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Beijing Travel Guide: The Top 10 Places to Visit

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As a country with thousands of years of history, China has become a treasureland for many travelers. But because China is such a majestically huge place, where should you start? The answer is definitely Beijing, the nation’s capital and one of its greatest cities.

From famous historical sites that can tell you stories from thousands of years ago to modern marvels that showcase how much Beijing has developed over time, our Beijing travel guide will cover the most exciting places to visit in Beijing. Each of the places on our list will give you a glimpse of Beijing’s beauty and show you what one of the busiest cities in the world has to offer!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Chinese Table of Contents
  1. Before You Go
  2. Must-See Places for a 1-3 Day Trip
  3. Highly Recommended Places for a 4-7 Day Trip (or Longer)
  4. Survival Chinese Phrases for Travelers
  5. Conclusion

1. Before You Go

A Map with China Magnified Under a Magnifying Glass

Make Beijing your very first destination in China!

A Brief Overview

Beijing: the old yet charming capital city of China that attracts an abundance of tourists every year. Beijing also has the second-largest population of any city in China. As such, it’s always full of life and people are constantly bustling to and from the small hutongs and streets. Beijing has become one of the best-developed cities in China both economically and culturally, and this prosperity will only continue to grow.

When to Visit and What to Bring

The best time to visit Beijing weather-wise would be during the fall (September-November) or spring (March-May). Summer and winter weather in Beijing can be extreme, with hot temperatures and high humidity in the summer and ice or heavy rain during the winter. If you’re not used to such extreme weather, make sure to bring lots of warm clothes for the winter and sunscreen for the summer, as well as an umbrella and bug spray. Lastly, remember to bring some toilet paper with you, because public restrooms in China rarely provide this amenity.

Transportation

Due to the huge population of Beijing, your best option may be to take a bus or subway. If you rent a car, the traffic will probably torment you, especially considering the different complicated driving rules. Most importantly, if you plan to stay in Beijing for a while, be sure to create a Wechat account and put some money into the Wallet on Wechat. This will be incredibly convenient for you because so many people in China are using their QR code on Wechat to pay for everything, including to rent public bikes and pay for taxis.

Average Cost of Food and Lodging

A common concern among travelers is how expensive their upcoming trip will be. To give you an idea:

A standard hotel room with decent furniture will cost only around 180-250 yuan. 

Dining can be even cheaper depending on what you want to eat. Generally speaking, 100 yuan can easily provide a decent meal for a single person in a restaurant; if you’re sharing dishes as a party, you could spend even less while having a variety of dishes to consume. But don’t be discouraged if you’re traveling by yourself—how about enjoying some simple but delicious street food? Or a bowl of beef soup noodles from a small restaurant in a hutong? It will probably cost less than 30 yuan, and you’ll be surprised at how delicious the homemade-style of the dish is!

2. Must-See Places for a 1-3 Day Trip

Beijing is a huge city with tons of things to see and do, but you can still enjoy yourself during a shorter one-to-three day visit. Here are some of the top attractions in Beijing you need to see if you’ll be here for a very limited time. 

The Great Wall – 长城 (cháng chéng)

The Great Wall is one of the most iconic symbols of China. Want to know why it’s so significant and has such a majestic name? Because it was used in the past to protect the territories of Chinese states as well as the empires. The frontier walls were built throughout different dynasties, which makes the Great Wall a collective effort on the part of many generations and the result of many people’s blood, sweat, and tears. Today, Chinese people often appreciate the majestic Great Wall by exercising on it and challenging themselves to walk the entire road (which is 13,171 miles long!). 

Forbidden City – 故宫 (gù gōng)

If you’re familiar with Chinese culture and history, you’ve probably heard of the famous Forbidden City, an old Chinese imperial palace that was in use from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty. Now, are you wondering how Chinese emperors used to live? The Forbidden City will answer all your questions! During your trip to the Forbidden City, don’t forget to get a tour guide (for around 20 yuan) to tell you the wonderful historical stories along the way.

Temple of Heaven – 天坛 (tiān tán)

The Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China

The heavenly creature is waving at you and welcoming you to visit it!

