Beijing, the first dual Olympic City has been in the limelight ever since the beginning of the Winter Olympic Games with the entire world focusing on the city.

International attention pertaining to Beijing was rekindled after it was chosen to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has restricted traveling, more recently the 2022 Winter Olympic Games has thrust the city into the spotlight. Bing Dwen Dwen, the official mascot of the Winter Olympics can be seen adorning the cityscape.

Beijing is the epitome of urban and ancient amalgamation. It won’t be wrong to assume that to understand China one must understand Beijing.

The city is an essential element of Chinese history spanning the past eight centuries. So much so, that it is reflected in every nook and cranny that one traverses or explores. Nearly every building in Beijing symbolizes national historical significance to some extent.

Beijing: A Tourists’ Paradise

The city offers both historical vestiges of an ancient culture as well as new urban construction. It has both fast-food franchises and posh hotels for foreign tourists and corporate travelers.

In fact, Beijing has evolved as a magnificent showplace of modern China and one of the world’s wonderful cities. In terms of geography, the city has an area city of 1,763 square miles. Whilst, in terms of size, it is only eclipsed by Shanghai. It is located in the northwest of the North China Plain.

Sightseeing Beijing

Beijing is a tourist paradise with its dense network of rail, road, and airline linkages with other significant cities. For a wandering soul with an interest in history, it offers a surfeit of unique sightseeing opportunities.

The country’s best-known tourist attractions can be found here. These include a section of the famous Great Wall of China at Badaling Pass, the Imperial Palace, Coal Hill Park, Beihai Park, and the Heavenly Temple. These sites are mostly found in the well-preserved historic city center.

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Aside from exploring the historical contours of the city, sightseers can explore Tiananmen Square and various temples that can be found throughout the city. Aptly, the place is also a Shangri-la for foodies and those looking for retail therapy.

The Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace is one of the most notable attractions the city has to offer. It is also commonly known as the Forbidden City and can trace back its origins to the Yuan Dynasty of the 13th century.

The immense size of the Imperial Palace is the outcome of augmentations made during the Ming Dynasty from 1406 and 1420. The exquisite palace has been home to 24 Ming and Qing Emperors.

Its nickname of the Forbidden City is derived from the fact that ordinary citizens weren’t allowed entrance. The palace complex covers 720,000 square meters and is enveloped by a 50-meter-wide moat and a 10-meter-high wall with towers in the four corners.

The Imperial Palace is split into an area that was used for administrative and ceremonial pursuits. Moreover, it has private quarters that were once used by the Emperor and his concubines.

Meridian Gate

The main feature of the palace is the Meridian Gate which was built in 1420. Likewise, a network of five richly embellished white marble bridges known as the Golden River Bridges and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, which functioned as the Emperor’s banquet hall are the highlights of the historic marvel.

The Meridian Gate

Another famous site to see is the Palace of Heavenly Purity. It is the largest hall in the Inner Court. Likewise, the Hall of Military Courage was a permanent residence and private audience hall for the then emperors.

The remarkable 35-meter-high Hall of Supreme Harmony is also noteworthy as it has a splendidly adorned gilded imperial throne and the country’s largest surviving wooden building.

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The Palace Museum

Another prominent tourist attraction for the globetrotters is the Palace Museum. It is a national museum located in the Forbidden City at the center of Beijing and was established in 1925. The museum has 980 buildings.

The Palace Museum

Located just a short stroll away from the Palace Museum, is the historic Imperial College also known as Guozijian. The Imperial College was founded by Kublai Khan in 1287.

It has served as the country’s national university and frequently witnessed the Emperors of the yore visit, to advance their education and learning. The Imperial College complex covers more than 10,000 square meters.

Address of the Forbidden City/The Imperial Palace: 4 Jingshan Front Street, Dongcheng, Beijing

The Great Wall of China

It won’t be wrong to say that when China is thought about, the Great Wall comes into one’s mind. The Majestic Great Wall of China is only an hour away from Beijing.

The first part of the Wall to be opened to tourists in the 1950s is at Badaling Pass. Sightseers can enjoy a stroll along an amazing section of this historical landmark from the 16th century that stands up to eight meters high.

During the stroll, one gets to enjoy multiple towers and parapets that offer fantastic views of the adjacent picturesque panorama. Aside from a hilly walk, one can take a delightful cable car ride up to the wall.

