Here’s a list of the 15 best things to do in Beijing and attractions that you shouldn’t miss when visiting the Chinese capital.
Beijing is a big city with a long tradition and history to showcase visitors. In recent years it has also transformed into a modern city and thus you can experience an interesting mix of the old and new.
The most famous attractions in Beijing are without a doubt the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City. However, there are many interesting places to visit and as a tourist, there’s an almost never-ending list of things to do in Beijing.
Visit the Temple of Heaven
This is one of the most famous buildings in China and it has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1998. The construction of the Temple of Heaven started already in 1420 by the Emperor Yongle.
It’s one of my absolute favorites among the landmarks in Beijing. I recommend that you come here early in the morning to avoid the crowds. About 15 minutes before opening is a great idea if you want to make the most out of your visit.
Walk on the Great Wall of China
Visiting the Great Wall of China is, of course, one of the best things to do in Beijing. However, due to its popularity, I recommend that you avoid Chinese holidays and weekends when many locals are visiting the wall.
Another option is to visit less-touristy parts of the Great Wall of China or go early in the morning because it can get very crowded at times. It’s listed as one of the new seven wonders of the world and the wall has become one of the most iconic landmarks in human history.
I recommend that you plan a full day and that you depart from Beijing early in the morning, or even better stay overnight somewhere close to the Great Wall of China and watch the sunrise and sunset.
Mutianyu is a very popular section of the wall that has been fully restored to its former glory. Badaling is another popular section, especially among Chinese tourists. For less crowded sections of the wall, I can recommend Jiankou, Jinshanling, and Huanghuacheng.
Visit the Summer Palace
A grand palace with an artificial lake and lush park where you can stroll around. Wander around the old temple grounds and cozy gardens to experience iconic Chinese architecture in Beijing.
There are three entrance gates, East, North, and South and you can get to Summer Palace easily by subway Line 4 and 10.
Explore the Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is recognized as the largest palace in the world and one of the most significant historic sites. For centuries, the emperors of China lived within the walls of the Forbidden City along with their servants and the royal court.
Visitors can admire grand Chinese architecture and various temples and buildings with impressive details. The Palace area is huge and you should plan for at least a few hours to see most of the points of interest.
It’s easy to get to the Forbidden City by the metro as there’s a metro station just outside the entrance. To avoid long lines, I suggest that you come here early at the opening and that you reserve a ticket in advance.
Watch a show at the famous Chaoyang theater
At the Chaoyang theater, guests can watch various types of Chinese forms of art, such as acrobatic shows, traditional dancing, fire shows, and various performances. There will always be some kind of unique entertainment and most guests find it very interesting.
Experience the autumn colors
If you have the possibility of visiting Bejing in November, you’ll be met by beautiful autumn colors everywhere. The yellow Ginko trees are in full bloom during the month of November, and there are various parks and boulevards with Ginko trees.
The particular place where I took this photo was in the park next to the Temple of Heaven. It’s a beautiful park where you can see the locals doing Tai Chi and other forms of exercise.
Visit the Lama Temple
The Lama Temple, also known as Yonghegong is a large and important temple within Tibetan Buddhism. Just like in most other sites in Beijing, there are many tourists and locals coming here.
The Lama Temple is beautiful and there are plenty of cool statues and impressive architecture to see with your own eyes. In the Wanfuge Hall, you can see one of the most important Buddha statues, which was a gift from the Qianlong emperor from the seventh Lama.
Free walking tour
If you like guided tours I can suggest the free walking tour in Beijing, which has professional local guides with great knowledge of the city and its history. The tour is available in English, but there are also guided tours that you can book in advance in other languages.
The tour will take you to the most important attractions in Beijing, and along the way, they often share other tips on things to do in Beijing as well as restaurants where you can get authentic Chinese food.
Visit the Ming Dynasty Tombs
The Ming Dynasty Tombs are the final resting place for emperors of the Ming Dynasty, and several of them are located in Beijing. They are scattered in a cluster that has become known as the thirteen tombs from the Ming Dynasty.
The locations where the tombs can be found have been carefully chosen by Feng-Shui to avoid evil spirits and bad luck. Thh Dingling-tomb is open for tourists and visitors can go down in the tomb and visit the underground palace.
The area of the Ming Dynasty Tombs is open from 08:30 to 17:00. The easiest way to get here is by taking the Changping metro to Changping Dongguan Station and then take bus number 304.
Other things to do in Beijing
Treat yourself with a luxurious massage or spa treatment
Compared to Europe, the prices for spa treatments and massage are typically lower all over Asia, and Beijing is not an exception. There are places in the Chinese capital where you can get a nice foot massage for just a couple of Euros.
Most of the treatments in Beijing are of a good standard and would cost at least twice as much compared to Europe. I particularly recommend trying some traditional Chinese treatments such as acupuncture and various herbal treatments.
Have fun at the amusement park Happy Valley Beijing
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Beijing, I can suggest visiting the amusement park Happy Valley. They have rides for all ages, which makes for an exciting day for the whole family.
Visit a Hutong
Beijing is full of so-called hutongs, which are traditional areas with old houses and charming alleys. One of the most famous hutongs is the one known as Wudaoying Hutong.
There are still people living in the hutongs and they are a great place to learn more about the local culture and meet locals.
Stroll the Jingshan park and Beihan park
The Jingshan Park is home to the Pavillion of Ten Thousand Springs and from the park, you can also get a 360-degree view over Beijing. The park itself is perhaps not that special, but it offers one of the best city views in the capital of China.
Beihan Park is another park that you can stroll around to get away from the hustle and bustle of Beijing.
Visit China’s National Museum of Art
This is a great museum to visit if you’re interested in Chinese art and history. The national museum of art holds a large collection of Chinese art throughout various eras and time periods.
The entrance is free, but it’s recommended to reserve a ticket in advance to be sure to enter. It’s one of the most popular places to visit in Beijing and many locals come here as well.
Shop around at Wangfujing Street
At Wangfujing Street, you’ll find lots of stores, street performers and everything that you can expect from a shopping street in a big city. I wouldn’t say that shopping at Wangfujing Street is one of the “must” do things in Beijing, but it’s quite nice to stroll around and experience daily life in Beijing.
Other attractions in Beijing
- The Old Summer Palace Yuanmingyuan
- St. Joseph’s Cathedral
- Wangfujing Mall
- Lugou Qiao (Marco Polo bridge)
- Niujie Mosque
- Central Radio and Television Tower
- The Botanical garden in Beijing
Confucius was a grandmaster and philosopher that lived some 500 years BC. This temple was built in the 1300s and is currently the second-largest temple in the world that is dedicated to Confucius, who is still regarded as one of the great thinkers of China and the world.
Tiananmen Square is the largest square in the world, and it’s located just south of the Forbidden City. At first glance, you might not find this square to be particularly interesting, but from a historical standpoint, some of the most important events have taken place here.
Museums in Beijing
- National Museum of China
- Beijing Folklore Museum
- Red Sandalwood Museum
- China Science and Technology Museum
- National Art Museum of China
- Lu Xun museum
- Beijing Police Museum
Want more suggestions on activities and attractions in Beijing? Leave a comment below!