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20 Ultimate Things to Do in Beijing

The Great WallThe Great Wall

Having served as the capital of China for more than 800 years, Beijing is home to some of the finest remnants of China's imperial past and is a China culture hub.

Interest in visiting Beijing is largely to explore its glorious past, but also to feel its modern era prestige.

Our local experts have journeyed to every corner of the city and uncovered the best things to see and do in Beijing.

1. Climb on the Great Wall and Enjoy Its Breathtaking Night View

The night view of the Great WallThe night view of the Great Wall at Simatai

The Great Wall of China extends 4,000 miles. There are several Great Wall sections around Beijing to choose form, both restored sections and rugged sections.

You could enjoy an easy walk at Mutianyu, take a challenging hike on the wild walls of Jinshanling or Jiankou, or take our exclusive tour to Simatai to appreciate the stunning night views of the Great Wall.

See our insider’s guide for how to choose the right section for you .

2. Explore the Forbidden City

The Forbidden CityThe Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is the best preserved imperial palace in China and the largest ancient palatial structure in the world.

Travel with an experienced guide to avoid the crowds and explore the hidden treasures of the palace, and discover the history and culture behind it, spanning the emperors’ personal lives, imperial examinations, and worship.

See How to Visit the Forbidden City — for Discerning Travelers

3. Stroll in the Summer Palace

The Summer Palace is the best-preserved imperial garden in the world, and the largest of its kind still in existence in modern China.

It represents traditional Chinese gardens well. Appreciate a charming artificial landscape first created hundreds of years ago.

A fine way to enjoy sightseeing at the Summer Palace is to take a dragon boat on Kunming Lake.

4. Get to Know Tian'anmen Square

Tian'anmen Square is the world’s largest famous square and can accommodate a million people. Like Times Square in New York and Red Square in Moscow, Tian’anmen Square is a must-visit place for travelers to Beijing.

Escorted by a knowledgeable guide, you can get to know the architecture and history of the square.

5. Experience a Rickshaw Ride Through the Hutongs

The HutongTake a rickshaw through the Hutongs.

The Beijing hutongs are mazes of narrow alleyways linking old single-story traditional courtyard houses. Hutongs give a wonderful glimpse into the world of yesterday in Beijing.

Taking a rickshaw through the Hutongs and visiting a hutong family living in a traditional quadrangle dwelling is an authentic way to discover traditional Beijing life.Or you can check our hutong walking routes to help you discover the most interesting hutong lanes.

6. Take a Cooking Class in a Courtyard

If you want to make your tour more impressive, don’t miss the chance to take a cooking class with a local family. Experiencing the local lifestyle will increase the joy of your tour. Visit a local family living in a hutong, learn to cook traditional Beijing dishes, and talk with the local people.

We believe you can have a fresh experience that you can’t get simply from visiting architectural structures.

7. Feast on Beijing Roast Duck

Beijing Roast DuckBeijing Roast Duck

A saying that is often heard is: "There are two things you must do in Beijing: eat Beijing Roast Duck and see the Great Wall."

Beijing roast duck is the epitome of Beijing cuisine. The dish is mostly prized for the thin, crispy skin, with authentic versions of the dish serving mostly the skin and little meat.

Your Beijing trip is not complete if you have not enjoyed an authentic Beijing roast duck dinner in a time-honored brand restaurant. The famous roast duck chains of restaurants are Quanjude (全聚德) and Dadong (大董).

Find where to eat roast duck in Beijing.

8. Discover the Temple of Heaven

The Temple of HeavenThe Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven , the royal altar where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties worshipped heaven, is seen as the most holy of Beijing's imperial temples. It has been described as "a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design".

Temple of Heaven Park is a great place to wander around and see the locals doing morning activities, including practicing tai chi, playing chess, singing, and dancing.

9. Appreciate Beijing Opera Performances at Liyuan Theater

0Beijing Opera

Beijing opera is regarded as Chinese cultural treasure. The make-up, the face masks, the gorgeous costumes, the unique vocal style, and the demanding choreography make Beijing opera a high-class performance entertainment.

The best place to enjoy Beijing opera is Li Yuan Theater.

10. Seeking for Best Souvenir Deals at Antiques Markets

Beijing's outdoor markets sell a great variety of souvenirs and old arts and crafts. They are living museums of folk artwork, old articles for daily use, and antiques (though some of them are fake).

Panjiayuan Antique Market

Panjiayuan Antique Market is the largest antiques market in China, which is known for local specialties, such as cloisonné, ivory carvings, jade pieces, lacquer carvings, antiques, and freshwater pearls. In addition, you can find many kinds of antiques in Xiushui Street and Liulichang Street.

