Must-see attractions in Beijing

  • Beijing, China. March 2011

    Forbidden City

    Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

    Enclosed by 3.5km of citadel walls at the very heart of Beijing, the Unesco-listed Forbidden City is China’s largest and best-preserved collection of…

  • Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest in Temple of Heaven Park, Chongwen.

    Temple of Heaven Park

    Temple of Heaven Park & Dongcheng South

    An oasis of methodical Confucian design, the 267-hectare Temple of Heaven Park is unique. It originally served as a vast stage for solemn rites performed…

  • Summer Palace

    Summer Palace


    A marvel of Chinese garden design and one of Beijing's must-see attractions, the Summer Palace was the royal retreat for emperors fleeing the suffocating…

  • Exterior of building in Tiananmen Square.

    Tian'anmen Square

    Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

    Flanked by triumphalist Soviet-style buildings, Tian'anmen Sq is an immense void of paved stone (440,000 sq metres, to be precise) at the symbolic centre…

  • Beihai Park 北海公园:承光殿 (Beijing 北京)

    Beihai Park


    Beihai Park, inside the old Imperial City, looks much as it would have done in the 18th century when it served as Emperor Qianlong's private gardens. The…

  • Southeast Corner Watchtower, with purple flowers in foreground.

    Southeast Corner Watchtower

    Temple of Heaven Park & Dongcheng South

    This immense fortress, part of the Ming City Wall Ruins Park, guarded the southeast corner of Beijing's city walls. Originally built in 1439 but repaired…

  • Sculpted column in front of Gate of Heavenly Peace.

    Gate of Heavenly Peace

    Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

    Instantly recognisable by its giant framed portrait of Mao, and guarded by two pairs of Ming dynasty stone lions, the double-eaved Gate of Heavenly Peace …

  • Photo shoot in 798 Art District.

    798 Art District


    Contemporary art meets communist history at this thrilling enclave of international galleries installed within China's model factory complex of the 1950s…

  • Lama Temple.

    Lama Temple


    Converted from a princely residence to a lamasery in the 18th century, the Lama Temple extends through a crescendo of ever more divine halls in a whirl of…

  • Chairman Mao Memorial Hall

    Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

    One of Beijing's more surreal spectacles is the sight of Mao Zedong's embalmed corpse on public display within his mausoleum. The Soviet-inspired memorial…

  • Beijing's ancient Drum Tower, built during the Ming Dynasty (1380AD).

    Drum Tower


    Venerable bastions of time-keeping, the Drum Tower and its counterpart the Bell Tower were for centuries the tallest buildings in Beijing, lording it over…

  • Zhihua Temple.

    Zhihua Temple

    Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

    Lost in a tumbledown hutong neighbourhood, this Buddhist temple is one of Beijing's best-preserved Ming dynasty structures. It was built in 1444 to honour…

  • Man doing water calligraphy on  Jingshan (Sun Yet-Sen) Park pathway.

    Jingshan Park

    Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

    Beijing's finest park is also one of the only hills in the inner city, a mound that was created from the loess (sediment) excavated to make the Forbidden…

  • Azure Clouds Temple


    Though it dates back to the Yuan dynasty, this enchanting Buddhist temple complex was enlarged to its current splendor by Emperor Qianlong in 1748, adding…

  • Wuta Temple


    If any Beijing sight can vanquish the dreaded 'temple fatigue', it's Wuta Si. This little-known gem is eminently worthy of a pilgrimage, not just for its…

  • Workers' Cultural Palace

    Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

    One of Beijing's best-kept secrets – despite being next to the Gate of Heavenly Peace – the Workers' Cultural Palace was gifted to the masses by Mao in…

  • White Dagoba Temple


    Originally built in 1271 under the reign of Kublai Khan, the serene Miaoying Temple slumbers beneath its astonishing high dagoba, the tallest in China. A…

  • Spirit Way


    A highlight of a visit to the Ming Tombs is to walk the Shen Dao, or Spirit Way, a funerary avenue that plots a sombre course to Cháng Líng, the earliest…

  • UCCA


    Remodelled in 2019, UCCA remains the finest contemporary-art gallery in 798, and a contender for the best in the country. Many global art superstars have…

  • Saturday night rush hour on Houhai Lake, Dongcheng.

    Houhai Lake Scenic Area


    A grand sweep of willow-lined waterways enclosed by invitingly maze-like hutong lanes, this trio of lakes is one of Beijing's best-loved outdoor spots,…

  • Exterior of Ancient Observatory.

