Fall is a great time of year to visit Beijing. When we were there (late-September early October) the weather was perfect – warm, sunny and dry. Did you know that Beijing has more attractions than any other city in China? Highlights of our trip were touring the magnificent Forbidden City and walking along the Great Wall of China. If you are planning to visit Beijing this year or sometime soon, consider taking one of these fun Top 10 Sightseeing Tours:
1. Beijing Classic Full-Day Tour including the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven
See Beijing’s major attractions on this fun full-day tour. Visit historic Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world – big enough to hold up to one million people. Tour the amazing Forbidden City (formerly known as The Imperial Palace) – 24 emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties lived and ruled China from here for 500 years. It’s the largest palace complex in the world, containing a jaw-dropping 9, 999 rooms.
After lunch, visit the Temple of Heaven – a masterpiece of 15th century architecture. Ming and Qing emperors came to the temple each year to worship, make annual sacrifices to Heaven, and to pray for good harvests. The temple’s three main structures include the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and the Circular Mound Altar of Heaven. If you get a chance, have your picture taken at the Temple of Heaven in costume. During our visit, we dressed as Emperor and Empress Ross from the famous “Here and Now” dynasty – a lovely memento of our trip. Afterwards, explore the Summer Palace, one of Beijing’s favorite tourist destinations. Once the exclusive summer retreat for the Imperial Family, today it is one of the best parks in the city and the largest Imperial Garden in China. Think of it as the “Central Park” of Beijing where locals come to play, go boating on the lake, and picnic in the gardens. See beautiful pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges – and the world’s longest art gallery.
2. Great Wall of China at Badaling and Ming Tombs Day Tour from Beijing
Visit two of China’s most popular destinations – the Badaling section of the Great Wall of China (one of the best preserved sections dating back to the Ming Dynasty) and the Ming Tombs. An English-speaking tour guide will be with you every step of the way to answer questions and provide insight into China’s history and culture. Tour highlights include climbing Badaling’s North or South face of the Great Wall, exploring the Chang Ling Ming Tomb (the largest of the excavated Ming emperor burial sites), and shopping at the Longdi Jade Factory (learn about jade and see how it is carved and polished). Lunch is also included on this fun Day Trip from Beijing.
3. Private Custom Tour: Beijing in One Day
Customize your own full-day tour of Beijing with an English-speaking guide. See Beijing’s famous attractions (options listed below), shop where the locals shop with your own personal guide and get the best bargains in town on jewelry, antiques, clothes, art… you name it! We loved shopping in Beijing. Bargaining is half the fun – you can get some really great deals. And if you’re a foodie, you’ll love having a personal guide recommend the best places in town to eat traditional Chinese cuisine – Dim Sum and Peking Duck banquet are must-do’s! Here’s a sample list of some of Beijing’s most popular sites that you can choose to visit on your Private Custom Tour:
- Tiananmen Square – world’s largest public square
- Forbidden City – world’s largest palace complex
- Temple of Heaven – 15th century Ming Temple
- Lama Temple – one of the world’s largest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries
- Panda Garden – see the Giant Panda in Beijing Zoo
- Summer Palace – China’s largest Imperial Garden, palaces and temples
- Beihai Park – Chinese gardens, temples, pavilions and lake
- Hutong – pedicab ride down Beijing’s Hutong (ancient alleyway)
- Water Cube – Beijing National Aquatics Center
- Bird’s Nest – Beijing National Stadium (site for 2008 Summer Olympics)
- Great Wall at Badaling – section of Great Wall dates back to Ming Dynasty
- Great Wall at Mutianyu – section of Great Wall dates back 300-500 years
- Silk Market – find great bargains on silk clothes, leather, handbags, jewelry, and exclusive designer knock-offs!
4. Great Wall of China Small Group Day Trip from Beijing
Visit China’s top tourist attraction – the Great Wall of China on this Small Group Tour (maximum of 12 people allows for a more personal touch). Tour the restored Mutianyu section of the Great Wall and climb the Ming Dynasty watchtowers – the mile-long segment was among the first built during the Ming Dynasty over 500 years ago. It’s a little more rugged and less crowded than at Badaling. We toured this less-touristy Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China during our last visit and the views from the watchtowers are incredible – you can see for miles. Enjoy great photo opportunities along the way (don’t forget to charge your batteries and bring an external battery and memory cards for your smart phone and camera). Wear comfortable shoes – the walk can be steep and rugged in places. If you don’t feel like hiking down from the Great Wall, you have the option of taking an aerial cable car (views are breathtaking) or toboggan ride (at an additional fee). After touring the Great Wall and working up an appetite, enjoy a traditional Chinese lunch in a local village. Then indulge in a Chinese Reflexology Foot Massage – we both enjoyed foot massages while visiting the magical city of Guilin and they were unbelievable. It’s a perfect way to end your day before returning to Beijing.
5. Private Beijing Bike Tour at Night
Enjoy a 3-hour Private Bike Adventure at Night through the streets of Beijing with your own expert guide. Get an up-close view of Beijing’s top attractions as you bike along massive Tiananmen Square and the exquisite Forbidden City – an especially beautiful sight at night. Hear the history and stories of these famous landmarks as you stop to take pictures along the way. Ride along a Hutong (ancient alleyway) near Drum Tower, then continue on your way as you take in Beijing’s city lights illuminated on Shichahai Lake and Jingshan Park. Cycle over to Wangfujing Snack Street and sample local delicacies (food not included in tour fee). Ride down Beijing’s ancient Nanluoguxiang Alley and check out its trendy shops and bistros. This tour is perfect for people who enjoy adventure and biking.
