Beijing is one of my favorite cities in the world! Not only is it the capital of China and home to famous historical sites like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, but it’s also a very modern and lively metropolis with a great music scene, hundreds of markets and malls to shop at, breweries and cafes galore, and food that is to die for.
I’ve lived in Beijing for 1.5 years now, so I’ve had lots of time to explore the traditional side of Beijing, and also find many hidden gems and local expat places that most travelers don’t get to see. It’s hard to narrow down all the best things to do in Beijing because there are endless options, but I’ve shared 25 of my favorites here.
25 Top Things To Do In Beijing
Here are 25 Things To Do When You Come To Beijing, including a mix of traditional Chinese places and experiences, as well as many other unique Beijing experiences.
1. Lama Temple
The Lama Temple is one of Beijing’s most popular temples to visit. It’s easy to reach by metro and absolutely stunning because of how colorful and intricate it is!
2. Explore the Beijing Hutongs
The hutongs are a special kind of local Chinese neighborhood only found in Beijing. Exploring these traditional alley ways all over the city will reveal many hidden gems. You can also visit some renovated hutongs that offer many bars, restaurants, and shopping. For a fun hutong area to explore, check out Wudaoying Hutongs near Lama Temple.
3. Forbidden City & Jingshan Park
The Forbidden City, located right in the heart of Beijing, is a must-see when you visit the capital city of China. After you walk through the Forbidden City, head north to Jingshan Park for a great view over the city!
4. Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is definitely one of my favorite places in Beijing. It’s gorgeous and there are so many creative shots you can get here! Tip: Go early in the morning right when it opens or late in the afternoon before it closes to avoid crowds of people.
5. Beijing Food Tour
Every region in China has different types of food, and taking a food tour is a great way to try all the various cuisines and also sample Beijing’s local dishes. Besides the famous Peking duck, Beijing also has many other must-try dishes like fried sauce noodles (zhajiangmian) and donkey burgers.
I went on a food tour with Lost Plate Food Tours in Beijing and it was amazing! They have excellent local guides who took us to traditional restaurants and taught us more about China’s diverse cuisines.
Read more about their food tour here: Best Foods to Try in China: Food Tour with Lost Plate Food Tours
6. Visit Central Perk, the Friends Themed Cafe
For fans of the hit TV show Friends, there’s a Central Perk in Beijing that has fun Friends themed drinks and also the iconic couch where you can sit and watch reruns.
7. Hike the Great Wall
You can’t visit Beijing without hiking the Great Wall! There are several popular sections to choose from. You can see the popular Badaling section, go tobogganing down from Mutianyu, see the Gubei Water town near the Simatai section, explore the wild section of Jinshanling, or go camping on a wild section of the wall.
Not sure which section to visit? I have been to six different sections of the Great Wall and can help you decide! Check out my post: Which Section of the Great Wall Is Best To Visit?
8. Summer Palace
A famous getaway for Chinese Emperors in the past, the Summer Palace is a popular destination in Beijing because of its historical significance and architectural beauty. Read: 5 Tips For Visiting The Summer Palace
9. Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium
If you’re a fan of the Olympic games, the Bird’s Nest is a fun site to visit. Famous for it’s unique architectural structure and site of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Bird’s Nest makes a great subject or backdrop for photos. There are various events hosted inside the Bird’s Nest now depending on the time of year.
10. Visit A Cat Cafe
For animal and coffee lovers, there are cat cafes all over Beijing. A few of my favorites: L’Infusion in Wudaoying Hutong area, and another cat coffee shop near Nanluoguxiang.
11. Architecture at Galaxy Soho
Beijing has many famous buildings with unique architectural structures, like the Galaxy SOHO near Chaoyangmen Metro Station. It’s a giant building with many offices, restaurants, and shops inside. During the summer time many events are held here, like the Pizza Festival and the Burger Festival.
12. Visit 798 Art District
This art district offers lots of galleries, cafes, street murals, and other entertainment. This area perfect for an afternoon strolling around.
13. Beijing Nightlife
On any given night there’s something going on in Beijing. There’s always trivia nights, open mic nights, swing/salsa dance lessons, and guest DJs performing all the time, as well as more traditional Chinese bars.
- Local Chinese bars: Nearby Sanlitun and Houhai Lake you’ll walk past many local Chinese bars. You can also go to Wudaoying Hutong and find many Chinese bars, and a fun Taiwanese Bar called VA (my favorite!)
- Breweries: For great beers and food, go to Great Leap, Jing-A, Legends, or Slowboat.
- Expat Bars: For local bars that lots of expats go to, check out Paddy’s, The Local, Cafe de la Poste, 4Corners, Q-Mex, The Great Outdoors, QS, or Side Street. Many of these bars host events throughout the week.
- Dancing/Clubs: Some popular clubs include Mixx, Sirteen, and One Third. I personally prefer other dancing bars with other music, like Salsa Caribe or Pacha Papi (Latin music), Modernista (live bands and DJs), Aurora, or Cafe de la Poste and QS (late at night).
14. Panjiayuan Market
This is a fantastic local market in Beijing where you can find all kinds of jewelry, china, and special trinkets and gifts. Read more about my trip to the Panjiayuan Market here.
15. Beijing Zoo
Catch sight of China’s beloved pandas and see many other animals here!
16. Gubei Water Town
With hot springs, beautiful bridges, and charming little cafes, you’ll quickly fall in love with Gubei. One day is enough time to see the town and hike the Simatai Wall, but it’s even better if you stay one or two nights to enjoy the views when the town and wall light up. Read about my trip to Gubei Water Town here!
17. Nanluoguxiang Pedestrian Street
Go shopping and try some good Beijing street food at Nanluoguxiang Alley! Here are 10 street foods you must try here.
19. Houhai Lake/Walking Street
Near Shichahai Metro Station (line 8) is Shichahai Lake and Houhai Lake. This is a great area to walk around, go shopping, and try Chinese snacks like tanghulu. In the wintertime these lakes freeze over and you can skate on them!
20. Beihai Park
Beihai Park is a great park near the southwest exit of the Forbidden City. You can have a casual walk around the lake and temples there, and also catch some traditional Chinese park activities like square dancing, taiji, jianzi (hackeysack) and more.
21. Eat Peking Duck
Beijing’s iconic dish and a must-try when you are here!
22. Qianmen Street
Qianmen Street is a great walking area just south of Tiananmen Square. After you finish with Tiananmen you can stroll here for shopping and food.
23. Opera or Acrobat Shows
China is famous for its operas and acrobatic shows. You can learn more about traditional Chinese performances and see the style of dress that used to be popular.
24. Pearl Market
Nearby the Temple of Heaven is the Pearl Market, a famous shopping site in Beijing. You can find silk, pearls, accessories, and all kinds of other gifts and souvenirs. Be prepared to barter!
25. Beijing Street Food
As you’re walking around the parks and walking streets in Beijing, you’ll pass many street food vendors. And after smelling the delicious foods, you’re going to want to try it all! Grab some baozi (steamed buns), jianbing (Chinese pancake), jiaozi (dumplings) or the famous chuan’r (lamb skewers) for a tasty meal or snack.
For more street food ideas, check out 10 Street Foods To Try in Beijing
There’s So Much To Do in Beijing
I love living in Beijing and everything it has to offer! When you come to Beijing one thing is for sure – you’ll never be bored.
If you’re traveling to Beijing, check out my other posts to plan the best trip!
- The Ultimate 7-Day Beijing Itinerary
- 10 Tips For Your First Trip to China
- The Best Instagram Spots in Beijing