The 30 best places to visit in Beijing Municipality

 

Opened in 1993 to the south west of Beijing city centre is the Beijing World Park, built to allow visitors the chance to see the world without leaving the Chinese capital. The park consists of around a hundred scaled down replicas of famous landmarks from nearly 40 countries and regions around the world, laid out according to its position on the map. Other spots in the park include Italian style terrace gardens with grand staircases, fountains and sculptures inspired by originals from the European Renaissance, as well as shopping, dining and entertainment areas.

30. Beijing World Park

 

Built in 2004 to the north east of Beijing city centre is the Zhang-Laffitte, a full scale replica of the 17th century French Baroque Château De Maisons, located in the suburbs of Paris, France. Built with two wings from the Palace Of Fontainebleau, it was built at a cost of $50 million and makes for a fantastic piece of historical European inspired architecture.

29. Zhang-Laffitte

 

First built in the 11th century, in the north western part of the Imperial City is Beihai Park, meaning 'Northern Sea', a public park and former imperial garden that is among the largest of all Chinese gardens. Of the numerous historically important structures, palaces, and temples,  one of the most notable landmarks is the White Pagoda. Built to honour the visit of the 5th Dalai Lama in 1651 AD it is a 40 metre (131 ft) high stupa located on Jade Flower Island, the highest point in the park.

28. Beihai Park

 

In the north west of Beijing Municipality, close to the border with Hebei Province and to the north of the Badaling Great Wall is the Longqingxia Valley Scenic Area, centred around the Longqing gorge. The landscape of amazing rugged mountains throughout the spectacular river valley is home to China's largest dam, a number of temples and the famous Dragon Escalator. Completely out of place among the high natural rocky cliffs, this bright yellow and green dragon measures 258 metres (846 ft) long making it the worlds largest outdoor escalator.

27. Longqingxia Valley Scenic Area

 

First built in 996 AD in the south west of the Imperial City is the Niujie Mosque, also known as the Oxen Street Mosque, the biggest and oldest mosque building in Beijing. Reconstructed and enlarged in the 17th century, the mosque reflects a mixture of Islamic and Han Chinese cultural and architectural influences. Built from timbers, the mosque is home to some important cultural relics and tablets such as the upright tablet of an emperor's decree, proclaimed in 1694 AD during the Qing Dynasty.

26. Niujie Mosque

 

Built in the late 17th century, in the north east of the Imperial City is the Yonghe Temple, meaning 'Palace Of Peace & Harmony', also known as the Lama Temple, a temple and monastery of the gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Highlights of the temple include the Giant Ancient Bell and the Pavilion Of Ten Thousand Happinesses, the location of an 18 metre (59 ft) tall white Sandalwood statue of the Maitreya Buddha, gifted from the 7th Dalai Lama to the Qianlong Emperor. This huge statue took three years to transport from Tibet to Beijing.

25. Yonghe Temple

 

Built in 1530 AD in the east of the Imperial City is the Temple Of Successive Emperors, also known as the Emperors Temple Of Past Dynasties, the only imperial temple in the Ming and Qing Dynasties for worshiping the Three Sovereigns And The Five Emperors. The large site with its many grand and well preserved detailed ancient buildings has become a well known location for historical and cultural tourism.

24. The Temple Of Successive Emperors

 

Originally constructed in 1553 AD to the south of the Forbidden City in Beijing city centre is the Yongdingmen, the former front gate of the outer city of Beijing's old city wall. Unbelievably, it was torn down to make way for a new road in the 1950's, and what stands today is a reconstruction that began in 2005. Though not resembling the original gate too closely and being disconnected from the original road leading towards the gated city, the Yongdingmen is still an imposing structure, remaining a somewhat major modern attraction.

