We spent the most wonderful four days on a Beijing tour seeing the main attractions in Beijing, and absolutely walked our little feet off. This was just the start of our tour, but it was certainly great value for money. My sister and I toured China in 2006 on a 14 day small group tour, commencing with four days in Beijing.
There are so many more options available now, so if you can only afford to spend a few days in China I strongly recommend the following ‘Top Five’ places to visit on a Beijing Tour. There are more places you can visit however you will have seen the best in Chinese architecture, Chinese culture and tradition, if the following are on your itinerary of places to visit in Beijing.
The Forbidden City:
I knew very little about the Forbidden City until I went to Beijing. All the history I learned of China was about the Yellow River and the Great Wall.The Forbidden City was awesome. Built during the Ming Dynasty between the years 1406-1420 by the Yongle Emperor, the Forbidden City is an amazing architectural complex from where 24 Emperors ruled for over 500 years. Hear of the mystery and intrigues of the court, the power of the eunuchs, and the life and loves of the concubines and their Emperors, behind the great walls of the Forbidden City.
The Summer Palace:
Experience the magnificent gardens laid out with graceful, Chinese traditional architecture and symbolic temples, halls, pavilions and corridors at the Summer Palace. Built on the edge of Kunming Lake, a man-made lake, with the soil dug from this lake used to build Longevity Hill, where the Summer Palace now stands. Boating takes place on the Lake in summer and in the winter it is used for skating. Be amazed at the artwork of the Long Corridor and the pavilion known as the ‘Marble Boat’.
The Temple of Heaven:
The celestial Temple of Heaven (Tian Tan) is an example of Chinese architectural symbolism,built without a single nail, achieved by perfect balance of the pillars and beams. It is one of the largest temple complexes in China. At this splendid three-tiered Temple the Emperor would make offerings and prayers to heaven for good harvest. Look for the richly decorated Dragon and Phoenix motifs on the exterior and interior walls representing the Emperor and Empress. Inside at the center of the Temple, note the four richly decorated middle pillars, known as the ‘Dragon Well Pillars’, which represent the four seasons.
Lama temple (Yonghegong):
Enjoy the serene and harmonious atmosphere at the Lama Buddhist Temple. The complex built in 17th century for Prince Yong, converted into a Tibetan Lamasery in 1744. The highlight of this Buddhist complex is the spectacular Wanfu Pavilion with its brilliant 17 metre high, golden statue of the Maitreya (the future Buddha), carved from a single block of sandalwood.
Walk on the Great Wall of China:
Walk the Great Wall an experience not to be missed. We visited the Mutianyu section of the wall which is a good choice as it is a restored section, less touristy so you can enjoy the walk without the crowds. It has magnificent views all along the mountain ridges. There is a cable car ride up to the 21st tower and then you “do the walk”. The Wall you can see here at Mutianyu dates from 1368. For the more adventurous after the Walk on the Great Wall there is a toboggan sled ride, down the hill from the wall.
More Beijing Attractions on a Small Group Tour :
There are many more attractions we were able to visit in between the major Beijing attractions. Some of this took place in the evenings. Not a moment was wasted. It was an amazing experience and we were provided with wonderful opportunities to experience traditional food at traditional restaurants, as well as a shared meal with a family in the Hutong district, followed by a rickshaw ride through the area. The Peking Duck experience at the Duck Restaurant; a walk down Dazhalan & Liulichang Streets where the locals come to shop and work.
A tour of the underground tunnels in Beijing. The Wangfujing Street Market with crunchy scorpions, starfish and crickets to tempt your taste buds. Take in the colorful and skillful Beijing Chaoyang Acrobatic Theater performance. On another night a theatre performance (which was optional) The Legend of KungFu at The Red Theatre; this was magic, a wonderful theatrical performance with spectacular choreography. All this on a Small Group Tour! So many places to visit, what an amazing four-day tour in Beijing and start to our tour of China.