Beijing's Top Sights
Collected by Sophie Friedman, AFAR Local Expert
Beijing is home to iconic landmarks—Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City—and the Great Wall is not far away. Beyond those are less famous landmarks: centuries-old temples, atmospheric hutongs, and some of the best collections of Chinese art in the world.
12 Yonghegong St, Dongcheng Qu, China, 100007
To understand China, it's imperative to understand the important role religion and philosophy play in the culture. Buddhism is one such influence, and this gorgeous temple tells a bit of that story. Yonghegong is in the northern part of Beijing...
Chaoyang, Beijing, China, 100123
The name “street” is a bit misleading, as this is really an enclave of warehouses and showrooms stocked with proper antiques, imitation Ming and Qing dynasty furniture, and more-contemporary chinoiserie. Getting out here is easy enough...
China, Beijing Shi, Shijingshan Qu, Lugu Rd, 八宝山 邮政编码: 100049
Although this bicycle company was founded in the 1930s in Tianjin by a Japanese businessman, today it’s iconically Chinese, particularly in Beijing. This is Beijing’s flagship Flying Pigeon, where you can buy 22-, 24-, and 28-inch...
7 Fayuansi Front St, Xicheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China
Fayuan Temple (Fayuan Si) doesn’t get the top billing that the Lama Temple and the Temple of Heaven do, and that’s what makes it such a treat to visit. This is Beijing’s oldest surviving temple—well, parts of it are,...
62 Yangmeizhu Byway, Xicheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100031
Within the rapidly trendifying area of Dashilar is Ubi Gallery, founded by Dutch former diplomat and art enthusiast Machtelt Schelling. Ubi showcases and sells ceramics and “wearable art,” aka contemporary jewelry. The featured artists...
61 S Luogu Alley, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100007
If you're looking for something more original than the ubiquitous "I climbed the Great Wall" T-shirt, then look no further. Plastered is an original design T-shirt shop that specializes in tongue-in-cheek treatments of Chinese and Beijing culture....
6 Fangyuan W Rd, Chaoyang Qu, China, 100096
This is the best place in Beijing to buy contemporary Chinese ceramics. Spin works with artists in Jingdezhen, China’s porcelain capital, and the pieces here are original, limited-edition works of art at competitive prices. Attractive vases,...
16 E Chang'an Ave, Dongcheng Qu, China
On the east side of Tiananmen Square sits this massive museum, its dozens of halls filled with rare artifacts and antiquities. The exhibitions span Chinese history, beginning nearly two million years ago, with two teeth belonging to Yuanmou Man,...
6 Maliandao Rd, Xicheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China
If you're keen on buying moderately priced tea sets and a variety of Chinese teas, this massive indoor market is the place to come. Charming it's not—it can be crowded and the stalls are fluorescent-lit—but hundreds of teas from across...
3 Xinbi St, Xicheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100031
This gleaming performing arts center, sometimes called the Giant Egg, was designed by French architect Paul Andreu and inaugurated in 2007. The ellipsoid dome, made of titanium and glass and surrounded by a man-made lake, looks a bit like a...
Houhai Lake, Shichahai, Xicheng, China, 100009
If you’ve kids in a tow, hiring a boat for a float around Houhai is a great way to relax. Houhai is a man-made lake that was once the royal family’s private pool. Today, it’s a popular place for families who come here to cycle...
Not to be confused with the Summer Palace, the Old Summer Palace is east of the Summer Palace and northwest of Central Beijing, and when it was built in 1709, the surrounding area was rural. The Old Summer Palace is also known as Yuanming Yuan...
74 Wangfujing St, DongDan, Dongcheng Qu, China, 100006
Beijing had a colonial past just as Shanghai did, but the remnants of those years are not as prevalent as they are in Shanghai. That’s why St. Joseph’s Cathedral is well worth a visit. The Romanesque Revival church was originally built...
Xicheng, Beijing, China, 100006
The Forbidden City gets top billing in Beijing, and that's good news for visitors to Jingshan Park. The 23-hectare (57-acre) park is just north of the Forbidden City, separated by a moat. A former imperial park dating to the 11th century, this was...
24 Shijia Hutong, DongDan, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100005
Before you lose yourself in Beijing’s wonderfully maze-like hutongs, pay a visit to the Shijia Hutong Museum. Shijia Hutong is lovely and quiet, shaded by trees and still lined in traditional courtyard houses. House number 24, the former...
2 Jiuxianqiao Rd, Chaoyang Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100096
How a complex of German-built factories became one of East Asia’s hottest art destinations is also the story of modern China. When construction on a number of electronics factories began in Dashanzi in 1956, the area was farmland. Joint...
China, Beijing Shi, Chaoyang Qu, S Sanlitun Rd, 三里屯南街4号院 邮政编码: 100001
A lending library with more than 10,000 English-language books. A weekly slate of events, from poetry readings to winetastings to quizzes to movie screenings. A full menu of food. A superb single malt collection. "Something for everyone" sounds...
China, Beijing Shi, Xicheng Qu, ShiChaHai, 地安门西大街甲25 邮政编码: 100009
Head to any Chinese park on a sunny afternoon or weekend and look up: Flitting through the sky, carried by the winds, are dozens of colorful kites. These are being flown by pint-size kids, laughing couples hand in hand, and smiling grandparents...
4 Jingshan Front St, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100006
Beijing's number one tourist attraction is a massive former imperial palace known as the Forbidden City. Between 1416 and 1911, it was home to 24 Ming and Qing dynasty emperors and their families and staff. In 1912, after the abdication of...
Xicheng, Beijing, China
The world's seventh-largest public square is best known in the West for the 1989 student protests, but this is also where, on October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong founded the People's Republic of China. The square was named for Tiananmen (which translates...
1 Tiantan E Rd, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China
This complex of Taoist religious buildings was constructed in the early 15th century under the Yongle Emperor, who also commissioned the Forbidden City, just to the north. The temple's central building is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, a...
19 Xinjiangongmen Rd, Haidian Qu, China, 100000
The present-day Summer Palace is China's largest royal park and was once called the Garden of Cultivated Harmony. It took its current name when Empress Dowager Cixi, in a controversial action, used some money earmarked for the navy and rebuilt the...
The Great Wall of China runs more than 21,000 kilometers (over 13,000 miles), not as one continuous wall but rather as fortified wall sections. Some of the sections date back more than 2,500 years, though only 8.2 percent of the existing wall is...
Despite its name, within this mall are shops selling all manner of electronics, watches, clothing, handbags, suitcases, and, of course, jewelry, including hundreds of pearls in every conceivable shape, size, and color. You can buy jewelry already...
41 Guozijian St, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100007
Gu Qigao's bright furniture shop and café is so perfectly curated you'll want to move straight in. The handsomely refurbed courtyard house near the Confucius Temple has two floors filled with furniture and home goods by Japanese and Chinese...
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