23. Yongdingmen

 

Built in the early Ming Dynasty, at the south eastern end of the Forbidden City is the Working People's Cultural Palace, formerly known as Taimiao, meaning Imperial Ancestral Temple. With its temple grounds laid out with lovely paths lined with ancient trees and flowerbeds, the buildings that make up the palace were used during the Ming and Qing Dynasties as shrines to the ancestors of the imperial family. The three main halls in the palace include the Ancestral Worship Hall which was the principal location for rites and sacrifices, the Resting Hall which held tablets inscribed with the names of the deceased, and finally the Remote Ancestral Shrine was used to store the sacrificial slabs of the imperial ancestors. The main building itself has been likened to a less busy and scaled down version Imperial Palace.

22. Working People's Cultural Palace

 

Completed in 1120 AD in the west of the Imperial City is the Tianning Temple, a Buddhist temple complex renowned for its Liao Dynasty Pagoda. Completely solid with no internal hollowing, the 13 storey brick and stone octagonal pagoda stands 58 metres (189 ft) high, imitating the design of wooden pagodas from the era. Remaining almost completely preserved from its construction some 900 years ago, the Pagoda Of Tianning Temple has been described as a pristine architectural design of antiquity.

21. Tianning Temple

 

In the northern centre of Beijing Municipality, north east from Beijing city centre is the 22 square kilometre (8.5 square mile) Yunmengshan National Forest Park, a scenic area covered by large forest, soaring mountains, sheer precipitous cliffs, interesting rock formations, huge cascading waterfalls and clear water springs. A favourite among hikers and campers, visitors also have the chance to zip wire from the mountains and spot antelopes and deer that are frequently seen strolling through the park.

20. Yunmengshan National Forest Park

 

Completed in 2018, east from the Imperial City in the Central Business District is the CITIC Tower, popularly known as the China Zun. Standing at a towering 109 storeys, 528 metres (1,732 ft) high it is Beijing's tallest skyscraper. Open to the public, the observation deck on the 107th floor offers the finest panoramic views of Beijing's cityscape and beyond.

19. China Zun (Observation Deck)

 

North west from the Summer Palace on the outskirts of Beijing city centre is the tiny 1.7 square kilometre Bai Wang Shan Forest Park, the nearest forest parkland to the Imperial City. Known as the 'Oxygen Of Beijing', the park is particularly favoured in the autumn when the leaves turn from green to golds and yellows. Visitors should ascend to the pavilion and temple at the parks peak, giving a wondrous view over the whole forest from 210 metres (689 ft) above sea level.

18. Bai Wang Shan Forest Park

 

Completed in 1976 in the middle of Tiananmen Square in the Imperial City is the Mausoleum Of Mao Zedong, officially the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, the final resting place of Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China from 1943 and the Chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1945 until his death in 1976. Although Mao Zedong wished to be cremated, this was ignored and his body was embalmed. A highly popular attraction, the body is on display for public viewing.

17. The Mausoleum Of Mao Zedong

 

In the far east of Beijing Municipality, close to the border with Hebei Province is the relatively small 6 square kilometre (2.3 square mile) Jingtai Mountain Scenic Area, incorporating the Jingdong Grand Canyon. The landscape is one of steep mountains, deep valleys, karst caves, waterfalls and the Wulong Pond, also called the Deep Pond Of Five Dragons. Connected via wooden walkways, the scenic area is a favourite summer getaway for locals and a great location for hikers.

16. Jingtai Mountain Scenic Area

 

In the far east of Beijing Municipality, straddling the border with Hebei Province is the Tianyun Mountain Scenic Area, a beautiful natural terrain made up of craggy cliffs, steep vegetated mountains, waterfalls and forests. From its main peak, 1,149 metres (3,769 ft) above sea level it is possible to see the distant Wuling Mountain and the Simatai Great Wall as it winds over the distant peaks. With a smattering of ancient temples and structures, the highlight for most visitors are the new glass bridges, the glass walkways that hang from the cliff edges, leading to glass bottomed viewing areas. These modern additions might taint the nature somewhat, but they do afford some fantastic views that most ordinary people wouldn't otherwise access.

