Insights: Where to visit in Beijing

Beijing is a unique city of dichotomies, attractively set against one of the most dynamic, lively, and fast-paced environments in the world. With more than a tenth of the country’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Beijing alone, the weight of history can be felt alongside the spur of the modern and innovative - making Beijing one of the most interesting and rewarding destinations to visit.

cctv
Central China Television (CCTV) Headquarters, Beijing © bingdian/Getty Images

 

N.B. Tourist attractions require a passport or equivalent identification for purchasing admission tickets. Student discounts can often be applied with student ID.

AT A GLANCE

Landmarks and Locations:

  1. The Great Wall of China (长城)
  2. The Summer Palace (颐和园)
  3. The Old Summer Palace (圆明园)
  4. Beijing Botanical Garden (北京植物园)
  5. Confucius Temple and Guozijian Museum
    (孔庙和国子监博物馆)
  6. Lama Temple (雍和宫)
  7. Sanlitun (三里屯儿)
  8. Houhai (后海)
  9. Wangfujing (王府井)
  10. Qianmen (前门)
  11. Beijing Zoo (北京动物园)
  12. 798 Art District (798艺术区)
  13. The Forbidden City (故宫)
  14. Tiananmen Square (天安门广场)
  15. The Temple of Heaven (天坛)
  16. Beihai Park (北海公园)
  17. The Olympic Green (奥林匹克公园)

Nightlife

  1. Mai Bar (40 Beiluogu Xiang, Dongcheng / 北京市东城区北锣鼓巷40号)
  2. Great Leap Brewing (6 Doujiao Hutong, Dongcheng /北京市东城区豆角胡同6号)
  3. 4corners (27 Dashibei Hutong, Xicheng / 北京市西城区大石碑胡同27号)
  4. Modernista (44 Baochao Hutong, Dongcheng / 东城区鼓楼东大街宝钞胡同44号)
  5. Cafe Zarah, happy hour 6-9pm (42 Gulou E St, Dongcheng / 东城区鼓楼东大街42号)
  6. Lush ( No.1 Huaqing Jiayuan, Chengfu Road, Haidian / 北京市海淀区成府路华清嘉园1号楼)
  7. Nina Bar (6 6, Beiluoguxiang, Dongcheng district / 东城区北锣鼓巷66号)
  8. Voyage Coffee (80 Beiluoguxiang, Dongcheng District / 东城区北锣鼓巷80号)

Culinary Delights

  1. Lamb skewers (羊肉串儿)
  2. Candied haw skewers (冰糖葫芦)
  3. Peking duck (北京烤鸭)
  4. Steamed buns (包子、馒头)
  5. Old-style Beijing yoghurt (北京酸奶)
  6. Fried soy bean paste noodles (炸酱面)
  7. Beijing Hot pot (北京火锅)

If you are feeling adventurous, you may also sample a variety of exotic street foods at Wangfujing Old Street (王府井大街西侧) including fried seastar (海星), scorpion (蝎子) and snake (蛇)!

Essential Apps

  1. WeChat 微信
  2. Alipay 支付宝*
  3. Baidu Maps 百度地图
  4. Dazhong Dianping 大众点评
  5. DiDi Chuxing 滴滴出行
  6. Gaode Maps 高德地图
  7. Eleme 饿了么*
  8. Meituan Waimai 美团外卖*
  9. Mobike 膜拜*
  10. Ofo 小黄车*
  11. Pleco 魚
  12. Taobao 淘宝*
  13. Tmall 天猫*
  14. Weibo 微博
  15. 12306 铁路*

( * Requires Chinese bank account )


1. The Great Wall of China

As a Beijing visitor, you’ll inevitably be asked, “Did you visit the Great Wall?”

And perhaps for good reason.

With more than 2000 years of history, and stretching for more than 20 000 km the national symbol and UNESCO World Heritage Site holds historical, political, technological, architectural, social and military significance.

great-wall-unesco-china
The Great Wall of China, Photo: National Geographic

The two most popular and easily accessible sections of the Wall from Beijing are Badaling (八达岭长城) and Mutianyu (慕田峪长城), with the latter offering chairlifts, cable cars and toboggan facilities. Both are a couple of hours away from the city centre and are accessible by public transport – though keep a look out in your inboxes for any organised trips by Peking University. Alternatively, there are numerous opportunities to visit many different sections of the Wall and as well as camping on the Wall opportunities on third party WeChat Accounts such as CETtrip北京 and Laowai在华. These accounts organise discounted trips in and outside of Beijing and are targeted at international students.

2. The Forbidden City (Palace Museum 博物) and Tiananmen Square

The Forbidden City, or The Palace Museum, is an imperial palace complex that was home to 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties (from C. 1420-1911). This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the world’s largest palace complex, holding the world’s best-preserved collection of ancient buildings with almost 1000 buildings across more than 72 hectares. Photographers can capture a panoramic bird’s eye view of the complex from Jingshan Park (景山公园) at Jingshan Hill, immediately North of the Forbidden City.

jingshan
View from Jingshan Park, Photo: TheChinaGuide

Right opposite the world’s largest palace complex is the world’s largest public square: Tiananmen Square. The Square contains Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, and is often considered as China’s political centre. Early risers can catch the famous daily flag raising ceremony here at sunrise.

3. Summer Palace

Only two subway stops from East Gate of Peking University Station is the Qing Dynasty’s Summer Palace. First conceived from 1750 and yet another one of Beijing’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the palace served political, administrative, residential, spiritual, and recreational functions. Visitors can admire the seventeen arch bridge, the Tower of the Fragrance of Buddha, stroll through the long corridors or go pedal boating alongside the famed Marble Boat (石舫). As the name would suggest, one of the best times to visit the Summer Palace is in Summer.

4. Houhai

The Shichahai (什刹海) area (commonly just known as Houhai后海) , covers three lakes (Houhai 后海, Xihai 西海, and Qianhai 前海) and is in close proximity to Beihai Park, Prince Gong’s Mansion, and the Bell and Drum Towers.

With origins dating as far back as the Yuan Dynasty (from C.1271) the area remains distinct for its traditional architecture and old-style ‘Hutong’ residences (胡同). It is now a popular tourist destination with trendy restaurants, bars, cafes and souvenir shops, such as at nearby Nanluoguxiang 南锣鼓巷.

shichahai
Shichahai, Photo: ChinaEscapade

In Winter, the area is especially popular for ice-skating and ice-biking, while Summer visitors can cool off lakeside or on the lake by boating or even swimming. Folk and other recreational activities are seen all year round such as fishing, rowing, playing chess, dancing and singing. By night, the area is just as lively with bustling crowds and wafting food aromas.

5. 798 Art District

The 798 Art District has the highest concentration of contemporary art galleries in Beijing and is set amongst a uniquely aesthetic backdrop of decommissioned military factory buildings.

People visit the "798 Space gallery", pa
798 Art Factory, Photo: TravelandLeisure

Notable galleries include the 798 Art Factory, UCCA, and Red Gate Gallery, displaying both Chinese and international works. The area is also known for its ever-changing outdoor installations and wall art – such that no two visits are the same.

Author: Janet S. (UNSW Australia)

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