Beijing, China’s capital is unquestionably becoming one of the most visited cities in the world. Millions of visitors travel to Beijing each year to see the city’s ever-changing skyline, blending together with the old and new. While Beijing has become more expensive over the years, visitors can still find attractions free to visit.
There are in fact hundreds of tourist locations and historical spots to explore. To gain a perspective of the city and people, a walking tour is highly recommended. Some of the other popular places to visit might require public transportation.
Situated in the heart of Beijing is Tiananmen Square. Comprising around some 109 acres, it is the largest city square in the world. Inside Tiananmen Square, tourists can visit the Monument of the National Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Every day during sunrise and sunset, visitors can watch a ceremony for the raising and lowering of the Chinese national flag.
The Forbidden City
A visit to the Forbidden City is one of the main highlights while in Beijing. The Forbidden City was constructed between 1406 and 1420 and is regarded as one of the five most important palaces in existence. The compound is the largest surviving palace complex in the world, containing over 9,000 rooms, 90 palaces, and courtyards and situated on 178 acres.
There are four gates on each side of the palace, with the main entrance through the Meridian Gate. Standing at each corner of the Forbidden City, are four spectacular watchtowers. Visitors can roam through the palace, view the art and artifacts exhibited, and learn of the many legends surrounding the imperial family and court.
Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is considered the holiest of Beijing’s imperial temples. The temple has been referred to as a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design. It was built during the reign of Emperor Yongle and completed in 1420. The symbolic representation of the Temple of Heaven is the magnificent Hall of Prayer. The famous Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests measures 32 meters in diameter and 38 meters high and was constructed without a single nail.
Within the complex, visitors can roam through an ancient forest made up of 600-year-old cypress trees, with the most famous being the Nine-Dragon Cypress. Situated just north of the Circular Altar, is the Imperial Vault of Heaven, storage for the ceremonial stone tablets. Surrounding the vault, visitors will find the Echo Wall which is 3.72 meters high, 90 centimeters wide and 65.1 meters in diameter. A person can face any point along the wall and communicate with another person on the other side of the wall.
Strolling the Hutong
Narrow alleyways, known as hutongs and courtyard homes, known as si heyuan offer visitors a different view of ordinary city life. It’s not unusual to see residents sitting on a stool outside their home and conversing with their neighbors over a pot of tea. Some of the alleyways feature regular markets, where merchants display the day’s vegetables. As you stroll through them, you get the feeling as though you have stepped back in time. Going on foot is the best way to explore some of Beijing’s most beautiful hutongs.
Alleyways worth navigating through include the trendy Nanluoguxiang, featuring cafes and restaurants. The Houhai and Qianhai lake areas take visitors past lavish houses, trendy cafes and the ancient Bell and Drum Tower. Another area not to be missed is the beautiful tree-lined Guozijian Street. It is here where the imperial college and the Confucius Temple are located.
798 Art District
Beijing’s 798 Art District is situated in Chaoyang District, a flourishing community of about 400 galleries, shops, and restaurants. The art district brings together many cultural and artistic elements in its galleries and appearance of the buildings that allow an abundance of natural light to flood the spaces.
The 798 Art District features a number of art exhibitions daily to promote the idea of contemporary art, and to maintain the purity of art and academics on the basis of collaborating with the artists. The annual Arts Festival at 798 Art District opens at the end of September and runs through mid-October. Featured exhibits include paintings, art, performance art, conceptual design, sculpture, and other visual art displays.