Chronicle of the Northern Capital - 25 Things to Do in Beijing

Through the ages, Beijing has been the seat of power for many dynasties in China. From Kubilai Khan and the Jurchens to Ming and Qing Emperors, every ruler left their traces throughout the city. 

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Today, Beijing is expanding even larger and taller as the capital of the People's Republic of China. If you plan to visit the city, don't skip the list below. Here are our recommendations about some of the best places to visit and things to do in Beijing. 

1. Forbidden City

The walled imperial palace had been the winter residence for the Emperor of China since the times of Ming dynasty in 15th century before turned into a museum. The vast palace complex, including enormous gates, yards, and rooms, is arguably the most important example of Chinese architecture. 


2. Tiananmen Square

The city square is a historic open-air space in front of Forbidden City. Many important events happened here, including the founding ceremony of PRC and student protests. Tiananmen Square (means "Gate of Heavenly Peace") has undergone enlargement projects along with construction of several monuments.

3. The Great Wall

Stretching thousands of kilometres through forested hills along the northern border of Imperial China, the Great Wall is one of the seven new wonders you shouldn't miss. Beijing has three famous sections of the wall you can choose, namely Badaling, Mutianyu, and Juyongguan (Juyong Pass).  

4. Summer Palace

After the British force burned down the old Summer Palace at the nearby site in 1860, Empress Dowager Cixi ordered the reconstruction of palace complex around Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill. Visitors today can explore the gardens, pavilions, and halls once used by the imperial family.  

5. Jingshan Park

Spanning 23 hectares (57 acres) on the northern end of Forbidden City, Jingshan Park (means "Prospect Hill") was a private imperial garden with beautiful pavilions. This is a popular spot for gathering among the locals, as well as various cultural activities such as folk dancing and singing. 

6. Temple of Heaven

The largest religious complex in China was built by Ming Dynasty and used to be visited by Chinese emperors every year for harvest ceremony. Walk through the the sacred way linking the conical Vault of Heaven and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest with its iconic three tiered roofs.


7. Lama Temple

Also known as Yonghe Temple, this spot was the center of Tibetan Buddhism in China during the late Qing Dynasty. Marvel at its magnificent halls and gates as you walk through the smoke of incense in the yard. Unlike the Temple of Heaven, this temple is still fully functioning with monks inside.   

8. Beihai Park

Another historic garden you shouldn't miss is located not far from Forbidden City. Beihai Park is adorned with several Buddhist temples and a large white stupa in Tibetan style on top of the hill. Stroll around the lake shore or rent a boat to explore the lake. A traditional restaurant is also available inside.

9. National Museum of China

Dive into the world of Chinese art and history with a collection of more than a million items, including exhibits of historic events such as Opium War. National Museum of China stands on the eastern side of Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing. Please note, English explanation is currently not available. 

10. Beijing Olympic Park

As the name suggests, this is the site of the renowned Beijing Olympic held in 2008. Several amazing facilities was built here for the event, including Beijing National Stadium (Bird's Nest), Beijing National Aquatics Center (Water Cube), and Beijing Olympic Tower. 

11. 798 Art Zone

An old military factory in Dashanzi is turned into a hype art district with contemporary museum, galleries, and cafés. Wander around the area filled with unique murals and art installations, then stop by at coffee shop to get beverage while listening to the music.


12. Wangjing SOHO 

A paragon of Zaha Hadid Architects, Wangjing SOHO is a complex of three curvy towers that look like mountains. This contemporary landmark of Beijing includes office towers for big IT corporations as well as shopping mall with retail spaces, cute cafés, and easy access to train stations. 

13. National Center for the Performing Arts

Colloquially known as "The Egg", the modern opera house located not far from Tiananmen Square is currently the largest theatre complex in Asia. The building complex also features music hall, art exhibition hall, and a beautiful artificial lake.  

14. South Luogu Lane

One of the oldest existing alleys in Beijing, the South Luogu Lane (Nanluoguxiang) will bring you back centuries ago when China was still ruled by emperors. Enjoy the traditional atmosphere as you explore the many shops and restaurants, all designed in hutong style.

15. Wangfujing Street

The trendy pedestrian street in Dongcheng District is a paradise for shoppers. Buy things at one of 280 shops scattered throughout the street, then hunt for unusual snack such as starfish skewer at the snack street. The historic Beijing Department Store and St. Joseph's church is also located here. 

16. Sanlitun

The bar street in Chaoyang District is a famous entertainment and retail hub among the locals as well as foreigners. Meet the stylish Beijing youngsters as you wander around the super modern Taikoo Li Shopping Arcade or the Sanlitun SOHO with luxury brands and posh restaurants.

17. Houhai

The area around the artificial lake is a favorite place to relax from the city's hustle with its willow trees and traditional boat. Meanwhile, the nearby neighborhood hutongs have transformed into a dynamic nightlife center with plenty of bars, night clubs, and cafés.


18. Qianmen Street

Stretching 845 meters (0.5 miles) from the famed Zhengyangmen Gate Tower, the historic pedestrian street is a popular commercial hub. Buy good quality silk, tea, and shoes, then hop into the vintage dangdang che tram with wooden interior and tour around the area. 

19. China World Mall

Located in Chaoyang District, this is one of the most luxury shopping centers in Beijing. Find a wide array of high-end brands from Louis Vuitton to Prada and Burberry, along with a myriad of lavish restaurants. Their terrace bar has breathtaking views of Beijing with the unique tower of CCTV.


20. Temple of Confucius & Imperial College

The second largest Confucian Temple (Kongmiao) in China is located in Guozijian (Imperial College) Street. It lost its religious function during Xinhai Revolution and now is open to public as museum to showcase the educational system and examination during Imperial China.

21. Dashilan

Just outside Qiamen, another shopping street is waiting to be discovered. The tourist trap is a good place to walk while enjoying the traditional architecture of the shops. Grab some tea and herbal medicine, or stroll around the souvenir stalls selling unique stuff. 

22. Tianning Temple

Located in Xicheng District, the Buddhist temple is famous for its 12th century stone pagoda from Liao Dynasty. Stare at the towering solid structure adorned with intricate relief sculptures, then pass through the courtyard with stone steles and arched doorways. 

23. Niujie Mosque

Discover the Muslim heritage in the heart of Chinese nation. Built over 1,000 years ago during Liao Dynasty, the old mosque was expanded under the order of Kangxi Emperor in 1694. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the prayer hall, but visitors can explore the courtyard and nearby Islamic institute.


24. National Library of China

The massive complex consists of old building in traditional Chinese architecture and new building in contemporary style featuring large exhibition halls. With a collection of over 40 million books, this is arguably one of the largest libraries in the world.  


25. Chaoyang Theatre

Go see the spectacular acrobatic show at the famed Chaoyang Theatre. Choose your seat, then let the performers entertain you for 2 - 3 hours. Colorful costumes, picturesque stage, and breathtaking actions from plate spinning to jumping and incredible strength will leave you in awe after the show.

Beijing also has many restaurants serving imperial cuisine where you can try the dishes once served to the emperor and high officials. If you know other interesting places to see and things to do in Beijing, don't hesitate to tell us in the comment section.

Still don't know where to stay in Beijing? Click here to get some inspirations. 

Have a blast and enjoy your trip in Beijing!

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