Best Things to Do in Beijing

17 Best Things to Do in Beijing [2023]


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Are you visiting Beijing for the first time, or have you been living here for a while?

Either way, it's okay! I must say, you've come to the right place.

As a Chinese person, I'm very familiar with Beijing. I can tell you about some really cool things you must do in Beijing.

Furthermore, you'll also get some insider tips and hidden gems known only to locals.

Let's get started!

Cool Things You Must Do in Beijing

1.Visit Famous Scenic Spots in Beijing

best tourist attraction in beijing Pin
As the capital of China, Beijing boasts numerous famous tourist attractions.

Yes, as a newcomer to the city, the first thing on your mind is which attractions in this city you should visit.

Beijing, as an ancient city with a long history (China's capital for centuries), boasts many famous historical sites and modern tourist areas that are well worth a visit.

Here is a recognized must-visit list:

  1. The Forbidden City. The biggest and most intact group of old imperial palaces on the planet, where emperors used to live in the past.
  2. The Great Wall. A section of the longest city wall in the world, the enormous ancient Chinese fortification built at great expense to defend against enemies.
  3. Tiananmen Square. The world's largest public square, a place every Chinese person wants to visit, the ceremonial plaza for celebrations when the People's Republic of China was established.
  4. Fragrant Hills Park. A beautiful natural and cultural area, with mountains surrounding vegetation and palace complexes, renowned for hillsides covered in red autumn leaves.
  5. Summer Palace. The world's largest royal garden, one of the foremost examples of Chinese gardening arts, possessing lakes, palaces and other cultural relics.
  6. Beihai Park. Without the crowds of the Summer Palace, it has unique lake scenery and pagodas, as well as beautiful night views.
  7. Prince Gong's Mansion. Beijing's largest ancient prince's palace, with luxurious decorations and a unique feng shui layout.
  8. Yonghe Temple. One of the largest Buddhist temples in the world, drawing many pilgrims seeking blessings, reputed to be very efficacious.
  9. Confucius Temple. The memorial temple for Confucius (an ancient Chinese sage), the best place to pray for academic improvement and career advancement.
  10. Olympic Park. The venue for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with magnificent structures like the Bird's Nest stadium and Water Cube aquatic center.

The above are generally the top attractions for visitors – they can get quite crowded on holidays and weekends, so I suggest going when others are working.

You can check my detailed list for the best spots in Beijing.

🌟Best Beijing Scenic Tours

2.Enjoy the Authentic Local Delicacies from the Hutongs

Beijing Hutong food Pin
The hutongs have all kinds of delicious food.

Beijing HuTongs, meaning old narrow alleys, are known for their low-lying tiled houses and grey walls.

Most date back to the Qing dynasty.

There are also many famous historical residences here, history everywhere. Being inside feels like you've returned to the 1900s.

These hutongs are where “old Beijing”(lao Beijing) locals often go.

You can find all kinds of authentic local and outside cuisine here, as well as a dazzling array of trinkets.

You can stroll, eat and shop to your heart's content – an absolute blast!

Some famous hutongs are Nanluoguxiang, Dongjiaominxiang, Yangmeizhu Xiejie, Wudaoying and more.

Don't forget to visit at night, the small bars here are also very unique.

🌟Best Beijing HuTong Tours

3.Take a Boat Cruise

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Boat rides at the Summer Palace in Beijing.

Beijing has several inner rivers and lake parks, such as Shichahai, Summer Palace, Yuanmingyuan, and Houhai etc.

In ancient times, royal family members often traveled by boat, touring various attractions.

Now you can also have an imperial experience.

Here are some popular boat tour routes:

  1. Beijing Zoo -> Royal Canal Cruise -> Summer Palace day tour, at the end you can admire the sunset over the Summer Palace lake.
  2. Old Summer Palace cruise to enjoy lotus flowers and small animals.
  3. Beihai Park rowboating, 100% recommend trying the human-powered boats.

In addition, I highly recommend taking a boat tour in Beijing at night.

A light breeze, a few friends, some beers – oh, it's so pleasant!

🌟Best Beijing Boat Tours

4.Experience Old Beijing Culture in Qianmen Street and Dashilan

Qianmen Street and Dashilan Pin
The ancient architecture of Qianmen Street.

Qianmen Street and Dashilan(Yes, it is pronounced as “dà shí lànr”, not Dà zhà lán. Many Chinese people often mispronounce it. If you say it correctly, they will surely be impressed with you.) is another area locals like to visit, with many preserved ancient buildings, surrounded by attractions like the Palace Museum, National Centre for the Performing Arts, etc.

There is also lots of good food.

When you're tired from touring the vicinity, this is a perfect place to take a break.

If you want to challenge your Mandarin a bit, you can go to Deyun Society to watch Xiangsheng comedy shows, lol.