    Ancient Observatory

    Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

    Astronomers have been studying the mysteries of the cosmos here since 1442. Crowning the 18m-high brick tower – an earlier version of which would have…

  • Dingling Tomb is one of the three tombs located at The Ming Tombs which are open to the public. The tomb is famous for its underground palace and the burial of Emperor Wanli and his two empresses. Of all Ming Dynasty emperors, Emperor Wanli reigned for 48 years and is considered one of the longest reigning emperors in Chinese history. Historical documents have stated that the cost of constructing Dingling Tomb cost a staggering 8 Million taels of Silver.

    Ming Tombs


    Established according to feng shui in the cradle of Tianshou Mountain (天寿山, Tiānshòu Shān), this auspicious swath of nature was walled off by the Ming to…

  • Fragrant Hills Park


    A great swath of Beijing's Western Hills (Xīshān) was once an imperial pleasure resort, acres of undulating pine-cypress forest peppered with temples,…

  • Palace in the Area of Palace of Tranquil Longevity (Ningshou gong), a part of the Treasure Gallery in Palace Museum (the Forbidden City) in Beijing.

    Treasure Gallery

    Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

    In the northeastern corner of the complex is the Treasure Gallery (or Complete Palace of Peace and Longevity, 宁寿全宫, Níng Shǒu Quán Gōng), a…

  • The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests in Beijing.

    Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

    Temple of Heaven Park & Dongcheng South

    The crowning glory of the Temple of Heaven is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, its triple-eaved roof canopy of glazed blue tiles reflecting its…

  • Round altar, Temple of Heaven, Beijing

    Round Altar

    Temple of Heaven Park & Dongcheng South

    The present build dating to around 1540, this is the business end of the Temple of Heaven. Here on this open-air, raised platform (a circle within a…

  • Rabbit sculpture on display inside the Poly Art Museum.

    Poly Art Museum

    Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

    A thrilling discovery, this exquisite collection of treasures is hidden halfway up an office building! China's state-owned Poly Group has funnelled a…

  • Confucius Temple & Imperial College


    An incense stick’s toss away from the Lama Temple, China’s second-largest Confucian temple is a haven of scholarly calm and contemplation. Come to wander…

  • The Long Corridor at the Summer Palace in Beijing.

    Long Corridor


    Stretching for 728m along the north shore of Kunming Lake, the open-air Long Corridor is one of the premier sights of the Summer Palace. One can imagine…

  • The Hall of Central Harmony in Forbidden City.

    Hall of Central Harmony

    Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

    Behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony is the Hall of Central Harmony, which was used as the emperor’s transit lounge. Here he would make last-minute…

  • Inside the Imperial Vault of Heaven at the Temple of Heaven Park.

    Imperial Vault of Heaven

    Temple of Heaven Park & Dongcheng South

    Inside the Echo Wall, this ornate building was merely a storeroom, used to keep the spirit tablets of the gods and other materials used for the ceremonies…

  • Cháng Líng


    It's no coincidence that the most magnificent of the Ming tombs bears more than a passing resemblance to the Forbidden City. It was commissioned by the…

  • Hall of Supreme Harmony

    Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

    One of the Three Great Halls, this is the most important and largest structure in the Forbidden City. Built in the 15th century and restored in the 17th…

  • Gallery of Clocks

    Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

    The Gallery of Clocks is one of the unmissable highlights of the Forbidden City. Relocated from the Hall for Ancestral Worship in 2018 (in order that the…

  • Sacrificial Hall

    Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

    The main attraction within the Workers' Cultural Palace is the monumental Sacrificial Hall, as exquisite as any temple you'll find in Beijing. Built in…

  • Divine Merit Stele Pavilion


    Along the Spirit Way before you reach the pairs of stone guardians, this glorious pavilion contains a stele thought to be the largest in China, mounted on…

  • 17-Arch Bridge


    Connecting the eastern shore of Kunming Lake to South Lake Island, this is the largest bridge in the Summer Palace at 150m long. It was built during the…

  • White Dagoba


    Topping Jade Islet (琼岛; Qióngdǎo), the 36m-high Tibetan-style White Dagoba was built in 1651 by the first Qing emperor to honour a visit by the Dalai Lama…

  • Faurschou Foundation


    Although this privately owned Danish gallery is a relative newcomer, it has racked up an enviable showreel of exhibitions and retrospectives since 2011,…

  • Nine Dragon Screen


    To the west of Western Elysium, set back from the lakeshore, is this 5m-high, 27m-long spirit wall emblazoned with writing and coiled dragons, picked out…

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