These are our top 5 picks for sights and attractions in Beijing. Obviously if you have more time, there is plenty more to see and do and we strongly recommend grabbing yourself a copy of the China Lonely Planet at is is a wealth of information.
- Tienanmen Square &
- The Forbidden city:
- Most Beijing attractions have one thing in common, sheer size, and Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City are no exception. So don’t forget to wear your walking shoes and pack snacks.
- Entrance into Tiananmen Square was free (you do have to go through metal detectors, and scan your bags for security). You simply wander around the Square and take pictures of the gate leading towards The Forbidden City. Because both sights are adjacent, we recommend voting them as one.
- Entrance into the Forbidden City cost 60RMB/ AU$12. Once inside the walls there are extra sections that also require an entrance fee (and extra 10RMB/ AU$2 per entrance) We actually found that this was the norm at most majors sights throughout Beijing.
- We spent over 5 hours touring both these attractions opting to skip the audio guide at the Forbidden City and used the very helpful and informative walking guide in the Lonely Planet. Highly recommended if you want to save some cash.
- The Summer Palace:
- As the name suggests, the Summer Palace is best visited in the summer. We were lucky enough, however, to be given a lovely, sunny spring day to wander to palace grounds.
- You can by a single entrance ticket for 30RMB/ AU$6 but then need to pay extra entrance fees once inside, or a combination ticket for 50RMB/AU$10 which covers all extra attractions. We opted for the combination ticket.
- We spent the better half of the day here as the grounds cover over 740 acres, 75% of which is covered by water. You can hop on a boat that takes you from one side to the other and you can even hire little paddle boats to cruise around the lake at your leisure. If you have the time, it is a great place to grab a book, pack a picnic and enjoy the surroundings.
- The Temple of Heaven Park:
- The Temple of Heaven is located within the centre of Beijing, but once inside, you wouldn’t even notice. The sounds of the cars and motorbikes is drowned out by traditional Chinese music, dancing and singing.
- The grounds are once again ENORMOUS and require at least 3 hours to see.
- Entrance fee was 30RMB/ AU$6 for the combination ticket, but you still had to pay for a couple of attractions once inside (each about 10RMB/AU$2)
- Our recommendations would have to be the Circular Mound Alter and the Imperial Vault of Heaven. Like the summer palace, this place it great if you have time to wander around, take in the surroundings, and maybe even join in with the local for a dance.
- The Great Wall:
- The first question when visiting the Great Wall of China is which section of the wall you want to see/climb? After much deliberation we chose Mutianyu, which is the second most popular and restored section.
- Second question you need to ask yourself is – tour or DIY? We chose DIY for two reason: Firstly it was cheaper, and secondly we didn’t like the idea of being given an allocated time frame. We found that most tours also combine other attractions, an this further limits your time spent at the wall.
- To get to Mutianyu you take bus 867 or 916. The taxis can take you to or from either bus stop, but we do recommend 916; the route is shorter and the bus stop is busier (which means more taxi opportunities). Transport systems are constantly changing in china, so be sure to do your research. We found a lot of information on this website at the time of research: http://www.wildgreatwall.com/mutianyu-bus-867-to-visit-great-wall/
- We allocated an entire day to the Great Wall as it takes about a hour to get out there by bus (the bus ride cost us 12RMB/ AU$2.40) and a small taxi ride to the wall entrance gates (10RMB/AU$2).
- Entrance into the Great Wall itself was 45RMB/ AU$9, which included a shuttle bus from the entrance gate to the cable car.
- The cable car fee was 100RMB/ AU$20 for a round trip (which we cannot recommend enough) If you choose not to do take the cable car, prepare yourself for a 1-2 hour hike up the mountain, and thats before you even start walking along the wall.
- On the way down you can take the slide car/toboggan option, in exchange for the cable car.
- When you finally reach the wall you can choose to go left or right, or possible both, depending on how much time you’ve got, how fast you walk, and your tolerance of stairs! We chose left and spent the next three hours slogging it out climbing stair after stair, covering 14 towers.
- Make sure you bring plenty of water and nutritious snacks, but if you forget, there are vendors all the way up the wall ready to sell you anything your heart desires.
- Comfortable clothing and footwear are highly recommended and don’t forget your camera!
- Don’t forget to keep an eye on the time as the last bus back to Beijing leaves at 4pm. Otherwise, it will be a very expensive taxi ride back!
TWO TOP TIPS for the Great Wall of China:
1. Go within 2-3 days of being in Beijing as the pollution and air quality can really take a toll on your body, even in the healthiest of people.
2. Do your research of which section of the wall you want to visit. Take into consideration how you will get there (we found that bus numbers, routes and timetables change quite frequently) and which section of the wall be suits your physical abilities (we did name the Mitanyu section the ‘stair master on crack’)