Beijing’s stunning attractions exude China’s fascinating history. Over the centuries, the Chinese emperors have built many glorious monuments in the city, most of which are possible for tourists to visit today.
For example, climb the Great Wall of China, admire the splendor of imperial palaces, or embark on an expedition to the winding alleys and streets of Beijing’s Hutong.
We have put together less than 7 historical attractions that you should definitely visit on your trip to Beijing, the second largest capital city in Asia ranked by Countryaah.
The great wall of China
The Great Wall of China is one of the most impressive structures in the world. Construction of the wall began as early as 2,300 years ago at the behest of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangd, and was intended to protect the country from attacks by Mongol tribes from the north.
During later dynasties, the wall was continued and expanded.
The Great Wall of China is not one long wall, although one might infer from the name, but consists of several different fortifications and fragments of the wall built behind. The total length of the various sections of the wall is 21,196 km, and its height varies from 4.5 meters to 12 meters. The official length of the current Great Wall of China is 8851.8 km.
The best places to visit the Great Wall of China are near Beijing, such as Mutianyu, one of the best-preserved sections of the wall. In Mutianyu, you can climb the wall either along the cable car or by climbing stairs.
The oldest streets in Beijing are located in the so-called hutongs.
Hutongs are blocks of single-story buildings of 3-4 houses with a common courtyard. Beijing’s oldest hutongs are about 1,000 years old.
One of the city’s most famous hutongs is Nanluoguxiang, which is protected by UNESCO, e.g. thanks to its unique architecture. The Hutong block, which covers an area of about a square kilometer, is already 800 years old.
If you want to experience old and authentic Beijing, head to Nanluoguxiang. Many of the hutongs have been transformed into small restaurants, bars and shops, with everything from postcards to designer clothes.
Nanluoguxiang is a breathing hole for many in the otherwise so lively and busy Beijing, and its narrow but cozy streets are walked by locals and tourists alike.
The world-famous Forbidden City is located in the middle of Beijing, next to Tiananmen Square, where its entrance is guarded by a huge face of Mao.
The Forbidden City is a former imperial palace that served as the home of the then ruling emperor of China for centuries during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
The palace was completed in 1420, and for many years it was a mythical building for Chinese citizens, because the common man had nothing to do with the palace area – that is what the name Forbidden City derives from it. The palace area remained closed until 1924, when the last emperor who lived there had to relocate and the Forbidden City was taken into public use.
Today, anyone can step into this fascinating city and visit its more than 970 buildings and more than 8,700 rooms. One of the highlights of the Forbidden City is “The Palace Museum,” which exhibits more than a million artifacts that give a good picture of China and Chinese culture. The museum’s collections include paintings as well as jade and bronze objects, books, historical documents and ceramics. All in all, the museum’s collections make up as much as one-sixth of all of China’s cultural-historical relics.
Square of Heavenly Peace
Tiananmen Square, the largest square in the city center, is said to hold as many as a million people at a time.
The square was held before the demonstrations, and it became world famous in 1989, when peaceful student demonstrations in Tian’anmen received a bloody decision. Today, various parades are held in the square.
While walking in the square, you can feel its history all around you, in addition to which there are many interesting sights on its edges.
For example, visit the National Museum of China, where you can learn more about Chinese history, the Mao Zedong Mausoleum, where you can see the President’s embalmed body, or the Heavenly Peace Gate, where Mao Zedong’s image has been held in honor since 1949. The gate also serves as an entrance to the Forbidden City.
Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is located in Tiantan Park, a green oasis in the heart of vibrant Beijing.
The temple, completed in 1420, was once sacrificed to the gods, and the emperor also visited there every year to pray for success in the harvest.
There are three interesting attractions in the park area: the Temple of the Prayer of the Good Harvest, the Imperial Arch and the surrounding echo wall, and the Circular Altar.
The best known of these three is the Temple of the Good Harvest Prayer. What is special about a round temple is that it looks the same in every direction. According to the Jin and Jang philosophy, the sky is round, and the round shape of the temple symbolizes the will of heaven that Emperor Jiajing should inherit the throne from his brother because no son was born to inherit the brother.
Located in the southern part of the Temple of Heaven, the Imperial Heavenly Arch is a round building with a roof decorated with magnificent paintings. The building is surrounded by a 65-meter-long round echo wall. Thanks to the echo feature of the wall, it is possible for someone standing next to the wall to hear clearly what a person standing on the completely opposite side of the building is saying when speaking towards the wall.
The circular altar was built in 1530 and was used for imperial sacrificial ceremonies during the winter solstice. The circular altar is surrounded by two walls. The inner wall symbolizes the sky, while the outer wall represents the earth. The altar is built so that when you stand in the middle of the top level you can hear the echo of your own speech.
The magnificent Summer Palace (颐和园) is located 10 km from downtown Beijing.
The current Summer Palace was built in 1750-1764. The palace was destroyed in the 1860s, but it was rebuilt by Emperor Guangxu for the widow Empress Cix in the 1880s. Cixi built the palace to its present glory in 1903, after which it came to be called the “Summer Palace”.
The Summer Palace and its park have been open to the public since 1924. There are more than 3,000 buildings, bridges, towers and pavilions in the area of the palace. In the middle of the park is Kunming Lake. In summer, boat trips are organized on the lake, and in winter it is possible to walk across the frozen lake.
Wandering around the Summer Palace, sailing on the lake or just admiring the buildings can easily take several hours.
The Tombs of the Ming Dynasty, about 50 km from Beijing, are the last resting place of the 13 Ming Emperors.
The Beijing Tombs are part of the Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, built between 1368 and 1915 and located in several different provinces around China. Today, the graves are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Tombs illustrate the tremendous importance of the emperor and posthumous life in ancient China.
Three of the tombs are open to the public.
A 7 km long road takes you to the graves. Along this path the emperor was believed to have come from heaven to earth, and along this path the emperor was said to in time also ascend to heaven after his death. Along the way, there are statues carved from stone depicting camels, lions and elephants, as well as mythical unicorns, dragons, phoenix birds and humans.
At the end of the road, Chang Ling is the largest and oldest of the Ming tombs. In the tomb is the first of thirteen Ming emperors, his wife and 16 concubines. The tomb is the best preserved of all the Ming tombs and is therefore well worth a visit.
Do you want to explore China’s most incredible a ‘s cultural heritage töö ‘s?
Beijing has countless beautiful, impressive and interesting historical attractions that offer unforgettable experiences for the traveler.
Whether you’re heading to the Great Wall of China or an expedition to the Forbidden City, one thing is for sure: you can’t help but be impressed by China’s fascinating history, the ancient emperors and dynasties that have left their mark on the history books.