According to Katie Melua Beijing has nine million bicycles. Today it is probably a lot more. Beijing has an impressive bicycle infrastructure with wide cycling lanes and plenty of public bicycle rent options. Then again, the Chinese capital is kind of perfect for cycling because it’s flat. No hills, no descends. I really enjoy cycling in general, and when I am traveling a bicycle is a great option to explore a new city and to get to places I wouldn’t see on foot. I joined bike tours in Bangkok, Barcelona, and Shanghai, and now I can add Beijing to that list. In this blog post, I am sharing the route we took on our Beijing bike tour.
Waving at the Forbidden city
One of the first sights I wanted to see in Beijing was the Forbidden City. The icon of the Chinese capital, which is visited by thousands of people every day. In 2015 the mass of tourists led to the introduction of a visitors limit of 800,000 visitors a day. Still, that’s a lot of people in one day, but then again in China, it is crowded everywhere you go. We didn’t visit the Forbidden City during our bike tour, but we got to see a glimpse of its grandeur. We passed the corner watchtowers, saw one orange roof after the other, and waved at the portrait of Mao Zedong at Tiananmen square. For me, this last one was when I realized: “I’m really in Beijing.”
The modern side of Beijing
Beijing is not just a city of history, but it’s also a city of modern architecture. Rem Koolhaas (a Dutch architect) built his famous CCTV tower here in 2008. Sadly I only saw the ‘big pants’ (nickname for the building) from a distance, but what I did see up close was the National Centre of the Performing Arts. As modern as it can be, and in kind of a weird shape. It looks like a soft-boiled egg. Is it beautiful or is it just ugly? I don’t know. But it definitely stands out, just as we did with the locals in the park. We took photos of the theater, they took photos of us.
Houhai lake, a chill place in a busy city
I can describe Houhai lake as nothing else as one of the most easygoing places in Beijing. Perfect for escaping the busy roads of the city. On top of that, it’s surrounded by charming hutong alleys. I recommend buying some Nai Lao, a traditional fermented yogurt that’s pretty popular in northern China. Be sure to get one out of the fridge so it tastes better. But Houhai is not perfect, it is also a bit touristy. Rickshaw tours, swan or duck boat ride, neon light restaurants. Not really my cup of tea, but still Houhai is a great place to check out.
Play games at the Drum and Bell tower
Not far from Houhai lake you’ll find two traditional towers you used to see in every Chinese town: the Drum and Belltower. Two buildings that were used in the old days to give a signal to the city’s residents when the gates were closing or an enemy was approaching. The towers themselves are beautiful and they’re pretty popular amongst tourists ánd locals. The people of the nearby hutongs like to play games, sports or have a chat with each other on the square between the towers. We were invited to play ‘Jianzi’ where you kick a shuttlecock around. Sounds pretty simple, but it’s not. We sucked.
Bike tours in Beijing
I highly recommend renting a bike to explore Beijing, through a guided tour, or just on your own. I visited these places during a bike tour of Bike Beijing. A genuine fun tour that takes you to the famous highlights but also to the small temples and through the hutongs. The guides are people from Beijing, so they really know their city. Want to check out other bike tours in Beijing? Click here for an overview.
Have you ever been to Beijing?
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