This much-visited part of the Wall tends to get busy, so, one must try to plan the trip for early arrival. Tours are also offered that the tourist can avail. The Great Wall of China offers a fantastic understanding of Chinese history.

Another famous site to explore the Great Wall is Mutianyu. Some of its parts date back to the 6th century. It has been rebuilt and expanded over the centuries and has become increasingly famous for its glorious sceneries, particularly during spring and autumn.

Great Wall of China

Tian’anmen Square

Another popular tourist attraction is Tiananmen Square. Tiananmen Square means the Square of Heavenly Peace. It is the world’s largest inner-city square and has been designed to hold a million people.

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The Square was built in 1958 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Chinese Republic. A visit to Square offers a quest of the Monument to the People’s Heroes which is a 38-meter tall obelisk.

The Monument to the People’s Heroes consists of 17,000 pieces of granite and marble. The Square also displays the magnificent Tiananmen Gate which is also known as the Gate of Heavenly Peace. The Gate was constructed in 1417 and was the main entrance to the Imperial City.

Monument to the People’s Heroes

Furthermore, the tourists can sightsee another important gateway Zhengyangmen or Qianmen which is the southernmost gate into Tiananmen Square. Zhengyangmen can be traced back to the early 15th century.

However, it was restored in the early 1900s. There is also the Museum of the Chinese Revolution that exhibits various stages of the Chinese revolution from 1919 along with the development of the Communist Party.

Additionally, the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong is also in Beijing, where the body of Mao rests in a crystal sarcophagus.

Beihai Park

A short distance from the Imperial Palace is Beihai Park. It is one of the oldest surviving imperial gardens in the city.

The park was constructed at the dawn of the 10th century. It is an exquisite open space that derives its name from the nearby Lake Beihai.

The Round Fort, dating from the Yuan era of 1271-1368, as well as the stunning Hall of Enlightenment, are amongst the Park’s most noteworthy structures.

The hall houses a one-and-a-half-meter-tall Buddha, built in 1690, that is carved from a single block of white jade. Likewise, it is also home to a large black jade vase from the early 12th century.

Another eminent attribute is the lavish dwelling of Song Qingling, the widow of Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Republic, who resided there for 18 years until her death. Presently, it has the status of a museum.

The Living Quarters of Mei Lanfang are also a famous attraction. He was a famous male star of the Peking Opera who specialized in playing the part of a woman.

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Address of Behai Park: 1 Wenjin St, Xicheng, Beijing

The Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven dates back to 1420, It comprises a set of Beijing’s most sacred buildings. These stunning old temples and shrines are shrouded by dense verdure and are divided into two sections; one rectangular and the other semi-circular.

The Temple of Heaven

Together these sections symbolize Heaven and Earth. It is believed that the Emperor would ascend the Heavenly Altar from this location on the day of the winter solstice.

The Emperor ascended to pray for a good harvest and offer sacrifices in the brilliantly ornamented Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.

The Hall was built in 1420 with wood and entirely without nails. It sits on a three-tiered marble terrace with balustrades and a roof bedecked with 50,000 blue-glazed tiles.

The Hall of the Vault of Heaven is another highlight. It was erected in 153 and has a blue-tiled conical roof. This Hall was used to keep the ceremonious plaques of Heaven and the Officials.

Another attraction is the temple’s Echo Wall. The Wall echoes to even the faintest of voices. This amazing effect has been magnified by three unique echoing stones.

Address: 1 Tiantan E Road, Dongcheng Beijing

The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace is a must-visit site for tourists. It is located a 30-minute journey by bus, car, or taxi from the epicenter of Beijing. The origin of the Palace dates back to the 12th century.

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The Palace is picture-perfect, befitting its royal status, and boasts a big 700-year-old man-made lake and beautiful gardens.

The foremost things to see here are the Hall of Well-being and Longevity with its ornate throne, the western-styled “Marble Ship”, and the exquisite courtyard abutting the Hall of Happiness and Longevity.

Visitors also must see the remarkable 19th-century Great Theatre, where one can witness enactments of traditional Chinese music and plays.

Likewise, depending on time, another popular to-do thing is a ride aboard the small amusement vessel that ferries tourists to one of the palace’s temples. One can also opt to saunter past the classic riverside stores on Suzhou Market Street.

