Beijing has a lot to offer, so we share 10 things to do in Beijing, China & some unique things to do in Beijing, to get off the beaten path.
If you are new here, you may not know that we spent two years living in the city of Tianjin, just outside of Beijing, China. We loved exploring the capital on the weekends and found it hard to narrow down the top 10 things to do in Beijing, but we managed it (and included a few extra unique things to do too!).
Things to do in Beijing, China
1. The Great wall of China
There are several spots around Beijing that offer different perspectives of the Great Wall. From the fully restored Mutianyu to the wild and challenging Jiankou, check out the different options for those wanted to experience the Great Wall of China. We wrote a post about the best way to visit the great wall >> Everything you need to know about visiting the Great Wall of China.
Choose one section of the Great Wall to explore on a day trip, with plenty of tours available from Beijing. If you want a unique experience in Beijing, you could opt to stay on the Great Wall, either in one of the guest houses or you could opt to camp on the Great Wall too.
Those photographic shots and your experience of the Great Wall will change with the seasons but I suggest Spring or Autumn to visit the Wall. This means that the weather is fairly sunny and the sky is clear without the heat and tourists that arrive from June to August. April and September are great times to visit because it is warm but not too hot and the sky is clear.
AVOID the National Holidays in China:
- Golden Week: First week of October
- Chinese New Year (February)
- May Day (1st-2nd May)
2) Forbidden City
This palace complex is China’s largest and best-preserved collection of ancient buildings. Once home to two generations of Dynasties, the Forbidden City is now a popular spot for tourists and Chinese alike. Entrance fee is RMB 60 and you can pay a guide to talk you through the palace or get an audio tour for RMB 40.
Meridian Gate is the main entrance for visitors and can be access from Tiananmen West or Tiananmen East Station on Subway line 1.
The Forbidden City is closed on Mondays but open every day otherwise from 8.30am. We recommend arriving here for opening time to avoid the tour buses or visit in the early afternoon, around 2pm.
Make sure to bring your passport, ear comfortable shoes and wear layers.
3) Summer Palace
Open 6.30am – 8.30pm, entrance fee RMB 40 (low season), RMB 50 (peak season). Take Subway Line 4 to Beigongmen Station for the North Palace gate or Xiyuan station (exit C2) for the East Palace Gate.
This Royal Park is the gem of Beijing and perfect during the summer months. The Summer Palace is expansive and can take 2-3 hours to walk around. Take a camera and capture the rich landscapes and cultural heritage.
4) Tiananmen Square
Home to Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum (Free), the National Museum of China (RMB 15) and the The Great Hall of People (RMB 15). Take subway line 1 to Tiananmen Square.
After touring the Forbidden City, check out the rest of Tiananmen Square. Historic for its bloody history and a focus point of the communists reign, the square can not be missed. Just don’t discuss its history in ear shot of any officials!
5) Temple of Heaven
Divided by two encircling walls, this magnificently detailed building will take your breath away. This is an imperial complex that was used by Chinese Emperors to pray to the Gods.
The entrance free is RMB 35. Catch Subway line 5 to Tianan Dongmen Station.
The temple of Heaven Park is open to the public from 6am to 9pm but the actual temple doesn’t open until 8am. With most attractions, we suggest going early but for the Temple of Heaven, the Hall of Prayer gets crowded with tour groups and visitors from 8am, so either head here for opening time or visit the temple from 3.30pm onwards.
The two best sites to explore in Hutong is the Shichahai Area (north of Beihai Park) and Dazhalan Area (south of Tiananmen Square).
Visit old city lanes and courtyards, known at Hutongs – that can be found throughout China. In fact, some of the best courtyard guesthouses can be found on these narrow, twisting streets among the markets, family restaurants and traditional homes.
7) Ming Tombs
Open 8.30am – 6pm, Changling Tomb RMB 30 and Dingling RMB 40.
Escape to the countryside and visit the burial site of 13 out of the 17 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. The Dingling and Changling tombs have been excavated and opened to the public, but be aware that Dingling tomb has a steep climb down to the burial chamber itself.
8) Donghuamen Night Market
Open 4pm – 10pm, snack prices range between RMB 5 -15, take the subway to Wangfujing.
This bustling night market is the perfect place to try some of the delicious and unusual Chinese food, from meat skewers to strawberry kebabs, quail eggs to chicken hearts.
9) Peking Duck
Found in restaurants across the city, Peking duck is a must whilst your in Beijing. You can find some amazing authentic restaurants that aren’t too pricey and offer some of the best duck you will ever have.
10) Universal Studios Beijing
This brand new theme park opened at the end of 2021 and is a must visit for anyone who loves theme parks. Explore Jurassic Park, head to Minion Land, enjoy Kung Fu Panda and become a wizard in the world of Harry Potter.
There are plenty of shows to watch too, including the Hogwarts light show, WaterWorld Stunt Show and Lights, Camera, Action.
You can choose to go for a day trip or stay in the Universal Studios Grand Hotel. Make sure to check out the Universal CityWalk Beijing, complete with restaurants, entertainment complex and stores.
Unique things to do in Beijing
There are plenty of things to do in Beijing but many are crowded with visitors. Why not get off-the-beaten path and explore some of the unique things to do in Beijing:
- Olympic Sights – Tour the sights of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and marvel at the ultra modern architecture nicknamed the ‘Bird’s Nest’.
- Visit Chairman Mao – On Tiananmen Square, you cain find Mao’s Mausoleum, where China’s previous communist leader lies in state, embalmed and laid to rest in the grand building since 1976.
- Taoist Temple – Head to this Taoist temple just south of the Workers’ Stadium. This temple is full of colourful states that represent the 76 departments of the supernatural world.
- Kung Fu show – You can see locals practising this popular Chinese martial arts form all over the country. If you want to see a demonstration at its best, head to the Red Theatre for a glitzy performance.
- 798 Art Zone – This art venue can be found in a reclaimed factory space, sharing special art exhibits, stores, and restaurants.
- Beihai Lake Park – Right next to the Forbidden City, this gorgeous park is full of beauty; expect carved Chinese bridges and plenty of flowers to admire.
One week in Beijing
How to travel China on a budget
- We LOVE this camera for our travel photography.
- For a cheap, easy and compact camera, we use this to vlog and take photographs.
- We use this travel drone (but make sure to check drone laws in your chosen destination first).
- This is our favourite travel Insurance because it covers so many activities and travel situations that could arise on longer trips but also offers year coverage.
What to pack
- No matter where we travel to, I always take these trusty hand sanitizer’s and a mini first aid kit.
- We love these toiletry bags (especially great for smaller bathrooms) and choose a laptop bag like this as our hand luggage.
- We keep our devices charged on long travel days with these lightweight battery packs and bring these worldwide travel adaptors on all our trips.
- I still struggle not to overpack so stick to using an expandable suitcase like these, over backpack and always take my trusty luggage scales to avoid being charged at the airport.