If Shanghai is considered as the financial capital of China, Beijing is considered as the cultural capital. Beijing is in northern China surrounded by Tianjin and Hebei. It is the seat of the national government and has been the capital of numerous dynasties. That’s why, wars were fought in Peking, former name of Beijing and numerous cultural structures abound in this municipality.
Here’s a list of the cultural marvels which you can visit while you’re here in Beijing. I will be posting the most frequented spots which tourists visit.
1. Great Wall of China (长城) – “He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man”. This is one of the famous sayings which is associated with this landmark structure. This wall is a must-see place and what’s the point of going to Beijing if you don’t visit the Great Wall. There are 4 parts of the wall which you can visit: Badaling (tourist bus aplenty), Mutianyu (fewer compared to Badaling), Jinshanling/Simatai (hiker’s haven!) and Huanghuacheng (with a lake view).
2. Summer Palace (颐和园) – Located at the northwest part of Beijing. The Summer Palace is the summer getaway of Empress Cixi. It’s quite huge and has a man-made lake (Kunming Lake). They have cultural shows at the theatre area, Buddhist temple, marble boat and the longevity hill. Admission is RMB 25 from November to March and RMB 35 from April to October. If you want to watch the performances and go to areas which are restricted, better grab the all in one ticket.
3. Temple of Heaven (天坛) – Located at the southern part of Beijing. This temple ground is accessible by subway line 5. No incense burning or worshipping is done in this temple. Half-day is enough to go around the place and buy the all-access pass. The round shape temple at the center of the temple grounds is one of the featured temples used during the Olympics.
4. Forbidden City (故宫) – Smack at the middle of the city. This red walled area is the home of the clock museum and numerous living quarters of former emperors. It’s always packed with tourists and reserve a day to leisurely go around the place. You can rent an audio guide or your own tour guide for better understanding of this city. Better start at Jingshan Park at the back to catch the sunrise and have Bird’s Eye View of the entire Forbidden City. End the day by watching the flag ceremony at Tiananmen Square.
5. European Ruins at the Old Summer Palace (圆明园) – About 10 minutes from the Summer Palace, the major attraction here is the European ruins. When I went there the first time, it reminded me of the ruins in Greece. It’s about 20 minutes trek from the entrance to the ruins itself. You can ride those battery operated cars if you feel tired. Best to go there during spring when the weather is slightly cool and not much tour groups going around.
6. Tiananmen Square (天安门) – Located at the southern end of the Forbidden City fronting the huge picture of Chairman Mao. This square is very infamous due to the Tiananmen massacre in 1989. Everyday during sunrise and sunset, a flag ceremony is held where guards march out of the Forbidden City and cross the street with the flag. The square is where Mao’s Maosoleum is also located (Tuesdays to Sundays 830am-12nn). There’s also a monument of the heroes in the middle. Surrounding the Square is the Hall of the People (west), National Museum (east), Forbidden City (north) and Qianmen Street (south).
Well.. 6 places is more than enough for a 3 day visit. These are just the cultural sights. I’ll be posting some more like Beijing Market Places, Parks, Museums and so on.. till my next travel suggestions!
Photo Credits: various travel websites and travel blogs.