the Temple of Heaven. It’s a complex of religious buildings located in South Eastern Beijing, frequented by many Qing and Ming emperors. The architecture is beautiful and there’s a host of information about Medieval China there; a lot of which will make you squirm![divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
2 | Summer Palace
The Summer Palace is a sprawling ensemble of many palaces, beautiful gardens and lakes. It was the residency of many rulers throughout China’s history, and is one of the most famous royal destinations in the country. People visit the palace to explore the grounds, admire the architecture, and learn about its unique history.[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
3 | Tiananmen Square
A sprawling giant in the middle of China’s capital, Tiananmen Square is one of the country’s iconic features. It’s the place where Mao Zedong held his infamous rallies, and the vastness of it really gives you a feel for how colossal the Chinese Communist movement was. There’s a picture of the ex-dictator on one of the gates, and many interesting features to the square that make it well worth a visit.[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
4 | Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is home to some of the oldest buildings in China and is one of the must-visit things to do in Beijing. Located in the heart of the city behind Tiananmen Square, it’s a vast complex of Oriental-style, unique buildings which were the Imperial palace of Emperors of China.[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
5 | 798 Art Zone
The 798 art zone is a collection of decommissioned military factory buildings with a unique architectural style, which serves as the residency of a quirky artistic community. Lovers of the creative will certainly find this one of the best things to do in Beijing, as it gives the chance to admire various artistic – both contemporary and classical – works.[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
6 | The Great Wall of China
You couldn’t visit Beijing and not go to the Great Wall of China, could you? Parts of the wall lay just two hours from the city centre and are reachable by public transport. However, to avoid the crowds – we’ve all seen the photo of tourists jam-packed onto the wall – I’d recommend heading to one of the less touristy parts of the wall. I visited Jiankou, a part of the wall about three hours away and stayed there overnight. Trekking and camping on the Great Wall of China was an unforgettable life experience and I’d recommend it to anybody![divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
7 | Lama Temple
Slightly off the beaten path, but definitely one of the best things to do in Beijing, is the Lama Temple and the Tibetan influenced area of the city. The Buddhist temple was one of my favourites, with stunning architecture, opportunities to burn incense and amazing golden Buddhas. Plus, there’s lots of Tibetan restaurants around the corner with amazing food![divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
8 | Eat Peking duck
This is one thing I didn’t cross off when I was in Beijing (I’m a vegetarian, which made travelling in China very difficult sometimes!), but if you do eat meat, Beijing is one of the best places for duck. Try it with pancakes and chopped up vegetables; I’ve heard it’s unmatchable! For vegetarians, there’s plenty of vegetable Chinese dishes to feast upon in Beijing too. My favorites were chopped up spicy potatoes and eggplant in a garlic and soy dressing.[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
9 | National Museum of China
The National Museum of China gives a great insight to the culture and history of this intriguing country and visitors can enjoy many permanent exhibitions – two of my favourites are the history of Chinese money and Chinese education through the ages – and other temporary exhibitions. Most of the exhibitions have displays in English.[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
10 | Mausoleum of Mao
Mao’s Mausoleum is a strange place, but is definitely worth a visit. It’s intriguing to see how many Chinese citizens still worship their ex-leader – who caused the deaths of more than 30 million people in the cultural revolution – bestowing flowers and praying at his feet. It’s free to visit and gives an interesting insight to Chinese history and the sad effects of censorship and propaganda. Get there early if you want to go – it opens at 7am and shuts at 11am, and there’s a queue from about 6:30am.[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
11 | Olympic Area
The Olympic stadium nods to modern China, and is an amazing modern building in the shape of a Bird’s Nest. It’s a must visit for any photographers or sports fans![divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
12 | Ming Tombs
The Ming Tombs are located about 50 kilometers northwest from the city center. They are the mausoleums of thirteen emperors during the Ming Dynasty. There’s a few mausoleums in the area, but these are the best preserved; and they offer a fascinating history and grand architecture.[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
13 | Beihai Park
Beihai Park is one of the oldest and largest imperial gardens in China. It’s right in the centre of Beijing and offers a scenic grassy space, religiously significant buildings and an impressive lookout over the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.[divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
14 | Nanluoguxiang
You can’t visit Beijing without exploring the city’s Hutongs, and Nanluoguixiang is probably the most famous. Built in the Yuan Dynasty, it boasts traditional architecture and is now home to a host of restaurants, bars and coffee houses. It’s an ideal place to soak in the fast paced atmosphere of the manic city![divider style=”thin” title=”” text_align=””]
15 | Silk Market
Silk Market is a large shopping market and one of the best things to do in Beijing for shopaholics and souvenir hunters! There’s oodles of Chinese products up for grabs here; whether you want silk or other clothing items, stationery or DVDs. When you’re all shopped out, you can even head to level four for a much deserved foot massage![divider style=”bold” title=”” text_align=””]