The Great Wall
One of the most instantly recognizable landmarks in the world, the Great Wall is believed to have been built as early as the 7th century BC, although the majority of the existing wall was constructed during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The most famous part was built by Qin Shi Huang (the first emperor of the Qin dynasty) from 220 to 206 BC. The whole wall is 21,196 kilometres, covering the ancient northern borders of China, and it was built to protect the country against invasions from the northern nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe. The most popular sections to visit include Badaling, Jiayu Pass, and Shanhai Pass, but if you want to have some more excitement, the rugged and breathtaking Simatai wall is definitely the section you should see.
Opening hours: 8am-5pm
Simatai Great Wall, Gubeikou Town, Miyun County, Beijing, China, +86 10 8402 3595
Panjiayuan Antique Market
Covering 26,000 square meters, and with around 4,000 shops, Panjiayuan Antique Market is the biggest market in Beijing selling Chinese antiques and art pieces. You will be able to find a wide variety of Chinese antiques, such as jades, paintings, calligraphy and teapots, and it is definitely a good place for you to search for souvenirs that are special and nostalgic. Panjiayuan Antique Market is really a nice fair where you can find everything you want, but, remember to bring enough cash.
Opening hours: 8.30am-6pm daily
798 Art District
Saturated with plentiful art galleries, art centres, as well as cool restaurants and bars, 798 Art District is now the most artistic area in Beijing, representing the best of Chinese contemporary art. The district was originally an industrial area, full of military factory buildings, but after reformation it is now one of the coolest zones, showcasing modernity and the trendiness of Beijing. Moreover, most of the buildings in 798 Art District still retain the unique architectural style of old Chinese factories, thus creating a contrary yet interesting art and culture zone.
798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China, +86 10 5978 9798
Yiheyuan (Summer Palace)
Yiheyuan, the royal garden, was built throughout the course of many dynasties. Its origin can be traced back to 1153CE, during the Jin dynasty, and it was finally finished in around 1764CE. The original name of the garden is Qingyiyuan (Gardens of Clear Ripples) and it was renamed Yiheyuan in 1888, after its reconstruction. It is a huge garden, covering 290 hectares, three quarters of which is water, and it is extremely famous and popular for its architecture and landscaping, brilliantly combining artificial constructions with natural scenery.
Opening hours: 6.30am-6pm daily
Yiheyuan, 19 Xinjiangongmen Road, Haidian District, Beijing, China, +86 10 6288 1144
Wander around the Hutongs
Wandering around hutongs is a good way to appreciate the beauty of old Beijing. Hutongs, narrow alleys, once dominated Beijing, but, because of numerous urban development plans, many of them have been removed, and now only a few remain around the Guloudajie (Drum Tower Street). You can slowly walk around hutongs, which are now saturated with lovely shops, modern restaurants, and traditional single-storey siheyuan (quadrangles), or rent a bicycle to ride along the narrow alleys, appreciating Gulou and Zhonglou (the Drum and Bell Towers).
The Palace Museum
Housed in The Forbidden City, The Palace Museum is a huge museum spreading over 250 acres with around 9,000 rooms. The great palace was built between 1406 and 1420CE and was the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties, exemplifying the ancient Chinese architectural style like symmetry. The palatial building is now used as a museum, and in the museum there are over a million valuable Chinese art pieces, such as paintings, ceramics, jewellery, and jades. It is definitely the best place for you to visit in order to understand the culture of ancient China.
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 8.30am-3.30pm
Wangfujing Snack Street
Want to try some local street snacks? Wangfujing Snack Street is definitely the best place for hunting delicious Beijing street snacks, such as bing tanghulu (candied hawthorn), lvdagunr (glutinous rice rolls with sweet bean flour), aiwowo (glutinous rice ball), and tanghou shao (sweetened baked wheaten cake). The street is extraordinary, bustling with lots of street vendors bawling loudly and cheerily on both sides, so even you do not want to eat too much at night, you can still go there and experience the populous night market culture in Beijing.
Opening hours: 10am-10pm daily
Tian Tan (Temple of Heaven)
Constructed between 1405 and 1420CE, Tian Tan is a complex of palatial temples where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties prayed for good harvests. The three buildings that make up the complex are the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and the Circular Mound Altar, which are all grand and solemn. Tian Tan is worth visiting as it represents the traditional Daoism of China, showcasing the ancient religious culture of the country. Tourists are allowed to go inside the three buildings, where colourful and symbolic décor, which is just amazing, can be found.
Opening hours: 8am-5pm daily
Tian Tan, Tiantan Road, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China, +86 10 6702 8866
Red Gate Gallery
Red Gate Gallery is one of the pioneering galleries in Beijing, striving to promote contemporary Chinese art to the world. They regularly hold exhibitions of mature and emerging artists, introducing their art pieces to the public, as well as helping them to build their careers and popularity. Opened in 1991, Red Gate Gallery always showcases the finest and latest Chinese art, which can catch the attention of both local and foreign artists, continuously bringing everyone the coolest Chinese-style modern creations, and it is probably the best place representing the city’s artistic development.
Opening hours: 9am-5pm daily
Dine in Quan Ju De
Quan Ju De is a famous restaurant, established in 1864, during the Qing dynasty, serving the best Peking roast duck in China. They monitor the breeding method of ducks and the cooking process very carefully so as to guarantee the quality – Quan Ju De only uses heavy young ducks which are less than 100 days old and weigh more than five kilograms. While those fresh ducks will be immediately cooked by hanging them in a big doorless oven, with the wood of fruit tress burning as fuels that adds subtle fruity flavour to the ducks.
Price: fine dining
Opening hours: 11am-8pm daily
Watch out for: the traditionally reared and prepared Peking roast duck
Jing Xin Lian, 30 Qianmen Dajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China, +86 10 6511 2418
By Katherine Lee