Nothing compares to traveling with a local perspective. Seeing hidden gems that aren’t as well-known and also managing to escape steep prices are some of the many perks of avoiding the most popular tourist routes in any destination. There are so endless directions to go in when considering things to see in Beijing!
After spending seven days in China’s capital and getting to know it and explore, here are my suggestions for six amazing things to see in Beijing:
1. The Great Wall.
Well, of course, right? Instead of going to the tourist-infested areas, you can hire a driver to take you to a less popular location, where you will actually get amazing photos of the Wall without the crowds. This ride will only be about an hour long out of Beijing, and is quite an entertaining tour as you watch grand skyscrapers turn to mountainous landscape.
A bar district in the city, Sanlitun is popular among both Westerners and Chinese. There are plenty of nice restaurants and brand name stores, like Michael Kors and Addidas, and things to do around before the bars come alive. The street is lined with little bars you can dive in and out of. You’ll also find clubs and street food at any hour of the night.
Sanlitun is a great place to experience Beijing nightlife. This was atop one of the many rooftop restaurants and bars. I had so much fun the first time I visited that despite all of the different districts and areas of the city, I went back for more. It is also convenient to get there because saying “Sanlitun” to a cab driver will almost always evoke a nod of recognition rather than a blank stare, as pronunciation determines everything when trying to get by in China.
3. The Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is a serene park setting and is where vibrant, tall temples rest. The views of Beijing from the top of the hills are lovely, and it doesn’t hurt that you are surrounded by lush greenery and trees in the park.
The temples are brightly colored and unique, different than any other temple I’ve seen in China. It is an overall pleasant, tranquil place to experience. The name of the park is Tiantan Park, and it is off of line 5 on the metro. If you get off at the A1 exit of the Tiantandongmen stop, it is right across the street and super easy to spot!
Nanluoguxiang – shops, sweet treats, traditional food, drinks and rooftop bars, you name it. It’s a walkway weaving through the streets of hutongs, old traditional Chinese homes.
The hip yet historic vibe reminds me of downtown St. Augustine. We had a great time drinking mojitos and shopping. This area is commercial and pretty touristy, but I hadn’t heard of it until my friend, Clair, brought us there!
5. Houhai Lake
As you walking through Nanluoguxiang, you will be lead to Houhai Lake, a unique and exciting night scene. The lake is lined with restaurants and bright lights. It is expensive to dine there, so I recommend it as just an area to visit at night. You can also rent a paddle boat for an hour and tour the lake on the water! Locals are singing karaoke on every corner, and you can find live music blaring from some restaurants, too.
6. Hongqiao Pearl Market
Hongqiao Pearl Market is visible right out of the A1 exit, the same metro stop as The Temple of Heaven. It was the highlight of my second trip to Beijing, no doubt about it. Luke and I bargained successfully and walked out with our arms stuffed with great quality knock offs. You can buy pearl jewelry, to fake brand name items like bags and purses, to all types of electronics.
7. The Silk Mall
The Silk Mall is much more advertised for tourists, and we did check this out but left after 20 minutes to go back to the Pearl Market since the prices and merchandise is so much better. The vendors barely went down on prices when bargaining at the Silk Mall, while at the Pearl Market we bargained prices down a ridiculous amount. Definitely head here for shopping for electronics, silk, bags, shoes, cosmetics, luggage, leather, and just about anything you could dream of.
If you’re in Beijing, you can’t go wrong with all there is to do and see that you can only experience in this unique and marvelous city. We hope these tips help you to get the most out of your trip!