What to See in Beijing
Beijing is crammed with traditional architectural attractions and for a city that suffered through the barren and anarchic years of the Cultural Revolution this is all the more surprising.
Locations such as Tiananmen Square, the imposing Forbidden City, Tiantan Park, Temple of Heaven, National Museum of China, Mao Zedong's Mausoleum, the Old Summer Palace Ruins and Liulichang Culture Street are but a few in the long list of fascinating places to visit in Beijing.
Take your time – it's worth it!Read More
Other Attractions in Beijing
Composed of the old planetarium and the new planetarium, the old one has an optical projector and space exhibits. The new planetarium has SGI Digital Space theatre, a 4D theatre, Space Simulator 3D theatre, Sun exhibits, ancient Chinese astronomical instruments exhibits and telescope store.
However, all exhibits are presented in Chinese with a few words of English. With a 600-seat capacity, the new planetarium has a celestial body showing system which is composed of a large Star Projector and lots of special effect projectors.
- Location: 138 Xizhimenwai Dajie
Catch the View from the CCTV
The CCTV tower is one of the modern wonders of Beijing. If the city had fewer attractions the tower would feature heavily on any list of tourist activities. As it is, there are so many things to see in Beijing, especially of historical and cultural interest, the tower tends to get overlooked. Home to many TV and radio stations, from the top you can see a wide view of western Beijing.
The tower is not near the centre so practically all major Beijing landmarks are not usually visible. There is a revolving restaurant at the top along with two observation levels. The tower is in the western suburbs of Beijing and can be reached by subway by getting off at the Gong Zhu Fen (110) Line 1 station and walking north 20 minutes.
The Forbidden City was the centre of Imperial China during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1416 – 1911). In its heyday, as many as 9,000 people – guards, servants, eunuchs, concubines, civil servants and members of the Royal Family – lived inside the Forbidden City. Entry was restricted to very few, apart from ministers and state officials. Today, the Forbidden City is the largest and best-preserved ancient palace complex in the world. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 08:30 to 16:20 (Oct. 16-Apr.15); tickets not available after 15:30
- How to get there: Subway Line 1: Get off at Tiananmen West or Tiananmen East Station, then walk north though the Tiananmen Tower (Gate of Heavenly Peace). Subway Line 2: Get off at Qianmen Station, then walk north through the Tiananmen Tower.
- Tour Available: Forbidden City & Tiananmen Square Tour
An undisputable symbol of ancient Chinese military power, the Great Wall is the world’s largest military defense system in the world. It stretches across northern China, separating the mainland from Inner Mongolia, starting at the mouth of Yalu River (Hushan, Liaoning Province) in the east and ends at Jiayu Pass (Gansu Province) in the west, measuring 8,851.8 kilometres (5,500.3 miles) in all. Read More...
- Opening Hours: Each section of the wall has its own opening hours and admission fees. Most sections close earlier in winter/spring.
- How to get there: When visiting the remoter sections, it’s best to hire a taxi or private driver. The more touristic sections, such as Shanhaiguan, are accessible by public bus.
Hutongs, meaning ‘water wells’ in Mongolian, refer to a maze of narrow lanes (6-7m wide) formed by traditional Chinese courtyard homes (Siheyuan). At the epicentre of Beijing is the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City); the hutongs branch out along its northern, eastern, southern and western walls. The history of the hutongs is as old as Beijing itself, dating back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368). Read More...
Kung Fu Show
This action-packed show is a must-see while in Beijing. The China Heaven Creation International Performing Arts has assembled some of the best Kung Fu artists and practitioners in China along with top designers and directors for this energetic spectacle. Located at the Beijing Red Theatre. Acrobatics There's an old Chinese saying, 'One minute on a stage costs a performer ten years of training,' and one is reminded of it when watching the skill and determination of Chinese acrobats.
Quite simply, Chinese acrobatics is stellar and to witness a dozen or so people on one bicycle or to see a contortionist do his/her stuff while balancing delicate objects is impressive to say the least.
- Location: Chaoyang Theatre 36 East Third Ring Road, and Dongsishitiao Lijiaoqiao – both in the Chaoyang District
- Tel: 10 6507 2421 5 and 10 6502 3984
The first tomb, Chang Ling, is the burial plot of the emperor Yongle and noteworthy as the most impressive tomb because of its sequence of opulently-designed halls lying beyond the yellow-tiled gate. The tomb contains a recently-erected statue of the emperor Yongle as well as an abundance of impressive cedar-wood columns. The pine-covered burial knoll towards the back of the compound is yet to be excavated and is closed to the public. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 08:00 – 17:00 Daily
- How to get there: To cheapest way to get to the Ming Dynasty Tombs is to take a bus; bus 345 from Deshengmen takes you to Changping Dongguan – from here take bus 314 to the tombs. Alternatively it’s easier to join a tour group which will also allow you to visit other notable attractions in the area.
If you only go shopping once in Beijing, take a trip to this atmospheric outdoor bazaar. Also known as the 'Dirt Market,' (the name comes from the days when vendors would spread their wares on the ground), it's best on the weekends, when densely packed rows of stalls stock all kinds of antique (and antique-looking) curios.
