For Ming dynasty emperors—who presided over the creation of masterworks like the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, and the later stages of the Great Wall of China—Beijing was nothing less than the center of the universe. There are a million reasons to visit Beijing today. It is the nation’s cultural and political center (for about eight centuries), and the second largest city in China. It has both modern marvels and famous temples and gardens woven through the buzzing metropolis. It can be somewhat more relaxed than Shanghai or Hong Kong, but equally as packed with people. The best ways to get around are the cabs or the subway, but renting a bike is also a good idea to see as much of the amazing city as possible. Beijing is a massive city, with sites spread far and wide. Travel + Leisure’s Beijing travel guide will help you pinpoint your places of interest.
Things Not to Miss in Beijing
• The Silk Market
• The Forbidden City
• Temple of Heaven
• Tiananmen Square
• Summer Palace
• 798 Art District
• Hutong, or the alleyways that define the city
• The Great Wall
When To Go to Beijing
Beijing travel is best during the autumn months, from September to November. The weather is nice, and there are fewer tourists. Beijing has very icy winters, but the sites are less crowded then. It also has arid springs, but travel is best avoided during their Spring Festival due to an influx of local tourists. Summer is blazing hot with heavy rainstorms but is also peak tourist season. Air pollution is worst in winter and summer.
An excursion to the spectacular Great Wall of China—if possible, via one of the wilder, less-visited entry points like Simatai.
Exploring the Forbidden City in the early morning. If you can get there before the tour groups converge, you’ll get a true sense of the compound’s hushed, echoing enormity.
Getting gloriously lost—and getting a glimpse of old, traditional Beijing—in the Dongcheng district’s clamorous warren of hutongs, or alleyways.