Beijing What to See and Do

Beijing What to See and Do – Guide 2024

There are numerous things to see and do in Beijing during your trip to the wonderful capital of China. A thousand-year-old city renowned for its sites and architecture, such as the Forbidden City , royal palaces, temples and the legacies of the Quing and Ming dynasties. From the immense Tiananmen Square , where we also find the National Museum and the Mao Zedong Mausoleum, to the historic Hutongs which still retain the true soul of the capital. In this article, we will see together what to visit in Beijing and what to do here during your wonderful trip to China!

Where is Beijing, Why visit it

Beijing is located in China and offers numerous things to see and do during our trip. The stunning northern capital is also the third most densely populated city in the country, after Shanghai and Chongqing . Furthermore, it is the largest city in the world, with over 16,808 km² and has the title of the most populous capital. North of Beijing its hills stand out, as well as the Jundu Mountains and the Xishan range, with Mount Dongling as the highest peak. The name Beijing, Běijīng , was introduced in 1949 by the Communist Party, thus highlighting it as the capital. The heart of Chinese culture, Beijing has also been at the center of numerous events in Chinese and world history.

A place absolutely worth visiting at least once in your life. A metropolis that winds through the typical alleys, the Hutongs , reaching the modern skyscrapers. A place that combines ancient tradition and the future, always expanding but with a unique charm thanks to its historical and cultural heritage . In this city, one of the oldest in the world, among the things to see and visit in Beijing we find the iconic Tiananmen Square , the fascinating Forbidden City and, not far from the city, the Great Wall of China . Furthermore, among the things to do, go to the site dedicated to the burials of the Ming dynasty , the Summer Palace and immerse yourself in its gardens. Then go to the Temple of Heaven and the Temple of the Lamas to discover the more spiritual side .

Through its most iconic places and sites, let’s see together what to visit and what to do in Beijing during your trip!

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10 Things to See in Beijing

So, let’s go and discover the capital of China and see together what the 10 things to see in Beijing are .

Below you will find the city map where you can find the attractions not to be missed in Beijing during your trip to China. Subsequently we will discover them in detail in our guide What to See and Do in Beijing, China.

1. Piazza Tienanmen

Among the first things to see in Beijing during your trip to China, there can only be the immense Tiananmen Square. Literally the gate of Heavenly Peace , which we find to the north of the square, separating it from the Forbidden City . Built under the name Chengtianmen in 1417, it was damaged by the end of the Ming Dynasty. Rebuilt in 1651 under the Qing Dynasty, it took its current name. Symbol of Beijing that cannot be missed among the things to do here, it is also famous because of modern Chinese history . Here on 1 October 1949 the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed by Mao Tse-tung . Sadly also known due to the 1989 massacres during the demonstrators’ protests . With its 440,000 m2 it is the sixth largest public square in the world, 800 x 500 m wide since 1949.

Among the things to visit in this square of Beijing we find the mausoleum of Mao Tse-tung , the Monument to the People’s Heroes , the Tian’anmen gates on the north side and the Qianmen gate on the south. Furthermore, to the west we find the Great Hall of the People and to the east the National Museum of Chinese History . Parades take place in Chang’an Avenue , near the square. The entrance to the illuminated and monitored square is always monitored by the police. An extraordinary square, both for its role in history and for its impressive architecture, a must see in Beijing.

2. Forbidden City

A place full of charm not to be missed among the things to see in Beijing and during your trip to China is the Forbidden City. Ancient imperial palace of the Ming and then Qing dynasties , it is located in the center of Beijing and can be accessed from Tiananmen Square, from the Gate of Heavenly Peace. This incredible place was the home of emperors and the royal family for 5 centuries, as well as the political hub of the Chinese government and with 8,707 rooms in 980 buildings it is the largest palace in the world. Characterized by the typical and sumptuous Chinese architecture, rich in details, it was an example for the architectural development of East Asia. Today the Palace Museum since 1925, it preserves an immense collection of works and artefacts belonging to the Ming and Qing imperial dynasties and, since 1987, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site .

