Beijing is the cultural center of the People´s Republic of China, and it has been its capital for more than 800 years, so it has plenty of beautiful palaces, interesting museums and even one of The Seven Wonders of the World. Besides, it´s a great place to start your trip in China, since it has a mixture of Chinese culture, ethnic groups and cuisine. Beijing also has great options of direct trains to different touristic cities like Shanghai and Xi´an.
These are the 5 most important cultural places to visit in Beijing that you can’t miss out! And remember to save the names with characters, if you get lost, they’ll come in handy.
1. The Summer Palace (颐和园 Yí hé yuán)
The Summer Palace is the second most important palace of Qing Dynasty (清朝) after the Forbidden City. It has several beautiful scenic spots that deserve a visit: Kungming Lake (昆明湖) , the Marble Boat (石舫), the Tower of Buddhist Incense (佛香阁), the 17-arch bridge (十七孔桥) and the 700 meter Long Corridor ( 长廊).
After living in Beijing for almost 5 years, The Summer Palace is definitely my favorite historical site in this amazing city. I visited it over 8 times and each of them surprised me with its 300 hectares full of history.
High Season (From April to October): 6:30-18:00
Low Season (November to March): 7:00- 17:00
Entrance fee: 60 CNY in high season and 50CNY in low season.
2. The Great Wall of China (长城– Cháng chéng)
The Great Wall of China is the most popular historic place in the country. This New Seven Wonder of the World was built in 5 different dynasties, from Zhou Dynasty – 西周 (1046 b.c- 771 b.c) to the Ming Dynasty- 明朝 (1368 D.C- 1644 D.C).
The Great Wall measured up to 21,000 kilometers long and spread over 15 cities such as Beijing, Tianjin and Shandong. Beijing has quite a few scenic spots where you can visit the Great Wall such as: Badaling （八达岭）,Jinshanling（金山岭）, Juyong Guan (居庸关），Mutianyu（慕田峪） and Gubeikou Water Towns（古北口）. However, each place has its own characteristics that make them unique. I’ll write an article comparing each of these areas so you can choose the one that suits your interest more in the near future.
My main recommendation is Mutianyu. This is a less touristic area, therefore, it has fewer tourists and shorter lines. My favorite part of this site is that the entrance fee includes the cable car to climb the Wall and then whizzing down it there is a slide (you can also use the cable car to go down).
Entrance fee: 180 CNY including the cable car and the slide. When I visited this part of the Wall in 2018, they didn’t accept credit card. However, there are a couple of ATM nearby where you can withdraw cash.
3. Forbidden City and Jingshan Park (故宫Gùgōng and 景山公园 Jǐngshān gōngyuán)
The Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, was the home of emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Palace Museum has 980 buildings where you can find a large number of paintings, ceramics, clocks and jade exhibitions. That’s why I recommend you to spend at least half a day visiting this site and learn a little bit more about Chinese history.
Opening hours: *Closed on Mondays*
High Season (From April to October): 8:30-17:00
Low Season (November to March): 8:30- 16:30
Entrance fee: 60 CNY in high season and 40CNY in low season. Don’t forget your Passport! You’ll need it when you buy the ticket.
Across the street from the exit of the Palace Museum, is located the Jingshan Park. From the top of this man-made hill you can find breathtaking views of the Forbidden City.
High Season (From April to October): 6:00-21:00
Low Season (November to March): 6:30- 20:00
Entrance fee: 2 CNY
4. Tiananmen Square and Qianmen Street （天安门 Tiānānmén and 前门 Qiánmén）
Tiananmen Square is one of the largest public square in the world. It’s located just in front of the Forbidden City, so it’s a must-visit before entering the Palace Museum. A unique experience is visiting the Square at sunrise for the flag raising ceremony.
South of Tiananmen Square is Qianmen Street, also known as Zhengyangmen Street. This famous pedestrian Street from the Ming and Qing dynasties has plenty of stores, craftsman workshops and traditional restaurants as the Peking Duck restaurant: Quanjude. You can also find western stores like Zara, Starbucks and the famous Madame Tussauds™ Max Museum.
Tiananmen Square opening hours: 5:00-10:00 pm
5. Temple of Heaven (天坛 Tiān tán)
This sacred temple was built between 1406 and 1420 during the Ming Dynasty and was the place where Chinese emperors thanked heaven for the crops and prayed for future harvests.
One of the best experiences is to arrive early in the morning and watch the locals practice martial arts as Tai Chi and traditional dances.
March to June: 8:00-17:30
July to October: 8:00- 18:00
November to February: 8:00-17:00
The ticket fee varies between 15-35 CNY depending on the places you want to visit.
Which places would you like to visit in Beijing? Did you go to any of these 5 cultural places? Let me know in the comments and I might write more about them in future posts!