7 things to do in Beijing

Don’t let China’s biggest city intimidate you, follow these tips to navigate it like a local

 

 

Welcome to Beijing, the city that reinvented itself in one generation and is still pulsing with future possibilities. Constantly redefining and reinventing itself, Beijing gives you the opportunity to peel back the layers of history of one of the world’s greatest empires and a chance to see China’s haphazard launch into the future.

 

The physical and metaphorical centre of Beijing is the Forbidden City, the vast former complex that once was the humble abode to both the Ming and Qing dynasties, and is now one of the greatest museums in the world. Its series of wooden structures and courtyards full of imperial treasures make for a breath-taking view. To get a birds-eye view, go atop one of the four towers at the corners of the curtain wall where your view extends over the palace and the city outside.

 

 

Whilst you’re in the area, you cannot miss Tiananmen square, where you have the Tianmen tower, Monument to the People’s Heroes, Great Hall of the People and Chariman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall. Marvelling at its empty vastness and the massive painting of Mao and the masses of people queuing up to the Forbidden city is exceptional.

 

After the hustle and bustle of these main tourist attractions you can take a nice stroll (or, to get into the Beijing rhythm of things, cycle) to the Temple of Heaven, which albeit it being another tourist attraction, it is also surrounded by the Heaven park where you can kick back and relax. The temple in itself is the largest and most representative masterpiece among China’s ancient sacrificial buildings, even larger than the Forbidden City because (fun fact) Chinese emperors were impeded from building a residence that was bigger than the earthly residence dedicated to Heaven.

Beijing holds plenty of ancient historical moments that you can go and visit, but a trip to the city would not be complete without including the Great Wall and the Summer palace. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall lies in the mountains north of the city. If you want a more local approach than the common tours that go to Badaling, then get some comfortable gear on and walk to Muitanyu where you will see the extent of the wall zigzagging across the landscape to disappear in the horizon beyond.

Another lovely well-spent day outside the city can be done at the Summer palace, where its luxuriant gardens and pavilions were once playgrounds for the imperial court. The palace is rendered even more magical by the surrounding Kumming lake that covers three-quarters of the grounds and is a popular spot to get some fresh air.

 

If you’re keen on retail therapy, one must-see Hutong is Nanluoguxiang. This is a community of restored traditional homes, which has several kilometres of shops, galleries and cafés that range from the chic to the kitschy. The best option is to rent a bike and get pleasantly lost in the back lanes around the Drum and Bell towers.

 

A great idea to recharge from all these activities is eating some great roast duck, after all what would a trip to Beijing be like without it?! Beijing’s Dadong Roast Duck restaurant is a favourite of Pecking duck aficionados as they are renown for their crispier and less fatty recipes, served with plum sauce, spring onions and pancakes. The perfect end to a busy day of exploring.

 

Image credits: Mondadori Portfolio/Age

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