What are the must-see attractions in Beijing? You’ve probably seen my mega-list of attractions in the ancient capital, and I can’t blame you if you’re in a flat spin trying to work out the best sites to visit in Beijing because there are so many! So, here are the top 20 must-see attractions on a trip to Beijing.
In the list, I have included open hours, the Chinese name for the taxi, ticket costs, and roughly how long you may spend at each one, and a map. Enjoy!
Beijing Attractions Map
The Top 20 Attractions and Things to Do in Beijing
The Forbidden City, aka Palace Museum, is the no.1 highlight of Beijing, step into the past and the inner sanctuary of ancient Chinese emperors. Jingshan Park and/or Beihai Park are the perfect goto places after leaving.
Time to Spend: 2-4 hours Ticket: April to October: 60 RMB November to March: 40 RMB
Chinese Name: Palace Museum 故宫博物院 Hours: April to October – 8:30-17:00 November to March – 8:30-16:30
Great Wall in Beijing
Within one to two hours travel from downtown Beijing you can find numerous different sections of the Great Wall to visit inc. Badaling (the most popular and best restored), Mutianyu, Juyonguan, Jinshanling, Simatai, Jiankou, and Gubeikou.
Time to Spend: 4 hours (not inc travel time) Ticket: Badaling – Apr. 1 to Oct.31: 40 RMB; Nov.1 to Mar.31: 35 RMB
Chinese Name: Badaling section 八达岭 Hours: Apr. 1 to Oct.31: 06:30-19:00; Nov.1 to Mar.31: 07:00-18:00
The Summer Palace was the retreat for ancient emperors, spread over a large area with a lake, and numerous stunning buildings, it’s a must-visit. Also, don’t miss the nearby Old Summer Palace, aka Yuanmingyuan.
Time to Spend: 4 hours plus Ticket: Combo Ticket (all access) Apr to Oct – 60 RMB Nov to Mar – 50 RMB
Chinese Name: Yuanmingyuan 颐和园 Hours: Apr. 1 to Oct.31: 06:30 – 18:00; Nov.1 to Mar.31: 07:00 – 17:00
Including Tiananmen Tower (above Tiananmen Gate, entry: 15 RMB), Great Hall of the People (entry 30 RMB), Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao (Free), Monument to the People’s Heroes (Free), and National Museum (Free). A popular event is the ceremonial flag raising held every morning, and it’s lowering every night.
Ming Tombs includes the Sacred Way, Dingling Tomb, Changling Tomb, and Zhaoling Tomb.
Time to Spend: 2 hours (not inc travel time) Ticket: Combo Ticket – Apr. 1 to Oct.31: 130 RMB; Nov.1 to Mar.31: 100 RMB
Chinese Name: Míng Shísān 明十三陵 Hours: 08:00 – 17:00 (may close a little earlier Nov to Mar)
Temple of Confucius
Beautiful traditional architecture at a site that dates back to the Yuan Dynasty.
Time to Spend: one hour Ticket: 30 RMB
Chinese Name: Kǒngmiào 孔庙 Hours: May to Oct: 08:30 – 18:00; Nov to Apr: 08:30 – 17:00
Temple of Heaven
A great place to visit early as elderly locals will gather for socializing, it’s a great insight into local culture. The site itself includes gardens and numerous ceremonial buildings at a very important site that dates back to the Ming Dynasty.
Time to Spend: 2 hours Ticket: Combo Ticket – Apr to Oct: 34 RMB; Nov to Mar: 28 RMB
Chinese Name: Tiāntán 天坛 Hours: Apr to Oct: 08:00 – 17:30; Nov to Mar: 08:00 – 17:00
Also known as the Lama Temple, it is a functioning monastery for Tibetan Buddhism that dates back to 1694.
Time to Spend: 2 hours Ticket: 25 RMB
Chinese Name: Yōnghé gōng 雍和宫 Hours: Apr. 1 to Oct.31: 9:00 to 16:30; Nov.1 to Mar.31: 9:00 to 16:00
Hutongs & Courtyards
Hutongs (胡同), are the often narrow traditional laneways that date back to the Yuan Dynasty and provide an insight into the everyday life, culture, and architecture. Courtyards are like private squares where families would gather and enjoy privacy and time together among the garden open space, you’ll see many as you stroll the Hutongs. Popular ones include Nanluogu Xiang, Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street, Mao’er Hutong, Guozijian Street, Liulichang Cultural Street, Jinyu Hutong, Dongjiaomin Lane, Xijiaomin Lane, Ju’er Hutong, and Bada Hutong which is a cluster of eight Hutongs. More about Hutong tours.
