Built in 1651, Tiananmen Square is an immense expanse of bright white paving stones and one of Beijing’s most popular visitor attractions. At 109 acres, it ranks within the top ten largest city squares in the world and is the geographical centre of the city – as well as the symbolic centre of the Chinese universe. Get there early and witness the daily raising of the national flag for a memorable experience.
The Forbidden City
Take a day to explore the many magnificent courtyards, bridges, halls and gardens that make up the Forbidden City (named as such because it was off limits to visitors for 500 years). This spectacular collection of ancient buildings was once home to 24 emperors between 1420 and 1911. To take it all in, several visits may be required – and make sure to wear comfortable shoes, as the palace is 960 metres long and 750 metres wide!
The Hòuhǎi Lakes (comprising of three different lakes) are a popular spots for Beijinger’s, who relax by the shore in the day, flying kites and people-watching, or explore the lake on pedalos. Once winter arrives, the lakes freeze over, allowing visitors to ice-skate, or even hire ice bikes and ice bumper cars. Meanwhile, when the sun goes down, Hòuhǎi transforms, as restaurants, bars and café’s open up and party-goers flock to the area to enjoy the music and bright lights.
The Temple of Heaven
Built in the Ming Dynasty, every year at winter solstice, the emperors would come to the Temple of Heaven to pray for a good harvest. The UNESCO-listed site is described as a ‘masterpiece of architecture and landscape design’, and a trip to the Temple will not disappoint.
Arrive early in the morning and not only will it be quieter, you’ll also be able to watch locals doing their morning exercises, including tai chi, karate and traditional dance.
The Great Wall
Of course, a trip to Beijing would not be complete without visiting the spectacular Great Wall, which snakes more than 6700km across the northern lands. As the saying goes: ‘He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man’. Read more about the Great Wall here.