The proximity of the top attractions of Beijing makes touring this large city very manageable. The first place you will desire to see is Tiananmen Square, which hosts the Forbidden City, then the National Museum of China, and some other monuments. If you feel stuffy with the busy plaza, you can retreat to the lush green spaces of the Summer Palace or Beihai Park. You will also want to visit the Dashanzi Art District and Nanluoguxiang for some urban adventures such as gallery-hopping and souvenir-hunting. When you have exhausted the offerings of Beijing, make the pilgrimage to the Great Wall. And now, let’s go into detail what you can do in Beijing.
- Tiananmen Square
Up there with Times Square, St. Peter’s Square, and Red Square, Tiananmen Square is among the most famous public spaces in the world. Most people can recognize the Gate of Heavenly Peace – emblazoned with Chairman Mao’s portrait – as a symbol of Beijing. It’s likely that you will feel you already know this place as you arrive. However, when you look around, the vast size of the area starts to impress you. The square is the political, geographic, and tourist center of the city, which makes it unavoidable. Though the Square looks like a field of concrete, you will want to visit it for the surrounding attractions. The National Museum of China, the Forbidden City, Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum, and the Great Hall of the People.
You can get to Tiananmen Square from any of the subway stations on Line 1 of Tiananmen Square. Note: The nearby attractions have different admission fees and operating hours, but you do not have to pay to walk around Tiananmen Square any time of day or night.
- The Great Wall of China
Just north of Beijing, you will find one of the most well-known monuments in the world – the Great Wall of China. Though it’s unlikely you will see the whole thing, you should aim to experience a part of it. So, which section?
Only one-hour drive northwest of Beijing, Badaling section is convenient, has a gondola to take visitors up and down the wall, and hosts a large souvenir market. Sounds perfect, right? And that’s why it has become the most visited portion. Entrance to Badaling (not including the gondola ride) costs 40 CNY (approximately USD 6.50) in the winter and spring and 45 CNY (nearly USD 7) in the summer and fall.
The Mutianyu section, about an hour’s drive northeast of Beijing, is also the favorite of recent travelers. Here, you will find majestic mountainous vistas, a fun sled ride down, a cable car for quick-and-easy access, and fewer tourists. Admission costs 35 CNY (around USD 5.50).
Farther from the city, the Gubeikou, Jiankou, Huanghuacheng, Jinshanling, Simatai, and Juyongguan sections offer travelers unique landscapes and challenging hikes. If you choose one of these sections, take your time to research it beforehand. Each part meanders through different terrain and has the own pros and cons.
Whichever portion you option, make sure to bring sunscreen, plenty of water, and snacks. The hot weather may take its toll on unprepared visitors and hike alone can be tiring.
- Summer Palace (Yiheyuan)
As the bustle of Beijing becomes too much for you, retreat to the Summer Palace which is located in the northwest suburbs. This oasis – literally, an oasis with peaceful Kunming Lake – hosts several attractions. Almost every gate, hall, pavilion, and the tower has a unique history. In spite of the historic appeal of the palace, most tourists are charmed by what is outside. The Summer Palace owns the largest imperial garden in China. Hence you can be sure there’s a lot to see. Plus, the Seventeen-Arch Bridge, stretching into Kunming Lake, provides excellent views of South Lake Island and the east bank. And with an impressive length of 2,388 feet, the Long Corridor attracts lots of attention.
You can get the Summer Palace by taking Metro Line 4 to the Yiheyuan stop. General admission costs 20 CNY (around USD 3) in the low season and 30 CNY (around USD 4.75) in the high season, but some “scenic spots” such as the Garden of Virtue and Harmony, require an additional fee.
- Forbidden City (Imperial Palace)
The Forbidden City, the official title of “The Palace Museum,” has been a place of mystery and wonder for over 500 years. This vast complex sits on the northern edge of Tiananmen Square. Beyond its towering fortifications, you will see an intricate labyrinth of halls, gates, squares, temples, pavilions, and sleeping quarters. In certain of the structures, historical relics and curated art have been placed, but the most significant achievement is the compound itself. The highlights you cannot miss including the Imperial Garden, the Antiquarium, the Turret, and the Meridian Gate.