11. Explore the 798 Art District

798 art district798 Art District

If you want to learn about the urban culture of Beijing, don’t miss visiting the 798 Art District. It is a new landmark of Beijing's urban culture. The 798 Art District is located in the northeast part of the city and is named after a factory that was built in the 1950s. Beijing’s 798 Art District is a place where celebrities of art and culture in fashion gather.

Bright pipes, exposed walls, mottled towers, and graffiti can be seen everywhere, as well as gallery theaters, cafés, bakeries, and craft stores. History and reality as well as industry and the arts merge perfectly together there.

12. Enjoy a Kung Fu or Acrobatics Show

Acrobatics ShowYou can spend a night to enjoy an acrobatics show in Beijing.

Watching a kung fu show is an exciting way to spend a night. The Legend of Kung Fu Show is the best one. It is visually stunning with a fast-paced plot and impressive martial art skills. Children might like it.

The acrobatic show in Chaoyang Theatre is a breathtaking routine of flexibility involving ballet, bikes, human strength, jumping hoops, rotating plates, chairs, and umbrellas. The complicated and exciting performances will give you an exciting night.

13. Wander Around Beihai Park and Interact with the Locals

beihai parkBeihai Park

Beihai Park is one of the oldest and most representative imperial gardens in China. Covering an area of 71 hectares, Beihai Park is dotted with pavilions, bridges, and gardens. It offers graceful scenery with flourishing trees and blooming flowers, providing a good place to relax.

Beihai Park is one of the locals’ favorite parks. They often exercise there or take a walk in the park. You can observe the locals’ daily lifestyles and talk with them.

You can visit historical buildings where emperors rested, discussed official business, and held banquets, or you can take a boat ride on the lake.

14. Visit the Lama Temple

The Lama Temple is the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple in Beijing. It is in a typical Chinese temple layout, facing south with five main halls on the axis. It houses three world-record masterpieces: the largest wooden Buddha, the bronze Buddhas of the past, present, and future, and the 500-Arhat-Hill.

It is the most popular place for worshiping in Beijing. You can experience the locals’ favorite place of worship and watch how they burn incense as an offering to Buddha.

sanlitunSanlitun

15. Enjoy the Nightlife in Sanlitun

If you are a nighthawk, Sanlitun is the best place for you to enjoy the nightlife in Beijing. It is the most popular place for foreigners and young Chinese people, lined with countless clubs, bars, and shopping malls. You can relax by dancing in a party bar or finding a quiet bar where you can have a cocktail and listen to music.

16. Admire the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube in Beijing Olympic Park

The Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube are Olympic landmarks in Beijing Olympic Park. They were built in 2008 for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. The Bird’s Nest is the world's largest steel structure and the most complex stadium ever constructed. The Water Cube was built in a unique and inspired design, based on the way soap bubbles come together in a 12 or 14-sided cell structure.

It’s best to visit at night. When night falls, the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube are illuminated in red and blue. These two buildings will be the venues for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

old summer palaceOld Summer Palace

17. Explore the Old Summer Palace

The Old Summer Palace was the resort for emperors in the Qing Dynasty. It was the grandest imperial garden until it was destroyed in 1860 by French and English troops. You will have a different experience when visiting the Old Summer Palace. There used to be thousands of palaces, most of them made of wood. These were burned to the ground and now only European-style stone structures remain.

18. Watch Cute Pandas in Beijing Zoo

Beijing Zoo is the biggest zoo in China. The most eye-catching attraction is, of course, the lovely pandas inside. You will find the Panda House near the zoo’s gate. Walking through the archway of the two-story building, you will find the entrance to the Panda House. Another attraction in the zoo is Beijing Aquarium where you can see varied marine life and enjoy the entertaining marine animal show.

19. Taste Local Beijing Snacks

beijing snacksLocal Beijing snacks

If you like delicious food, you must try the local Beijing snacks when you come to Beijing. Beijing has various snacks, such as fried dough rings, doornail pasties, sugarcoated haws, and 'rolling donkeys'. You can taste these famous Beijing snacks in Nanluoguxiang, Ghost Street, and Wangfujing Snack Street. Some authentic snacks are tucked away in the hutongs — your local guide will take you to explore these hidden delicacies in the hutongs.

20. Visit the Ming Tombs

The Ming Tombs are the imperial cemetery region where the 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty were buried. It has been listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site. You can have an insight into imperial Ming Dynasty life, including seeing stone thrones, huge human and animal sculptures, and other evidence of Chinese culture and traditions when visiting the Ming Tombs.

Discover Authentic Beijing with Local Experts

The Forbidden City Travel with us to discover the authentic Beijing that you can't find by yourself.

Want to discover more hidden gems and explore more authentic experiences in Beijing? Travelling with a local expert opens up so many more possibilities than trying to figure it out for yourself.

Tell us your interests, and one of our specialists will help you to maximize your travel experience by suggesting the optimal trip for the time you have and the things you love to do.

Here are some sample itineraries for your inspiration:

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