One of the best preserved ancient wooden structures to date, crossing the Tiananmen Gate we can observe a portrait of Mao Zedong and posters that say long live the People’s Republic of China and long live the great unity of the world’s populations . The gates of the City are located at the 4 cardinal points and are the Gate of Divine Power, of the Southern Sundial, used by the emperor, of Glory, used by civilians, and of Western Glory, used by the military. The Outer Court was dedicated to ceremonies, the Palace of Supreme Harmony is one of the largest buildings, while the Inner Court was the official residence, in the Palace of Heavenly Purity .

Forbidden City

3. Summer Palace

An ancient garden intended for the royal family , today the Summer Palace is a must-see place in Beijing and loved by its citizens. A pleasant place where the various dynasties that succeeded the imperial city spent the summer, here we also find Kunming Lake , which occupies a large part of its surface. In the remaining part of the land, palaces , temples and wonderful gardens develop around the calm of this lake . One of the places to visit in Beijing calmly, marveling at its architecture and lush nature in a quiet place with a regal past. Among the interesting things to see in the Summer Palace, visit the Garden of Virtue and Harmony, a building used as a theater for Empress Cixi and still in use today for typical dances and operas.

Furthermore, we find the Buddha Fragrance Tower and Suzhou Street , a reproduction of an ancient street built by Emperor Quianlong where we can find shops. The Grand Gallery , a 728 m corridor decorated with 14,000 representations of Chinese folklore and history. Finally, relax in the Garden of Harmonious Taste , an enchanting place where uncontaminated nature combines with refined architecture, overlooking the body of water.

4. Via Sacra and Ming Tombs

When Zhu Di, the third Ming emperor who moved the capital to Beijing, he relied on Feng Shui to look for the place to build his tomb. He thus arrived not far from the outskirts of the city, in the valley of Mount Tianhou . With the protection of the mountains, he thought that the evil spirits brought by the north winds would not come near. Thus the construction of his mausoleum in Changling began in 1409 . Over the next 230 years, the tombs of 12 more emperors of the Ming Dynasty joined it . Among the things to visit and see in Beijing, don’t miss the 13 Ming tombs, arranged in a fan on the sides of the Changling tomb, except for that of Siling. Only those in Changling, Dingling and Zhaoling are open to visitors.

Furthermore, to get here among the things to do in Beijing, travel the 7 km of the Sacred Way through the necropolis. Passing by the 3 red arches of the Great Red Gate and one of the largest stone arches in China Beijing, dating back to 1540 . After the entrance, we find the Tombstone Pavilion , the 50-ton statue of Bixi , the turtle daughter of the Chinese dragon carrying a huge tombstone. Furthermore, along the Sacred Way we find 36 stone statues of mythical animals, arriving at the door of the Phoenix and the Dragon at the end.

5. Temple of Heaven

Let’s go south of Beijing, to the Xuanwu district , to visit the wonderful complex of the Temple of Heaven. These buildings were dedicated to the cult officiated by Tian , ​​the Emperor of Heaven: the greatest deity of traditional Chinese religion. Furthermore, sacrifices intended to invoke peace were held here. Furthermore, in the past, the Chinese emperor also took the name of Son of Heaven for this reason and, since 2000 , the temple is still used by Confucians to practice annual sacrifices for Heaven. This temple to visit in Beijing was built in 1420 by the Ming emperors who practiced rituals annually, which were then continued by the Qing dynasty . The complex includes 3 main buildings.

The three-story circular Altar , where imperial sacrifices were held in the braziers during the winter solstice, the Temple of the God of the Universe , dedicated to the custody of the altars and surrounded by the Echo Wall . Worth seeing in this temple in Beijing is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests , dedicated to prayers for the harvest and dedicated to nature, decorated with representations of the months and seasons. Finally, as well as being an important site for the history of the city, the Temple of Heaven was created with surprising methods and wonderful colors and, since 1998, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site .

