Great Wall of China
A day trip to the Great Wall is an absolute must when in Beijing. The only question is, what part to visit? This ancient masterwork (which, in a failed attempt to guard against invading Mongols, was begun more than 2,000 years ago) stretches across some 4,000 miles of northern China, and there are many entry points along its noncontiguous length. Although the ideal way to see the wall is to stay overnight at a hotel alongside it (our choice: Commune by the Great Wall), or to travel far outside the city to wall outposts like Simatai, most visitors have only a few hours to spend. That means they’re pretty much limited to the tourist-thronged Badaling (where local politician and celebrity photo-ops always take place). To make the best of a crowded situation, take the cable car from the visitor center to the wall, and then walk as far as you can along the steps for a spot of privacy and an epic view from the hilltop forts over the hills beyond.
Tip: visit the wall at Mutianyu, slightly farther northeast, which also has a cable car but is slightly less thronged.