Beijing is such a large city that even with multiple visits, you still wouldn’t be able to see all the amazing landmarks and attractions there. If this is your first visit to China’s capital and you are overwhelmed with the choice of places to go, here is a list of seven of the coolest, must-see sights in Beijing to help get your itinerary sorted.
7 must-see sights in Beijing:
1. Great Wall of China
One of the famous Seven Wonders of the World, this destination brings millions of tourists each year into the city. The Great Wall of China has multiple sections and each section is very unique. For first-time visitors, the best section to check out is the Mutianyu section, located 70 km northeast of the city. It is one of the most well maintained sections of the wall and is less crowded – perfect for a snap that looks like you’re the only person on the wall.
The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China is a little difficult to access by public transportation but here’s all the information you need. From the Dongzhimen Bus Station, take a 916 Express bus to Huairou North Avenue and then transfer onto a H23, H24, H35, or H36 bus to Mutianyu Roundabout. It will take about an hour to get there. If you are willing to pay a bit extra, take a minivan to the scenic area from Huairou North Avenue. You can also opt to go with a tour company and they will pick you up and take you in a car directly to the wall.
The wall stretches over rolling hills as far as the eye can see and is nothing short of breathtaking! This destination makes quite the workout; you could hike along the wall for many hours. The Great Wall of China is at the top of our list of the must-see sights in Beijing and should not be missed.
2. Temple of Heaven
China used to be an agricultural society and everything was dependent on successful crops. If a season had a bad harvest, there was no food for people and famine ensued. Because of the superstitions of the ancient Chinese, the Temple of Heaven was built for emperors in the 15th century to give offerings and sacrifices to ensure a good harvest. The shape of the largest building is very interesting and inside is a display of artifacts. There are different buildings on the grounds to check out and each have their own distinct ceremonial purpose.
3. Summer Palace
Highly recommended by locals, the Summer Palace is another of the must-see sights in Beijing if you can squeeze it into your itinerary. As the largest and most well-preserved royal park in China, this is a beautiful place to take a break from the busy city. In the centre of the park there is a lake and after climbing up the stairs through the old structures, you are rewarded with a spectacular view of the palace grounds. The site is enormous so dedicate at least a half day for your visit.
4. Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square is an infamous historical location tied to China’s tumultuous political past. In 1989, the explosive student demonstrations that took place here ended in a massacre. This is also where Mao Zedong’s (the founder of China’s Communist government) preserved body lies. The mausoleum is understandably incredibly popular and the lines to enter are madness. However, that should not deter you from stopping by the square and experiencing the sheer size of it and imagining what it would have been like to be one of the student protesters at Tiananmen Square at the time.
5. Forbidden City
This attraction is one of the most famous within Beijing. As the Chinese imperial palace for almost 500 years, not only does the walled off palace exude a mysterious allure from the outside, but the architecture within is magnificent. If you are on a guided tour, the guide will also share some interesting tidbits about Chinese history which can make your visit even more meaningful.
Like many places in Beijing, popular attractions are CROWDED. To avoid the crowds and take the time to appreciate this gorgeous palace, try to get there as early as possible, even before the gates open.
6. Old Summer Palace (ruins)
Located northwest of the centre of Beijing, the Old Summer Palace is massive, full-day excursion for any tourist that wants to spend time soaking up China’s history. Originally constructed in 1709 and now in ruins, this site is fascinating because the architecture is actually a blend of Eastern and Western styles. If you’re looking for a place to unwind and feel serene to escape the hustle and bustle of Beijing, this is the perfect location!
7. Lama Temple
The Lama Temple is one of the oldest temples in China. During the Cultural Revolution, many religious sites were destroyed because they didn’t fit in with Communist ideas. However, this temple escaped unscathed. The temple may be small but the interior is beautiful and its rich history is documented on plaques located throughout the temple. It takes only about an hour to wander through so this is an easy, quick visit for any tourist with a bit of downtime.
There you have it – the must-see destinations to check out when you are visiting Beijing. Most of these places are easily accessed via public transit. I hope you found this guide useful for enjoying your time in Beijing!
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