Beijing: China’s Capital – the Top 10 Places of Interest
Do you want to visit a city where one beautiful temple follows the next? A place where magnificent green spaces offer a restful respite from the busy crowds of a bustling metropolis? Look no further, because Beijing has it all!
We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about the Chinese capital and to introduce you to our 10 favorite sights in the city. Get ready to book your tickets, because after reading this article, there will be nothing that could stop you from visiting Beijing!
Beijing in a Nutshell
The People’s Republic of China is one of the largest countries in the world, a fact that is illustrated by its 14 neighbors. Unsurprisingly, China holds a number of world records. For example, it’s the country with the largest population in the world – more than 1.4 billion people live here! China is also home to the world’s deepest canyon, Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, and its highest mountain, Mount Everest.
Of course, a country of this size also offers a lot of interesting places to visit. One of its most fascinating ones is the capital, Beijing. The metropolis is located in the north of the country, and its name, which translates to “Northern Capital” is therefore a very appropriate one. The city has a population of more than 20 million people. It’s hard to imagine a number this big, but maybe the fact that Beijing’s population is 22 times bigger than that of New York City helps put things into perspective.
Because it covers such a large area, China is under the influence of five different climate zones. Beijing lies in the continental climate zone, where the winters are cold and dry, while the summer are hot and humid. To enjoy the best weather for sightseeing, we would recommend visiting the Chinese capital in late spring or between September and November.
Once you’re in Beijing, the easiest way to get around the city is by subway or by bus. Make sure you explore all aspects of the capital, including its fantastic restaurant scene. After all, there’s no better place to have some Peking duck! Not only the preparation process, which ensures the duck’s crispy skin, is very special but also the way you eat it. There are three stages, starting with the duck’s skin, then its meat, and finally a delicious soup made from the leftovers. Both the meal and the service are always a very special experience.
Beijing is also home to a great number of wonderful events. If you want to experience the city in its full glory, we recommend visiting it in January or February during Chinese New Year. The festivities include many traditional customs – our favorite one is the dragon dance! But don’t worry if your trip to Beijing takes place later in the year. The National Day celebrations in October are equally impressive. If you’re into techno music, we would recommend visiting the Great Wall Festival in May. It takes place right next to the famous Great Wall of China. Take this chance to forget about your regular life for 30 hours and make some memories you’ll never forget!
The Top 10 Places of Interest in Beijing
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to our 10 favorite sights in the Chinese capital! Remember, though, that these places are only the essential ones – Beijing has so much more to offer than we could ever fit into a single list!
The Great Wall of China
Obviously, no trip to Beijing would be complete without a visit to the Great Wall of China. Do you know why it’s so famous? Well, with a length of more than 21,000 kilometers, it’s the longest wall in the world. The locals traditionally also call it the “immeasurable wall” – a rather fitting name, don’t you think?
This UNESCO World Heritage Site was originally a defensive wall in the Ming Dynasty in the 16th century. A roughly 600-kilometer-long section of the wall is located to the north and to the east of Beijing. Although it takes some time to get there, the Great Wall of China is still easy to reach by car or by public transport, and its magnificent sight makes the drive absolutely worth it!
The difficult part is just choosing which section of the wall to visit. Mutianyu, for example, is one of the better preserved parts of the wall. Jiankou, on the other hand, is perfect for any adventurous and experienced hiker. Of course, you can also book a guided tour to the Great Wall. In this case, we would recommend doing some research beforehand in order to find the best offer.
The Forbidden City of Beijing
This place sounds rather creepy, doesn’t it? Well, luckily, the old imperial palace complex isn’t particularly scary – but it is all the more beautiful! The palace’s name stems from the fact that regular people weren’t allowed to enter the complex when it was still in use. After all, it was the residence of the Chinese emperor from around 1406 until the beginning of the 20th century. More than a million enslaved people built the Forbidden City over the course of 14 years. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Forbidden City is located on the edge of Tian’anmen Square and its almost 900 palaces cover an area of more than 700,000 square meters. The complex also houses a palace garden, an art collection, as well as a museum. We recommend spending at least three hours here, although exploring the whole site would surely take a lot longer.
Tian’anmen Square is even larger than the Forbidden City. Covering an area of 40 hectares, it’s the largest square in the world. Of course, that also means that there’s a lot to discover here. One of our favorite sights is the Gate of Heavenly Peace, which serves as the entrance to the Forbidden City. Unfortunately, the gate you see today is a replica. The fact that the original one was torn down was actually a well-kept secret for quite a long time.
