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5 Reasons to Visit Beijing

Rob is an avid traveller and self-professed 'man of the world'. He is passionate about his home city, Manchester, & travelling the world.

Chairman Mao at the entrance to the Forbidden City

Chairman Mao at the entrance to the Forbidden City

What to do in Beijing

Beijing is an enormous city, however a lot of the major sights of Beijing are located fairly centrally. It's very easy to get around these sights because Beijing, like all other Chinese cities, has an excellent public transport system: the Beijing Metro / Beijing subway is fantastic. There is plenty to see and do in Beijing and so if you're planning a visit you might want to consider investing in a Beijing guidebook or Beijing City Guide. I visited Beijing last year and was pleasantly surprised by the City. I saw many interesting Beijing Sights but for this hub I will include information and photo's for what I consider to be the top 5 sights in Beijing.

Explore Tiananmen Square

Ask anyone what to do in Beijing and the first answer will almost certainly by to visit Tiananmen Square. The first thing you notice when you visit Tiananmen Square is the sheer size of it. It's the third largest city square in the world behind only the Praca dos Girassois in Palmas, Brasil and Merdeka Square in Jakarta, Indonesia which is somehow more than twice the size of Tiananmen Square. Let me assure you, at a size of 440,000 square metres, this world-famous square is still absolutely enormous.

Because of Tiananmen Square's huge size it can feel a little baron. There's always some activities and events going on there but everyone is always on their best behaviour. Guards and cameras are all over the square and the authorities will not stand for any trouble. Many people in the international community still associate Tiananmen square with the scenes that were broadcast around the world in 1989. In 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests were crushed by government forces resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians.

A good time to visit the Tiananmen Square is around sunset. At this time every day the flag of the Peoples Democratic Republic of China is lowered and carefully folded and put away by the guards. People gather in the Tiananmen Square to watch the ceremony take place and show their national pride. If you're an early riser you can also see the ceremony for raising the flag that takes place at sunrise.

Tiananmen Square picture

Tiananmen Square picture

Sample the Delicacies of the Donghuamen Night Market

Situated only a few blocks away from Tiananmen Square you will find my second reason to visit Beijing: the nightly Donghuamen Night Market that takes place on the pedestrianised Wangfujing Street. This is essentially tourist fodder but is a very different experience compared to the markets one would normally be accustomed to if not from China.

On offer at the Donghuamen Night Market are such Chinese delicacies as scorpion, dog, sheep's penis, tarantula, crickets and lots of other creatures that you wouldn't normally consider eating. But they're all here to be eaten. It's free to wander around the market but you have to pay to try things. The prices are more than the locals would pay but they're not exactly astronomical. Who knows the market rate for sea horse at any rate? Any visit to Beijing should include a visit to the Donghuamen Night Market at Wangfujing Street.

Donghuamen Night Market, Wangfujing Street

Donghuamen Night Market, Wangfujing Street

Join the Crowds at The Forbidden City

Adjacent to Tiananmen Square is The world-famous Forbidden City. Here you will find the Imperial Palace which was home to the Ming, and later the Qing, Dynasties who ruled the Chinese Empire for almost half a millennium until the revolutionist movement of the early twentieth century.

Like most places in China, and much like the country itself, the size of the Forbidden City complex is grand to say the least. As well as the impressive Imperial Palace which was the seat of all Emperors and their governments from 1420 to the 1920's, the Forbidden City complex is home to around 980 buildings. Needless to say the vast array of temples and ornate buildings and artefacts is designated as a UNESCO world heritage site and is acknowledged as having one of the worlds largest collections of in-tact ancient wooden structures.

When you visit the Forbidden City make sure you plan your visit well. This is one of China's most popular tourist attractions so try to avoid visiting on a public holiday or at the weekend. The sheer numbers of visitors can make a visit to the Forbidden City rather uncomfortable.

