Home > Matt Explains > My Top 5 Beijing Sights

My Top 5 Beijing Sights

While living in Beijing over the last five years I have visited most of the tourist sights at least once. I was first a tourist, while studying in Shanghai in 2004 we made a week long trip to see many of the sights of Beijing. Since then, I have been back to some when friend and family visit and have seen a few more when taking a weekend to “be a tourist”. Below are my top 5 sights.

1.) Temple of Heaven This is the tourist sight that I can visit over and over again. There are three main temples, all of which are worth the trip in. These restored temples are the most famous attraction in the very large grounds, but it is not why the Temple of Heaven is my favorite. Every day rain or shine the grounds are filled with Beijing citizens taking advantage of the open spaces to exercise, practice tai chi, sing and dance.

2.) Food (Ghost Street and pretty much anywhere else) Beijing is one of the great food cities in the world. As the capital of China all of the provinces food is represented here. The argument can be made that the food is more authentic in their home province, however, those provinces do not have the wide range of tastes for every palate, from adventurous to food that pretty closely resembles Chinese take-out in the U.S.. One of my favorite meals which is similar to fondue, where you cook the meal yourself in a pot of broth. It is simply delicious and the atmosphere on Ghost Street adds another dimension to the meal.

3.) Hou Hai and the Hutongs (Hou Hai, Nanluguxiang) The hutongs are the historical courtyard homes of the middle and low classes in Beijing. There are alleys of these that have been preserved in the heart of the city as Beijing has modernized around it. Today there are a number of restaurants and shops that have taken over the hutongs, especially in the areas around Nanluguziand and Hou Hai. These alleys make for a great day of just wandering around, seeing what Beijing used to look like. Hou Hai also offer two lakes where you can enjoy a beer, rent a boat or even skate in the winter.

4.) Great Wall The quintessential China tourist site. It simply must be visited if you are in Beijing. My personal favorite sections are either Mutianyu or Simatai, though Simatai is very far away and is a major hike. I heavily recommend a “wild wall” section over the restored ones, though the restored areas tend to be easier to access from Beijing.

5.) Summer Palace The Summer Palace is the former summer home of the Emperor. This palace was built on the side of a lake and offered a respite from the heat of Beijing during summer. Similar to the Temple of Heaven, there are tons of people out doing exercise and just being outside.

The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square should be on everyones list, but I just cannot put them in my top 5. They are impressive, big, Chinese and important, but I never leave them thinking this way. Instead, I think they are big, tiring, repetitive and just a bit boring. By all means, if you are in Beijing you should go see them, but they do not WOW the way my top five do.

  1. September 7, 2011 at 7:40 am

    Totally agree! Highly recommend the top 5 must-go places in Beijing!

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