Tian’anmen Square also has a second very impressive gate, Zhengyangmen. In the past, this was the gate that led into the city of Beijing. Nearby, you can also find the National Museum of China and the Monument to the People’s Heroes, which commemorates fallen soldiers. The tomb of the politician Mao Zedong, who passed away in 1976, is also located on Tian’anmen Square.
The Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and one that certainly lives up to its name! It almost seems to be taking off from the ground, thanks to its three-tiered roof. It’s unsurprising, therefore, that it’s supposed to represent the connection between heaven and earth.
In the past, people often prayed here for good weather and an abundant harvest. It was also the place where Chinese Emperors would offer animal sacrifices, for example to the rain or to the sun. The 15th century temple also includes a beautiful garden with five further altars.
The Yonghe Temple
Wonderful courtyards, an excellent garden, and the magnificent Pavilion of 10,000 Happinesses – all of these wonderful sights await you at Yonghe Temple, or Lama Temple, as it’s also known. The aforementioned Pavilion houses a beautiful Buddha statue. Measuring 18 meters in height, this carving made from sandalwood was a gift from Kelsang Gyatsho, the Dalai Lama who died in 1757. The statue was carved from a single tree and is the only one of its kind.
You can see some other statues of important figures in Lamaism, a form of Buddhism, here as well. The Yonghe Temple is still used by Buddhist monks to this day. You’ll probably see them following their daily rituals while you’re here.
The Summer Palace
The beautiful Summer Palace is located on the shores of Kunming Lake. Both the lake and its surrounding park are a wonderful place for long walks. But the main attraction, of course, is the imperial palace. It was commissioned by Emperor Qianlog as a birthday present to his mother.
Take your time exploring the Summer Palace’s countless halls, and don’t miss out on its beautiful cloisters! There are more than 270 columns and many magnificent works of art for you to admire here.
Have you always wanted to see a traditional Chinese garden? In this case, why not visit Beihai Park? This garden near the Forbidden City is famous for its Heavenly Pond, a truly beautiful lake.
As is typical for Chinese gardens, architectural features are quite an important part of Beihai Park. Make sure you see the bridge, the temple, the Buddha tower, as well as the Nine-Dragon Wall while you’re here! This last sight is around six meters high and was meant to keep the then Emperor Yongle safe. Today, it’s mostly famous for the more than 600 beautiful dragons decorating it.
China National Botanical Garden
Most capital cities around the world have a botanical garden where you can find some peace and quiet away from the crowds. This is also the case in Beijing, although the China National Botanical Garden has more than just some green spaces to offer. For example, you can also see the Temple of the Sleeping Buddha with its 700-year-old bronze statue here.
Although there are usually a lot less people in the garden than in the rest of the city, that doesn’t mean it’s not populated! The more than 1.5 million plants are the ideal home for large swarms of bees. Did you know that the small honey-loving insects are used in some forms of therapy? That’s pretty cool, right? Visit the garden’s Bee Museum to learn more about these animals and their amazing abilities!
Of course, our list has to include a place where you can go shopping. Welcome to Wangfujing! Here, you can not only find everything your heart desires but also just sit down and people-watch in one of the many lovely cafés.
Wangfujing’s “Snack Street” is your chance to try out some local delicacies. Don’t forget to pay a visit to St. Joseph’s Church while you’re here, either – just keep your eyes peeled for its three towers, and you won’t be able to miss it!
Happy Valley Beijing
If you’re in the mood for a fun day out, we would highly recommend taking a trip to Happy Valley Beijing. Our favorite ride in this amusement park is probably the Extreme Rusher. It reaches an incredible speed of 130 km/h, making it the fastest roller coaster in the world!
So, have you booked your tickets to Beijing yet? We definitely can’t wait to go back – there are just so many temples, palaces, and other historical buildings to discover in this 3,000-year-old metropolis! Plus, you can never spend enough time admiring the Great Wall of China. There’s just always a stretch of it you haven’t seen yet!
Of course, a trip to Beijing will take some time to plan. You should at least familiarize yourself with the basics of the local culture. But there aren’t many other places in the world that can boast a history and culture as rich as Beijing. So don’t miss this opportunity to discover the secrets of the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. What are you waiting for?