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Monkey King | © Jonathan Kos-Read / Flickr
Monkey King | © Jonathan Kos-Read / Flickr

The Ultimate Beijing Bucket List

Picture of Julianna Tetreault
Contributer
Updated: 5 December 2017

Beijing is a city where new and old coexist in perfect harmony, creating a place unlike any other. Due to its rich history and increasingly modern amenities, Beijing continues to appeal as a fascinating tourist destination. With numerous things to see and do, it only makes sense to have a separate to-do list of adventures to pursue while traveling here. To start you on your trip of a lifetime, here is the ultimate Beijing bucket list.

Visit all eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Being home to eight distinguished UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Beijing is undeniably a sprawling piece of living history. To experience all of the major historical landmarks is to experience something that most others will never get to check off their bucket lists, so here is where to start… Located in the center of Beijing are the Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, including the Forbidden City and Mukden Palace, in all of its glory. Both Ming Dynasty and Eastern Qing Dynasty tombs can be visited in the same trip, due to their close proximity to the other UNESCO sites. These landmarks are some of the most visited of the eight, and are also still some of the most culturally important.

Completed in 1737, the Western Qing tombs lie in the southwestern part of Beijing, and are another highly important burial and World Heritage Site. Buried here are 78 members of the Qing Dynasty including four emperors, and their immediate families. The Western Qing tombs are lesser known to tourists, making it a more private site to experience.

The Peking Man site is an excavation site of ancient human remains dating back to over 750,000 years. The many bones that were found aided palaeontologists significantly in understanding human evolution.

Comprised of dazzling blue lakes, enchanting gardens, and ancient palaces, the Summer Palace was an imperial garden during the Qing Dynasty that was added to the World Heritage list in 1998. This site can be gazed at in awe by both boat and on foot, and is one of the more popular tourist attractions in Beijing.

Standing tall in central Beijing is the Temple of Heaven. This site is a sprawling, and mostly green, imperial complex comprised of religious buildings – the Temple of Heaven, Earth, Sun, and Moon. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the Temple of Heaven was used as a place of worship, celebration and sacrifice.

When it comes to the Great Wall of China…

Stretching 13, 171 miles long, the Great Wall of China is the most well-known site on the World Heritage list. This massive fortification stone wall was constructed as early as 7th century BC, and still stands today. 356 miles of the Great Wall can be accessed in Beijing, making it a must for anyone looking to check off a major bucket list site.

Hiking the Great Wall is one thing, but hiking the untouched parts of the wall is another. With a more rigorous terrain, off-roading like this can be daunting and dangerous, but for more adventurous and advanced hikers, it can be a once-in-a-lifetime climb.

Perhaps you wish you could climb more of the Great Wall, but you’re just too tired? Do not fret! Climbers can opt to camp on the wall, allowing them time to rest and prepare themselves for longer hikes. Camping on the Great Wall is a great way to truly immerse yourself in Chinese history and get a feel for what it must have been like hiking day in and day out in its heyday.

But if hiking the Great Wall is a step too far for you, then this next adventure may go unchecked on your bucket list; for those adventure-seekers who are up for a challenge, running the Great Wall of China is the ultimate experience. With only hundreds of participants, this race is intimate, and varies in length – runners can choose to run 5.5 miles or a half or full marathon. The Great Wall Race takes place in May each year, so if you’re interested, get your sneakers ready and get training!

Calling all certified divers! For another unique bucket list check, why not dive the Great Wall? What many people don’t realize is that there is a chunk of the wall that has been submerged underwater since the construction of a nearby dam in 1977.  This submersion now allows divers to get up close and personal with the sunken stone. Incredible architecture and aquatic life that has gone unseen by many can now be spotted during the dive, making this a unique experience.

Hiking, camping, running and diving… what else could you possibly do on the Great Wall of China? How about tobogganing? A more family-friendly, but still thrill-seeking adventure, tobogganing down the Great Wall is a unique way to experience the wall. The trip down is exhilarating and the views, breathtaking; making the slide down will check off something you never knew you even had on your bucket list in the first place!

And now that we’re on the subject of climbing…

Jingshan Park is located directly north of the Forbidden City, and is 57 acres of history and urban park. The park’s artificial hill and pavilions were constructed during the Ming Dynasty and now serve as a point to overlook Beijing’s city center. From the peak of the hill, climbers can look out over the Forbidden City and gaze towards Beijing’s urban skyline. For a relaxing walk through history and another check off of your bucket list, climbing to the peak of Jingshan Park is compulsory!

Jingshan Park, Beijing, China

See Beijing’s most beloved opera

Peking Opera is highly valued in Chinese culture. Dating back to the Qing Dynasty, Peking Opera is a portrayal of Chinese history and folklore that has survived the test of time. The opera is comprised of traditional music and makeup, vibrantly colored costumes, and tales that reflect the history of China. Peking Opera is regarded as an important visualization of the past, and a very important part of Beijing, making it essential to any bucket list.

Celebrate Chinese festivals in Beijing

Nothing says “ultimate” more than celebrating major Chinese holidays in China’s capital city. When it comes to festivals, China has a ton of them, and what better place to celebrate than in Beijing? Where traditions run deep, and celebrations are engrained in culture, Beijing is the place to get your party on during the following holidays:

Celebrating Chinese New Year in Beijing is a mustTraditionally, Chinese New Year was used as a time to honor ancestors, but as time has passed, it has transformed into a celebration of life; family and friends gather for a reunion dinner to wish for good health, a long life, happiness, and prosperity. Chinese New Year holds huge cultural significance, and experiencing it firsthand should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Although the Spring Festival is an extension of the New Year, celebrating it in Beijing is a surreal experience. With thousands of people celebrating in the one city, it can get chaotic. The celebration lasts an impressive 15 days, and during this time, there are numerous festivities going on. For a complete cultural immersion, and an experience unlike any other, add celebrating Spring Festival in Beijing to your bucket list with the intent of checking it off!

With spring aside, the Mid-Autumn Festival, otherwise known as the Harvest Moon Festival, is another great holiday to add to your Beijing bucket list! The holiday celebrates the harvest during Fall with the gathering of friends and family to give thanks and pray. During this time, unhealthy amounts of mooncakes are consumed, and Chinese culture is celebrated throughout the city, making for a relaxing, but still festive time to experience Beijing.

Experience Beijing’s drinking culture

There is no better way to end an eventful excursion filled with bucket list checks and adventure than by participating in some Sanlitun debauchery. This urban drinking oasis located in Beijing’s Chaoyang District is filled with bars and late night eats perfect for ending a long day.

Beijing’s bars can be broken down into four major categories: karaoke, high-end establishments, one-off boutique bars, and clubs. With China’s drinking culture being as predominant as it is, drinking in Sanlitun is the real deal. With a bar for everyone (even the non-drinkers), experiencing this bar-filled sub-district is key to experiencing Beijing!

Sanlitun, Beijing, China