Guide to Beijing: What to do and Saving tips

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Beijing is where the essence of China’s rich history and vibrant culture converge in a single cityscape. Amidst the monumental presence of Tiananmen Square and the imperial grandeur of the Forbidden City, Beijing showcases iconic landmarks like the Great Wall and the enduring legacy of Chairman Mao.

Explore its hidden corners, from the traditional charm of hutong alleyways to the pulse of underground artistic expressions. It’s a city that flaunts Communist-era architecture with a warm, welcoming spirit, offering you a multi-layered experience that blends tradition with modernity. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you make the most of your trip, from when to visit to how to save money while exploring this lively city.

What to Do in Beijing

Guide to Beijing: What to do and Saving tips

Beijing has numerous historical landmarks that can easily occupy several days of sightseeing. Begin your journey at the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. After exploring the grand palaces constructed during the Ming Dynasty, head north into Jingshan Park, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the imperial complex from the hilltop.

To the south of Tiananmen Square, you’ll find the Temple of Heaven, a magnificent circular building from 1420. Nearby, the lesser-known Temple of Agriculture where emperors prayed for bountiful harvests during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

For a different type of imperial experience, visit the Summer Palace, a favored retreat for China’s dynastic rulers during the hot summer months. Despite being damaged and rebuilt several times, the palace now showcases beautiful gardens, stunning architecture, and unique features like Empress Dowager Cixi’s marble boat. The Summer Palace is also scenic in winter when its large lake freezes.

A trip to Beijing isn’t complete without visiting the Great Wall of China. Instead of the crowded Badaling section, consider hiking a “wild wall” segment such as Jiankou, where the wall merges with the natural rocky terrain. These areas are more remote and challenging, so exploring with a guide or thorough preparation is recommended.

Beijing is a cultural centre, offering a wide range of traditional and contemporary experiences. Enjoy Peking opera at the Liyuan Theatre or attend a classical concert at the National Centre for the Performing Arts. Art lovers can explore various museums and galleries in the 798 Art Zone, housed in repurposed warehouses. For a taste of modern Beijing, check out the nightlife with live music at the School Bar in the hutongs or dance the night away at Zhao Dai, a popular spot for the city’s creative crowd.

When to Go

Guide to Beijing: What to do and Saving tips

Choosing the right time to visit Beijing can significantly enhance your experience:

  • Spring (April to June): This season sees mild temperatures and blooming flowers, making it ideal for exploring outdoor attractions like the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace.
  • Autumn (September to October): Similar to spring, autumn offers pleasant weather with clear skies, perfect for visiting the Great Wall and enjoying outdoor activities.
  • Avoiding Peak Seasons: Summers (July to August) can be hot and crowded, while winters (December to February) are cold and dry, although you can experience unique winter activities like ice skating at Houhai Lake.

Saving Tips

Affordable Accommodation Options

One of the biggest expenses when traveling is accommodation. There are various options for affordable stays available in Beijing. Consider staying in budget hotels in areas like Xidan, Dongcheng, and Chaoyang. These hotels are usually centrally located and offer excellent value for money. You can also opt for guesthouses or hostels, which provide comfortable accommodations at lower rates. These options are ideal for travelling under a budget.

Off the beaten path attractions

Guide to Beijing: What to do and Saving tips

Beijing’s off the beaten path attractions offer free and low-cost adventures that are perfect for budget-conscious travelers. Whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s cultural heritage or simply enjoying the great outdoors. Start your adventure with a visit to the Beihai Park located northwest of the forbidden city.

If you’re interested in exploring Beijing’s cultural heritage, check out the many temples and historic sites located throughout the city. Be sure to visit the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its stunning architecture and peaceful atmosphere. For a taste of Beijing’s natural beauty, head to one of the city’s many parks. The Summer Palace, a beautiful imperial garden with stunning architecture.

Budget-Friendly Trips

Exploring the beautiful surroundings of Beijing doesn’t have to be a hefty expenditure. Budget-friendly day trips to popular destinations like the Great Wall of China is one of the popular options. While some sections may be crowded with tourists, there are less popular and budget-friendly routes to explore.

Another appealing nearby location is the ancient village of Cuandixia, which is known for its well-preserved courtyard houses. The village is perfect for scenic hiking trails. For nature lovers, consider a day trip to the beautiful Imperial Summer Palace or the tranquil Beihai Park.

Transportation options for these day trips include local buses or booking a private tour guide. You can also consider renting a bicycle for a more budget-friendly and eco-friendly option.

Know before you go

Guide to Beijing: What to do and Saving tips

Traveling to Beijing? Ditch the bulky wallet! China thrives on digital payments with WeChat Pay and Alipay ruling the roost. While the renminbi (yuan) is the official currency, cash is becoming increasingly obsolete. Don’t forget to be app-savvy though, as popular Western platforms like Google, Twitter, and Instagram are restricted.

Pack a VPN to stay connected! Safety is a plus in Beijing, but being China’s political capital, there are sensitive areas with heavy surveillance. Be a smart traveler and avoid taking photos in restricted zones to prevent misunderstandings. With a little pre-trip planning, you’ll be ready to embrace China’s unique tech world and delve into the wonders this vast country has to offer!

Survival Mandarin: Speak the Lingo

Nǐ hǎo (Hello): A friendly greeting.

Xiè xiè (Thank you): Show your gratitude.

Zhège duōshǎo qián? (How much is this?): Essential for shopping.

Wǒ yào yī bēi kāfēi (I want a cup of coffee): For those caffeine emergencies.

Happy travels

As you board your flight home, take a moment to reflect. You’ve navigated the smog, conquered the Wall, mastered chopsticks, and maybe even learned a bit of Mandarin.

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