10 Things to do in Beijing

By Elizabeth May
Posted at 12-05-2014

Beijing is an awe inspiring city, known for its opulent palaces, temples, tombs, parks and gardens, universities, and art treasures.  The city actually dates back three millennia, and has been the political center for much of the past eight centuries.  It is the nation’s political, cultural and educational center.  According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “few cities in the world have survived for so long as the political headquarters and cultural center of an area as immense as China.” 

There is so much to see and do while here, let’s take a look at 10 things that should be on your list!  (Places like Tiananmen Square, Ming Tombs, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven, should already be on your list of things to see, so we’ll explore some other options that are slightly “less touristy”. 


  1. Mausoleum of Mao Zedong
    You can’t visit Beijing without seeing the resting place of the Chairman of the Politburo and Central Committee of the Communist Party.  You would be missing out on a major part of China’s political history.  It’s beautiful, interesting, and enlightening.  Definitely visit.  www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/beijing/tiananmen-square/chairman-mao-mausoleum.htm
  2. Summer Palace Marble Boat
    A fascinating history, and a tribute to Chinese perseverance.  Emperor Taizhong once said that, “water can carry the boat as well as overturn it.”  This is a metaphor of water, which symbolizes the common people, who can either support a good emperor or overthrow a bad one.
  3. Hutongs near the Bell and Drum Towers
    Not only will you be able to see an important structure from history, you will also be able to walk along the small alleyways (hutongs), which are lined with art, food and other fascinating treasures.  The bell and drum towers were used for telling time and helping people to live and work when there was no other means of telling time.  Great place to experience the lifestyle of bygone days.
  4. The Former Legation Quarter
    This is the place where the bureaucratic dealings between countries would take place.  There were embassies of several countries located in this quarter, but after 1949 with the formation of the People’s Republic of China, all the embassies were moved out.  The buildings remain, and have been put to other uses such as restaurants, cafés and other shops.  Bring your camera and go in the evening.  It makes for great pictures and a lovely night out.
  5. Club China Doll
    Founded by Chinese actress/producer Ai Wan and club designer Wu Ying, it opened its doors in 2006.  This is more of a local spot than a westerner hangout.  If you want to experience some of China’s best artists, with a young, sensual and passionate crowd/ambiance, this is definitely your club! Seriously imaginative décor. 
  6. Panjiayuan Flea Market
    Open all week but best to go early on Saturday and Sunday for the flea market treasures!  This is the place to buy porcelain crafts, jades and jewels, propaganda pictures, antique paintings and calligraphies, and furniture.  Even if you’re not buying, it’s definitely worth a gander.  Take your camera and wear comfortable walking shoes!
  7. Yin bar @ Emperor Hotel
    Soak up the glamour of the environment around you.  This bar includes old wooden terraces, a Jacuzzi and an unspoiled view of the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and Mao’s Mausoleum.  It’s a bit pricey, but completely worth it.  Go in the evening to enjoy the lights of the surrounding attractions.
  8. Jiankou Great Wall.  It consists of 28 towers and is the most picturesque section of the Great Wall.  It is wild and mountainous, the most dangerous and steep section of the Ming Dynasty Wall.  It’s different because it was not built with bricks but instead with local material – dolomite – which makes it stronger and harder.  About 2 hours or 70km from Beijing.
  9. Fragrant Hills Park (Xiangshan Park)
    This park boasts the most spectacular natural scenery in Beijing.  Go in the autumn (mid October to early November-during the week for less tourists) to see the fiery red leaves coat the mountain, a truly unforgettable sight.  Also, take a cable car to absorb the magnificence of the panoramic view. 
  10. Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant
    If you’re going to eat something from Beijing, make sure it’s roasted duck at Da Dong’s restaurant.  They have won “Best Chinese Restaurant of the Year” several times, along with other titles such as “Beijing Duck” and “Best for Impressing Visitors” according to the Reader Restaurant Awards.  Book a table in advance or be prepared to wait for one (it is definitely worth it).