Address: 19 Xinjiangongmen Road, Haidian District, Beijing | Official site:

Beijing National Stadium

Beijing National Stadium garnered worldwide recognition because of the spectacular Summer Olympics held in Beijing in 2008 and more recently the Winter Olympics that will be ending on 20 February 2022. The National Stadium is also known as the Bird’s Nest.

An architectural wonder, it is worth visiting whilst exploring Beijing. The Stadium has a distinctive design representing traditional Chinese ceramics. During the winter season, the Stadium is turned into the world’s largest manmade indoor ski slope.

Beijing National Stadium

National Aquatics Center

National Aquatics Center is another nearby attraction. Also known as the Water Cube for its attractive night-time display, it is lit up as a giant ice cube.

Aside from being the site of Olympic swimming events, part of the structure has been transformed into a fun Watercube Waterpark.

After visiting the Water Cube, a stroll along the lovely Olympic Green is a must. The Olympic Green is a stunning parkland and verdant space that takes one beyond many of the most important edifices from the 2008 Olympics.

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Address: 1 National Stadium S Road, Chaoyang | Official site:

National Aquatics Center
National Aquatics Center

The Lama Temple

Next is the Lama Temple, also known as the Yonghe Temple. It is one of Beijing’s most alluring and best-preserved temples. Lamaism was the religion of the then Tibet.

The Temple was completed in 1745 and was constructed to abundant proportions. Furthermore, it was furnished with numerous invaluable pieces of art.

The most important feature of the Temple is the Hall of the Kings of Heaven as it has a statue of Buddha encircled by the four kings who are equipped with symbolic objects.

Correspondingly, the statue of Weituo, the protector of Buddhism, holding an iron staff, is also noteworthy. The Pavilion of the Four-tongued Stele is also an important building.

It houses a stele that can be traced back to 1792 and retains the history of the Lama religion penned in Tibetan, Manchurian, Chinese, and Mongolian.

Similarly, the Hall of the Buddhist Wheel, the teaching and assembly hall of the monastery, its interior dominated by a six-meter-tall statue, numerous sacred manuscripts, and two thrones are fascinating to visit for those who have an interest in history.

The largest building at the Lama Temple is the Pavilion of Four Thousand Fortunes which has an enormous 18-meter-high sandalwood statue.

Address: 12 Yonghegong Street, Dongcheng, Beijing

The National Centre for the Performing Arts

The National Centre for the Performing Arts is another modern landmark in Beijing that is worth visiting. It is also known as the Giant Egg and is considered to be one of the best opera houses in Asia.

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Address: 16 Fuxingmen Outer St, Xicheng, Beijing

The National Centre for the Performing Arts
The National Centre for the Performing Arts

Beijing Ancient Observatory

The fortress-like Beijing Ancient Observatory was completed in 1442. It lies in the east of the city close to the station quarter. The Observatory is one of the oldest such observatories in the world and was in use up until 1929.

It has multiple intriguing old pre-telescopic devices including a celestial globe that dates back from 1673 as well as an 18th-century armillary globe illustrating the planets.

Furthermore, the Observatory exhibits a number of large bronze devices designed by Ferdinand Verbiest, a Jesuit missionary. The Observatory is a tall brick tower that was once part of the old city walls.

Presently, it serves as a museum showing a glimpse into the incredible amount of knowledge related to stars and planets that were believed to exist in olden times.

Beijing Ancient Observatory
Beijing Ancient Observatory

Address: 2 Dongbiaobei Hutong, Jian Wai Da Jie, Dongcheng, Beijing

The Fayuan Temple

The Fayuan Temple is also known as the Source of Law Temple. It dates back to the year AD 645 and has several halls where ancient stone inscriptions are preserved, the ancientest dating from as far as the 7th century.

The Fayuan Temple has witnessed numerous significant historic events. In that capacity, it served as a prison for Emperor Huizong in the 12th century.

Moreover, it has also served as a place of examination for the highest offices of state and botanical gardens.

Nowadays, it is a place of worship and the seat of the most important educational Buddhist Academy in China. Other features of the Temple are the Hall of the Kings of Heaven with its fine statues and the bell and drum towers in the first courtyard.

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The Mahavira Hall houses Buddhas of the present, past, and future, and, a Han Dynasty ceramic statue in the Dabianjue Tang Hall is also located here.

