If you’ve only got one day in this city, I’ve put together a fantastic itinerary for you. There are some must-see attractions you can’t miss.
Beijing is the capitol of China and has a fascinating history. There are too many things to do in one day, but I’ve scraped together the highlights.
We’re starting off the day at the largest public square in the world! It’s 109 acres, has multiple entrances (and security points) and also serves as one of the entrances to the Forbidden City.
It is known for a tragic protest in 1989, where student-led groups tried to protest for democracy and freedom of the press. When protestors blocked the military troops from advancing, they opened fire, killing 300 people and wounding thousands more.
You may hear it referenced as the “June 4th Incident,” “Tiananmen Square Massacre” or “’89 Democracy Movement.”
A photo of Mao Zedong hangs at the top of the square. He was a communist revolutionary who founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949. This united China after a long civil war.
If you walk through Tiananmen Square, you’ll be at the entrance to the Forbidden City. Lonely Planet’s guide to Beijing has an awesome map of the inside, marking important sites to stop and see! It’s the perfect walking tour to accompany you through the city.
The Forbidden City (which is no longer forbidden) was once the royal palace. It was the home to many emperors from the Ming Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty (1420 to 1912). It was also the location for government meetings, and remains the heart of Beijing to this day.
There are 980 buildings covering 180 acres! Parts of the city are still off-limits to tourists, but most of it is open for you to walk through. Admire the beautiful architecture and colors, and notice famous guard lions protecting the entrance. It costs 60 CNY ($9) to get in.
Travel Tip: You must have your passport to enter the forbidden city! It serves as your ticket and will be scanned at security.
Once you make your way all the way through the forbidden city, you’ll be at the entrace to Beijai Park. Cross under the street and then make your way inside.
You have to climb up to to the top so you can look out over the city. There are many beautiful temples on the climb to the top, and the view just gets better and better.
Don’t be surprised if it’s hazy. It’s crazy how on a bright sunny day the air is so polluted.
Inside the park there is a beautiful teahouse. If you want to try tea in China, stop here and sample some! The tasting is normally $100 CNY ($15) but the owner gave it to me for free when I bought a package of tea.
It’s a great way to learn about the different types of tea and how they are believed to help your health. They’re also just delicious!
Visit a Hutong
Continue east and you’ll run into some beautiful hutongs. These are the alleys in residential neighborhoods found around the city. The neighborhoods mostly surround the Forbidden City because the government officials would all live here.
Nowadays, many of them are a bit commercialized. You can find delicious restaurants and little shops here. They are a great place to walk through and purchase some souvenirs.
I have saved the best for last. The Lama Temple is my favorite spot in all of Beijing. This Buddhist temple is absolutely beautiful. Every person who enters is given a free bundle of incense they can use to worship with throughout the complex.
Walk through, admiring the colors, sounds and smells as you see people praying. No matter what religion you practice you can feel how holy and sacred this place is.
I thought this was the most beautiful temple, and I made sure to spend enough time here to enjoy and appreciate where I was. It’s a good place for reflection.
There are tons of yummy restaurants in this area, so you can end the night exploring and tasting new foods. If you want something cheap and easy, grab a jianbing from a street vendor!