Top five Beijing attractions

1: The Great Wall

GREAT WALL OF CHINAThe so-called Great Wall is actually a series of walls built over several centuries to keep out the marauding northern hordes.

One of the earliest sections dates back to the seventh century (BC) and the most recent to the 14th century.

Originally a fortification and stretching more than 21,000 km from east to west across the northern border of China, the wall has more recently served as an immigration control checkpoint and, of course, now as a tourist attraction.

One of the best-kept sections of the wall, Badaling, is easily reached from Beijing. Restored in 1957, it is often used as a photo opportunity by visiting foreign politicians.

Juyongguan pass is also close to Beijing and much quieter. With some steep sections, it may not be suitable for some visitors.

The Mutianyu section of the wall is wheelchair friendly and also has a cable car that offers spectacular views.

2: The Forbidden City
Forbidden City

This Unesco World Heritage Site comprises a complex of palaces dating back to the 15th century.

The home of China’s emperors up until the revolution in 1912, it is a must-see, and you should allow at least a day to look around.

There are 980 different buildings stretched over 72 hectares, so be prepared to walk a lot.

The City is opposite Tiananmen Square, so if you have time, you can build this in to your visit. Also located here is the National Museum of China and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong (also known as Chairman Mao).

3: Summer Palace

Set atop Longevity Hill overlooking the splendid Kunming Lake, this 12th-century palace is to the north west of the city, and you should allow around a day for this attraction (including travel time). There is a real sense of tranquility here, and you can even hire a boat to sail on the lake to make your trip even more special. The natural landscape around the hill is dotted with pavilions, temples, bridges and arches – creating the perfect spot for a picnic.

4: Temple of Heaven
temple of heaven

Built around the same time as the Forbidden City, this circular building was where the emperors prayed for a healthy harvest. In ancient China, a circle represented heaven, and this temple is loaded with such symbolism.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, for example, consists of four chambers, 12 outer pillars and 12 inner pillars. Respectively, these represent the seasons, months of the year and traditional Chinese hours.

There are other temples within the complex, the Temple of the Earth, Moon and Sun. Clearly, this was an important place within Chinese culture and has been awarded Unesco World Heritage status. Beijing’s Pearl Market is nearby and worth a look too.

5: The National Stadium (Bird’s Nest)
national stadium

The structural steel beams that give the 80,000 capacity stadium its distinctive appearance was partially conceived by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei who was inspired by the country’s ceramics.

He collaborated with the Swiss architecture firm responsible for the design and build of the structure.

Commissioned for the summer 2008 Olympics, the stadium now houses the national football and basketball teams, as well as hosting operas and pop concerts.

It is also a visitor attraction and entry costs 50 yuan (around £6).

As it is in the north of the city, you should be able to fit it in on the way back from a Great Wall visit.

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