My Top 5 Activities in Beijing, China

The minute you exit the Beijing airport, you can feel a buzz in the air – and it’s not just from all the traffic.  Be prepared to be moved by over 2,000 years of history.  With so much to see, narrowing down a reasonable list of attractions can be a challenge.   Accordingly, I’ve compiled a list of my top 5 favorite activities in Beijing, China.

My Top 5 Activities in Beijing, China

My Top 5 Activities in Beijing, China. The Forbidden City was the former Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty—the years 1420 to 1912. It now houses the Palace Museum.
My Top 5 Activities in Beijing, China. The Forbidden City was the former Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty—the years 1420 to 1912. It now houses the Palace Museum.

1. The Great Wall of China

By far the Great Wall of China holds a special place in my heart.  Certainly it’s my favorite activity in Beijing.  I suggest hiring a guide to visit the wall which rests just two hours to the north.

Easily you can appreciate this masterpiece built over 2,000 years ago by hand.  Please arrive early to avoid the masses.  Also remember to bring comfortable shoes as the wall is steep.  Kindly avoid anything strenuous to avoid acquiring a respiratory infection like me.

My Top 5 Activities in Beijing, China. The Great Wall of China at it's highest point reaches 14 meters (46 feet).
My Top 5 Activities in Beijing, China. The Great Wall of China at it’s highest point reaches 14 meters (46 feet).

2. The Forbidden City

Second on my list of activities in Beijing sits the Forbidden City.  This colorful gem rests in the center of Beijing.  At one time this imperial palace housed twenty-four emperors over a period 500 years.  As such access to this 187 acre metropolis was restricted to close friends, family and associates of the emperor.  Now a days the Forbidden City holds the prestigious position as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In terms of time, I recommend allowing two to three hours to properly explore this mini metropolis.  Unless you are in a wheelchair, expect to spend significant time walking from one end to the other.  Regardless of your fitness level, kindly consider The Forbidden City as a top attraction not to be overlooked.

My Top 5 Activities in Beijing, China. In the Forbidden City, there are more than ten thousand dragon ornaments, giving it a title as the home of Chinese dragon.
My Top 5 Activities in Beijing, China. In the Forbidden City, more than ten thousand dragon ornaments exist, giving it a title as the home of Chinese dragon.

3. Eat Peking Duck

Prior to Beijing, I ate Peking Duck several times, but never really enjoyed it.  That all changed once I visited the Jingzun Peking Duck restaurant.  In fact, I relished every morsel to the point of overeating.  Luckily reason took over, thus allowing me to avoid a serious food coma!

My Top 5 Activities in Beijing, China. Peking Duck is characterized by its thin, crisp skin, with authentic versions of the dish serving mostly the skin and little meat, sliced in front of the diners by the cook. Ducks bred specially for the dish are slaughtered after 65 days and seasoned before being roasted in a closed or hung oven.
My Top 5 Activities in Beijing, China. Peking Duck displayed, characterized by its thin, crisp skin, with authentic versions of the dish serving mostly the skin and little meat, sliced in front of the diners by the cook. Ducks bred specially for the dish are slaughtered after 65 days and seasoned before being roasted in a closed or hung oven.

4. Visit Tiananmen Square

Even some thirty years after the 1989 student protests in Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government still fears another uprising.  So much so that no one is allowed to hold anything in the air while in the square – not even tour directors organizing their flock.  Even if you were too young in the late 80s like me, you can still appreciate the history.

My Top 5 Activities in Beijing, China. Tiananmen Square. Organized by the Union, on April 27 some 50,000–100,000 students from all Beijing universities marched through the streets of the capital to Tiananmen Square, breaking through lines set up by police, and receiving widespread public support along the way, particularly from factory workers.
My Top 5 Activities in Beijing, China. Tiananmen Square. Organized by the Union, on April 27 some 50,000–100,000 students from all Beijing universities marched through the streets of the capital to Tiananmen Square, breaking through lines set up by police, and receiving widespread public support along the way, particularly from factory workers.

5.  Visit XiuShui Silk Street Market

The Silk Street Market holds some of Beijing’s best discount shopping.  Imagine floor upon floor filled with silk, electronics, clothing, food, souvenirs and knock offs all at great prices.  Even former US presidents pay this place a visit.

Plan on spending at least a few hours to search through the diverse array of merchandise.  Thankfully most vendors speak English.  However, please remember to negotiate!

My Top 5 Activities in Beijing, China. Silk Street Market. Up until 2005, this market was called Silk Street and had the same location but was an outdoor market. Today, everything is covered by a roof and this market is probably the most visited by foreign tourists in Beijing. (Photo Courtesy of Alamy Stock Photo)
My Top 5 Activities in Beijing, China. Silk Street Market. Up until 2005, this market was called Silk Street and had the same location but was an outdoor market. Today, everything is covered by a roof and this market is probably the most visited by foreign tourists in Beijing. (Photo Courtesy of Alamy Stock Photo)

Have you ever been to Beijing?  What are some of your favorite activities there?

Please let me know in the comments!

Happy travels,

Matt Weatherbee

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Matt Weatherbee
Matt Weatherbee

Hi, I’m Matt.  In 2008 I quit my job, sold everything and drove from Boston to Mexico to start a business.  Now I live and work in the Carribean, and spend my free time traveling the globe.  Learn more.

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