Love Beijing: 29 Best Sights
It’s easy to fall in love with Beijing! Learn about popular attractions like the Forbidden City and offbeat places where tourists rarely visit. We share tips on the best times to visit Beijing’s palaces and parks.
We’ll tell you why you should love Beijing! China’s capital is a huge world that contains ancient monuments, beautiful palaces and towering skyscrapers. The city has streets of bustling traffic and quiet corners of beautiful gardens. See the unique sights of Beijing and your heart will melt.
The first place to see in China’s capital city is the enormous historic square. Tiananmen Square sprawls over 400,000 square meters and holds up to 1 million spectators. Such a crowd of people is even difficult to imagine, but that is how many Chinese gather here during parades.
To the west of Tiananmen is the House of People’s Assemblies, the place where the country’s parliament meets. To the east is the National Museum, the tall Monument to the People’s Heroes and Mao Zedong’s mausoleum.
The square is not a modern Beijing landmark. It appeared in the 15th century. Since the Middle Ages, the Main Solar Gate and the Archers’ Tower have stood here. You’re advised to get to the area early before there are too many tourists.
Tiananmen Square. Photo: kitsanchez / unsplash.com.
Gate of Heavenly Serenity
Want to see the landmark in Beijing that is depicted on the emblem of the PRC? The sacred symbol of power is located to the north of Tiananmen Square. The front entrance to the Imperial City was built in 1420. Over 700 years, the sacred gate has been repeatedly destroyed in natural disasters and riots, but each time it has been rebuilt.
Get there early! Every day at sunrise there is a spectacular ceremony at the gate as the military raises the national flag.
Popular excursions in Beijing:
This is the name of the palace complex of the Ming and Qing dynasties who ruled China from 1420 to 1912. The Forbidden City is home to the Gugong Museum, which houses about a million artifacts.
The largest palace on the planet is surrounded by a protective wall. On the way to the Forbidden City, tourists pass through three gates. In the center is the Hall of Supreme Harmony – the Taihedian Pavilion. Admission costs CNY 60 from April to October and CNY 40 from November to March.
Don’t expect to see all the attractions of the Forbidden City in one day! It will take at least a week.
The Forbidden City. Photo: maxvdo / unsplash.com.
The Palace of Prince Gong (Gongwangfu)
Not far from Qianhai Lake is the beautiful palace of Prince Gong. On its scale, Gunwangfu is second only to the Forbidden City. The area of the princely palace occupies 60,000 square meters and is divided into two parts – a park and a residential area. The complex includes a museum and an ancient theater. On the platform, which is decorated with a screen of boxwood, performers of the Beijing Opera and Chinese circus. An entrance ticket to the museum costs CNY 40 and a guided tour costs CNY 70.
Summer Palace (Yheyuan)
In the East, they like to express themselves beautifully, so the Emperor’s summer palace is called the Garden of Peace and Harmony. Iheyuan is nothing like the austere Forbidden City. The ornate buildings and luxurious park are Beijing’s landmarks that set you up for relaxation and contemplation.
Try counting the lion figures on the Shiqiquan Bridge and admiring the Zhihuihei Temple! During high season, admission to the palace costs CNY 30, and a ticket to see all the attractions of the complex is CNY 60.
Summer Palace (Yheyuan). Photo: kitsanchez / unsplash.com.
Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan)
The Emperor’s Old Summer Palace is no less beautiful than the Yiheyuan. Its name means “Gardens of Perfect Clarity” in Chinese. The picturesque stone ruins in the shade of the trees are a reminder of the fleeting time that even the world’s most powerful rulers were unable to cope with.
To learn about the history of the most populous nation on the planet, go to the museum in Tiananmen Square. The National Museum of China has exhibits on display that aren’t found anywhere else in the world.
Look at the sacrificial tripod weighing 800 kg and more than 3 thousand years old. One of the most famous artifacts is the “Jade Prince”, a funerary garment sewn with gold thread from polished pieces of jade. You can see these treasures for free.
Temple of Heaven
The ancient Chinese believed that their emperor was a messenger of heaven, so such power needed a feedback. Every year during the winter solstice, solemn prayers were performed in the majestic Temple of Heaven.
