Top 10 Things To Do In Beijing: China Week Day 1
Beijing is a city that offers so much. With a history going back thousands of years and uncountable remarkable landmarks, it is a city dripping in Chinese history and culture. Whilst Beijing is undoubtedly historic, it is also catapulting into the future at breakneck speed. Skyscrapers dominate the landscape surrounding the CBD providing a notable contract to the traditional homes tucked away in the city’s hutong (alleyways). Speaking of which, getting lost in the hutongs is definitely on our list of Top 10 Things to do in Beijing:
- It’s a fine balance between retaining a traditional identity whilst also moving forward into the future. Many of Beijing’s old neighbourhoods are being sacrificed for more high-rise buildings, malls and offices but you step back in time and rediscover “lao Beijing” (old Beijing) exploring the cities narrow alleyways – or Hutongs - with their traditional courtyard homes and shops which, for many locals, double as the social centre of life. Try NLGX (short for Nanluoguxiang) or for a less touristy version, Wudaoying. In the hutongs, you’ll likely find elderly men playing chess, women hanging their laundry in the street, children playing, street restaurants (aka a hole-in-the-wall) alongside some more modern shops, bars, restaurants and cafes. You might stumble across the original craft brewery in Beijing – The Great Leap – and order their signature Honey Ma Gold which is brewed with Sichuan peppercorns which gives it a spicy kick.
- Go to Jingshan Park (which was once a private imperial garden attached to the palace and is now a public park popular with locals)to watch the sun set over the Forbidden Palace, once home to the Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties and the political centre of China for nearly 500 years. This is a vast residence set on almost 180 acres with around 8000 rooms. If you have a couple of hours spare beforehand, take the time to walk through the Forbidden City it is worth buying your tickets online first to avoid the queues.
- Visit Tiananmen Square or “The Gate of Heavenly Peace” – usually top of everyone’s list – Chinese and tourists alike - given it’s the place where Mao Zedong founded the modern-day People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. If you can get yourself up early enough, then it’s worthwhile getting there before sunrise for the daily flag raising ceremony. It’s free entry between 5am and 10pm each day and you can grab coffee and/or breakfast outside and enjoy famous landmarks such as the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, and the Great Hall of the People. You could try the famous ‘Jianbing’ which is the Chinese version of breakfast for champions (basically an egg roll with a bunch of fillings).
- Visit the Olympic Village and the iconic Birds Nest stadium which hosted the 2008 Beijing Olympics but skip paying to go inside and instead use your money to enjoy the amazing Water Park at the National Aquatics Centre next door (nicknamed the Water Cube) or keep walking and explore the Olympic Forest Park which is the largest urban green space in Asia.
- Go skiing in Nanshan less than one hour from the center of Beijing, perfect facilities for beginners and seasoned skiers alike. Nanshan Ski Resort is the largest ski resort in northern China and specialises in snowboarding. The resort operates year round but snow season is from the end of November to the beginning of March.For a weekend (or week long) skiing adventure, head to Yanqing which can be reached by high speed train from Beijing in 20 minutes. This will be the venue for the Alpine Ski in the 2022 Winter Olympics.
- Have fun shopping in the Silk Market and haggling for counterfeit Gucci’s and LV’s (and avoid the Chinglish t-shirts and dodgy electronics). The markets are huge and set over 35,000 square meters (in a 5 storey building), with 1,700 vendors, 3,000 salespeople, and over 50,000 tourists on the weekends.
- If night-markets and food are more your thing then check out the Wangfujin Night Markets which is packed full of Chinese delicacies and snacks, from noodles and sticky-rice to the famous Peking Duck to starfish and fried scorpions…
- Visit one of the various restaurants/bars facing the CCTV Tower (China Central Television Headquarters) and its new neighbor, China Zun, (which is still under construction but standing at 118 storeys high, it will be the tallest building in Beijing). Try the Blue Frog Restaurant on the 6th floor of the North Section China World Mall – its open-aired terrace is a perfect spot to get the #beijinginsta moment.
- And if you’re staying more than for just a holiday, join an expat group to mingle with locals/local expats and discover the non-touristy side of Beijing. Meetup Beijing has a number of groups to join that will suit various interests.
- And after all that walking and sight-seeing, reward yourself and wet your whistle at Paddy O’Sheas, voted the World’s Best Community Pub in 2018. Paddy’s is a great Irish sports bar with good food and music to boot (perfect for all the Irish teachers that Edvectus loves!!).
And that’s the Top 10 without even touching on The Great Wall of China (there’s even a slide - see it here!), the Summer Palace, Art District, Temples, Tombs, Museums, and much more…the list really is endless.
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