15. Tianyun Mountain Scenic Area

 

Completed in 1640 AD to the south west of Beijing city centre is the Wanping Fortress, also known as Wanping Castle or Wanping City, a Ming Dynasty walled city erected to protect Beijing against Li Zicheng and the peasant uprising. Accessible via two large gates, the 'Majestic' east gate and the 'Favourably Govern' west gate, the space inside the fortress walls is today occupied in part by the Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. Outside the fortress is the famous Lugou Bridge, also known as Marco Polo Bridge, the name derives from its appearance in Marco Polo's Book Of Travels.

14. Wanping Fortress & Lugou 

In the northern centre of Beijing Municipality, north east from Beijing city centre is the Qinglong Gorge, literally meaning 'Green Dragon Gorge'. Made up of steep cliffs and and large forests, the breathtaking natural scenery has been heightened by the addition of the Dashuiyu Reservoir. Highlights of the scenic area include taking a cable car to the top of Mount Qinglong, visiting Longxia Lake and hiking the marked trails through this enormous gorge.

13. Qinglong Gorge

 

Built in the late 13th century during the reign of Kublai Khan in the north of Beijing city centre is the Drum Tower & Bell Tower of Beijing, both of which were central to official timekeeping in China during the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. Having dominated Beijing's skyline for centuries and used as the official timepiece up until 1924, they now operate as a tourist attraction, offering visitors some of the best panoramic views over central Beijing.

 

Pictured is the Bell Tower.

12. Drum Tower & Bell Tower

 

In the far south west of Beijing Municipality, straddling the border with Hebei Province is the 300 square kilometre (116 square mile) Shidu Scenic Area, also known as 'Ten Ferries Scenic Area', a karst landscape of mountains, river canyons and cliffs that is rather unusual for northern China. Centred around the valleys of the Juma River, the fast flowing water in ancient times meant bridges were difficult to build, so people built a ferry at each big turning of the river. Today visitors to this beautiful natural landscape can hike through the mountains and waterfalls, bungee jump, river raft or take a ferry to some of the eighteen local villages.

11. Shidu Scenic Area

In the far east of Beijing Municipality, straddling the border with Hebei Province is the Shilinxia Scenic Area, also known as the Jingdong Stone Forest Gorge, part of the larger Pinggu Huangsongyu National Geopark. Among the hiking options through the mountains, canyons and sparse forests, one of the man made highlights of the area is the Shilinxia Glass Viewing Platform, built with a flying saucer piloted by two aliens at its centre, it has come to be known as the 'UFO Glass Platform'. From its lofty position it offers visitors amazing views over the surrounding karst landscape.

10. Jingdong Stone Forest Gorge

 

Dating from the early to mid 15th century, east of the Forbidden City in Beijing city centre is The Ming Dynasty Wall Relics Park, the site of the longest and best preserved section of the city's Ming Dynasty city wall. Unfortunately, the walls and gates that stood for nearly 550 years were torn down in the 1960's to make way for the Beijing Subway, making this very small section the last remnant of one of Beijing's most historical sites. One of the most stand out landmarks is the Southeast Corner Tower, known by westerners as the Fox Tower. Built in 1439 AD it rises an imposing 29 metres (95 ft) high, and has been designated a major state protected historical site.

9. The Ming Dynasty Wall Relics Park

 

In the extreme east of Beijing Municipality, crossing the border with Hebei Province is the Wuling Mountain Forest Park, named after the majestic 2,118 metre (6,949 ft) Wuling Mountain, within the Qingliangjie Scenic Area it is the tallest peak of the Yanshan Range. Made up of large forests, undulating hills, waterfalls such as the Longtan Falls and amazing rocky peaks, one of the parks highlights is of course Wuling Mountain, regarded to be the most beautiful mountain in Beijing Municipality.

8. Wuling Mountain Forest Park

 

In the far south west of Beijing Municipality, to the north of Shidu Scenic Area close to the border with Hebei Province is the wondrous Shenglian Mountain Scenic Area, Shenglian meaning 'Holy Lotus'. Among the rocky mountains are a number of Buddhist temples, seemingly balancing and crossing these giant stone peaks,  with none more so alluring than the Shengquan Temple, or Holy Spring Water Temple. Amazing for hiking and taking in the huge panoramas, man made highlights include amazingly placed temples, pagodas and a 39 metre (128 ft) Laozi statue, the largest of its kind in China.