Bell & Drum Towers
The bell rang in the morning and the drum at dusk, it was the way of telling the time right up until the last emperor left the forbidden city. You can catch a drum performance at 09:30, 10:00, 11:30, 13:30, 14:30, 15:30, 16:45
Time to Spend: one hour Ticket: Combo ticket: 30 RMB
Chinese Name: 钟鼓楼文化广场 Hours: 09:00 to 17:00
Prince Gong’s Mansion
Also referred to as Prince Kung’s Mansion, the area dates back to the Qing Dynasty and served as a home to a prince. Beautiful traditional gardens and architecture await.
Time to Spend: 2 hours Ticket: 40 RMB
Chinese Name: 恭王府 Hours: Apr. 1 to Oct.31:8:00 – 17:00; Nov.1 to Mar.31:9:00 – 16:00
This refers to a large scenic area whose highlights are Prince Gong’s Mansion, numerous Hutongs, such as Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street, Jin Si Tao, and Nanluogu Xiang, plus three lakes being Qianhai, Houhai, and Xihai. You may just visit one section that interests you, or do a tour of the whole area spending several hours. More about Shichahai including travel routes, sights, and top restaurants.
Chinese Name: 什刹海
The Olympics were some time ago but the National Stadium (Bird’s Nest) and National Aquatics Center (Water Cube) are still breathtaking. You can just pass by and grab a view of the two buildings, or spend some time here strolling the Olympic Park and Olympic Forest Park. More about Olympic Park.
Time to Spend: 10 mins to an hour Ticket: Olympic Park is free, entry to the stadiums is not.
Chinese Name: 北京奥林匹克公园 Hours: Apr. 1 to Oct.31: 6:00-21:00; Nov.1 to Mar.31: 07:00-19:00
798 Art Zone
Also known as Dashanzi Art District, it’s rather large featuring numerous galleries and halls. A mix of Chinese cultural art, modern art, and overseas artists. Visit the official website 798district
Time to Spend: one hour Ticket: free
Chinese Name: 北京798艺术区 Hours: 10:00 to 18:00
Fragrant Hills Park
A massive natural scenic area some 25 km outside of Beijing. It was popular dating all the way back to the Jin Dynasty. It’s quite popular in Autumn when a mass of red leaves are on display, but worthy to visit all year round. Time spent there would depend whether you use the cable car or hike. They have an official website here xiangshanpark.com.
Time to Spend: 2-4 hours Ticket: Combo ticket 15 RMB
Chinese Name: 香山公园 Hours: 06:00 to 18:00
Right in the center of Beijing and providing an amazing view of the Forbidden City from its tallest point. It’s an Imperial garden that dates back to the Yuan Dynasty.
Time to Spend: one hour Ticket: 2 RMB
Chinese Name: 景山公园 Hours: Apr. 1 to Oct.31: 06:00 – 21:00; Nov.1 to Mar.31: 06:30 – 20:00
Jingdong Grand Canyon
A massive natural scenic area located over 80 km from Beijing, it features hills, valleys, karst caves, waterfalls and more.
Time to Spend: several hours (not inc travel time) Ticket: 78 RMB
Chinese Name: 京东大峡谷 Hours: 08:00 – 18:30
National Museum of China
China’s most treasured relics and memories from history can be found here. See their official website for upcoming special exhibitions chnmuseum.cn
Time to Spend: 2 hours Ticket: free
Chinese Name: 国家博物馆 Hours: 9:00 to 17:00, closed on Monday
Beijing is a shoppers heaven from traditional ancient market streets through to modern mega-malls, it’s all here. Here are a few highlights Wangfujing Street, Panjiyuan Market, Galaxy SOHO, Oriental Malls, Xidan area, Silk Street, Hongqiao Market and the list goes on. You can also read Top 15 Markets in Beijing and the 9 must-visit shopping streets.
Where to Stay in Beijing?
These are my four picks, based on great value, consistently good reviews, foreigner-friendly, and closeness to the subway. The four-star Novotel Xinqiao or the three-star Beijing Chong Wen Men Hotel which are both near Chongwenmen Station (line 2 and line 5) and near to Beijing Railway Station, or the four-star Ji Hotel which is steps away from Xuanwumen Station (line 2 and line 4), or the four-star Sofu Hotel is a very short walk to Ping’anli Station (line 4 and 6).