Beijing offers so many things to do. I only spent three days in the Chinese capital, but I could have easily stayed for a week. There’s just so much to see. I had to make some hard choices. The majestic Summer Palace? No time. 798 Art District? I got out at the wrong metro station and ended up lost. I’m still bummed about that last one. But I know this won’t be the last time in Beijing, so until next time. What I díd manage to see was also pretty awesome. In this blog post, I am sharing three of my top things to do in Beijing.

Read next: Things to do in Shanghai: three places you don’t to miss.

1. Forbidden City

Of course, my favorite thing to do in Beijing was visiting the Forbidden City. For five centuries this gigantic complex was the home of the emperor and his direct family, and it is the largest palace in the world. It was completely shut off from the rest of Beijing, a true city within a city. Nobody got it or out. Some servants stayed there all their lives. And in their defense, the royal family didn’t need to get out, because they had everything they needed inside the walls. Bakeries, forgeries, and stables for their livestock, it was all there.

Beijing Forbidden City top things to do

Combine Forbidden City with Jingshan Park

With its 800 buildings, it’s hard to decide where to begin. You can take all day to explore every corner of the Forbidden City. Don’t just follow the (umbrella) crowds to the bigger palaces. Take a left or right now and then and explore the smaller courtyards in the side streets. Combine your visit to the Forbidden City with Jingshan Park (entrance fee: 2 CNY). This park offers a panoramic view. At least that is what I heard. When I went to Jingshan Park, it was already evening and the Forbidden City isn’t lit.

Forbidden City top things to do

Practical tips for the Forbidden City

  • Entrance fee is 60 CNY from April – October and 40 CNY from November – March.
  • You can only buy tickets online (there is no ticket booth onsite anymore). Unfortunately, the official ticketing website is only available in Chinese. Your best option is to buy an e-ticket through a travel operator.
  • There’s a visitor quota of 80,000 visitor per day, so make sure you buy your ticket in time.
  • The entrance and exit for visitors is not the same. Entrance is at the Meridian gate (south side), and the exit is at the Gate of Divine Prowess (north side, close to Jingshan Park). To get to the entrance, take metro line 1 and get off at Tian’anmen East or Tian’anmen West.

2. Temple of Heaven

Thought the Forbidden City was huge? Wait until you get to the Temple of Heaven. Together with the surrounding park, this place is three times larger than the Forbidden City. At the same, it doesn’t feel so big because everything is leading up to one highlight: the Prayer Hall for Good Harvest. This is the showstopper at the very end after you walked past various altars from south to north. According to history, the emperor only visited this temple on the shortest day of the year to pray for a good harvest. The rest of the year it was abandoned because the citizens weren’t allowed inside.

Temple of Heaven peking

Not one but four temples

The Temple of Heaven is part of a chain of four Taoist temples: Sun, Moon, Earth, and Heaven. The most well-known and beautiful of the four is the Temple of Heaven. It’s impressive to see how well thought out this temple is. All the altars are set up in a clear line from north to south at an exact distance from each other. Each altar has a round shape (referring to Heaven) and the platform has a square shape referring to earth. Perfect balance and harmony, yin and yang in order.

Temple of Heaven Beijing top things to do
Parks are definitely top things to do in Beijing, or anywhere in China.

Take a walk through the park

The Temple of Heaven is located inside a gigantic park which is a beloved spot for the active elderly. I highly recommend visiting this park early in the morning (between 6 am and 8.30 am) to see the locals doing all their exercises. Personally, this was for me one of the most fun things I saw in China. The people were so flexible and active. Hard to believe that they were all senior citizens!

Practical tips for Temple of Heaven

  • Entrance fee for the temple is 34 CNY from April – October and 28 CNY from November – March, for the park it’s an additional 15 CNY (10 CNY in low season).
  • To get here, take metro line 5 and get out at metro station Tiantan East.
  • The best time to visit the temple is late in the day. We got there around 5 pm (one hour before closing) and we had the complex almost to ourselves.
  • The best time to visit the park is early in the morning (before 9 am).

3. Lama temple

If you only have time for one thing to do in Beijing, make sure it’s the Lama temple. Its stunning details, colors, and shape are beautiful to see. Lama temple is an extraordinary piece of Tibet inside the center of Beijing. It’s still actively used and people come here every day to pray and donated money for luck. Surprisingly it’s also popular among young people. The Lama temple used to be a residence for Prince Yongzheng, but after he became emperor he had to move to the Forbidden City. His residence was then turned into a temple and monastery. Today the Lama temple is one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist temples outside Tibet.

Lama temple Beijing top things to do
Temple of Heaven Beijing top things to do

Practical tips for Lama Temple

  • Entrance fee is 25 CNY.
  • It is an active religious site, so please dress accordingly.
  • To get here, take metro line 2 or 5 and get out at metro station Yonghegong Lama Temple.

What are your top things to do in Beijing?

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