The capital city of China, Beijing also boasts some of its greatest attractions, and although the city itself can seem polluted, crowded, and difficult to navigate, there are a huge number ancient remains here that are not to be missed. Dating back 3,000 years, this is arguably the most important city in all of China, and the preserved ancient gems like the Forbidden City and the Great Wall make it a great place to begin a visit to this fascinating country.
Tiananmen Square is so famous that it needs little introduction and it is a great place to kick off your tour of Beijing due to its central location. The square itself looks over the Forbidden City and it is also home to the mausoleum of Mao Zedong, the revered former Chairman of the Communist Party. The body of Mao is still kept in the mausoleum and has been embalmed in order to preserve it. If you choose to visit here, remember that this is an extremely important monument for many Chinese nationals and as such you will be expected to show respect to the former leader and behave appropriately inside the building. Also on Tiananmen Square you will find the National Museum of China which has the claim to fame of being the largest museum in the world, so on that basis alone make sure not to miss it. The museum is packed full of information about the history and culture of China and is well worth a stop as part of your trip to Tiananmen Square.
The Forbidden City
Also on Tiananmen Square is the iconic Gate of Heavenly Peace which is the entrance to the Forbidden City. The home of the Emperor of China for centuries, the complex used to house thousands of family members and staff to the emperor and is one of the most impressive sights in the world. There are audio tours that you can take of the Forbidden City and while many travelers may prefer to explore on their own as a general rule, this is one stop where a tour can be worthwhile, and you can still wander around at your leisure as you are not tied to a tour guide.
The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is most easy to access from Beijing, although it sits out of the city. One of the Wonders of the World, as well as being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Great Wall is not be missed as it takes you over mountains and past both lush and dry landscapes depending on which part you choose to visit. The wall stretches over 13,000 miles, so there is a lot of it to choose from and there are different ways to get there. Arguably one of the easiest things to do is to book to go with a tour, and while this doesn’t appeal to everyone, it often just means that you will be driven to a section of the wall and picked up again further along, and will be free to explore as you wish in between. If you genuinely don’t want to go on a tour then you can travel to the wall by yourself which is slightly more complicated in terms of logistics. Depending on which part you want to go to you can take a train or a local bus, neither of which are easy to navigate for newcomers to China. Many visitors choose to start their trip to the wall at Badaling, the closest and most accessible area which is about an hour outside of Beijing.
Beijing can seem like a sprawling big city but it is also one that is home to some of the most famous and iconic sights in the world. As a result it can also seem a touch touristy, and some travelers may have to put aside their dislike of tours and organized attractions if they want to see the best that Beijing has to offer. That said, even with the tourist crowds many attractions like the Great Wall of China or the Forbidden City are still stunning and you definitely shouldn’t miss these ‘big hits’ in favor of smaller locations.