Beijing is a multifaceted metropolis filled with surprises at every street and corner. The vibrant city is not just the capital of China but also the country’s focal point of arts and culture.
There is so much to do and so much to see that all visitors are guaranteed a smashing good time.
From exploring Beijing’s best preserved historical alleyways, cruising the Kunming Lake at Summer Palace on a paddleboat to browsing through the 12-million book collection at China’s National Library, here is our guide to 10 Fun Activities To Do in Beijing.
#1 BEIJING NATIONAL STADIUM – CATCH A SPORTING RACE OR ICE SKATE DURING WINTER
Beijing National Stadium is an impressive infrastructure that should not be missed. The architecture bears an uncanny resemblance to the bird’s nest, hence nicknamed after it. In 2008, it was the appointed venue for the Olympic Games and today it is a popular tourist destination.
Many ticketed sporting events still take place at this grand building, but one can still visit when no races are held. During wintertime, the stadium is converted to a ski resort where visitors can enjoy ice skating and even snow tubing.
1 National Stadium S Rd
Chaoyang, Beijing, China
Apr to Oct: 9am – 7pm
Nov to Mar: 9am – 5.30pm
Nearest Station: Guo Jia Ti Yu Chang Dong
The Great Wall of China is not only the world’s longest ancient architecture but also the largest!
Spanning across 5,500 miles, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is indeed a must-see for all travellers. Besides its jaw-dropping physical attributes, the magnificent fortress—which commenced building since the 7th century BC—is also renowned worldwide for its rich historical significance.
#3 NATIONAL CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS – WATCH A THEATRICAL PERFORMANCE
Thanks to its large oval-shaped exterior, The National Centre For The Performing Arts (NCPA) can be easily identified from a distance. The dome—made with titanium plates and super white glasses—is currently the largest in the world. It is a must-visit for all architecture and design enthusiasts alike!
You can catch a performance at one of NCPA’s three venues or simply take a stroll around the reflective lake surrounding it.
2 W Chang’an Ave
Xicheng, Beijing, China
Tel: +86 10 6655 0000
Tue to Sun: 9am – 5pm
Nearest Station: Tiananmen West
With an incredible storage of over 12 million books, National Library of China is one of the world’s biggest libraries.
It is also definitely one of the most gorgeous libraries we have ever seen! The grand reading room’s spectacular design itself is worth making a special trip and your eyes will be thankful for the visual treat.
33, South Street, Zhongguancun, Haidian District
Nearest Station: National Library
#5 NAN LUO GU XIANG – EXPLORE BEIJING’S BEST PRESERVED HISOTRICAL ALLEYWAY
Hutongs are ancient alleyways unique to Beijing and these backstreets are characterised by their Chinese historical architecture. The 800-year-old Nan Luo Gu Xiang is a must-visit; the busy street is filled with hawker vendors, third-wave coffee shops and other retail boutiques.
Do explore the smaller hutongs that diverge away from the main street of Nan Luo Gu Xiang and you will be pleasantly surprised by the discovery of many other hidden bars and cafes.
#6 SHI CHA HAI – PAINT THE TOWN RED AT ONE OF BEIJING’S BEST NIGHTLIFE DESTINATIONS
Boasting three tranquil beautiful lakes, namely Hou Hai, Qian Hai and Xi Hai, this scenic site has been a leisure hangout area for the locals since the Ming Dynasty days.
When night approaches, the district transforms from a quiet park into a buzzing bar street. Most of the bars and eateries on the river bank can be spotted from far by their neon coloured signboards.
Xi Cheng, Beijing, China
Nearest Station: Beihai North
#7 SUMMER PALACE – RENT A PADDLEBOAT AND CRUISE AROUND KUN MING LAKE
UNESO-listed Summer Palace aka Yi He Yuan was once a lavish playground for the Chinese royalties. The palace’s extraordinarily peaceful setting makes it a joy to stroll around during sunrise and sunset.
For something more exciting and an alternative picturesque scenery, we suggest you rent a paddleboat and cruise around the 540-acre man-made Kun Ming Lake.
19 Xin Jian Gong Men Lu
Haidian, Beijing, China
Tel: +86 10 6288 1144
Apr to Oct: 6.30am – 6pm
Nov to Mar: 7am – 5pm
Nearest Station: Beigongmen / Xiyuan
#8 TEMPLE OF HEAVEN – MARVEL AT THE UNESCO LISTED SITE’S ARCHITECTURE
The function of UNESO-listed Temple of Heaven was once a prayer ground exclusive to Chinese emperors that reigned in the Ming and Qing dynasty. Back then, no commoners were allowed to even catch a glimpse of the religious ceremonies.
Today, the complex is open to the public and is a popular tourist spot. It is also a local hangout place amongst Beijingers who would be playing Chinese chess and practising Tai Chi in the surrounding gardens.
1 Tian Tan Dong Lu
Dongcheng, Beijing, China
Apr to Oct: 8am – 5.30pm
Nov to Mar: 8am – 5pm
Nearest Station: Beigongmen
#9 PALACE OF MUSEUM – EMBARK ON AN ENRICHING HISTORICAL FIELD TRIP
The Palace of Museum, otherwise known as Gu Gong or The Forbidden City, is a cultural retreat for the history buffs. It was once the Imperial Palace to the 24 Emperors who reigned during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Palace is the world’s largest palace complex and has over 10,000 rooms!
An average 3-hour period is recommended to cover the site’s main highlights even though it could take you an entire day to explore thoroughly.
4 Jing Shan Qian Ji
Dongcheng, Beijing, China
Apr to Oct: 8.30am – 5pm (last entry at 4.10pm)
Nov to Mar: 8.30am – 4.30pm (last entry at 3.40pm)
Note that it is closed on Mondays
Nearest Station: Tiananmen West / Tiananmen East
#10 798 ART ZONE – ADMIRE THE VARIOUS ART INSTALLATIONS AND EXHIBITIONS
798 Art Zone is the place to be and to be seen for all art lovers. The vicinity features many exhibitions and galleries held by both local and international artists – you can enter some of these displays for free. The streets are also adorned with graffiti art murals and lined with kitschy boutiques.
Every year, two major art events 798 Art Festival and Creative Art Festival are held here.
Nearest Station: San Yuan Qiao
About the writer:
Hui Jun Ng is a staff writer for ladyironchef. She previously worked in the food and marketing industry. She loves traveling and enjoys exploring underrated destinations. In her free time, you will find her indulging in coffee and her all time favourite local dish – bak chor mee.