The circular-shaped building resembled a decorative box. The three-tier roof is supported by 28 pillars. In the middle there are four pillars representing the seasons, and around them there are 12 columns which symbolize months. The next row of 12 pillars represents 12 hours.
It costs 30-35 CNY to enter. Come early in the morning and you’ll watch the Chinese do oriental gymnastics in the gorgeous park.
Temple of Heaven. Photo: c_b_a / unsplash.com.
Confucius Temple (Qiufu).
One of the most notable landmarks in downtown Beijing has graced the city since the early 14th century. The picturesque temple is divided into four courtyards and surrounded by 189 stone stelae with quotations from the writings of Confucius. Everything about this place is very philosophical!
Ticket prices vary depending on the time of year – 15-30 CNY. Some Chinese people order ceremonial music for a fee.
Lama Temple (Yongheggun)
The colorful temple in the northern part of the Imperial City represents the most significant milestone in the history of Chinese Buddhism. Yongheggun was built during the reign of Yong Qingwang, who called for harmony and justice.
The main part of the temple, the Hall of Ten Thousand Fortunes, houses a sandalwood statue of the Buddha of the Future over 25 metres high. If you come here, your luck might just explode out of the horn of plenty. Entrance to the Buddhist monastery costs 25 CNY.
Lama Temple. Photo: jsalvino / unsplash.com.
Lugou Bridge (Marco Polo Bridge).
This is one of the oldest landmarks in Beijing. The old bridge over the Yundinghe River has always existed. In 475 BC there was a wooden bridge that connected the two banks of the river at a distance of 16 km from the historical center of Beijing. At the beginning of XII century the bridge was built of stone and made arched. This is how the traveler Marco Polo described it.
Today, the bridge with 500 stone lions is only accessible on foot or by bicycle. In the middle of the bridge is a strip of old masonry, on which you can see the tracks of carts and horses’ hooves. Real seals of the times! There is a fee to enter the bridge, 20 CNY.
Among the main attractions in Beijing is a chain of artificial lakes, which in the XIII-XIV centuries were dug next to the Imperial Palace. These beautiful lakes are still kept in perfect condition.
Houhai Lake is connected by channels to Xihai and Qanhai Lakes. The picturesque shores with weeping willows, restaurants, bars, stores, and souvenir shops on the waterfront attract many tourists. Very cool on the lake in the evening, when the nightclubs open and the air fills with the aromas of different cuisines of the world. Walk through the narrow streets – hutongs, and you can easily feel the spirit of the old city!
An attraction worth seeing in Beijing with children, located at the level of the second ring road. The zoo is home to over seven thousand specimens of different animals – crocodiles, elephants, snub-nosed monkeys, giant salamanders, cranes, rhinos and tigers.
The Beijing Zoo also keeps and breeds the giant pandas, animals that China considers national treasures and gives away on special terms to zoos around the world. There are a lot of people interested in coming here, so plan your visit for a weekday! A full ticket to the Panda House, Zoo and Oceanarium is not cheap at 170 CNY. But kids will be admitted for free!
A bear at the Beijing Zoo. Photo: aervea / unsplash.com.
If you’re interested in the architectural sights of Beijing, don’t miss the unique temple that was built in the city in 996. The first Islamic missionaries came to China in the 7th century. Gradually a Muslim community emerged in the country’s capital.
The Chinese mosque was built according to the national canons. The red-green facades are covered with carvings and the building has a practical tile roof. The interiors are in the strict traditions of Islam. Tourists are only allowed inside on Sundays.
If you dream of seeing the sights of Beijing from a bird’s eye view, take a scenic view of the city from the Beijing Television Tower! You can see the streets and buildings of the capital from a height of 238 meters. If you want to see everything in detail, you can do it with a telescope. A ticket to the TV Tower costs 99 CNY.
At the height of 221 meters there is a restaurant on a rotating platform. The average bill here is quite democratic – 200-300 CNY. Under the tower is an entertainment center “Underwater World of the Pacific”, where you can see the funny penguins, jellyfish and fish. Admission for adults costs CNY 150.
Wangjing SOHO Skyscrapers
The skyscrapers in the Wangjing district are an ultra-modern landmark in Beijing. The pride of Chinese high-tech is three mountains of glass and concrete that rise to a height of 118, 127 and 200 meters. The air conditioning, power and water supply are so good that the Beijing high-rises consume 40% less than skyscrapers elsewhere in the world. Admire the elegant curves of the skyscrapers that look up into the sky!