If you’re a fan of Chinese history, the Temple of Heaven is another gem you’ll love to embrace. The Temple of Heaven consists of religious buildings that were used to administer heavenly activities for the emperors, who were regarded as the Son of Heaven. Important ceremonies were often conducted here, so be prepared to show some respect while walking through the buildings. For instance, emperors used to come here in order to worship the Chinese God and ask for the safety and prosperity of their citizens. 

Highlights of the Temple of Heaven include: 

  • 祈年殿 (qí nián diàn) – The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests 
  • 皇穹宇 (huáng qióng yǔ) – The Imperial Vault of Heaven 
  • 圜丘坛 (huán qiū tán) – The Circular Mound Altar 

Tiananmen Square – 天安门广场 (tiān ān mén guǎng chǎng)

Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China

I bet you can’t wait to sightsee all the gems in Beijing.

Tiananmen Square is a place of great significance, having witnessed the moment when Mao Zedong proclaimed that the People’s Republic of China was thereby established. It’s located near the Forbidden City, but they were separated. This is a budget-friendly place to visit and is not to be missed if you’re in the area. Local Chinese people have great respect for it due to its historical and cultural importance. 

Here, you’ll be able to see several incredible sights:

Today, many locals like to just take a walk here or fly a kite to embrace this historical gem.

Summer Palace – 颐和园 (yí hé yuán)

The Summer Palace in Beijing, China

Go experience the traditional Chinese culture inside the stunning Summer Palace!

The Summer Palace, which once served as a Qing dynasty imperial garden, is today a beautiful and vast collection of gardens, bridges, palaces, and lakes. The place was honorably included on the World Heritage List by UNESCO as the aesthetic epitome of Ancient Chinese architecture. In a nutshell, the Summer Palace is truly an art piece that has been carefully protected throughout the years. Stop hesitating, and go view its beauty before it’s too late!

While you’re there, be sure to stop by its major sights. We recommend: 

  • 万寿山 (Wàn shòu Shān) – Longevity Hill 
  • 昆明湖 (kūn míng ) – Kunming Lake 

3. Highly Recommended Places for a 4-7 Day Trip (or Longer)

Are you planning a longer trip? Great! That will give you much more time to experience Beijing. Here are our recommendations for what to visit in Beijing, China during a longer stay.  Wangfujing Street – 王府井 (wáng fǔ jǐng)

An Asian Man Shopping for Clothes

If you want, go to Wangfujing and let your wallet release a little pressure this one time!

Wangfujing is a popular shopping street in Beijing located in Dongcheng District. It serves up to 280 shops, and this area has been active and prosperous ever since the Ming dynasty. The highlights of the Wangfujing malls include:

  • APM购物中心 (gòu wù zhōng xīn) – Beijing APM 
  • 北京百货大楼 (běi jīng bǎi huò dà lóu) – Beijing Department Store 
  • 东方广场 (dōng fāng guǎng chǎng) – Malls at Oriental Plaza 

There’s also a Wangfujing snack street called 王府井小吃街 (wáng fǔ jǐng xiǎo chī jiē) where you can enjoy a variety of small local Chinese meals and spend some time in the bars.

Xidan – 西单 (xī dān)

Xidan is a commercial district that has almost anything you could think of for modern entertainment. Two popular locations include: 

  • 西单大悦城 (xī dān dà yuè chéng) – Xidan Mall
  • 西单图书大厦 (xī dān tú shū dà shà) – Beijing Book Building

Together, these fun locations host a range of entertainment options, including movie theaters, all kinds of restaurants and stores, escape rooms, and arcades. You can also find snack streets, Karaoke bars, and salons in the area! 

You’ll see people bustling everywhere in Xidan and you won’t believe how alive the whole area feels. If you wanted to, you could probably spend a whole day in the Xidan Mall, which has more than ten floors. The cost of shopping in the Xidan area is also cheaper than that of shopping in Wangfujing.

798 Art Zone – 798艺术区 (qī jiǔ bā yì shù qū)

The 798 Art Zone is a unique gem in Beijing, created by transforming old military factories into the fine piece of art it is today. It boasts a wide spectrum of contemporary art galleries such as the 798 Photo Gallery and Ullens Center. 

