My Travel Guide to Beijing
Updated: Nov 14, 2018
Beijing, a unique, historical corner of the world that lead me to some deep conversation with new friends, mind blowing stories that to this day I still can't believe I survived and copious amounts of sweet red bean pastries.
When I was about 6 years old I remember getting my first National Geographic map and thinking just how badly I wanted to see everything and anything on that map. I had found out about the Great Wall (lets be real from Mulan) and made it one of the top 5 places I felt I just HAD to see.
So to be able to stand on it finally and see the area surrounding, to be able to feel the history seeping out of such an intense landmark of time, it honestly felt like a dream.
What To See
1. The Great Wall - Obvious one here, but it is worth the trip, now I know its kind of a lot to go out there, you have to take a plane to Beijing, a train to the area where the Great Wall is, and then a bus to the section where you can walk on it but trust me IT IS WORTH IT ALL.
*Entrance fee is 45 yuan - which is under $10, I recommend however, bringing small pockets of cash and change converted for this day trip as the bus and train fares can be a lot to figure out its easiest to have it ready in hand.
*Getting to The Great Wall: need assistance on figuring out how the heck to get there from the airport or your hostel/hotel? Click here
2.Tiananman Square & Forbidden City - I got a good feel for the political view of China at this location (which is neither good nor bad, just different--remember different cultural awareness might be crucial in a country like this) but I do think its important to note that this is a big location known for the incident of 1989. Some background for you before you blindly head to this site--After the secretary of the Communist Party died that year, protestors gathered at this location, thousands of students. They gathered, they shouted, they threw paint and said they wanted a more democratic government. Approximately 100,000 young protestors went on a hunger strike in support of reform. Months later (approx. April-June), Chinese troops open fire on the protestors and the official death toll was never released. To this day I still think its not really talked about in the open, so just be aware of that.
*Pro Tip: If you don't like crowds, I would recommend seeing Tiananman Square at night, you get the same feel without the hassle of everyone around you.
3. BeiHai Park - A beautiful site, but what you may want to do is take a boat ride through to get the full experience here. I also recommend listening to a podcast or online tour on some of the legends that created this park and its pagodas.
4.Temple of Heaven Park - originally where the emperors of the Ming Dynasty used to praise the heavens, to this day it is still a must see in Beijing.
Possibly my favorite thing to mention in my guides are the things no one else really knows about, but some of the more funky, artsy places to see.
1. Ma Ke's hidden showroom - For those interested in an art scene a little out of the norm, and hidden away.
2.1901 Cafe - For a good cup 'o Joe from a truly historical building, its got a cozy setting and its surrounded by beautiful churches and centuries of history.
3. Ice Skating on HouHai- If its cold out, that is, otherwise take a nice walk around the beautiful lake.
4. Mansudae Art Studio Gallery in the 798 Art District: I may not have seen this one in person but man do I want to go back and see it for myself. The art looks truly incredible online and I think its important to see more of the local artists at work along with the usual art museums and such. Side note- if you're not into art, I'm sorry I totally am and theres a lot of that in most of my guides.
Where to Shop
1. Silk Street & Pearl Market- For endless (truly endless) shopping. Jewelry, fabric, everyday clothes, shoes, coats, toys, workout gear, food, you name it, they have it at this market believe me.
2. Nanluoguxiang: a more outdoor market feel, with plenty of food options for you. Its a must to walk around and find some of the more authentic food for a cheap price.
3.Liulichang Ancient Culture Street- more of the artistic and cultural area to shop, but still something to see! Plus if you're into art, this is the place to get some beautiful brushes.This is also where you might find some good quality gifts, or home decor ideas. Check it out.
4. Donghuamen Night Market- Everyone, you need to experience this at least once in your life even if you're like me and totally against having random animals on display to eat. It's an experience to watch your friend eat things like fried squid, starfish, silkworm and so much more guys. It was one of the craziest moments, and I wasn't even the one eating any of it.
Where to Day Trip
1. Guyaju Cave Dwellings - I was doing my research for this post and stumbled on this and have to say I shortly after looked at tickets to fly over to see this. Truly incredible cave dwellings in massive stones surrounded by stunning water and luscious greenery. This one is added to my bucket list.
2.The Terracotta Warriors (Xi'an) - We all learned about this one in history class, but just in case you forgot-thousands of clay soldiers were made with individual face expressions, body figures, and positioned according to rank in the army. They were created to accompany the first emperor in his afterlife, protecting him. To think of the amount of time this must've taken, the amount of patience is requires, boggles my mind.
3. The 3 Fragrant Hills Park (pls try and see it in the fall, the colors are too good not to).If you don't know about it now you do, add it to the list and trust me on this one.
Where to stay
Broke life? Hostel it. Specifically check Hostelworld for more options. I swear by it.
Where & What to Eat
Vegetarian? I got you covered. If you're wondering what to order, definitely go for more of the noodle dishes with tofu (or egg if you're comfortable with that) and pack on the veggie dishes. (roughly say things like Wǒ shì sùshí zhǔyì zhě or I am vegetarian). In Beijing a lot of people don't speak English very well (in my opinion, it was hard to find understanding but most restaurants have pictures of food! So point to vegetables and say su (pronounced zu) or vegetarian.
The must haves of Beijing? dumplings, for those of you that like it Peking Duck is a must here and for my veggie peeps soy noodles and bok choy is the thing to get.
1. Nice Rice - lots of options and lots of spice.
2. Jin Ding Xuan - Such a good restaurant, great for lots of friends to grab a meal and share different options. Dumplings are a great choice for one of your orders.
3. Baoyuan Jiaozi Wu - Rated for the top dumplings in Beijing, this is a must for every traveler to experience. Also has lots of veggie options for the veg-heads out there!
4. Jingzun: for your Peking Duck needs, this is ranked one of the top places, but they have other options as well don't worry.
1. Red bean. It is everything, but you either love it or you hate it, its not everyone's cup of tea. I recommend getting the pastries that have the design on the outside or something that might look like the above (picture).It is normally filled with the sweet red bean and goes great with some coffee or tea.
2. Ludou gao or mung bean cake
3. Àiwōwo - White snowballed rice balls
Where to Drink
Last but not least, for those looking for some fun places to head to grab a cocktail or the infamous tsingtao, here are some local pubs and fun clubs to try out.
1. Xian, East Beijing - With (of course) a beautiful rooftop area.
2. Elements - for those looking for a mainstream, club type feel (not really my kind of thing but just wanted to give you the option here)
3. Hiddenhouse - more of a speakeasy vibe to it, definitely old fashioned and a great choice for some cocktails and late night conversation
4. The Bookworm - surrounded by books with a cocktail in hand? Yes please.
5. Kokomo - with a beautiful outdoor view, open year round.
6. Press Release- for the more aesthetically pleasing cocktails that taste like heaven.
Thank you for reading, Stay tuned for my last post on China - Hong Kong!
Which will be posted later this week. xx