🌟Best Beijing Qianmen Street Tours

5.Treasure Hunting at Ghost Markets

Beijing night markets Pin
Beijing's ghost markets have all kinds of quirky little trinkets.

Beijing's ghost markets, also known as night markets, are small goods trading markets that open only at night.

The main three are: Panjiayuan Ghost Market, Daliushu Ghost Market, and Dongpeng Market Ghost Market.

‘Treasure hunting' at these markets is a very exciting experience.

You can find all kinds of second-hand goods, countless handicrafts, and some artistic pieces hard to see elsewhere.

In my experience, picking out second-hand electronics here can be very affordable, as long as you check they aren't damaged.

You can also pick out some cute art pieces as souvenirs from your trip or gifts for friends.

As for some of the so-called ‘antiques', I think most are basically fakes, lol.

Finally, and most importantly, remember you must haggle – the vendors are happy for you to bargain with them.

🌟Best Beijing Ghost Markets Tours

6.Have a Drink at the Shichahai Bar Street

Shichahai Bar Street Pin
Have a drink and relax

If you're tired from walking around all day, feel free to go to a bar for a drink and to relax.

At night you can stroll along Shichahai, get some evening breeze, then head to the bar street, which has tons of bars.

Some are open air in courtyards, some on rooftops.

Great Leap Brewing is one I recommend – I've had great experiences there.

Additionally, Sanlitun and Gongti Xi Lu are also areas with large collections of bars.

🌟Best Beijing Bar Tours

7.Experience Cooking Chinese Cuisine

making Chinese food Pin
Learn how to make dumplings from a master chef.

Interested in Chinese cuisine? Want to uncover the ancient secrets of making Chinese food? Now's a great chance!

You can take a few hour cooking class, with guidance from expert chefs on everything from ingredient selection to knife skills to cooking instructions, learning to make complete Chinese dishes.

Some famous options are available like: dumplings, Kung Pao chicken, sweet sour pork ribs, braised eggplant, etc.

Once you've learned, don't forget to show off your new skills to your friends, and bask in their admiration!

🌟Best Beijing Chinese Food Making Tours

8.Shop for Silk and Watch Acrobatic Shows

Silk and Theatre Pin
Beijing Silk market and theater

If you have ample time, spending 4-6 hours in the afternoon shopping for silk and watching acrobatic shows is a great option, then go for dinner to try delicious Peking duck, mapo tofu, and jingjiaorou.

The silk market has not just real silk clothes and fabrics, but also many counterfeit luxury goods (they'll explicitly tell you they're fake, the final call is yours).

Also, haggling is a required skill – if you join a tour group, your guide will teach you pro tactics.

The acrobatic shows are another fantastic option – I find my fists clenching involuntarily along with the performers, as if I'm right there with them.

Very thrilling.

🌟Best Beijing Silk And Acrobatics Tours

9.Stroll Through the 798 Art Zone

China Art Museum and 798 Art Center Pin
China Art Museum and 798 Art Zone

If you don't like crowded places, then come for an art tour.

Beijing has many art galleries where you can see Chinese ink paintings, oil paintings, sculptures, ceramics, stonework and more, fully immersing in Chinese culture.

As for 798 Art Zone, it was an abandoned factory complex transformed into an arts district by free-spirited artists, where you can explore the blend of history and modernity.

798 Arts District's now Beijing's top spot for art shows, teaming up with the Picasso Museum in Paris. France's President Macron's even been there.

There are also many cafés, bars, and restaurants in the park.

This is my favorite place to unwind in Beijing with a beer and take things slowly.

🌟Best Beijing Art Museum Tours

10.Enjoy Traditional Chinese Massage and Medicine

Traditional Chinese massage and Chinese medicine Pin
Chinese medicine and traditional Chinese massage.

For me, getting a full body massage after tiring travel days is the best thing ever.

Chinese traditional massage can work almost every body part – if you have back or shoulder pain, tuina massage is great.

You can also get a foot massage, which is my go-to after all the walking sightseeing and shopping.

As for traditional Chinese medicine, you'll find it very different from Western medicine.

The most common practices are feeling your wrist pulse and looking at your tongue.

If you feel unwell but it's not serious enough for the hospital, you can try some TCM – it often has miraculous effects.

🌟Best Beijing Massage And Medicine Tours

11.Try Some Baijiu(Traditional Chinese Liquor)

Erguotou baijiu from Beijing Pin
Authentic Beijing breakfast, with a glass of Erguotou baijiu – wow!

Have you heard of Chinese baijiu liquor? Want to give it a try?

Now's a great chance!

Baijiu is typically strong, with over 50% alcohol content, stronger than normal whisky.

The most famous baijiu from Beijing is Erguotou, found everywhere.