If you’re an artist, you’ll be lingering here for hours, stunned by the different Chinese art styles—whether it be quirky, fashionable, or spontaneous, there’s going to be a style that resonates with you. Even if you’re not an artist, you can view this location as being a nice photogenic spot for you to create memories of your time spent in Beijing. 

National Stadium – 鸟巢 (niǎo cháo)

Due to the unique design of its architecture, the National Stadium in Beijing is called the “bird’s nest” in direct translation, and it can hold up to 91,000 people. If you happen to be a fan of a Chinese singer or sports player, there’s a good chance that their concerts or matches will be held here. It’s just such a marvelous place to enjoy fancy events like that. 

Nanluoguxiang – 南锣鼓巷 (nán luó gǔ xiàng)

Nanluoguxiang is a narrow alley that consists of many 胡同 (hú tóng), which are traditional small and narrow alleys. The entire alley extends all the way from East Gulou Street in the north to Di’anmen East Street in the south of Beijing, and is about 800m long—a nice bit of exercise if you could walk the entire thing! If you ask any Beijing local, you’ll find that 胡同 is one of the most iconic things in Beijing. 

You can find many old-fashioned stores alongside some newly emerging ones, selling goods and snacks at an affordable price. If you’re thinking about buying a souvenir, this will be the perfect shopping destination. 

Beijing Zoo – 北京动物园 (Běi jīng dòng wù yuán)

The Beijing Zoo, the oldest zoo in China, is located in the suburban area of Beijing and was founded during the late Qing dynasty. It’s home to up to 450 species of land animals and more than 500 species of marine animals. The zoo serves as a beautiful escape from Beijing locals’ busy modern life, featuring an incredible natural landscape with flowers and rivers and serving as a home to up to 14,500 animals. Last but not least, you know that you’ll get to see the treasure of China here: the Chinese pandas!

4. Survival Chinese Phrases for Travelers 

While you can find English speakers in the most touristic areas of Beijing, it’s always a good idea to pick up some Chinese travel phrases to use in a pinch. Here are ten of the most useful phrases you should learn:

1.

In Chinese: 你好。
Pinyin: Nǐ hǎo. 
In English: “Hello.”

2. 

In Chinese: 谢谢。
Pinyin: Xiè xie. 
In English: “Thank you.”

3. 

In Chinese: 再见。
Pinyin: Zài jiàn.
In English: “Goodbye.”

4. 

In Chinese: 抱歉。
Pinyin: Bào qiàn.
In English: “Sorry.”

5. 

In Chinese: 太好了。
Pinyin: Tài hǎo le. 
In English: “It’s good.”

6.  

In Chinese: 我不太懂你的意思。
Pinyin: Wǒ bú tài dǒng nǐ de yì si.
In English: “I don’t understand you.”

(Used to tell locals you don’t speak the language

7. 

In Chinese: 请问厕所在哪里?
Pinyin: Qǐng wèn cè suǒ zài nǎ lǐ.
In English: “Where is the restroom?”

8. 

In Chinese: 这个多少钱?
Pinyin: Zhè gè duō shǎo qián? 
In English: “How much is this?”

9. 

In Chinese: 我想要这个。
Pinyin: Wǒ xiǎng yào zhè gè. 
In English: “I want this.”

(Used to tell locals you don’t speak the language

10.  

In Chinese: 求助! 
Pinyin: Qiú zhù!
In English: “Help!”

Conclusion

After reading our Beijing travel guide, are you ready to embark on your Beijing adventure? Traveling is a great way to learn about and experience different cultures and lifestyles, and your visit to Beijing will also give you a deeper understanding of the language. What better way to learn a language than through firsthand experience with native speakers? 

Let your adventure begin with ChineseClass101.com! Learning Chinese is a fun and magical experience in itself; when you study with us, it takes that experience and amplifies it! Not sure where to start? If you’re a passionate traveler, then you’ll definitely be pleased to learn about the beauty of other stunning cities in China, many of which we talk about in our lessons. 

Happy learning and safe travels!

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