6. Beijing Acrobatic Show and Peking Duck Banquet Night Tour
Chinese Acrobatic Shows feature a mixture of super-talented acrobatics, gymnastics, magic acts, juggling and clowns. We were on the edge of our seats watching Beijing’s amazing Acrobatic Show – to this day, we’ve never seen anything quite like it. (Cirque du Soleil comes close). During the performance, we took pictures (discreetly because no photos were allowed) and the one featured above hangs on our travel wall. It’s like the performers are defying gravity… and no, it hasn’t been Photoshopped! Of course no trip to Beijing would be complete without experiencing a delicious crispy Peking Duck banquet. Discover the culinary secrets in carving Peking Duck correctly and eating it Beijing style – it’s one of our favorite Chinese delicacies and no one does it better than in Beijing.
7. Beijing’s Forbidden City with Special Viewing of Treasure Gallery
and the Great Wall Ruins at Badaling
Enjoy a VIP Tour of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites from Beijing – the Forbidden City and Badaling Great Wall Ruins. Tour the Palace Museum and explore the world’s largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures. View antique artwork, cultural artifacts and royal treasures as your tour guide provides insights into China’s history from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Gain special entry to the Palace Museum’s Treasure Gallery (see royal jewelry, imperial robes and crowns, including the famous Jade Cabbage) and the Clock Exhibition Hall (200 clocks and watches from the imperial collection are on display, as well as a 20-ft-tall water clock dating back to 1799 – the largest of its kind in China). Visit Jingshan Hill (Beijng’s highest point) and see breathtaking views of the Forbidden Palace, Beijing and its surroundings – an ideal place to take panoramic pictures of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Tour includes a Chinese lunch banquet with Beijing’s famous crispy Peking Duck. Follow your guide as you walk along the newly-opened Ruins of the Great Wall (located about 18 miles from the main Badaling Great Wall site). Explore ancient forts, towers and courtyards without all the crowds at the nearly isolated ruins of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
8. Private Tour: Great Wall of China Walking Tour and Helicopter Flight
Get an up-close (on the ground) and birds eye view (helicopter ride) of the magnificent Great Wall of China on this fun guided Private Tour. Hike up on foot or take a scenic cable car ride to the popular Badaling section of the Great Wall. Dating back from the Ming Dynasty, it’s the most famous and best-preserved section of the Great Wall of China. Enjoy a guided walking tour through Badaling’s narrow winding pathways and massive watchtowers. Hear all about its history from your expert guide and take pictures along the way. Afterwards, enjoy a delicious lunch at a local Chinese restaurant and then prepare yourself for the highlight of the tour – an exciting 15-minute Helicopter Ride. See unparalleled views of the Great Wall, surrounding countryside and scenic spots including the South Peak, North Peak, ancient Beacon Tower… and more. Get your smartphones and cameras ready to capture the moment.
9. Small Group Beijing Street Food Tour at Night including Dumpling Making
Foodies won’t want to miss this fun culinary journey through Beijing’s hutongs, night markets and street vendors – it’s a gastronomic delight. Small Group Tour is limited to a maximum of 12 people to allow for a more personalized dining experience. Meet culinary masters, find out about different vegetables and spices and discover tips on authentic Chinese cooking. Taste local specialties including Chinese-style pancakes and omelets, “donkey” sandwiches and rice wine. Walk along picturesque Houhai Lake to a traditional Chinese courtyard where you’ll take a fun Dumpling-Making Class. Learn how to make the perfect dumplings from a local host and then feast on a delicious dumpling dinner. Food Tour ends at the historic Drum Tower. Explore the Houhai Bar and Cafe area (elegant evening entertainment spot for locals and tourists) or the popular Nanluoguxiang area (known as Beijing’s most tourist-friendly street) for a drink on a rooftop bar down a hutong (at your own expense) – ask your tour guide for recommendations. Have fun!
10. Great Wall of China at Mutianyu Full Day Tour including Lunch from Beijing
One of the greatest man-made wonders of the ancient world, the Great Wall of China is more than 2,000 years old and stretches more than 6,000 miles. The Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall dates back to the Ming Dynasty – it’s older, steeper and more rugged than the more touristy Badaling section, featuring outer and inner parapets (walls of stone) and three watchtowers. Climb more than 1,400 steps or (if you don’t feel like hiking to the top), take an optional aerial cable car ride (the views going up… and down are breathtaking). We toured the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China and it was spectacular – the views are unparalleled. There are so many great vantage points from the parapets and watchtowers along the wall – it’s a photographer’s dream. Wear comfortable shoes (this section of the wall can be a more challenging walk than at Badaling) and dress in layers – you may need a waterproof or wind-resistant jacket. Be sure to bring along plenty of sunscreen, water, snacks and a hat. This fun 8-hr tour also includes a Chinese-style lunch and a visit to a nearby Cloisonné (enamel ware) Factory where you can watch the process of making cloisonné and purchase gifts and souvenirs.
Have you visited Beijing’s Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City ? Any other “must-see” recommendations while touring Beijing?