The Wangjing SOHO skyscrapers. Photo: roadtripwithraj / unsplash.com.
To hear your native tongue and see the descendants of Russian immigrants, head to the colorful Yabaolu Market. Our compatriots settled here at the beginning of the last century. Look closely, haggle, and you will bring down the initial price by 3-4 times. Be aware that the area is not too prosperous – beware of pickpockets!
The five-story shopping complex has quite a modern history. It was built in 1995 to gather all the traders under one roof and free the passage to the Temple of Heaven. Today, the Pearl Market is the most popular place visited by tourists.
On the 1st and 2nd floors, they sell clothes and electronics. The third floor is reserved for pearls, on the 4th floor there are large trading companies, and on the 5th floor there are jewelry stores. Buy a string of real Chinese pearls and you will get a nice bonus – small pearl earrings!
A stall at the market. Photo: eprouzet / unsplash.com.
A paradise for connoisseurs of Chinese antiquities is just south of the Forbidden City. An antique and souvenir market stretches the entire length of the picturesque street. Most of the houses on Lyulichang were built in the 19th century, and their roofs are decorated with gold or red tiles. On the first floors there are several galleries with works of Chinese calligraphers. Don’t want to take your eyes off the camera!
Digital Beijing Building
In direct contrast to the skyscrapers of Wanjing, Digital Beijing is a dark cubic building by Chinese architect Pei Zhu. The angular shapes and gloomy color evoke responses ranging from admiration to total rejection of the project, but no one is indifferent.
We recommend to look at the original building in the evening, when the LED lighting is on. The green lights that crawl across the 13-story facades make them look like a bar code.
Another interesting building is the Headquarters of China Central Television. Photo: whatyouhide / unsplash.com.
Non-trivial attractions in Beijing
Mao Zedong Mausoleum . The Chinese leader is treated ambiguously in the world, but no one can deny Mao Zedong’s role in Chinese history. The line to the mausoleum in Tiananmen Square moves quickly. Admission is free, and you have to pay 15 CNY for the luggage room.
Shishikou Cathedral . Jesuit missionaries came to China in the 16th century. After doctors from Europe cured the Emperor Kangxi, he gave the Jesuits a plot of land and allowed them to build a Catholic church. You will be surprised, but the Gothic cathedral is decorated with Chinese carvings and statues of stone lions.
Botanical Garden . Compared to the main attractions in Beijing, the botanical garden is young. It was founded in 1955. Come here to see the flower-shaped glass greenhouse building and relax in the wonderful park!
Qianmen Street . To see traditional and colonial houses from the 19th and early 20th centuries, walk along the street that runs south from Mao Zedong’s mausoleum. A rarity streetcar runs along it.
Silk Factory . The production, museum and store will interest anyone who wants to learn more about silk production in China.
Happy Valley Amusement Park . Tired of going around Beijing? Take a ride at China’s equivalent of Disneyland.
Jade Island at Beihai Park . The white Buddhist temple on top of the island is a symbol of China’s commitment to Buddhism. It offers wonderful views of the Forbidden City, green parks, and lakes.
Jingshan Park Arbors . Each structure has a poetic name – “Enjoying the Scents”, “Beautiful Views”, “Tower of Hope” and “Contemplating Beauty”. A walk in the beautifully landscaped park will easily make you forget what century it is!
Peace Park . To see sights from around the planet in Beijing, go to the Miniature Park. The 460,000-square-meter area features famous monuments and buildings from various countries. Admission costs CNY 80-100.
Qianmen Street. Photo: zhangkaiyv / unsplash.com.
What to see in Beijing in 1 day
- National Museum of China
- Tiananmen Square
- Forbidden City.
- Beihai Park
- Temple of Heaven
- Yheyuan Palace Complex.
What to see in Beijing in 2 days
To the sights we have written about above, add
- Yuanmingyuan Old Palace.
- Yabaolu Market.
- Lulichan Street.
- Confucius Temple.
- Beijing TV Tower.
