Must-see places in Beijing
So, now if you’re visiting in one of the national holidays (like I visited during the Tomb Sweeping Days), be prepared to face a lot of people. Be it the queue for the bus to Great Wall of China or to the Imperial Palace. Hence, it is advisable to reach the destination at least two hours in advance to avoid wasting time, waiting in the sun for hours.
Here are some of must-see places:
1 Tiananmen Square: Located in the heart of the city, it is here that Chairman Mao Zedong declared the establishment of the People's Republic of China. You can see the early morning national flag raising ceremony here. Check with your hotel help desk the timing one day in advance, since the timing varies on each day. After the brief ceremony, I suggest you grab a bite in one of many restaurants nearby, and then head to the Monument to the People’s Heroes, Great Hall of the People, Chinese National Museum, and the Chairman Mao’s Memorial Hall. Don’t be surprised if you see a beeline to the entrance.
2 Imperial Palace (Forbidden City): If everything is happening on time, like the way you have planned, it’s a good idea to check out the Imperial Palace on that same day. The whole tour would take you minimum 3 hours, because there is lot of legwork to do. This huge and magnificent complex palace, built in 15th century, stands testimony to the brilliant Chinese architecture and a treasure trove of Chinese history. For the photo aficionados, you are sure to get some awesome shots here. The entry fee to the palace (at the time of writing this article) is 60 RMB/person. A private tour guide can be helpful if you don’t mind spending a little more.
3 Hutongs: If you still have some time to spare (and most importantly energy left), you can take a stroll along the path skirting Shishihai Lake north of the Forbidden City. Known as Hutongs, these alleys have surprises hidden in every nook. You can browse through the numerous colourful knick-knack tiny shops or just sit in one of the numerous small cafes to sip a cup of Chinese tea or pig out on dumplings.
The Great Wall of China: It goes without saying that if you’re in Beijing and you didn’t make it to the WALL, you trip is incomplete. You have to see and climb this majestic wall to experience its grandeur. There are many sections of Great Wall around Beijing city, Badaling being the most visited section and closest to the city. You can take the official buses 919 and 877 from Deshengmen Arrow Tower. The nearest subway station to Deshengmen is Jishuitan Station (subway line 2, Exit A). Reach Deshengmen as early as possible (around 6ish) in the morning to avoid the queue which gets longer and longer as the day passes along with utter chaos. The non-stop bus ride is relatively comfortable and will take roughly an hour to Badaling and the ticket prices are RMB 12/person.
Once you reach there, either grab a quick bite in one of the restaurants at the base of the Wall, or you can pack food from Subway or any other fast food joints. It’s is advisable to use the restrooms as you won’t find any proper one in the hiking route. You can then head to the ticket counters. A single person ticket is RMB 45. Once done with the security frisking, you can start your climb to the Great Wall that snakes through the mountain. Although crowded, surprisingly the hiking is pleasant. A small stop over here and there where you can capture the beauty of the earthy mountain terrain and the Wall, and you’re all set to mount again. All the tiredness seems to disappear once you are at the top of the Wall. Needless to say the view is indeed breathtaking.
Like a grandfather, this centuries-old structure seems to be watching over its beloved grandchild - China. The descending is quite pleasant although little difficult at times due to steep treads and slopes. After this adventurous trip, you can take one of the 919 or or 877 buses from the same spot where it dropped you in the morning.
What’s next on Day 2? Go for a foot spa, have a good diner (a Pecking Duck diner sounds just perfect) and go off to bed early!
1 Temple of Heaven: Best time to visit this place is in the morning (around 9 am). Relatively less crowded at this time, you can buy a Through ticket of RMB 35/person. This will allow you to enter the main temple premise. As history states, it is here the Ming and Qing emperors offered sacrificial offers to heaven for rich harvest. Built on a raised walkway, this intricately-designed and colourful temple looks magnificent against the azure sky. Standing on the raised walkway, you can see an unobstructed view of the urban Beijing buildings. After the sightseeing, do take time to sit back and enjoy what the locals do. It’s quite an experience to see people doing tai chi in the park or oldies engrossed in a game of cards or chess in the long corridors.
2 Summer Palace: Once a summer retreat for emperors, this garden is the best place to enjoy the mellow spring sunshine, the breeze and the cherry blossoms. You can walk around the ancient pavilions, mansions, temples, bridges and huge lake to experience the beauty of this imperial garden.
3 Temple of Confucius: This temple was built to pay respect to the ancient sage Confucius. You can check out the large halls, the courtyards with decorative archways, upturned eaves, the stone tablets comprising names ofthe Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, the museum, etc. May be because the tourist season has just started when I visited this place (2nd April), this place was caked in dust and not maintained very well, unlike the other tourist spots.
PS: You can take subway to all these places, except for the Great Wall. It’s fast and convenient. The metro route information available online are quite accurate.
Guide section: Leisure
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