China’s massive capital offers a mix of ancient history and modern architecture. From the iconic Great Wall to the thriving bars, there’s plenty of things to see and do in Beijing.
A trip to the capital’s hutongs (the narrow alleyways strewn with courtyard homes) is one of the best experiences in town. They’re like folk-custom museums, presenting the way life used to be in old Beijing.
1. Tiananmen Square
The largest square in the world, it encapsulates the great significance of China's history. It is surrounded by several monuments and buildings that are worth seeing including Forbidden City, National Museum of China, The Great Hall of the People and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.
Tiananmen Square is a major tourist destination and an iconic highlight of Beijing. Visitors should not miss the daily flag-raising ceremony and Mao's mausoleum, as well as a number of other important landmarks in the area.
It's a must-see for every visitor to Beijing. But it is often crowded, so it's best to go early.
2. Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is China’s largest and best-preserved collection of ancient palace buildings. This palatial complex is a must-see attraction for any visitor to Beijing.
For five centuries, this place was home to the Chinese emperors of both the Ming and Qing Dynasties (known as ‘Ching’). The emperors used this massive complex to manage their vast empire.
Inside the Forbidden City, you can tour gigantic courtyards and public and private rooms that the emperors would use for their guests. The Forbidden City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
3. 798 Art District
A former military complex, 798 Art District is home to an array of contemporary art galleries, shops and cafes. Despite its remote location, the thriving creative zone is well worth exploring.
After 2000, vacant factory spaces were rented by art organizations and artists attracted by ordered design, convenient traffic and unique style of Bauhaus architecture. They transformed them, gradually forming a district of galleries, art studios, cultural companies and fashion shops.
With a great mix of international and Chinese artists showcased, this is one of the best places to visit in Beijing for art lovers. You can find everything from modern masterpieces to artisanal Chinese crafts.
4. Tiananmen Zoo
If you're a huge animal lover, a visit to the Beijing Zoo is a must. This massive zoo features a diverse collection of animals and exhibition halls as well as sites of historical interest.
You can see pandas, giraffes, elephants, tigers and other big animals up close. There are also a variety of exhibition halls and museums.
The zoo also features a huge aquarium with lots of sea life. There are thousands of different species here including jellyfish, Chinese sturgeon, man-eating fish and sharks. There are also performances with whales and dolphins.
5. Peking Roast Duck
Peking Roast Duck has been an iconic Beijing dish for more than a century and is one of China's national dishes today. It consists of thin slices of tender, roasted duck meat and crispy skin wrapped in a thin crepe along with sliced spring onions, cucumbers and hoisin sauce or sweet bean sauce.
- The tradition of preparing this dish goes back to the Yuan Dynasty more than 1,000 years ago and it is still eaten in the capital city today. The oldest Peking Roast Duck restaurant is Quanjude and it's open-oven roasted duck is considered the classic version of the dish.
- Other Peking Roast Duck restaurants around Beijing, such as Sijiminfu and Bianyifang, use a different method to produce the crisp exterior skin. These places hang the ducks over a wood-fired oven to slowly cook them and occasionally sinter the skin with a pole.