Beijing Travel Guide
If you’re an early riser looking for things to do in Beijing, visit Ritan Park first thing in the morning. Here you’ll find the Chinese tradition of using public spaces; traditional swordsmanship, Mah-Jongg, T’ai Chi and ballroom dancing, even a climbing wall. A less restful but exciting Beijing activity awaits you in the Silk Market, with buzzing carts and shops. No Beijing tour would be complete without the Forbidden City. Visit the grand 16th-century palace early, since it takes at least three hours to get around. Temple of Heaven Park is a Confucian style urban landscape, equally worthy of a visit.
Tiananmen Square is the world’s largest public square, surrounded by Soviet-style buildings, is a reminder of China’s turmoil and political history. It’s not a place to sit and relax, but it is certainly a site not to be missed by any Beijing visitor. Summer Palace is a marvel of temples, gardens, bridges, and pavilions to explore. There are also riverside walkways, shops and restaurants. The 798 Arts District is a popular artist hangout with cafes lining the streets. Beijing is also the best departure point to see the Great Wall of China, easily done as a half-day trip.
If you’re a first- or business-class passenger on China’s national airline, take a seat in a big upholstered chair in your own private skybox while you wait for your flight and watch the world go by—and through security—below. Drinks, snacks, and magazines are complimentary.
This tower and its counterpart, the Drum Tower, kept Beijing people up to date on the official time through three dynasties. Drums beat out at night, while the bells rang out during the day. The Bell Tower burned in the Qing Dynasty and was rebuilt, this time of fire-proof brick.
A day trip to the Great Wall is an absolute must when in Beijing. The only question is, what part to visit?
Elbow your way through the antiques stalls of the labyrinthine market, open only on weekends.
Nothing says China like a silk panda-motif necktie. Tax-free at 198 yuan ($29), it’s a bit more than you’d pay in town, but the quality is solid.
The main draw of this area west of Tiananmen Square is the new Financial Street area, home to high-rise office towers, a cluster of five-star hotels, and the tony Seasons Place Mall.
Past the bookstore and the Arrival-level Starbucks, look for the English signs labeled “Lost & Found” and “Left Luggage,” where you can leave extra baggage up to three months if you’re touring China and will depart for home from Beijing ($4.50 per piece per day).
Hidden away along a bland, utilitarian suburban block, this über-hip space is a major haunt for Beijing fashionistas.
Laetitia Gauden, a French curator, started the Imagine Gallery in Feijiacun in 2003.
Olympic Pedigree: Home to swimming, diving, water polo, and synchronized swimming in 2008, and possibly where amphibious phenom Michael Phelps breaks Mark Spitz’s Olympic record of seven gold medals.
At this trademark-skirting park in western Beijing—where a banner over the entrance proclaims: "Disneyland is too far"—there's a replica of Sleeping Beauty's castle (with less sparkle and more Communist-brick realism); live character doppelgangers of Shrek, Donald Duck, and Minnie Mouse; and even
Paul Andreu's delightfully zany China National Grand Theater, a.k.a. the Alien Egg, opened its doors in 2006.
Stop here for Chinese books, periodicals, and a limited selection of overpriced English language texts, from President Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope ($19) to Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City ($20) to Time and Newsweek ($6.50).
The central Houhai Lake is lined with lively waterfront bars and cafés, take a stroll along the promenade before sitting down to dine.
Capable of holding a million people, the 100-acre Tiananmen is the world’s largest public square.