As you’d expect from the capital of one of the world’s greatest nations, China, Beijing has it all. From opulent, centuries-old palaces and temples, to buzzing restaurants serving cuisine from all corners of the country, here are just some of the things to do in Beijing when you’re here.
One of the best things about Beijing is the food scene, and the way you can take a tour of all of China’s culinary traditions in one city. If dumplings are your addiction, prepare to chow down on plump, delicious examples, steamed and fried. Then, of course, there’s glistening, golden Peking Duck, a must-eat when in town. A hearty hotpot brimming with meat and vegetables will also rejuvenate after a day’s sightseeing. Food tours are a great way to sample the sights, smells and tastes of Beijing.
With its dreamy, romantic name and status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Forbidden City comes right at the top of most visitors’ “what to see in Beijing” lists. Dating right back to the 15th century, and home to generations of imperial rulers, this sprawling palace complex is home to the Palace Museum and is the largest collection of preserved wooden structures on Earth. Just brace yourself for the inevitable crowds…
How about a UNESCO World Heritage Site that isn’t quite as crowded as the Forbidden City? Try the Ming Tombs, the majestic mausoleums of 13 emperors of the legendary Ming Dynasty. Three of these tombs are open to the public, but there’s a lot more to see around these parts too. Wander along the Sacred Way, admiring ornate statues and enjoying the wide green spaces. It’s all a far cry from the bustle of Beijing.
Escape to nature with a visit to the Summer Palace. Once the playground of Qing Dynasty rulers, it now enchants mere mortals with its landscaped gardens, colorful palace structures, and sun-dappled waters. Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake are just a few of the eye-catching wonders of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, while snapshots of the ornate Marble Boat will soon have pride of place on your social media feeds.
When it comes to choosing what to do in Beijing, the contemporary attractions are as alluring as the historical lairs. Check out 798 Art Zone, for example. Set within a complex of old factory buildings, it showcases bold creative works in a cool, industrial setting. Local accommodations will allow you to wander from art gallery to art gallery, browse boutiques, and relax in restaurants. Just prepare for the kinds of prices you might expect from any gentrified neighborhood.
The largest museum in China, this cultural treasure trove is set on the famous Tiananmen Square. One of the most-visited museums in the world, it boasts ancient relics as well as key items from the modern history of China. One minute you might be admiring centuries-old jewels and ceramics, the next you’ll see the flag Chairman Mao held when founding the People’s Republic of China.
One of Beijing’s oldest and most renowned Buddhist temples, Tanzhe has stood for over 1,700 years, and dates back to the Jin Dynasty. That said, there are resplendent pagodas here from a whole variety of epochs, so it feels like you’re taking a tour through time. You’ll wander amid architecture from the Ming and Qing Dynasties and gaze at marble-clad pavilions, all encircled by the idyllic Western Hills.
If you want to get a feel for the real thing when traveling to Beijing, away from the big tourist hotspots and its many hotels, go wander the city’s atmospheric hutongs. These are the old narrow alleys and streets that embody traditional Chinese architecture. Within the labyrinth of hutongs, you’ll mingle with Beijing locals and discover shops selling art and showcasing Chinese calligraphy, quaint tea houses, and stalls serving up steaming street food. There are even tours available that specialize in the unique culture of these ancient streets.
More proof that Beijing has to be one of the grandest cities on the planet, the Temple of Heaven is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that will have anyone reaching for their camera. Its most eye-catching structure is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, whose circular, triple-gabled design has made it a Beijing icon. Even bigger than the Forbidden City, the area’s colorful buildings and rich greenery draw in millions of visitors every year.
Book your Big Beijing Vacation
Whether you want to visit the Forbidden City or explore the buzzing warren of historic hutongs, there’s so to see and to do in Beijing. Book your Beijing trip to experience it all for yourself.