Drinking baijiu is usually a big challenge for foreigners.

They'll give you a small glass – start with just a little.

🌟Best Beijing Baijiu Tours

12.See the Adorable Pandas

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The bears and pandas at the Beijing Zoo.

Seeing pandas in Beijing is a great opportunity – I suggest going early to avoid crowds, then head to the Summer Palace etc.

Besides pandas, the zoo has many other animals you can buy vegetables to feed and get up close with.

If you bring kids, it'll make their day for sure.

🌟Best Beijing Panda Tours

13.Take a Modern Architecture and Art Tour

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Beijing's magnificent modern architecture.

Beijing has not just abundant ancient architecture, but also several stunning modern architectural sites.

I'm shaken emotionally every time I visit them, amazed by the Chinese people's superb construction capabilities.

These include: the CCTV Building, National Centre for the Performing Arts, the Bird's Nest, Galaxy Soho, Daxing International Airport (starfish) and more.

I recommend going in the evening to admire the beautiful lighting effects.

🌟Best Beijing Architecture Art Tours

14.Enjoy Freely Riding Bikes and Seeing the Sights

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Ride an electric bike and wander freely and casually.

Hate being crammed on public transit or stuck in taxi traffic?

Why not try electric bikes or bicycles for flexible wandering and sightseeing?

As a frequent Beijing visitor, I now prefer getting around by e-bike, enjoying bypassing the crowded commercialized spots, finding original ancient sights in the hutongs, discovering hole-in-the-wall eateries with authentic local flavors only the locals know, and often having delightful surprises.

Given the language barrier, I suggest you hiring a private guide to experience the unique secret gems.

🌟Best Beijing Bikes Tours

15.Want to Do a Amazing Food Challenge?

Beijing Food Challenge Pin
I like to eat roasted insects.

This will be a test of mental fortitude, from brined pig offal, sour bean curds(Douzhi), to roasted insects including scorpions, spiders and centipedes.

Have you heard of these foods before, do you know they are edible?

As for me, I like to go to the hutongs to find delicious braised offal (pig lungs, liver, intestines chopped and braised together), and to go to Qianmen Street to taste delicious roasted insects (yes, creepy but delicious).

However, I cannot stand the sour bean curds!!! Wow, imagine the taste is like a week old spoiled soup left in the kitchen!

If you like challenges, you must try these unique foods.

🌟Best Beijing Amazing Food Tours

16.Visit Unique, Less Crowded Spots

peking man site stone flower cave and marco polo bridge Pin
marco polo bridge, peking man site and stone flower cave

Popular attractions can be too crowded, especially if you go during Chinese holidays – the experience won't be great.

Luckily, you still have many unique, uncrowded spots to choose from.

Marco Polo Bridge(Lugou Bridge) is an important historical site from the Sino-Japanese War, where Japan launched full scale invasion. There are lots of cute stone lions.

The Peking Man Site is one of the earliest Paleolithic human sites, where you can see ancient caves and stone tools.

At Shihua Cave, there are many wondrous stone flowers, including stone bamboo, stalactites, stalagmites, stone waterfalls, stone curtains, etc.

🌟Best Beijing Less Crowded Spots Tours

17.Indulge in an Immersive Royal Banquet

Bai Jia Da Yuan Restaurant was once a prince's palace during the Qing dynasty, and later the entire huge residence was transformed into a Chinese garden restaurant.

Today, it is a top Chinese restaurant in Beijing, retaining all the decorations of a traditional Qing dynasty palace and old-style pavilions, yards and gardens.

The service staff also dress in traditional Qing dynasty costumes, greet you using Qing dynasty etiquette, and there are also traditional Peking opera performances like face changing.

Being there makes you feel like you've truly gone back hundreds of years to the Qing dynasty and become a royal family member.

🌟Best Beijing Imperial Dinning Tours

18.Wild Great Wall Adventure

If you are interested in Beijing's Great Wall, you must have heard of Badaling, Mutianyu or Simatai, which are the most famous sections with the best facilities, but crowded, especially on Chinese holidays.

Luckily, there are still many undeveloped wild Great Wall sections around Beijing, such as Panlongkou, Huanghuacheng, Longquanyu etc.

Away from the traditional routes and crowds, these wild Great Wall offer a unique experience.

🌟Best Beijing Wild Great Wall Tours


What Do Tourists Typically Do When Visiting Beijing?

Most first-time visitors will choose to visit Beijing's famous attractions, and taste the local famous foods.

However, if you have already been there or don't want to go to those popular places. I have indeed listed some very cool things to do in Beijing in this article.

As for me, I now like to ride e-bikes to tour around Beijing, go to places I've never set foot in, and often discover surprises.

You May Also Like:

Top Tourist Attractions in Beijing.

Best Things to Do in Beijing at Night.

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