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Experience the very essence of China’s culture and history in Beijing

Beijing is home to a rich history dating at least five millennia. As one of the biggest nations in the world, Beijing makes a great entry point to explore this massive country, giving context to China’s history and culture.

To get a taste of its dynamism, here’s our guide to some of Beijing’s must-see attractions.

The Forbidden City

(Image credit: Ling Tang/Unsplash)

Sprawling over 72 hectares and built over the course of 14 years in the early 13th century, the Forbidden City is China’s embodiment of its dynastic past. Over a span of 500 years, 24 Chinese emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasty had called this majestic ‘city’ their home. Ultimately, the Forbidden City opened to the public in 1925 to give insight into the mysterious lives of the royals.

The Forbidden City is also the world's largest collection of well-preserved medieval wooden structures, with every detail reflecting features of rich Chinese culture. For instance, all the animal statues on the roof depict auspicious Chinese mythological characters, each believed to lend protection to the emperors, bring good luck, and ensure the country’s stability. When visiting, allocate enough time to fully appreciate the intricate beauty of this magnificent wonder.

Directions: Take Metro Line 1 and alight at Tiananmen East Station through Exit A.
Address: 4 JingshanQian Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Opening hours: 8.30 am to 5 pm from April to October, 8.30 am to 4.30 pm from November to March.
Admission fee: ¥40 to ¥60 depending on the time of year.
Website: Website here

The Temple of Heaven

(Image credit: Tony Bertolino on Unsplash)

Built in 1420, the Temple of Heaven is the largest, most representative building amongst all of China's ancient sacred buildings. This was where emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties held the Heaven Worship Ceremony to wish for prosperity and success for the kingdom.

The temple comprises of three main constructions over 272 hectares: The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, The Imperial Vault of Heaven and The Circular Mound Altar. In Chinese tradition, a square and a circle are represented by Earth and Heaven respectively. This symbolism is particularly significant in the Temple of Heaven. Both the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and the Circular Mound Altar are circular in shape and built on a square yard, again representing Heaven and Earth.

Directions: Take Metro Line 5 and alight at Tiantan Dongmen Station.
Address: 1 Tiantan Dong Li Jia, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Opening hours: 6 am to 10 pm from April to October, 6.30 am to 10 pm from November to March.
Admission fee: ¥10 to ¥34 depending on ticket type.

Summer Palace

(Image credit: Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash)

The Summer Palace is an outstanding showpiece with architectural features that harmonise with its natural surrounding landscape. The garden retreat was built to centre around Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill, which overflows with verdant greenery in the summer. Rather than experiencing the Summer Palace on foot, opt to take a boat ride from across the lake to enjoy a different perspective of the palace.

Directions: Take Metro Line 4 to Beigongmen Station and take exit D. The North Palace Gate is a three-minute walk from here.
Address: 19 Xinjian Dongmen Road, Haidian District
Opening hours: 6.30 am to 6 pm from April to October, 7 am to 5 pm from November to March.
Admission fee: ¥20 to ¥30 depending on the time of year
Website: Website here

Peking Opera House (National Centre for the Performing Arts)

(Image credit: ZQ Lee on Unsplash)

Designed by French architect Paul Andrew, the National Centre for the Performing Arts — or more fondly known as The Giant Egg — is an architectural masterpiece not to be missed. Its oval shell is made of 18,000 titanium plates and 1,000 sheets of ultra-white glass, and is presently the largest dome in the world. Designed to be a cultural island, the dome sits on a crystal-like artificial lake that neither ices over during the winter nor forms algae. With three major performance halls — The Opera Hall, Music Hall and Theatre Hall — both traditional Chinese and Western art forms can be appreciated here. Yet, most travellers wander to the dome for its quiet surroundings, finding great value in the serenity it brings within a busy city.

Directions: Take Metro Line 1 to Tiananmen West Station and take exit C.
Address: 2 West Chang'an Avenue, Xicheng District, Beijing
Opening hours: 9 am to 5 pm daily except on Mondays.
Admission fee: ¥30 per pax

Today Art Museum

(Image credit: Today Art Museum)

Today Art Museum, or TAM for short, is Beijing’s first museum dedicated to the contemporary arts. TAM operates as a private, non-profit art institution that prides itself on introducing modern Chinese artists to the world. Besides playing a vital part in supporting the arts community, TAM is also widely recognised as one of the most influential platforms for dialogue about issues surrounding contemporary arts in Beijing and the rest of China. The exhibitions here constantly change throughout the year, so visitors can expect to see something different with every visit.

Directions: Take Metro Line 10 and alight at Shuangjing Station.
Address: Building 4, Pingod Community, 32 Baiziwan Rd, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Opening Hours: 10 am to 6 pm daily except on Mondays.
Admission fee: Depends on the exhibition

798 Art Zone

(Image credit: MaFengWo)

Situated in the northeastern part of downtown Beijing, 798 Art Zone is a creative space which is favoured by artists due to its unique Bauhaus-style architecture. The area was once an old factory district which has been gentrified into a multicultural space combining art galleries, retail shops, bars and art studios. It is also a popular venue for art and cultural exhibitions throughout the year.

Directions: Take Metro Line 14 and alight at Wangjing Nan Station. Transfer to bus 403 from Exit B1 and alight at Dashanzi Lukou Dong Station.
Address: 2 Jiuxianqiao Rd, Chaoyang District, Beijing

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