Antique markets provide the ideal place to bring back unique souvenirs, with this antique market offering everything from books and stamps, stamps and paintings as well as ink stones as items for purchase. Formerly popular among Yuan Dynasty royals as a relaxation spot, today there is also an abundance of cafes, bars, hutongs with celebrity mansions as well as numerous historical buildings to discover.
Discover top Beijing attractions during a day tour to The Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace. Book tours here with free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance. Everything is really easy to access through Los Angeles to Beijing Cathay Pacific flights.
Tiananmen Square is one of the world’s most celebrated public spaces. Earning comparisons to Times Square and St Peter’s Square, Tiananmen is an essential destination on any Beijing travel itinerary.
The Square is an enormous public plaza located adjacent to China’s former Imperial Palace known as Forbidden City. At its northern entrance is Tiananmen Gate, adorned with Mao’s portrait. Additionally, this space houses the National Flagpole, Monument to People’s Heroes, and Mao’s Mausoleum; all must-sees when traveling around China.
The Monument to the People’s Heroes is an enormous granite obelisk which honors those who died for China’s revolutionary cause. Featuring panels with revolutionaries from different backgrounds and reading ‘Eternal Glory to the People’s Heroes’ in Mao’s handwriting. South of this monument stands Mao’s Mausoleum (Chairman Mao Memorial Hall), where millions of visitors pass annually past his waxy corpse – often in long queues but quickly moving. Once inside you’ll find displays with flower leaving spots as well as souvenir stalls selling all manner of Mao merchandise!
The Square in Beijing marks its geographical center, covering an area of 440,000 square meters (109 acres) and accommodating up to one million people at once for grand gatherings. Visitors come here each morning before sunrise for the flag raising ceremony; to avoid crowds it is wise to arrive early!
The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City, one of Beijing’s top attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, draws more than 14 million people each year – more on weekends or holidays than any other time! However, it can become overrun with visitors – but there are ways you can avoid crowds to enjoy its fullest extent.
Start off right by purchasing your tickets early online. Since entrance ticket booths sell same-day tickets, advance purchase can help avoid lengthy queues. You may also purchase them through WeChat; however, this requires someone with fluency in Chinese to assist.
Arriving early can help you beat the lines. The entrance gate typically opens at 8:30 AM. Most visitors follow a route along the central axis from Meridian Gate (Wumen) toward Hall of Supreme Harmony and Gate of Divine Prowess that typically lasts two hours, offering many palaces and beautiful gates to admire along its route.
Once your tour of the Forbidden City has concluded, make sure to cross over to Jingshan Park for a breathtaking view of its moat and turret towers, particularly its northeast and northwest corner towers – they offer the best glimpses of this imperial palace! Additionally, here you’ll be able to spot its main gate leading back into Tiananmen Square.
The Temple of Heaven
At one time when China was under imperial rule, this vast complex in the Dongcheng district served as an arena for imperial rulers to pay their respects to heaven and their imperial ancestors. Today it serves as an expansive park that’s the centerpiece of city attractions – so expect to spend several hours here!
Start your visit off right at the iconic Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests – a three-tiered wooden structure decorated with intricate carvings that serves both as an architectural marvel and symbol of imperial worship. After that, visit the circular mound altar where emperors offered sacrifices to appease heaven and earth; don’t miss the mirrored gate that serves as the gateway to heaven; or the Echo Wall which ensures any quiet spoken words or notes will reach their opposite ends with perfect clarity.
Temple of Heaven complex is equally stunning, from its imperial vault with its heavenly ladder to the golden eaves and roofs soaring skyward. Be sure not to miss its ornate marble stone bases that support roofs without nails; these engineering and artisanal feats represent engineering and artistic mastery! Furthermore, look out for its elaborate decorations featuring dragons and phoenixes as symbols of good luck and fortune on roofs and buildings’ ceilings – an extraordinary sight indeed.
Visit The Temple of Heaven early morning for the best experience, when Beijingers are doing their morning exercises – you might see an older gentleman practicing slow tai chi movements or youngster throwing powerful kung fu punches! It provides a fascinating look into everyday life in this vibrant metropolis.
The Summer Palace
The Summer Palace is an extravagant imperial garden located near Beijing that can keep visitors captivated for hours on end. A major highlight of Beijing travel, this stunning attraction includes temples, pavilions, bridges and waterways all designed for scenic enjoyment and inspiration. Empress Dowager Cixi made it her primary residence and spent a considerable amount of money beautifying and expanding it. Her primary highlight is the iconic 17-hole bridge that spans Lake Qianhai; other attractions include Marble Boat, Bronze Ox and Spring Pavilion. The Long Corridor (Chang Lang Ge;) is the longest covered painted walkway built by Emperor Qianlong around 1750 for Empress Dowager Cixi to enjoy her garden scenery without being exposed to harsh elements. Designed in imitation of city gates, its purpose was for her enjoyment without being exposed.
The Hall of Joyful Longevity (; Tian Yin Guan; Ting Li Guan;) can be found on the south side of Lake Baikal. Cixi would go here to watch opera performances while her private listening hall (; Ting Li Guan; Tingliguan) across from it was where she would hear singers perform opera in private; today it serves traditional Chinese dishes as a restaurant.
Summer Palace tours of Beijing typically include visits to The Summer Palace as part of their guided sightseeing experience, while some tours also visit top sights like Tiananmen Square, Temple of Heaven and Great Wall. We advise booking tours that provide skip-the-line tickets so as to maximize your vacation time at these popular tourist spots – especially since many tours allow cancellation up to 24 hours in advance – perfect if traveling on tight schedule.
The Great Wall
Beijing’s Great Wall is one of its top attractions and an UNESCO World Heritage Site, stretching across mountains northwest of the city and accessible via hiking or cable car rides. Visitors can marvel at both engineering skill and stunning natural landscapes that make this section of the wall so unforgettable.
Badaling is one of the most visited sections of the Great Wall due to its closeness and easy access. Its well-preserved walls and breathtaking scenery attract crowds. Also worth seeing are Mutianyu, Simatai and Jinshanling; additionally don’t miss visiting the Great Wall Museum with its dioramas depicting its construction and defense!
The Temple of Heaven is an exquisite complex which was the site of ancient emperors’ rituals of prayer and sacrifice. Notable features include its circular mound altar and Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests – plus, this complex gives visitors a fascinating look into Chinese culture and history. Visitors can observe locals engaging in daily exercises such as practicing Tai Chi or playing Chinese yo-yo.
If you only have limited time in Beijing, it can be challenging to experience all its top attractions. We recommend booking tours with knowledgeable guides to make the most of your visit and ensure you see all the essential sights. Our experts can assist in creating a custom itinerary and booking tickets ahead of time, helping plan an exciting vacation as well as offering advice about dining and other activities in Beijing.