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City

More of my China Travel Articles

  • Chinese Food: The Noodle Pot
    A summary of the enormous popularity of noodle pots in China.
  • Wangfujing Street Donghuamen Night Market
    An introduction to the Donghuamen night market at Wangfujing Street Beijing. Read details of my first visit to the Donghuamen street market and the chinese delicacies of Wangfujing Street.
  • The Terracotta Army in Xian, China
    Facts about the Terracotta Army with answers to questions such as where is the Terracotta Army; what is the Terracotta Army; what do we know about the Terracotta Army Warriors and the first emperor?
  • Visiting Mutianyu Wall - Great Wall of China
    All about visiting the Great Wall of China at the Mutianyu Great Wall section. Includes lots of photos of the great wall of china and information about the Mutianyu wall sections of the great wall.

Hike The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu

Although the Great Wall is not technically in Beijing, it can easily be visited as part of a day trip from the city. The nearest, and most popular section of the wall, is at the Beijing Badaling wall section approximately 50 miles from Beijing. It's easy to get to by public transport although many people choose to take the hassle out of it and go with an organised Great Wall tour group.

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The section at Badaling has been very well restored to showcase how it would once have looked. Another section that is accessible in a day trip from Beijing is at the Mutianyu Great Wall section. Located roughly the same distance from Beijing as Badaling, but in a different direction, visitors who travel to the Mutianyu Great Wall are rewarded with much fewer visitors to contend with. Here, you are much less likely to have other people walking into your Great Wall pictures and you're a lot more likely to be able to wander off and find your very own spot of the Great Wall in which you can take time to marvel at and reflect on the great wonder on which you are standing.

Mutianyu Great Wall

The Great Wall of China, Mutianyu accessible from Beijing

The Great Wall of China, Mutianyu accessible from Beijing

Appreciate the Architecture

Opened in 2007, this is one of a number of Beijing's architectural marvels of the 21st Century. The National Grand Theatre of Beijing may not make it on to everyone's list of top Beijing sights but if you're a lover of original architecture like me then you can't miss a trip here. I say trip but in reality it's just a short stroll from Tiananmen Square.

Inside of the National Grand Theatre building there are three large halls: the opera hall; the music hall; and the theatre hall. The building, designed by French architect, Paul Andreu, is a dome-like structure made of titanium and glass.

The building is entirely surround by a moat of water with access being made possible through an underground tunnel. Even by Chinese construction standards the building was incredibly expensive and it's difficult to imagine anything so grand being built anywhere else considering the current economic climate. Make sure your Beijing trip includes a trip to the Beijing National Grand Theatre and make sure you have a good camera. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

The Beijing National Grand Theatre

The Beijing National Grand Theatre

Best Beijing Sights

...Just One More Thing

If you are a student and have a valid student ID then make sure you take it with you to all of the Beijing sights. Entrance to pretty much all Beijing sights and attractions has very generous discounts for students, even non-Chinese students. Just show your ID and the discount is as much as 50% at some places. In fact, most ticket offices won't be able to distinguish whether or not what you are showing them is a genuine student card or not. I'm not advocating this, just saying... but you can actually get away with showing your bus pass as long as it's got your photo on it!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Robert Clarke


Robert Clarke (author) from UK on June 27, 2013:

Thanks for reading BKCreative and thanks for the comment. Beijing really is a great place!

BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on June 27, 2013:

Loved my time in Beijing. So much to do in so little time. The Great Wall is a must. I also went to visit a TCM doctor. Amazing. I wrote a number of hubs and I am still in awe. It is a place to go back to again and again. Thanks for the memories!

Robert Clarke (author) from UK on March 24, 2013:

Thanks vibesites! I stumbled across the theatre quite by accident but glad I found it. Cheers

vibesites from United States on March 24, 2013:

Nice introductory article about the most important spots to see in Beijing. First time I've seen the theater -- it's so magnificent, it's like it's floating in the water. Thanks for posting. :)

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