The nearest section of the Great Wall of China is 70 km from Beijing, near Badaling railway station. If you want to see the iconic landmark of China by all means, you will have to sacrifice something in the city.
It is recommended to begin the review of Beijing sights with those objects that stand in the city center, because it is better to describe the most interesting places first.
What to see in Beijing is a must – the main sights of the city
China’s Forbidden City is among Beijing’s most popular attractions, and quite possibly the first most visited. At least more than seventy percent of the city’s visitors visit this very place first. Whoever wants to know the reason why the Forbidden City was given such a name, can find an explanation by studying the history of ancient China. The Forbidden City in Beijing was home to the emperor and the most high-ranking nobles. This is where the name of the place comes from.
Directions: Tian’anmen West Station (Line 1).
Opening hours and ticket prices: from mid-spring to mid-autumn from eight thirty to seventeen zero zero (60 yuan), and closes one hour earlier in other months, (forty yuan).
China’s Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square, which is very close to the Forbidden City, is a very widely known Beijing landmark. This large and crowded square is visited by thousands of visitors each year. Everyone who walks here needs constant vigilance, which can save from the tricks of crooks. From time to time something like this happens: an unsuspecting visitor of the city is approached by an unknown person, says he is a Beijinger, asking for practice in English. The would-be victim sees no reason to refuse, a light and easy dialogue on extraneous topics follows, and then the victim is offered to drink tea in a tea shop. But eventually, the victim ends up in the company of the “buddy’s” accomplices, and they hand her a check that she owes them a very large sum. A precautionary measure for getting into such a bind: pay no attention to those around you, get up, and leave.
Getting to the plaza: Take the subway to either Qianmen Station (Line 2) or, as another option, Tian’anmen East Station on Line 1.
National Museum of China
This is the acknowledged world record holder in terms of popularity among museums. Its pluses are the colossal exposition and well chosen location on the east side of Tian’anmen Square. Here you can get a good insight into Chinese history.
Getting to the museum: Take the subway to Tian’anmen East on line 1.
Opening hours: The museum is closed on Mondays, but on other days it’s open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The cashier’s office is open until 5 p.m. Box offices are open until 4:30 p.m.
Ticket prices: There is no charge.
A rather unconventional tourist site in China’s capital, as if specially created for anyone who is fond of various antiques and hiking. This street does not offer for sale the usual dreary souvenirs, no, here you can buy more interesting items that are really worth spending money on.
Getting there: Take the subway to Hepingmen (Line 2). Then walk from the subway, and a map of local attractions will show the way. The journey will take less than half an hour.
For valuable souvenirs in China’s capital, you can go not only to Lulichang Street, but also to the Panjiayuan antique market. The street and the market are separated by quite a long distance. But when has this kind of nonsense ever stopped real connoisseurs of antiques? That’s right, never. It sells rare and ancient objects made by the craftsmen of China.
To get to the market: Metro Station Panjiayuan (Line 10).
From 8 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends it is open from 4:30 a.m. on weekends.
Temple of Heaven
Tourists who have visited Beijing agree on one thing: the Temple of Heaven is among the most interesting and popular local attractions. Erected in the fifteenth century, it has a number of individual memorable halls. Those who are having difficulty choosing which attraction to look at are likely to be quite interested here.
Getting to the building: You can take the metro to Tiantan East Gate (Line 5).
Opening hours: The interior is open seven days a week from eight in the morning to eight in the evening. Park hours: 6 am to 10 pm.
Ticket prices: 35 yuan to visit the halls and fifteen yuan to enter the park.
This tourist attraction in China’s capital is also located in the central district of the city. It has a luxurious palace with a large park attached to it. Gongwangfu is referred to by earlier visitors as one of the most beautiful places in the city.
Getting there: Take the Beihai North Subway Station (Line 6).
Visiting hours are from 8:30 am to 11:17 pm.
Cost to visit: 40 RMB.
A Ming dynasty heritage building, this ancient building is sure to appeal to devotees of prayer sites and temples in China, as well as those interested in Chinese philosophy.
Getting to the building: Go to Lama Temple Station (intersection of subway lines 2 and 5).
Opening hours: Open at 9:30 a.m., from May to the first half of November until 6 p.m., and from the second half of November through April inclusive, until 5 p.m.