6. National Museum of Chinese History

Let’s return to Tiananmen Square to see the National Museum of China, or NAMOC, to the east of the square, among the things to do here in Beijing. This important museum was opened in 2003 with the aim of educating about the country’s history and arts and is managed by the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China. In its place, previously, there were two distinct buildings: the National Museum of Chinese History to the south and the National Museum of the Chinese Revolution to the north. The Revolution office had been open since 1960, under Mao Zedong, while the Chinese History office was an office in 1912. The structure that we can observe today dates back to 1959 , finished to celebrate 10 years of communist government and is the counterpart of the Great Hall of the People , on the opposite side of the square.

Its facade is 313 m and extends over 40,000 m2 on 4 floors . To visit it, it is important to remember that it is open every day, except for Chinese New Year. Inside, among the things to do in Beijing, we can observe a historical collection that begins 1.7 million years ago, arriving at the end of the Qing Dynasty. Furthermore, it is divided into the Primitive section, the Slavery society and the Feudal society. The part dedicated to the Chinese revolution, however, begins with finds from 1840, arriving at the Triumph of the Revolution and the arrival of Socialism. Among the museum’s curiosities, we find the first Olympic gold medal won by China, in 1984 for pistol shooting; donated by the winner himself.

the national museum of china - what to visit in beijing - things to visit in beijing
The facade of the National Museum of Chinese History

7. Hutong

Among the places to visit in Beijing, don’t forget to mark the city’s picturesque Hutongs among your things to do. Walking through these traditional alleys and neighborhoods , built under the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, is a real leap into the past. Furthermore, here we still find typical houses, which open into classic square courtyards. Among the most popular Hutongs, we find that of Jinsitao , with its ancient streets where we can admire ancient Beijing, the Fengtai convent and the Jinghai temple. Moving towards Shichahai Lake and the Drum Tower we find the quietest streets.

Those of Quianmen are popular for shopping areas, ideal for buying your Chinese souvenirs in Beijing, while moving north we find the tidier hutongs , in contrast to the labyrinthine and narrow ones to the south of the city, such as the convoluted Jiuwan Hutong and the ‘Hutong Sanmiao , the oldest in the city. In fact, by Hutong in Beijing we mean the alleys between the rows of traditional houses, the siheyuan , which together form the neighbourhoods. Since the 20th century, the number of hutongs to see in Beijing has declined due to their massive demolition to make room for modern buildings and wide streets. Today, many hutongs are a protected asset of Chinese culture . A tour through these narrow alleys in Beijing is an absolute must also to enter its markets and taste the traditional cuisine.

photo of red lanterns

8. Lama Temple

Among the most famous Chinese Buddhist temples in Beijing, but also in China and absolutely worth seeing during your trip, we find the Lama Temple. Called Yonghe Gong , it dates back to 1694 and was built at the behest of Emperor Kangxi to testify to his devotion to the cause of Tibetan Buddhism . Furthermore, the Celestial Empire had a strong devotion to Tibet , recently at the time in its lordship. The structure of the Temple, to be included among the things to visit in Beijing, reflects the laws between Mongolian and Tibetan Lamaism , combined with Chinese culture . The style and architecture are in perfect Chinese style, while the furnishings and inscriptions in the convent are in Chinese, Tibetan, Manchurian and Mongolian.

Inside the structure of the Lama Temple we find 5 courtyards which, in turn, open onto other buildings. The largest present is the Palace of Ten Thousand Happiness , where we find the wooden statue of Maitreya , a gift from the 7th Dalai Lama to Emperor Qianlong. Among the treasures hidden in the other buildings, the nanmu chest stands out. Today, this temple is among the most influential places in Beijing and still inhabited by Gelupka monks and has been a National Monument since 1949 . Furthermore, during the visit, we will certainly notice the dense clouds of incense that rise towards the sky from the braziers and the monks who live in the temple of harmony are part of the major lamaist school of Mongolia and Tibet.

