Best Things to See and Do in Beijing: The Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, Fried Starfish and more

Beijing, the magnificent capital of China is set to become the world’s biggest tourism destination. As one of the oldest cities, it exudes rich history and culture. Beijing offers a multitude of experiences throughout the year, from exquisite palaces and temples to picturesque parks and gardens. For first-time visitors, exploring Beijing can be overwhelming. But fret not, we got you covered with a curated list of the best things to do in this extraordinary city!

Best Things to See and Do in Beijing

1. Great Wall of China

One of the seven wonders of the world, the Great Wall of China is a must-visit while you are in Beijing! There are many different sections of the Great Wall that offer different experiences, each with its own unique features. Here is a short list about them:



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One of the most popular sites for international travellers, Mutianyu Great Wall is a great place for your first visit! Mutianyu is the longest and best restored section of the wall, giving a better insight of the scale of the Great Wall. It is a less crowded site compared to other section. The scenery around the Wall is majestic all year long, with cypresses that cover 90% of the area.



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Badaling is the most popular section of the great wall, with the most comprehensive facilities at the Great Wall. There is a circular-screen cinema, museum, shopping, dining facilities and more. There are activities here for people of all ages.

However, some tourists have complained that this section is too crowded. To avoid the crowd, you should avoid major Chinese holidays and visit in the early morning (around 9am). The best times to go is between March-May (spring) and September-November (autumn).



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Huanghuacheng Great Wall is the least crowded section of the three, making it a more personal and private experience! Huanghuacheng is the only lakeside Great Wall in Beijing. This section retains a lot of its original composition when it was first constructed.

2. The Forbidden City


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One of the world’s five major palaces, the Forbidden City is the best-preserved and largest imperial palace complex in the world. China’s most significant ancient architectural complex, with a total area of over 720 thousand square meters, is the number one attraction in Beijing. From the Ming Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty, this city only held royalty, eunuchs, and concubines. Commoners were not allowed in the city and many of the Forbidden City’s inhabitants were not allowed to leave. Hence, the name Forbidden City.


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Important to note: If you want to visit, you will need to go early as there is only a maximum of 80,000 visitors per day!

3. Tian’anmen Square


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Getting to the Forbidden City, you will need to pass through Tian’anmen Square to get to the Meridian Gate (the entrance of the Forbidden City)

Tian’anmen Square is the world’s largest square, used for special occasions like ceremonies, events, and attractions.

On the 1st October 1949, Chairman Mao officially proclaimed the People’s Republic of China from Tian’anmen Rotrum overlooking the square, and thus forward has been the place of celebration every national day! Visit around this time for the beautiful flower display in the square.

4. The Temple of Heaven

Located south of the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven is the largest and most representative existing masterpiece of ancient China’s sacrificial building. The Temple of Heaven is bigger than the Forbidden City itself! Covering an area of 2.7 million square meters, it is almost four times the size of the Forbidden City. The reason for its size is that the Temple of Heaven is meant to be grander than the earthly residences, to reflect the heavens being greater than earthly things. This is one of many more aspects of the complex that shows the respect emperors give to the heavens.

Emperors in the past would visit the temple as the location of prayer and worship for prosperity and a good harvest.

5. Shichahai

Shichahai is best described as a calm oasis, a scenic area 4km from the Forbidden City. It is a well preserved historic and cultural protection zone. Surrounded by the three lakes (Qianhai, Houhai, and Xihai), Shichahai is a scenic area famed for traditional architecture and its deep history.

Shichahai hosts places of historic interest and scenic beauty, and the remnants of old-style Beijing residences, Hutongs (a type of narrow street), and Courtyard. The earliest structures of Shichahai were formed during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1369).

6. Houhai


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Houhai, one of the lakes in Shichahai, was built around 700 years ago as an exclusive retreat for the royal family. Today, it has transformed into a vibrant commercial district with a thriving nightlife scene, featuring a plethora of restaurants, cafes, and bars. The renowned Houhai bar street attracts both local residents and tourists, offering a diverse selection of themed bars, including travelling bars, football bars, jazz bars, and many others.

7. Donghuamen Night Market


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Donghuamen Night Market, located in Beijing, captivates visitors with its array of exotic snacks. From fried insects and snails to skinned turtles and starfish, this night market promises a unique culinary experience. Visit Donghuamen for a glimpse into a world of extraordinary delicacies.


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Even if you are not feeling adventurous to try the snacks, it is still worthwhile checking this place out. However, please be aware that certain stalls prohibit photography, and some might ask you to pay a fee for it.

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