One of the world’s most visited cities, Beijing is a fascinating blend of old and new. No matter when you visit, there is always something to do, and Beijing has plenty of attractions to appeal to everyone.
The Forbidden City is probably the attraction that most people think of when they think of Beijing. This fabulous Palace once contained over 9000 rooms and spread across a massive 250 acres of land. It was built around 1415 originally, but was burnt down, rebuilt and renovated countless times so much of the architecture today is from later periods. Do wear comfy shoes when you visit though as there’s a lot of walking involved. Across from the east gate, you’ll find the boutique Emperor Hotel. You may not be staying here, but it’s still worth visiting towards the end of the day after your visit to the Palace museum as it has a roof top bar ‘Yin’ which is built on ascending platforms and has a fantastic view out over the palace. Do avoid the house cocktails though as they’re usually made with rice liquor ‘baijiu’ which is notoriously potent!
Tiananmen Square is right in the heart of the city of Beijing. It’s long been the site for parades and rallies and it was here in 1949 that Chairman Mao proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. To the east side is the National Museum of China where you can see many exhibits that explain the history of china, and to the south of the square lies the monument to the People’s Heroes and also Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum. If you visit at sunrise or sunset you can see the raising or lowering of the Chinese national flag with its Chinese equivalent to our changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
The Temple of Heaven is located in South Beijing and is considered as one of the most holy places in the country. There are altars here to heaven, earth, the sun, the moon and various deities and other forces of nature. In the morning many groups practice kung fu here in front of the temple and the Chinese Cyprus trees, Chinese Juniper and Scholar trees here are beautiful to look at. Some of the Cyprus trees are over 600 years old.
Leaving the city itself you can visit other places locally – the two best known are of course the Great Wall of China, and the Ming tombs. The Ming tombs are about 50 kilometres northwest of Beijing and are the burial site of 13 out of 17 of the Ming Dynasty Emperors. There are two tombs which have been excavated and are open to the public, and both are fascinating however Dingling offers quite a steep climb and isn’t suitable for wheelchair users, where as Changling Tomb is. The Great Wall of China snakes across Beijing to the North, and the sections here are quite well preserved. Be advised that you are best to wear good sturdy footwear for visiting here, and that sun block/lotion, sunglasses and water should be carried during the summer when it gets very hot here.