Explore Beijing

Explore Beijing
There is no other city in the world that combines such different elements into one and makes it work. Beijing is a hip, culturally vibrant, and inspiring city, especially for a population of 11 million with a tourist influx of millions a year, but don’t let that fool you. Visiting Beijing can be really hard for first-time travellers to China. English is rarely spoken, so brush up on your Mandarin, and be prepared to be fully immersed in traditional Chinese culture. Other Chinese cities will feel more western than Beijing, but this is why you travel far away – to experience true authentic Hutongs (traditional alleyways), and see unbelievable feats of architecture – like the Great Wall of China.

Beijing has a great arts scene to explore too. Beijing 798 district is an area of old industrial military buildings jointly created by the East Germans, Soviets, and Chinese governments. Now the Dashanzi Factory complex is home to Central Academy of Fine Arts, inspiring galleries, lofts, uber stylish fashion shops, and chic restaurants and cafes to move into the area.

The Forbidden Palace
Jinshanling Great Wall
Street food- a MUST!

Places to Visit in Beijing

  • The Forbidden City
  • Temple of Heaven
  • Summer Palace
  • The Great Wall of China
  • Ming Tombs
  • Tiananmen Square
  • Yonghe Lama Temple
  • Jingshan park

Unique Things to See and Do in Beijing

  • Eating Beijing Roast Duck
  • Enjoying a night out at the Beijing Opera
  • Watch The Legend of Kung Fu at the Red Theatre
  • Wander through the Hutongs (ancient narrow alleyways)
  • Join the hip urban area around Houhai Lake for a coffee
  • Check out the Donguamen Night Market (by the Forbidden City)
  • Learn everything there is know about watermelons at the Watermelon Museum

Beijing Hot Spots

One of the greatest things about Beijing in the roasted duck. You were probably expecting me to say The Great Wall of China which is spectacular too, but the one thing most travellers will tell you is that the duck is divine and if they could they’d eat it every day. Li Qun Roast Duck is a popular spot for both tourists and locals, and although the decor may be simple, the food is not. Duck is traditionally eaten in a crepe with green onion and hoisin sauce.

Another popular dish in Beijing is Zha Jian noodles, hand pulled and fresh to order. Typically to assemble the dish; with the noodles drained, you combine them with accompaniments of a minced pork sauce and different vegetables.

Exploring the temples around Beijing is a great way to experience China’s ancient history. The Temple of Heaven, in the southern part of Beijing, is a sacred place for Beijingers. Aside from the impressive interior, one of the most striking features is the rows of century old trees: Cypress, Juniper, and Scholar trees that date older than 600 years. Another significant piece of history lies in the 13 Ming Tombs. It is the burial site for 13 of the emperors that reigned during the Ming Dynasty.

The Lama Temple is another popular religious temple that is still actively used. Be sure to check out the Buddha statue that is sculpted from a single tree. Temples are a hot spot for travellers, but be aware that many of them are massive in size and require a few hours to fully tour. Many of them have audio tour options, but if you want a more personal touch you can hire tour guides outside of the doors. You won’t miss them either as they will be sure to ask you – multiple times! You can opt for tour guides that will drive around the city and take you to all the major temples, but the visits are quick and you may wish to go back again to spend more time – however these tours save you the hassle of public transportation which always takes longer that you’d assume.

Getting Around Beijing

Let’s just start with, Beijing is big, really big. The population is over 11 million, and it shows in their public transportation – it is useful so use it! You can get a rechargeable metro card which is valid for the subway lines and some buses. Plus you can refill them at vending machines which makes getting a card more time-saving than purchasing single tickets overtime. The fares are calculated on distance, and when entering/exiting the platform you must hold the card over the right side of the turnstile to get through the gates.

Did you know…?

A popular street food in Beijing is braised pigeon on a stick!

Braised Pigeon on a Stick!

Did you ALSO know…?

Qin Shihuang’s mausoleum is said to still be intact because of an anti-grave-digging system that emits toxic air and fires secret crossbows at wannabe pillagers…who knows?

Terracotta Warriors
Another fantastic way to travel around is by renting a bike. Bike rentals require a deposit, fee, and some will need a passport number before you can take the bike out. Check the bike over for any damage prior to going out to make sure it is documented and then you’re good to go. It’s a great way to get around and it gives you some flexibility if you see something really good you want to stop for – like street food!

Taxis are also an option, although much more expensive. Make sure the driver turns on the meter before going anywhere and always have your destinations written down, including your hotel address, as many drivers do not speak English.

Best Time of Year to Travel to Beijing

The most comfortable time to visit Beijing, weather wise, is during spring or fall when the temperatures are warm and the air pollution is lighter. Overall Beijing’s pollution levels are not as bad as other major cities, but for those who are concerned September and October are the easiest on the ‘ol lungs. Even on  a “good” day, the pollution can take a toll on you. If the forecast is for a bad air pollution day (check before leaving your hotel), plan for indoors activities, like museums and galleries. Seriously, you don’t want to be sneezing or wheezing up a storm, miserable at historical site that deserves concentration, and then come away with bad photos because the pollution has made everything hazy and grey.

Depending on your interests, national holidays are a good time to avoid only due to the increased prices, enormous crowds of Chinese travellers, and the lack of accommodations and transportation services due to the sheer volume of people. That being said, the holiday times are also rife with activities, shows, and street foods, but don’t expect all business services to be fully operational. In China, there are three main “golden weeks” which are national holiday times. This is when most people get a full 7 days off to travel, but the vacation time is somewhat staggered so really these weeks are each more like 2 – 3 weeks long – at least in terms of impacts to traveling at those times.

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