There's everything from Communist-kitsch items (propaganda posters, Little Red Books and pastel-coloured statues of Mao), to faded silk 'qipao' dresses, to heavily embroidered fabrics made by minority tribal women from the southern provinces of Guizhou and Yunnan. Weekend early mornings are best for bargains.
Once known as Peking, Beijing – China’s capital since the Mongol Yuan dynasty – is a rich jumble of ancient history and modern development. Recent rapid urbanisation and modernization has led to the sprawling northern city to be peppered with avant-garde architecture, shiny skyscrapers and multilane highways. The Peking man Site at Zhoukoudian, is arguably one of the most widely known excavation sites in the world due to the discovery of hominid localities here. Read More...
- Price Range: Adult: Y20; Student: Y10
Tea Street (Maliandao)
This enormous indoor market has several hundred shops that specialise in tea. Stroll among the stalls and learn about the different types of leaves.
Each province has its own specialty – from Hangzhou's fragrant Longjin Dragon Well, to Anhui's gentle green tea, to Yunnan's Pu'er tea, aged over decades like fine wine.
You'll need an interpreter here as there isn't much English spoken, but vendors are eager to offer samples and advice. Also for sale here is tea paraphernalia - everything to make the perfect pot.
Tiananmen Square is the largest city square in the world. It occupies an area of 440,000sqm (about 109 acres), and is able to accommodate an amazing ten million people at one time. World famous for the events of 1989, visitors should realise that Tiananmen Square has long been associated with protests in China as it symbolises the heart of the nation. The centrally located 38-metre high Monument to the People's Heroes was erected in 1958; its body is made of granite and is surrounded by white balusters. Tiananmen Tower in the south was built in 1417 during the Ming Dynasty. During this dynasty and the following Qing Dynasty this was where nationwide proclamations were issued.
To the east of the Square is the National Museum of China which is a great treasure trove. It is a comprehensive museum with an emphasis on Chinese art and history. The National Museum of Chinese History has more than three million precious articles which provide a vivid portrayal of Chinese history. The square is especially atmospheric at both sunrise and sunset when flag raising/lowering ceremonies are held. Be warned, they're crowded affairs. Tiananmen is equally beautiful after dark but visitors should be aware that it is cleared at 22:30 nightly.
- Tour Available: Forbidden City & Tiananmen Square Tour
The Olympic Park
The Olympic Park was built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Paralympics Games. It is home to the famous US$500 million 'Bird's Nest' stadium and the Water Cube swimming stadium in addition to other venues used for the Olympics.
The Chinese regard this building as on par with the Great Wall in architectural significance and it is even depicted on their currency. There are long extending paved walkways and a canal that runs through the park. It's especially appealing at night and is lit from 18:30 to 20:30. Tours available.
This expansive temple-and-park complex is an iconic site in southern Beijing and possibly the second most popular landmark in the city. Built in 1406 by Ming Emperor Yong Le (r. 1402-1424) for conducting religious sacrifices and rituals, the Temple of Heaven’s layout and architecture are filled with ancient symbolisms, which interpret heaven as a blue, round dome and the earth as a flat, square base. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 06:00 – 20:00 (official)
- Price Range: Take Subway Line 5 and get off at Tiantan Dongmen Station (exit A1). Several bus routes from central Beijing also pass by the temple.
The Summer Palace
The summer palace is located in northwest Beijing right next to Beijing University. Constructed as a place of rest and recreation for the Emperor of old, it is now open as a public park and is one of the most impressive places to visit in Beijing. The focus of the Summer Palace is a huge lake with a long walkway circling it with a series of towers, halls and temples climbing the hillside. Towards the top of the hill you can see the entire lake and its surroundings.
The park is dotted with many small architectural features such as a beautiful 17-arch bridge which leads to a small island as well as a large stone boat. It takes about 50 minutes to just over an hour to reach the summer palace by taxi from the centre of Beijing. Boat rental stops early at around 16:30 so get there early if you want to rent one.
- Tour Available: Beijing 3-in-1 Tour
Music and Shows
Beijing Concert Hall
The Beijing Concert Hall, just off Xi Chang’an Jie, is the best place to find classical music in the city. It regularly features concerts by Beijing’s resident orchestra, as well as visiting orchestras from the rest of China and overseas.
- Address: 1 Bei Xinhua Jie, Xicheng District
- Tel: 10 6605 5812
Beijing Opera (not strictly opera but a form of traditional Chinese theatre which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics) is still very popular and the best place to see it is Zhengyici Theatre, near Heping Men Subway Station. Built in the 17th century, the theatre was originally a Ming Dynasty temple before being converted by the Beijing Opera Company. Much of Beijing opera is carried out in an archaic stage dialect quite different from modern Standard Mandarin and from the Beijing dialect so don't worry – you're not the only one who doesn't understand.
- Address: 220 Xiheyan Dajie, Xuanwu District
- Tel: 10 8315 1649