From the moment you step off the plane, Beijing is frantic. You will quickly learn that traffic lights mean nothing, lines move fast and Beijing is a city of many layers. From the Great Wall to Peking Duck, these are the things to do in Beijing China.
1. The Great Wall of China
From Beijing, access to the Great Wall of China is easy. A tour guide will pick you up from your hotel and drive north out of the city. That first glimpse of the wall on the ridge fo the mountain is something special. In the spring, the hills are dusted pink with cherry blossoms.
The Great Wall is divided into sections marked by watchtowers. Some sections of the wall can be quite steep. Wear sturdy shoes. You can walk easy sections of the wall or choose more challenging routes. Ask your tour guide which section would be the best for you. We found most tour guides are incredibly helpful and knowledgeable.
The best time to go is in the early morning so you beat the crowds. It is possible to snap a photo such as the one above before lunchtime, even on popular sections of the wall. Plan your trip well to ensure it doesn’t coincide with China’s public holidays. We also advise touring the Great Wall on a weekday.
Many of the “tourist” sections of the wall have access via a chairlift. That way you don’t have to hike up or down the mountain.
Some parts of the wall have been restored, others have been left to the ravages of time.
2. The Summer Palace
Beijing’s Summer Palace is huge. You will need at least half a day to explore here. Take good shoes.
The man-made Kunming lake takes up about 75 per cent of the park. You can cross it by boat to save time. The famous Marble Boat is at the northern edge of the lake and the Moon Gate is best seen by boat.
The Summer Palace has actually been destroyed twice – in 1860 by the Angle French Allied Forces and in 1900 by the Allied Forces of the Eight Powers. The Qing Dynasty rebuilt the palace in 1912 as one of their final acts.
Head to the Court area near the East Palace gate to see the buildings where Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu stayed and conducted government business. The Garden of Virtue and Harmony contains a three-story theatre with a wooden stage. This is where the Beijing Opera would perform for the Empress.
3. The Forbidden City
Tour guides will tell you that you can’t prove you have been in China until you have had your photo taken outside the Forbidden City.
The towering red walls with the gigantic painting of Chairman Mao are one of the most well-known buildings on the planet.
The Forbidden City covers 720,000 square metres, has more than 90 palace quarters and courtyards, 980 buildings and more than 8,728 rooms. It has been home to 24 Chinese emperors until 1912, when the Republic of China was created.
4. Temple of Heaven
China’s Temple of Heaven was a place for the emperors to worship. It was built in 1420, the 18th year of the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). Ming Emperor Jiajing enlarged the building in his reign. In 1988 China opened the temple as a public park.
A trip here won’t take too long. The temple of heaven has two encircling walls. The most magnificent buildings lie at the south and north ends of the middle axis. This park is also a local hangout. Expect to see dozens of groups of men and families sitting around and playing games. Many also bring their pet birds with them.
5. The Hutongs
Beijing’s alleyways are known as the hutongs. Inside these old laneways, you will find hotels, restaurants and homes. If you love photography – you will love the hutongs. Good tour guides can take you to the best hutong restaurants. Many even have dumpling making courses.
6. Peking Duck
While not technically a place – you can’t go to China without trying Peking Duck. Seek out a Dadong Duck for an experience like no other. You can order crispy skinned duck dishes in English. If you order the set menu, expect fairy floss on a stick for dessert.