China's 2,000-year-old capital city contains a myriad of amazing attractions, spectacles, and events, no matter the season or weather. Sometimes called "the heart of the dragon," Beijing is packed with life and vibrancy, from the masterpieces of its larger-than-life historical sites to the small hidden alleyways.
Popular Landmarks and Attractions in Beijing
Pace in the footsteps of kings, armies, and tourists along the iconic Great Wall, in some parts dating as far back as the 6th century B.C. (Mutianyu is the closest section, 60 miles from Beijing). Explore China's testimony to civilization: the Forbidden City (best with a live guide or a tape-guided tour), as well as the neighboring 122-acre Tiananmen Square and stunning Summer Palace. Hitch a ride on a trishaw through the Hutongs and make your way to the cosmogonist Temple of Heaven (Tiantan) and the Ming Dynasty Tombs. Admire artistic legacy at the National Art Museum of China, or visit the diverse exhibits at the local favorite Capital Museum.
Beijing Family Fun and Nightlife
Young and old alike will delight in visiting the wild rare species at the Beijing Zoo (think Panda House!) and Beijing Aquarium or enjoying the rides, games, and movies at The Happy Valley Amusement Park. Visit some of the most unique and beautiful religious spaces: the Tibetan Buddhist monastery Lama Temple, the Temple of Confucius, the Five Pagoda Temple, and the tree-filled Jietai Temple. Stroll through the breathtaking imperial gardens of Beihai Park, witness the preservation of dynasties at Prince Gong's Mansion, or observe the stars from the Ancient Observatory, one of the oldest in the world. Sample a taste of Beijing at its nighttime cosmopolitan best at the cafes, bars, and pubs of Sanlitun; enjoy the history and melodies of Beijing Opera at the Zheng Yi Ci Theater, or visit the vivid art community at 798 Space and at the contemporary Dashanzi Art District. Stay in the heart of downtown Beijing at the Guangzhou Hotel Beijing.
Off the Beaten Path in Beijing
Rise with the sun and the locals and head over to Ritan Park to check out the typical Beijing morning routine. Explore the Beijing Underground City (once the city's bomb shelter), the Beijing Wax Museum, the Museum of Ancient Animals, or the Chinese Ethnic Culture Park. In autumn enjoy the spectacular vistas of the Wang Shan Forest Park. Pay and receive clean massage service at an Oriental Taipan Massage and Spa (a dignified treat in a city full of massage-parlors-turned-sex-shops). Find ridiculously random and wonderful antiques at Jindian Consignment Shop. Admire and refrain from trying to lift the 46.5-ton scriptures-inscribed Yongle Bell.
Shopping and Restaurants in Beijing
For the best of Beijing's shopping bargains and offers: head over to Silk Alley, Jianguomenwai Avenue (amazing deals on silk fabrics and bags!) or the Yuan Long Silk Store (all things silk), explore Hong Qiao (basically a flea market between walls), the weekend Dirt Market (or Panjiayuan Antiques Market), the antique-brimming Beijing Curio City, and shops at the China World Trade Center. Book a hotel at the Grand Millennium Beijing near the China World Trade Center.
Find book shops, calligraphy supplies, galleries, and curio sellers at the historic Liulichang or you can sample the delicious cuisine at restaurants along the Hohai Lake (Seasons Park International Apart Hotel is near this lake), or enjoy the blossoming and atmospheric bars and boutiques at Nanluoguxiang. Be sure to try the local favorite Beijing Roast (Peking) Duck (Summer Palace restaurant, Made in China, Qianmen Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant), or check out home-style Chinese cuisine at The Oriental restaurant. Be sure to savor more Beijing specialties such as the Imperial Official feast, Medicinal foods (ginseng, deer musk, wolf-berry, soft-shell turtle), Hot Pot (seasoned mutton/seafood broth), Spring Rolls (Chun Juan), traditional desserts such as Soybean Paste Cake and Tang Juan Guo candy, as well as the “Small Eats” found in the city's many snack streets.
Photos by: Ray Devlin and hiddenninjaskills