The Fayuan Temple
The Fayuan Temple

Another visit-worthy Buddhist site is the Zhihua Temple dating from 1444. This Temple is one of the most important authentic Ming-era complexes in the old town of Beijing.

Its most distinctive feature is the two-story Tathagata Hall which is named after its statue of the transcendental Buddha. The Hall is also known as 10,000 Buddha Hall for the numerous miniature Buddha statuettes embellishing the walls.

Address: 7 Fayuansi Front St, Xicheng, Beijing

The Beijing Temple of Confucius

The Beijing Temple of Confucius is located a short walk from the Lama Temple. Spanned by decorative gates, the Temple was built in 1302 and pays homage to Confucius.

Confucius was a great philosopher and teacher whose teachings dominated public as well as private life for centuries.

The Hall of Great Achievements is a highlight that is home to myriad shrines devoted to Confucius, his pupils, and other Confucian philosophers.

It also has multiple ancient musical instruments and other ritualistic objects that were used in celebrations held on the enormous terrace in front of the hall.

Niu Jie Qingzhen Si Mosque

Another visit-worthy religious site is Niu Jie Qingzhen Si Mosque which was built in AD 995. The Mosque is famous for its fine exterior, however, non-Muslims aren’t allowed access.

It is the oldest and largest mosque in Beijing and symbolizes Muslim architecture. The Mosque is located in the Muslim quarter.

It has a minaret, two pavilions featuring various steles with Arabic and Chinese inscriptions as well as a six-cornered moon observatory tower.

Address: 15 Guozijian Street, Dongcheng, Beijing

The Beijing Zoo

Another tourist attraction, especially for animal lovers and children are Pandas at the Beijing Zoo. It is located in the northwest area of the city and covers an area of more than 220 acres.

The Zoo was established in 1906 and is one of the oldest zoos in China. The Zoo boasts an exceptional assemblage of almost 15,000 animals from 1,000 species.

It has many rare native species like South China tigers, golden snub-nosed monkeys, snow leopards, and pandas.

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The Zoo also has some not-so-rare animals like a red-crowned crane and Pere David’s deer. Species from across the world can also be found here including lions, elephants, and jaguars.

Address: 137 Xizhimen Outer St, Xicheng, Beijing

National Museum of China

Situated in the east section of Tiananmen Square, the amazing National Museum of China is the second most visited art museum in the world after the Louvre in Paris.

It opened in 2003 and was thoroughly refurbished in 2011. The museum serves as a place of education about the country’s history, with a distinct emphasis on displays related to culture and art.

The museum has 48 exhibition halls. Notably interesting is the huge Simuwu Ding amongst the museum’s more than one million artifacts. It is the world’s heaviest ancient bronzeware.

Collections of jade, rare gold, and ceramic artifacts from different dynasties can also be found in the museum. Other interesting exhibits deal with the first human settlements in the country, as well as the founding of the communist state.

Address: 16 E Chang’an Ave, Dongcheng, Beijing | Official site:

National Museum of China
National Museum of China

Beijing in History

Beijing is not only the political center of China for more than 800 years but it is a symbol of China’s cultural, economic, scientific, and academic life.

Beijing city, province-level shi (municipality), is the capital of the People’s Republic of China. It has the honor of being one of the cities in the world that has served as the political headquarters and cultural center of China for a long.

More than 2,000 years ago, a site north of present-day Beijing was a significant trading and military center for the northeastern boundary of China. During the Yuan dynasty, a new city was built in 1267, which became the administrative capital of China.

However, during the first five decades of the successive Ming dynasty from 1368 to 1644 Nanjing or Nanking was the capital. Whilst the old Mongol capital was renamed Beiping meaning “Northern Peace”.

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Subsequently, the third Ming emperor revived it as the imperial seat of the dynasty. He also gave it a new name, Beijing which means “Northern Capital”.

Ever since Beijing has remained the capital of China except for a brief period from 1928 to 1949 when the Nationalist government made Nanjing the capital again. Furthermore, the capital was removed from Chongqing during World War II.

Despite the recurring political transformations in the country throughout the early decades of the 20th century, the city remained the most thriving cultural center in China.

However, Beijing’s importance was fully recognized, when it was chosen as the capital of the People’s Republic in 1949.