Top 10 spots to visit in Beijing
Where to go when you're in this ancient city
China has an ancient, rich and exciting culture, and whether you're a novice traveller or a seasoned pro, there are some hot spots in Beijing you just shouldn't miss. We've rounded up 10 of them for you to peruse, to help you plan the biggest adventure possible and make the most of your time in this bustling, beautiful Asian city.
The Great Wall: It's not in Beijing, strictly speaking; it's an hour or so away. But everyone, and we do mean everyone, knows about the Great Wall and all visitors to Beijing have to see it, its vast length and spectacular beauty. It dates back to the 6th century in certain places, and is a "must see" when you're visiting. You can climb it, though it's a bit hilly, and it's busy with other visitors with the same idea you had! So maybe book an organized tour, or get there early to beat the rush. Just don't miss it! China is famous for the Great Wall like the U.K. is famous for Big Ben, so it's a "must do" spot for any tourist!
The Imperial Palace: Nicknamed the "Forbidden City" because it was not initially open to visitors or citizens, this incredible expanse offers 720,000 square metres of vistas that must be seen to be appreciated. Within its borders are the Palace of Heavenly Purity; the Golden River Bridges, and more. It's been home to 24 emperors throughout its many years, dating back to the 13th century. The beautiful decor and designs are breathtaking -- a must see during any visit to Beijing. If any two sites say "China," they are the Great Wall and the Imperial Palace.
The Temple of Heaven: This incredible structure was built in 1420, and houses some of the most revered buildings in Beijing. In it are shrines and temples and the Echo Wall, at which even the most gentle voice will sound extremely loud because of the Wall's stones. It is surrounded in beautiful gardens that are the perfect backdrop for a selfie!
Tiananmen Square: Of course, you know this famous place, the largest inner city, public square in the world! Although the square dates back many centuries, it was remodelled in 1958 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Chinese Republic, and is the perfect place for a stroll on a mild day. The square is also home to the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, one of China's most famous leaders, and the Monument to People's Heroes. This obelisk stands 38 metres high, and is made of thousands of shards of marble and granite. Tiananmen is also the place of the famous confrontation between students and Chinese police in 1989 after a peaceful uprising morphed into a massacre. To many citizens, this is a sacred spot for more than historic reasons.
Beihai Park: Much more than just a park -- although it's that, too -- this lush area is home to one of Beijing's oldest Imperial Gardens. The park dates back to the 12th century, and the buildings contained within it some of the most impressive in Beijing. It is also home to a one-and-a-half metre statue of Buddha, carved from pure, white jade, something no visitor will see outside China!
The Summer Palace: This tourist spot is definitely worth the 30 minutes it takes to get there from Beijing. There are 700 acres of vegetation dating back to the 12th century, and there is a 700 year old man made lake on which you can cruise in a small boat -- perfect for weary walkers! And because it's very close to the Imperial Palace, you can easily do both in one day, and relax while you tour and go boating. The kids will love it, and you will love touring the Hall Of Happiness and Longevity and the Grand Theatre, a beautiful place built in the 19th century.
Beijing National Stadium: This stadium played host to the Summer Olympics in 2008, and it's a great destination for fitness buffs and "civilians" alike! These days the stadium is the site of soccer matches, concerts, and plenty of other cultural events. At night there's a light show that makes the whole structure glow, and you're free to walk along Olympic Green, along which you'll discover the most important buildings of the 2008 Olympics. Nearby is the National Aquatics Centre, so be sure to take that in, too!
Beijing Capital Museum: Opened in 1981, this centre houses a collection of more than 200,000 artifacts of profound significance to Chinese history and culture, including ancient scripts and examples of calligraphy and other traditional Chinese art forms and important antiquities. Any culture aficionado is sure to get a dose for what ails them in this spectacular facility.
Temple of Confucius: No one should go to Beijing without a visit to this breathtaking place, built in 1302 and home to shrines dedicated to the famous philosopher. Within its walls is the Hall Of Achievements, which houses shrines for Confucius, ancient musical instruments, and other objects devoted to one of China's most important cultural figures.
National Museum of China: After the Louvre, this impressive museum hosts the most visitors in a day of any museum in the world. Built in 2003, then remodelled in 2011, this facility houses grand collections of gold, bronze and jade in more than 60 exhibition wings, so plan to spend some time! Then relax in an on-site tea house for a break, but take note: no selfies, please. The museum is located off the east side of Tiananmen Square, so you can go to one spot in the morning and the other later in the day.
These are just a few -- a few! -- of the many incredible sights waiting for you in Beijing. There is also the Beijing Zoo, one of the world's best, covering 220 acres with a number of rare species indigenous to China, like snow leopards. And don't forget the Faynan Temple, which dates back to 645 A.D., and the Art Zone, also called the Dashanzi Art District. There you'll find cafes, book stores, boutiques and much more...an irresistible draw for a little retail therapy! There's so much on offer, and never enough time to do it all, but with a little patience and a lot of planning, you'll make your trip to Beijing a memorable, life-altering experience!