No trip to China is truly complete without visiting Beijing, especially if you’re wanting to explore some of the country’s long history, culture and vibrant street. There are so many incredible and best things to do in Beijing, especially if you want to explore the city and the wider region itself.
You see, the history of Beijing spans back three millennia and it has served as a cultural and economic centre of China for thousands of years. Nowadays, you’ve also got some huge and incredible cities like Shanghai and Hangzhou that are well worth visiting, too.
That being said, Beijing has that amazing mix of new and old that makes this city so fun to explore.
This ever-expanding city is a true delight to visit and offers a vast amount of attractions both old and new.
In other words, whatever kind of travel you’re into, you’re likely to find it here. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if you’re more spa break incline or more prone to a moment of athletic dexterity trekking the mountains, Beijing is where you should visit.
From the modern towering skyscrapers to the ancient religious temples and palaces, there really is a heap of the best things to do in Beijing dotted all across the city. This is exactly why I wanted to share some spots you shouldn’t miss.
With that in mind, take a look at the best things to do in Beijing when you visit. Have the best time.
1.) The Forbidden City
Beijing has basically grown around the ancient Forbidden City and Imperial Palace and this complex lies at the heart of the city. Dating back to the 13h century, this palace is truly immense and is an awe-inspiring spectacle that easily makes it one of the best things to do in Beijing.
Separated from the city by a large moat, and enclosed within 10m high walls, when entering the palace, it feels as if you are entering another world. Once here, make sure to see the Golden River bridges, the Hall of Military Courage and the hall of Supreme Harmony. It really is a special place.
Though be warned, you’ll be pretty tired after exploring this whole area, so arrange to do something chilled for the evening.
2.) Tiananmen Square
This unbelievable public space was built to hold a million people and you can really feel the scale of Tiananmen when you step inside its boundaries.
Located adjacent to the Forbidden City, this is one of the best things to do in Beijing when you’re already at the Forbidden City itself.
Many significant political events have been held here and in the centre of the square is a 38m high marble obelisk.
Other sights within the square include the beautiful Tiananmen Gate and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution that’s well worth visiting, too.
3.) Beihai Park
As one of the oldest public gardens in the city, Beihai Park offers a chilled-out space from the hustle and bustle of Beijing.
Climb to the top of the central Hall of Enlightenment for fantastic views across to the Forbidden City, or admire the beauty of the 13th century Round Fort and the elegance of the 17th century White Pagoda on the Island of Exquisite Jade. It’s totally gorgeous and really lovely to spend a few hours exploring.
4.) The Temple of Heaven
This amazing complex dates back to the 15th century and features a range of beautiful temples and shrines. The main attraction is the central temple that is absolutely bursting with colour, decorations and Chinese artwork that is so stunning. It really is one of the best things to do in Beijing if you want to explore the more historical side of the city.
Additionally, you can see the surreal Echo Wall that amplifies even the slightest of sounds and creates a series of exaggerated echoes. The surrounding parkland also provides an opportunity to enjoy nature and explore at your own leisure.
The whole area is not to be missed when in Beijing.
5.) The Lama Temple
Also known as the Yonghe Temple, this monastery is one of the best-preserved examples of Han Chinese and Tibetan architecture found in Beijing.
Constructed in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty, the temple served as a royal court and residence that is so iconic.
Honestly, the main section of the temple is absolutely fantastic and the architecture is absolutely amazing. Every inch of the building is covered with colourful and ornate Chinese designs and inscriptions.
Plus, the interior features a myriad of golden statues and shrines dedicated to the Buddhist religion. There are a fair few temples in Beijing but if you’ve only got enough time to see just one, it’s gotta be the Lama Temple.
6.) Beijing Capital Museum
For an intriguing insight into the history of China’s capital, the impressive Capital Museum offers a staggering collection to peruse and wander. It’s easily one of the best things to do in Beijing, especially if the weather takes a turn and you’re looking for some inside activities.
Honestly, you can literally spend hours wandering through the many different exhibits and rooms. Important collections include a display of traditional Chinese calligraphy, a huge 40t stele of the Emperor Qian Long, famous porcelain from the Ming Dynasty, and a vast array of cultural artefacts gathered from around the country.
It’s pretty epic to see.
Also, for some tasty dim sum, pop over to Furongji (part of the Orchid Hotel). They have a contemporary twist on their dim sum dishes that are so good.
7.) The Great Wall
No trip to Beijing is complete without a visit to at least one section of the legendary Great Wall of China.
The section at Mutianyu is one of the best-preserved and also the least busy so if you want to take some epic photos of the wall without a hundred other tourist stood next to you, then come here.
With a total of 23 watchtowers at this section of wall, the photographic opportunities are endless, as are the hiking trails to meander through. Though be warned, it does get very busy.
If you can’t make it to Mutianyu, then there are also many other spots for the Great Wall you can visit, too. For instance, you can also visit the Great Wall at Badaling and the Juyong Pass, too. Also, you can get some totally gorgeous lake views from the Huanghuacheng area of the Great Wall, too.
Going to visit the Great Wall is easily one of the best things to do in Beijing when leaving the city.
8.) The Old Summer Palace
This expansive complex was constructed in the 18th century and is located to the northwest of the Forbidden City.
Yuanmingyuan originally served as the residence of Qianlong Emperor and the successors of the Qing Dynasty and now serves as a public park. Here you can find a dazzling display of rustic Pagodas, beautiful water features, and even European style ruins that’s well worth seeing.
The various ruins of the palatial complex provide an insight into its past, and the beauty of the gardens and park is a testament to this dynasty’s power.
The water town of Gubei is a stunning place to visit for a day trip from the centre of Beijing. Now, if you want, you can wander around Gubei for a day (2-hour drive from Beijing) or stay overnight, it’s entirely up to you.
Most day trips to Gubei will likely give you around 2-3 hours in the town itself and it’s well worth it to explore a little of this gorgeous place.
Though make sure to take some insect repellant, you will get bitten. All in all, it’s really lovely to visit and one of the best things to do in Beijing when leaving the city limits.
10.) Panjiayuan Antique Market
If it’s antiques you’re after, pop over to Panjiayuan Antique Market. Here, you’ll find everything and anything under the sun.
There seems to be a stall for everything and it’s a great place to buy a little keepsake from your time in the city. It really is one of the best things to do in Beijing for sure.
One thing to note, brush up on your Mandarin skills as most people don’t speak English here. Alternatively, go with a guide that can help you along your way.
11.) National Center for the Performing Arts
The ‘giant egg‘ of Beijing, the National Center for the Performing Arts is well worth visiting if you’re wanting to experience some world-class opera and Peking Opera that’s totally amazing to see.
It’s totally worth arranging before your visit, too. Especially if it’s a popular opera you’re wanting to see.
Oh, and if you work up an appetite, pop over to Choy’s Seafood that’s one of the best in the city. Yes, it’s much more expensive than most of the smaller restaurants in Beijing but the dishes are delicious.