9. Collina Jingshan

Jingshan Hill is located near the Forbidden City and its moat, and until 1928 it was connected to the city by the Gate of Divine Power. Later, a new road north of the moat divided it, thus separating the park and the artificial hill from the palace. Originally, this wonderful place to see in Beijing during your trip was a garden dedicated to the imperial family. Today, it is a wonderful public park called Jingshan Park. The hill has a height of about 46 m and was built by the Ming Dynasty during the Yongle era . The earth that composes it was obtained from the excavation of the moats of the Forbidden City and from the nearby canals, building it following the laws of Feng Shui .

In fact, on the southern side of the hill we find the house, furthermore it is useful for protecting the building and the houses from northern winds. For this reason, it is also called Feng Shui or Coal Hill . Historically, this place is also known to be the place where the last Ming emperor, Chongzhen in 1644 took his own life. The park has 230,000 m2 of surface area and is the ideal place to observe the Forbidden City from a unique perspective, as well as other places of interest in Beijing. From above, in fact, we can observe the Bell and Drum tower, while to the west the white pagoda of Beihai Park.

a large red building with many windows with Forbidden City in the background

10. Great Wall of China

Last, but certainly not least among the things to absolutely visit during a trip to Beijing, we find the Great Wall of China. To see this wonderful and unique place in the world, one of the best ways to see some of its most important sections is on a day trip from Beijing . Obviously, the easiest areas to reach will also be the most crowded, while the most remote and picturesque ones will also be the most complicated to reach. The Badaling section is the busiest and best restored of the Wall, the Northern Pass can also be rented for events and is located north of Beijing. Probably the best for families and with wonderful view points.

The Mutianyu section winds up the mountain and is about 70 km from Beijing. To reach this section there is also a cable car and a slide to go down in a fun way. An excellent compromise between wonderful views and less tourist influx. Moving away from the capital, the Simatai section is known for its Starway to Heaven and the SkyBridge , starting from an artificial lake. One of the most remote and wild areas of the wall, however, is that of Jinshanling , with some sections however less restored and where more attention must be paid. To visit the Great Wall of China, comfortable shoes are obviously recommended for this long and wonderful walk through history!

The Great Wall of China

Beijing what to see, FAQ

What to see in Beijing in 2 days?

With 2 days in Beijing visit the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Temple of Heaven

What to see in Beijing in 3 days?

In Beijing in 3 days, among the things to do include the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace and the National Museum. Also, don’t miss the Ming Dynasty tombs just outside the city.

4 days in Beijing, what to see?

With 4 days in Beijing visit the Summer Palace, the Financial District, its hutongs, the Forbidden City, the Coal Hill, the Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, the Olympic Village. Finally, go for an excursion to the Great Wall of China.

5 days in Beijing, what to visit?

In Beijing in 5 days you can visit all the places of interest indicated in our guide, furthermore, you can add the 798 Art District: the artists’ district.

What to see in Beijing in 7 days?

With a full week in Beijing at your disposal, you can visit all the most iconic places in the city, along with an excursion to the Great Wall of China, the Ming Tombs and visit the Olympic Park, not forgetting to taste the local cuisine and go shopping in the street Wangfujing. Finally, go to the CCTV Tower to enjoy a unique view of the city.

What to see with 1 day in Beijing?

With only one day in Beijing, start your visit from the Hutongs, going to Tiananmen Square and entering the Forbidden City. Climb the coal hill and go to the Temple of Heaven or the Summer Palace.

What to absolutely see in Beijing?

In our guide you will find all the places you absolutely must visit during your trip to Beijing.

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Read also: What to buy in China? – China 2024 souvenirs

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