Beijing, formerly called Peking, is an ancient and modern metropolis. With over 3,000 years of history, its well-preserved cultural and imperial relics and bustling modern features are perfectly integrated, making it one of the most popular travel destinations in the world.
If you are planning a trip to China for the first time, don’t miss Beijing. If you come to Beijing, don’t miss the following 10 things.
No. 2 Visiting Tian’anmen Square
Tian’anmen Square in the heart of Beijing is the largest central city square in the world, with a capacity of around a million people.
Tian’anmen is not only an icon of Beijing but also a symbol of China. It is the place where numerous important political and historical events have taken place and has witnessed the fall and rise of China.
No. 3 Exploring the Forbidden City
With a history of over 600 years, the Forbidden City, or the Palace Museum, falls bang in the middle of Beijing.
During the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties, the City was home to the last 24 emperors in China. It is now home to many imperial secrets and treasures of ancient art, one of the landmarks of Beijing, which for decades has attracted an endless stream of admirers.
No. 4 Hopping on a Rickshaw to Drive Through Hutongs
Our Customers on a Hutong Pedicab
Have you ever walked through narrow streets like labyrinths? Have you ever taken a tricycle through such streets? If not, why not give it a try!
Originating during the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), Beijing hutongs are narrow streets and alleys formed by lines of siheyuan (Chinese traditional courtyard residences), and used to be at the heart of community life in Beijing.
No. 5 Strolling Around the Temple of Heaven
Built in 1420, the Temple of Heaven was a special altar complex for the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties to worship or to “communicate” with heaven.
Four times the size of the Forbidden City, this is the largest complex of altar architecture in China and is regarded by some as an architectural masterpiece unmatched anywhere in the world.
Nowadays, the Temple of Heaven is often described as the lungs of Beijing, because of the park’s luxuriant greenery. It’s a very popular place where local people, the elderly and retired in particular, gather for morning exercise. So it is also a good place for strolling around and witnessing the local life in Beijing.
Please feel free to contact us if you would like to visit the Temple of Heaven.
No. 6 Relaxing in the Summer Palace
Located in the western suburbs of Beijing and only 1 kilometer from the Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan), the 716-acre Summer Palace is the largest and best-preserved royal garden in China.
Once a summer retreat for royalty, it is now still a retreat for crowd-weary tourists, who can relax here and stroll around ancient pavilions, mansions, temples, bridges and the huge lake, stopping occasionally at a shop or teahouse.
The Summer Palace is so big you may want a tour guide who can lead you the right way and tell you the history and gossip behind the garden. Contact us and we can tailor-make a delightful royal garden tour for you.
No. 7 Gorging Yourself on Peking Duck
Peking Roast Duck is a renowned Beijing dish with a worldwide reputation. The high-quality duck meat, roasted using fruit tree coal, looks reddish, with crisp skin and tender meat, and is known as “one of heaven’s delicacies”.
We recommend three well-known restaurants for authentic Peking Duck: Quanjude (全聚德), Dadong (大董) and Bianyifang (便宜坊).
No. 8 Savoring Some Ear-Splitting Peking Opera
Maybe the shrill trills of Peking opera, or Beijing opera, are not for everyone, but no one can deny its important place in Chinese culture.
Regarded as the quintessence of national culture, it has only had 200 years of history in China but is enormously popular, enjoyed by the whole population.
Peking opera performs stories in different ways, presenting different characters and their feelings and moods by singing, dancing, dialogue and acrobatic fighting. The best place for Peking opera in Beijing is Liyuan (梨园) Theatre.
No. 9 Appreciating a Chinese-Style Show
One of the best ways to learn about a city’s culture is to experience the lives of locals and participate in their daily entertainment. Beijing is no exception. The most-highly recommended Chinese-style shows in Beijing are as follows:
Kungfu show at the Red Theatre: This performance blends modern dance with traditional Chinese kungfu and arts. The average age of performers is only 17.
Folk performance at Lao She Teahouse: Named after a famous Chinese novelist and playwright, Lao She, and his signature drama, Teahouse, Lao She Teahouse presents almost every kind of Chinese folk art, such as storytelling, cross talk, shadow plays, tea ceremonies, face changing and so on.
Acrobatics show at Chaoyang Theatre: Chaoyang Theatre mainly presents acrobatics performances. Over the past 30 years or so, more than three million foreigners have sat among its audiences.
No. 10 Wandering Round the 798 Art Zone
798 Art Zone, or DAD – Dashanzi Art District – is the most famous among the art districts in Beijing. In keeping with other changes in Beijing’s orientation, this nationally-owned area completed its “gallant about turn” at the turn of the century and became one of the first art districts in Beijing.
If you are an art lover, don’t miss out on this venue. Various studios, bars, and galleries are scattered throughout the area. Walking round the district will feel like being in a world of art innovation. At the end of September each year, the area hosts an art festival.
Experience Beijing with China Travel
Want to cover all the things mentioned above on your Beijing tour and travel with a local English-speaking guide? Contact us and customize your private tour!
Below are three hand-picked Beijing tours based on popularity ratings from our customers, reviews on Tripadvisor.com, booking data and guide services: