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Beijing, the capital of China, boasts a vast array of sights and attractions for the visitor to enjoy. From the famed and iconic Forbidden City to the numerous palaces, temples and parks, there is no end of things to do in Beijing, a city with both a historic past as well as a vibrant present. Here, we’ve selected the top five attractions in Beijing to explore on any China tour, from the obvious to something a little different.
Tiananmen Square is both famous and infamous. Dwarfed by a portrait of Chairman Mao, the square sits in front of the Forbidden City. When considering what to do in Beijing the best place to start is here, surrounded by many of the city’s most famous sights.
- Best time to visit: To appreciate the vastness of the square, visit early in the morning before the crowds gather.
- Location: Located in the heart of Beijing, in front of the Forbidden City.
- How to get there: Numerous bus and metro links converge on Tiananmen Square. Qianmen on subway line 2 is the closest metro station.
- Recommendation: Sensitivities to the past still exist and it is important to show respect and act with decorum in and around the Square, particularly with regards to photography and the display of political slogans.
The remains of China’s most famous revolutionary leader Chairman Mao reside in a low concrete building surrounded by statues of Chinese workers. The long lines of visitors coming to pay their respects and the important legacy which the leader left behind, make this an important site for the interested visitor and certainly one of the more unusual places to visit in Beijing.
- Best time to visit: It is possible to visit the memorial hall at any time of the year but be advised that it can get very busy with long queues. Plan an early morning or late afternoon visit to avoid the crowds.
- Location: Located in Tiananmen Square, in the center of Beijing.
- How to get there: The square is an easy walk from central Beijing, there are numerous bus and metro routes linking the square with the rest of the capital.
- Recommendation: When visiting the Memorial Hall, it is important to dress modestly and act with respect and decorum at all times. Be aware of the places in and around where taking pictures is strictly prohibited.
The workers cultural palace is generally agreed to be a quieter version of its forbidden cousin, with similar architecture and sights a visit here is a good antidote to the crowds swarming around the Forbidden City just a short walk away.
- Best time to visit: Although busy, the palace is never as crowded as the Forbidden City. Visit here at any time of the year, though we would recommend the cooler months of April, May, October and November.
- Location: Located to the northeast of Tiananmen Square, in the center of Beijing and a short walk from the Forbidden Palace.
- How to get there: The closest metro is Tiananmen East station on subway line 1, the palace is easily accessible on foot for those staying centrally.
- Recommendation: Arrive early, as the palace opens from around 7 am and you might want to enjoy it while it is less crowded.
The fifty-four-foot-high statue of the Buddha is the main draw at this picturesque set of temples and pavilions set in beautiful landscaped grounds.
- Best time to visit: The temple is open all year round and is a good option in the winter months or to escape the crowds in the center of the city during summer.
- Location: The temple is in the Dongcheng District of the city to the northeast of the Forbidden City.
- How to get there: You’ll need to take the metro on either subway line 2 or 5 to Yonghegong Lama Temple station.
- Recommendation: This is an active place of worship, be sure to dress modestly and show respect for the religious tradition at all times.
You’ll never get stuck wondering what to do in Beijing, but for something a little different why not visit the Olympic Park? Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympics and the opening ceremony was a remarkable showcase of China’s cultural and historical legacy. It is possible to visit the vast Olympic park and relive some of the memories of these spectacular games.
- Best time to visit: The park is open throughout the year but the main attraction is walking in the landscaped grounds, therefore it is wiser to choose the cooler months of spring or autumn to avoid the extremes of temperature which Beijing is known for.
- Location: The park is located in the Chaoyang District, a few kilometers north of the centre and set within its own park.
- How to get there: The easiest way to travel to the park is by metro, subway line 8 will take you north to Forest Park South Gate station from where you can walk into the park.
- Recommendation: It is possible to pay to go inside certain buildings but simply taking a walk through the grounds will be enough to appreciate the Olympic complex, particularly the architecturally famous ‘Beijing National Stadium’ also known as the Bird’s Nest, known for hosting major events.
China takes immense pride in a wealth of fascinating places to visit and for all the right reasons. While it has its treasures spread all over the country, its capital city is its crown with no shortage. In a country so big, we’ve attempted to help you choose the top five attractions in Beijing, although there are innumerable sights and city tours still waiting to be discovered.
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