7. Shenglian Mountain Scenic Area

 

Constructed in the early 15th century in the south of the Imperial City is the Temple Of Heaven, covering approximately 2.7 square kilometres (1.05 square miles) of parkland the site comprises three main groups of constructions, all built according to strict philosophical requirements. The most prominent landmark of the complex is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, a magnificent circular building made completely of wood using no nails. Unfortunately the original was struck by lightning and burnt to the ground in 1889. Measuring 38 metres (125 ft) high across three floors, what stands today was re-built several years after the incident. Constructed during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, who was also responsible for the Forbidden City, the complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. One of the most important temples of ancient Beijing, the Temple Of Heaven has been inscribed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Pictured is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

6. Temple Of Heaven

 

Dating from 1424 AD to 1644 AD to the north west of Beijing city centre are the Ming Tombs, a collection of mausoleums built by the emperors of the Ming Dynasty. Clustered within the suburban Changping District, the site lies on the southern slope of Tianshou Mountain, chosen based on the principles of feng shui by the third Ming emperor, the Yongle Emperor. From the Yongle Emperor onwards, 13 Ming Dynasty emperors were buried in the same area, hence the site being known as the Thirteen Tombs Of The Ming Dynasty. Comprising numerous historical buildings of traditional architectural design and decoration on such a grand scale, the Ming Tombs have been designated part of the  Imperial Tombs Of The Ming And Qing Dynasties UNESCO World Heritage Site.

5. The Ming Tombs

 

Built in 1415 AD in the heart of the Imperial City is Tiananmen Square, named after the Tiananmen, or 'Gate Of Heavenly Peace', located to its north it separates the square from the Forbidden City. One of the largest and most well known squares on the planet, it contains the Monument to the People's Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Used for several important events in Chinese history, this site of great significance is one of the most visited locations in Beijing and therefore all of China.

Pictured is the Tiananmen Gate.

4. Tiananmen Square

 

Dating as far back as the 12th century, north west from Beijing city centre is the Summer Palace, a vast ensemble of lakes, gardens and palaces. Reaching its present form during the Qing Dynasty, many of the finest buildings are positioned on Longevity Hill overlooking the man made Kunming Lake, the open water combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges forming a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value. Considered a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design, the Summer Palace has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3. The Summer Palace

Built in the early 15th century, at the heart of the Imperial City is the Forbidden City, a palace complex of 980 buildings that served as the home of emperors and their households as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government for almost 500 years. Exemplifying traditional Chinese palatial architecture, it has influenced cultural and architectural development in East Asia over the centuries. Home to the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world, there is also an extensive collection of artwork and artifacts from the imperial collection. Housing the Palace Museum and a large number of priceless artifacts, the Forbidden City is an important historical testimony to the history of the Qing Dynasty and to the cultural traditions of Ancient China, the whole complex being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Pictured from Jingshan Park.

2. The Forbidden City

 

Dating from as far back as the 7th century BC, joined together, newly built and maintained right through to the end of the Ming Dynasty in the 17th century is the Great Wall Of China, regarded to be one of the most impressive feats of architecture in human history. With a total length of 21,196 kilometres (13,171 miles) the wall crosses the centuries, Dynasties and numerous provinces, making it the most famous symbol of China, one of the most notable man made structures on the planet, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders Of The World.

As an ancient capital of China and a strategic city of the north, Beijing boasts some of the most famous and well preserved sections of the Great Wall just a few hours from the city centre. Totaling 573 kilometres (356 miles) of wall within the Municipality, highlights include the well preserved Badaling and Mutianyu, the renovated Juyonguan, Jinshanling and Simatai, and the more wild Jiankou and Gubeikou sections.

1. The Great Wall

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