Alyssa has been writing about exciting travel topics for Trips to Discover since 2013. After living the big city life in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, Alyssa sold the bulk of her possessions and became a digital nomad, living full-time in her camper and working from wherever she could find an outlet and an internet connection for her laptop.
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Beijing is always one of the most popular places to visit in China because of its deep historical significance, top cultural attractions, and close proximity to the Great Wall. This is a huge city with lots of historical monuments, a well-preserved culture, lively markets, and easy public transportation to get around town. To help you narrow down your to-do list when you take a trip to Beijing, consider starting off these nine hot spots and working your way around town from there!
The Great Wall of China
Although the Great Wall is a bit north of the city of Beijing, many people use the city as a home base to see this iconic site. The wall is about 5,500 miles long, so you’ll need to decide which portion of it you want to see. One popular part to visit if you’re staying in Beijing is the Badaling section, which is about an hour’s drive away. There’s a gondola you can ride here to see the wall and a souvenir market too. The Mutianyu section is about an hour’s drive away as well and typically offers a less crowded experience. If you’re looking to get away from the crowds even more and hike along the wall for a while, consider traveling a bit further out to the sections of Jinshanling, Simatai, Jiankou, or Gubeikou.
This large public square is free to visit and can hold up to a million people at once. The founding ceremony for the People’s Republic was held here, and it’s still one of the most famous public spaces in the world. It’s easy to reach the square via metro, and many top attractions are located nearby, such as the National Museum of China, the Forbidden City, and the Great Hall of the People. You can also watch a flag-raising ceremony here if you get up early and arrive at the square before sunrise.
The Forbidden City was home to 24 emperors who served during the Ming and Qing dynasties starting in the 1300s, and it’s the world’s largest ancient palace structure. Also known as the Imperial Palace, this is a great place to learn about both history and traditional Chinese architecture. The Turret, Imperial Garden, and the Meridian Gate are must-see attractions at the Forbidden City. Admission typically costs between CNY 40 and CNY 60 depending on what season you visit.
Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven Park, also known as Tiatan Park, is a lovely green space with cypress trees, the Zhaoheng Gate, great people-watching opportunities. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is easily accessible by the subway. This is a great example of Chinese religious architecture and one of the most popular places to visit in town. Make sure to see the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and the Imperial Vault of Heaven when you visit this site. Other sites here are the Palace of Abstinence, Danbi Bridge, and Circular Mound Altar. The entrance fee here is typically CNY 10 to CNY 15, depending on the month you visit, although some sites here require an additional fee as well.
Summer Palace, also known as Yiheyuan, is a top thing to do in Beijing because it feels like an oasis in the city. This is a picturesque palace with lovely gates, halls, and pavilions, as well as a large garden, Seventeen Arch Bridge, and Kunming Lake. It’s peaceful to take a walk around the palace and soak up the atmosphere of it all. The standard entrance fee is approximately CNY 40 to CNY 30, depending on what month you visit.
Also known as Beihai Gongyuan, Beihai Park is a great place to get away from the busyness of city life and enjoy some peace and quiet. You can relax by the lake or under a tree while taking in the views of ancient pagodas or going for a walk. The White Dagoba and the Temple of Everlasting Peace are top sights to see here. It’s fun to rent a paddle boat in the summer to see the surroundings from the water.
798 Arts District
One of the best places to get to know Beijing’s local art scene is the 798 Arts District. The 798 Space and Dashanzi Art District are part of a renovated warehouse space that is now home to many art galleries, bars, and eateries. Located in the northeastern part of Beijing, it’s a hip and trendy part of town for artists and tourists alike. This is an important contemporary arts hub and should be on every art lover’s itinerary.
One of the best neighborhoods to visit in Beijing is Nanluoguxiang, which is north of the Forbidden City and full of character. Here you’ll find boutique stores lining narrow streets, vendors selling their goods, and, and a local vibe that isn’t overly commercial. There are many hutong neighborhoods worth visiting, but if you only have time to visit one, make it Nanluoguxiang. These are traditional neighborhoods that haven’t been overhauled and replaced with modern buildings. They’re also great places to find local bicycle shops and rent a bike to travel around town on two wheels to see the sights.
Roast Duck, Dumplings, and Baozi
It most certainly wouldn’t be a complete trip to Beijing without sampling some of the delicious local foods that are prepared and served here. Roast duck, dumplings, and baozi are just three of the many tasty options that should be on every must-try list for foodies. Baozi are steamed buns that are often filled with meat and vegetables and are a popular breakfast item. Peking Duck is a famous dish in Beijing and prepared with thin slices of roast duck that are served with thin pancakes, onions, and plum sauce. The Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant, which is southwest of the Dongsi Shitiao Bridge in Nanxincang is a great place to try duck. Make sure to stop by street stalls and casual restaurants to order these dishes and get a taste of the cuisine in Northern China.