Must-see’s and Must-do’s!–A list of the most popular sights in Beijing
A common question that many first time visitors ask when they come to the lovely city of Beijing is what are the must see attractions? Interestingly, despite having answered that question numerous times, I still cannot single out which is the most favorite.
The city bubbles over with a myriad of scenic pulls which include rich indigenous heritages, breathtaking natural features, ancient historical sites, as well eateries that offer world-renowned delicious Chinese cuisine.
If you are planning to tour Beijing, but you don’t want to read twenty pages to start your holidays somewhere. read on. The following are Beijing all time favorites, the most popular sights and what gets mentioned the most by previous travelers.
You can fit some of them in your holidays, then you will have quality time. You may only memorize some, and once in Beijing you will change your plan according to your own mood. But don’t try to fit too much in too little time. It’s impossible to see it all in one go. There is so much to see, and experiences to be had, that you’ll not know how you can fit it all in. So take is slow.
The Great Wall
At the top of your must see places’ list should be The Great Wall of China. No one comes to Beijing and fails to visit the Wall. Hiking the Mutianyu Great Wall, Jiankou or Jinshanling sections offers an unforgettable wall climbing adventure in an incredibly stunning scenery. If you love steep and challenging hikes, Jiankou Great Wall and Jinshanling Great Wall would be your fantasy come true. Still, if you prefer a more touristic sight with minimum climbs, Mutianyu has the perfect solution for you.
Beijing does not only hold the record for the longest wall, but it also boasts of hosting one of the largest courtyard-style house in the world, the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City or Imperial Palace used to be home to 24 Emperors spreading from the Ming to the Qing dynasty. The City currently hosts the Palace Museum and begins at the Meridian Gate. Since it is a favorite spot, it tends to attract massive crowds. Just ensure you get there early in the morning. It will take you approximately two to three hour to visit all its attractions. www.dpm.org.cn
In front of the Forbidden City, right at the center of Beijing and the intersection of Chang’an Avenue lies the Tiananmen Square. At this vast city square, there are numerous fascinations. They include the Tiananmen Tower, the Great Hall of the People, the People’s Hero Monument, and the National flag raising ceremony. Furthermore, towards the south is the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, which contains Mao Zedong’s body, under a sickle and hammer flag, enclosed in a glass chamber.
If you crave a glimpse of the old Chinese lifestyle, the Hutongs is the perfect place for you. They are narrow streets forming lines of siheyuan or traditional courtyard residences, bustling with rich Beijing history and culture. The NanluoguXiang, for instance, would be an ideal starting point for your tour. It has several restaurants, shops, cafes, and neighborhoods. An additional thrill of visiting the Hutongs is riding in rickshaws, which provide a perfect tour of the areas.
The National Museum
A Beijing visit always seems incomplete if you don’t visit at least one of the many museums sprawled across the city. These museums include the National, Capital and the Military Museum. If you lack the time, the National Museum located on the eastern side of Tiananmen would be an ideal choice. While there, remember to visit the National Art Gallery.
Temple of Heaven
Being two time bigger than the Forbidden City, The Temple of Heaven is one of the largest public parks in Beijing. The park was once a sacred sacrificial site used by the Ming and Qing Emperors. Currently, it bustles with different kinds of activities.
Early in the mornings locals stroll the park to practice Kungfu, and Tai Chi. You are also likely to come across people busy singing opera, playing the two-stringed violins called Erhu, playing the complete Chinese chess, or dancing with ribbons, fans, and swords.
798 Art District
Situated at the heart of the East fifth road is the 789 Dashanzi Art District, Asia’s largest art gallery. Once used as factories by the East Germans, the Art District now serves as the center of Beijing’s contemporary art and culture. Visiting the Art District takes about half a day, and it conveniently has signboards, and English maps to help visitors tour comfortably. www.798space.com/
Approximately 9 miles northwest from central Beijing in the Haidian District, lies the Summer Palace. It is the largest and most well-looked-after royal park. The park is notable for its great influence of Chinese landscape and horticulture. Furthermore, it has fantastic natural views that present a relaxing and pleasurable environment. The Summer Palace or Museum of Royal Gardens is synonymous with Empress Dowager Cixi, who, besides residing there for most parts of the year, set up a photography studio.
If there is a religious place that many people frequent, it is the Lama Temple. The Tibetan Buddhist temple consists of five major halls and several galleries stocked with valuable relics. Initially, it was a palace for a prince, who later handed it over to the Buddhists from Tibet. It is now an actual temple devoted to the Yellow Sect of Buddhism, and you will encounter crowds of followers burning incense. From the time you enter it, you will feel an unexplainable calm and peace.
Birds Nest & Water cubes
Another attraction worth visiting is the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube near the Minorities Park. These are the National Stadium and Aquatics Centre respectively. The stadium bears a resemblance to a bird’s nest, and it symbolizes the hope for the future of humanity. It is where the opening and closing ceremony for the 2008 Games took place. The Water Cube on its part has a creative soap bubble design that forms a gigantic square box.
Irrespective of how busy you will be, it is unacceptable for you to visit Beijing and fail to have a pecking duck dinner or sample the authentic Chinese cuisine. The city has plenty of eating joints ranging from traditional local hotels, mid-range city restaurants to high-end restaurants.
Beijing’s bustling nightlife will leave you spoilt for choice. Besides the restaurants serving sumptuous treats, there are Night Shows featuring Kong fu shows, acrobatics, and live theater.
If you are into shopping or if you wish to purchase items as souvenirs for your trip, Beijing areas like Xidan and Wangfujing have well-stocked markets and shopping Malls. The prominent ones include the Silk and Pearl Markets, frequented by foreign visitors.