You must go through the Meridian Gate to enter the Forbidden City that is easily reached via Tian’an men West or Tian’an men East metro stops. Admission costs 60 CNY (around USD 9.50) in the high season and 40 CNY (around USD 6.50) in the low season.
- Beihai Park (Beihai Gongyuan)
After the concrete jungles of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, head to nearby Beihai Park to get a breath of fresh air. Whether you are in an ancient pagoda or under a tree overlooking the lake, you will see why this green space has been preserved for over a thousand years. Not-to-be-missed highlights include the Circular City, White Dagoba, and the Temple of Everlasting Peace.
To get Beihai, you can take one of the bus lines (118, 111, 107, 609, and 13) or Metro Line 4 to Ping An Li that drop passengers off at the north gate of the park. That said, the park is within walking distance of the northern entrance of the Forbidden City, hence pairing the two activities is a smart choice. Admission to the grounds costs 10 CNY (around USD 1.50) in peak season and 5 CNY (around USD 0.80) in low season. Many of the buildings inside require additional fares. Buying a “through ticket” (an all-access pass) for 20 CNY (around USD 3.00) can save you some dough.
Nanlouguxiang continually surprises you with tantalizing flavors from unassuming vendors and exciting discoveries in boutique shops. As you need a shopping break, see the Drum and Bell Towers which also reside here. While this bohemian district has witnessed a rise in tourist volume, it has avoided the urban renovations and commercialization that characterize other Beijing areas.
The restaurants, shops, and bars maintain varied hours; however, you will be able to find activity here at nearly any time of day or night. Nanluoguxiang is only a short walk from the Gulou Dajie subway stop on Lines 2 and 8 and Beixinqiao subway stop on Line 5.
- Dashanzi Art District and 798 Space
The arts are booming in Beijing. You need to tour the Dashanzi Art District to see this creative surge. This artistic explosion’s epicenter is 798 Space or Factory 798, an old electronics manufacturing site and warehouse. The stern architecture juxtaposes the richly colorful contents of the studios of the artist. The two-million-square-foot venue boasts bars, eateries, and galleries which makes it a one-stop-shop for curious tourists and hip locals. When this space has filled up, artists have started up around 798 Space. Visitors say that the neighborhood appeals to almost everyone due to the diverse offerings to be found here.
Located in northeast Beijing, the place is accessible via bus, but most travelers cab it.
- Lama Temple (Yonghegong)
Originally an imperial residence, Lama Temple features intricate artwork and decadent gateways. You will immediately notice the complex’s rigid symmetry that derives from the imperial architectural style. The temple is also considered as the seat of Tibetan Buddhism in Beijing. The accompanying buildings of the Lama Temple and their quiet grandeur impress many visitors.
You can reach this place by taking metro Lines 2 or 5 to Yonghegong Station. Admission is 25 CNY (around USD 4).
- National Museum of China
The National Museum of China is positioned on the eastern edge of Tiananmen Square. The exhibits in the museum neatly outline the past of the nation for visitors, both foreign and native. After a significant renovation, the facility reopened in 2011 with an interior facelift and updated displays. Among the many treasures, you will find entire rooms dedicated to bronze, porcelain, and jade artifacts.
Admission is free; however, you’ll need your passport to go through the West Gate ticket office.
- Temple of Heaven Park (Tiatan Park)
To get the Temple of Heaven, you do not need an untimely passing. Only get off the metro at Tiantan Dongmen. As you would expect, this green space is a serene asylum, immune to the urban bustle. The park offers respite amid ancient cypress trees beside remarkable structures. You should not miss the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and the Zhaoheng Gate.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is accessible via Metro Line 5. Entrance to the park costs 15 CNY (around USD 2.50) in high season and 10 CNY (around USD 1.50) in low season. Certain individual buildings in the parking charge extra admission fees. For the full experience, buy a “through” ticket that costs 35 (around USD 5.30) CNY in the high season.
I am Emily Pham. I was born in Vietnam – a country with many unknown beaches, historic sites, and tourist attractions. Understanding that Vietnam nowadays is a famous destination, I establish the blog site vina.com with the purpose of introducing the elegant beauty of Vietnam to friends around the world. If you are planning a trip to Vietnam, our blog will provide you with essential information on where to go and what to do in our country.