How much to pay to get a ticket: thirty yuan.
A large number of visitors to the city have visited Yunhegung Temple, and according to each of them, the time and money were not wasted – everyone finds the building beautiful. Another good thing about it is its proximity to two other places of interest. These are the Confucius Temple as well as the Imperial Academy, so it makes sense to visit two or three buildings at once.
Getting to the building: Go to Lama Temple Station (intersection of subway lines 2 and 5).
Opening hours: always opens at 9 am, closes from late fall to early spring inclusive at 4 pm, from April to October half an hour later.
Ticket price: twenty-five yuan.
Yheyuan Summer Imperial Palace
At some distance from the center of this city are two other local landmarks. One of them is Iheyuan, the palace of the Emperor of China. In this Chinese building, which has stunning architecture, you can admire a beautiful lake and a park. According to people who have been there, there is a lot to see in the imperial palace.
Location: take the subway to Beigongmen Station (Line 4, Exit D).
Opening hours: from April to mid-November from 8.30 to 17.00 pm, from mid-November to March inclusively from 9 to 16.00 pm.
Ticket price: 20 yuan.
The ruins of Yuanmingyuan Palace
Once upon a time there was a summer palace here. The palace is now reduced to ruins which, however, still show how great a country China used to be. Despite this, the palace, as well as the park attached to it, are quite an interesting attraction, which can be visited almost simultaneously. Both palaces, the old and the new, stand almost right next to each other.
Location: Yuanmingyuan Park (line 4 of Beijing subway).
Opening hours: from April to mid-November from 7 am to 7 pm, and from mid-November to March inclusive, from 8 am to 7:30 pm.
Entry fee: 25 yuan.
Zoo in Beijing
The Chinese capital is home not only to historical attractions, but to modern ones as well. Here’s a good example: the city has a pretty decent zoo. The main attraction of Beijing Zoo are, of course, clumsy pandas. However, you can also find other interesting animal species here, such as the endangered Amur tigers, which will soon be able to replace the pandas on the emblem of the Wildlife Foundation.
Getting there: Take Beijing Zoo subway station (Line 4).
Opening hours: The zoo is open from 7:00 am and it closes at 6:00 pm from April to October and 5:00 pm from late fall to early spring.
Entry fee: fifteen yuan.
Beijing Water Cube Water Park
Another Beijing locale well suited for a family vacation. According to people who visited it, this water park is no worse than similar places in other Asian capitals.
Getting there: Take the Metro to the Olympic Sports Center (Line 8).
Working hours: You can visit the water park every day, from ten in the morning until nine in the evening.
Ticket prices: for an adult visitor the entrance costs two hundred and sixty yuan, and for a child two hundred and twenty yuan.
Purple Bamboo Park
Anyone in the vicinity of the local zoo can enjoy the comforts of a nearby park.
Getting there: Take the Metro National Library (intersection of lines 4 and 9).
Open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Ticket prices: free entrance.
Beijing TV Tower
For those who want to see the city from a great height there is the Beijing Television Tower with a great observation platform.
Location: Gongzhufen subway station (intersection of lines 1 and 10).
Opening hours: 8:30 am to 10 pm.
Ticket price: 70 yuan.
The Great Wall of China, Badaling Section
The Great Wall of China is probably the most important attraction in the country and close to the capital is Badaling, the most visited section of the wall as it offers a panorama of the city and its surroundings. It is located 75 km from the city and is always crowded with foreigners and Chinese alike.
How to get there: go to the train station near Xizhimen Station (intersection of subway lines 2 and 4), from there take the train to Badalin itself for six yuan.
Opening hours: April through October from 7:30 am to 9:30 pm, late fall to early spring 7:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Entry fee: forty yuan.
Beijing Yabaolu Market
Shopaholics will have a blast here! There are tons of shopping malls where Europeans can find what they’re looking for. Probably the only place in the whole city where most of the sellers know Russian. The choice of goods is huge – there are sold … probably easier to make a list of what’s not here than a list of goods for sale. And in the assortment here is the most clothing, moreover, for the large Europeans.
Location of this paradise for shopaholics: Metro station Jianguomen (intersection of lines 1 and 2).
Beijing sights on a map
You can see the location of Beijing’s sights on the city’s tourist maps below: