Beijing, China’s historic capital city, is filled to the brim with amazing cultural sites, many of which make buildings in Europe seem new. Exploring Beijing, whether on foot or in a unique rickshaw pedicab, you are bound to stumble upon ancient buildings without even trying. Beijing is generally the first stop on any China travel itinerary and there is so much to see and do here that it is virtually impossible to experience everything in just a few days.
Unfortunately, some of Beijing’s historic allure has been disregarded as the city plows its way into the future. However, there are still plenty of historic sites to be discovered on your visit to Beijing.
Almost all Beijing tours start with a walk through the Forbidden City. This immense structure sits at the north end of Tiananmen Square and was once the imperial palace and home to China’s emperors. Designed as a series of courtyards, one inside the other, that get smaller as your progress, the Forbidden City covers some 720,000 square meters and is a fine collection of red wooden structures and pavilions offering a view to traditional imperial life.
Next on any Beijing itinerary should be the Summer Palace, an expansive parkland where China’s imperial families would holiday. Here, a large lake is surrounded by several leafy gardens and serene pavillions. Boating on the lake is a popular pastime for tourists, as well as exploring the numerous hilltop pagodas around the park.
Another popular Beijing cultural attraction is the Temple of Heaven, a set of buildings that served as an ancient Taoist temple. Emperors once visited this impressive structure for prayers and ceremonies. Here, three matching outbuildings surround a stoically circular building known as the Imperial Vault of Heaven which served as a grand entryway to the prayer altar.
These and many other amazing cultural relics around the city make Beijing a wonderful destination for exploring ancient Chinese culture and architecture.