For centuries, Beijing has been the heart of China. Home to world famous historic and cultural attractions, the capital city now attracts millions of visitors each year. Whether you are staying within the city or taking a tour that goes farther afield, it is easy to become overwhelmed by its density and scope – having an idea of the key attractions beforehand is a way to ensure you get the most out of your stay and your tour.
In a city full of links to the past, Beijing’s most prominent historical landmark is the Forbidden City: a sprawling imperial palace comprising 980 buildings. Home of no less than 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties, the 15th century complex is the best preserved palace in China – and recognized as the largest ancient palatial structure in the world. Tours let visitors stroll the same corridors as China’s past emperors, taking in breathtaking ceremonial courts and living quarters, intricately preserved with authentic period decor.
A short walk from the Forbidden City is Tiananmen Square, seen by many as a symbol of China’s transition into the modern era. Throughout history, emperors used the square to access the Forbidden City and it is the location of several important buildings, including the National Museum of China and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.
As a modern contrast to the city’s imposing architecture and history, Beijing Zoo attracts locals and tourists alike. As you might expect, the zoo’s main draw is the chance to see its Giant Panda exhibition. Beijing Zoo oversaw the first birth of a giant panda in captivity in 1963 – and has maintained its programme ever since. The zoo contains many species from across China and the world – including the Golden Monkey, the Manchurian Tiger and a collection of enormous sea turtles.
Giant Panda Exhibition
Beyond Beijing – and only a short drive north – stands the Great Wall of China. At 13,170 miles long, the Wall is a powerful national symbol – originally built to repel 14th century Mongol invaders, today it represents unification and the peoples’ ability to work together. Some sections of the Wall are preserved in their original, 400 year old condition, while some have been carefully restored, allowing visitors to hike their length and gaze out onto beautiful scenery. The Badaling section, closest to Beijing, is the best-preserved portion of the Wall – popular with visiting foreign leaders and VIPs.
The Great Wall Of China
Snapshots only scratch the surface of the experiences available in Beijing. From the traditional, maze-like Hutong residences and the tranquil Beihai Park – to the stunning Temple of Heaven and the extravagant Beijing Opera, there is more to see and do in the city than could ever fit into a single trip. Diverse, colourful and compelling, Beijing offers travellers a journey through history – or an exciting stop on a wider adventure across China.
Have you ever been to Beijing? If so we would love you to share your experience with us in the comments below.