Many tourists flock to Beijing in search of the iconic temples, museums and parks, but there are some lesser-known gems that should not be missed.
These hidden attractions in Beijing can be found in unexpected places and may even be difficult to locate. These activities will add an exciting dimension to your travels by providing something memorable and unique for everyone on board. The next time you choose one of the Cathay Pacific flights to Beijing, make sure to also visit these.
1. Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is one of Beijing’s hidden treasures and a must-visit for anyone visiting China. Situated south of the Forbidden City, this UNESCO World Heritage Site showcases Chinese ritual architecture that captures the cosmogony of ancient China.
During the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Temple of Heaven served as an exclusive imperial altar to worship both heaven and earth. Emperors would perform annual sacrificial ceremonies here to pray for abundant harvests and favorable weather conditions.
This stunning complex is divided into an inner and outer section by two walls that encircle it. The main buildings are situated within the inner area, including the Circular Mound Altar, Imperial Vault of Heaven, and Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.
A 360-meter stone walkway called the Bridge of Cinnabar Steps leads you to all major architectural structures. The most remarkable building is the circular Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, standing 38 meters tall and made entirely from wood without nails. It consists of 28 pillars that represent each season and month of the year.
This hall’s central pillars are covered with dragons and clouds, while its outer ones boast stars. It is also renowned for its caisson ceiling featuring nine dragons painted in vibrant colors.
The Temple of Heaven also boasts a spacious park where people can take leisurely strolls or practice their Tai Chi and Wu Shu. You’ll be able to witness groups and individuals of all ages practicing these martial arts moves, playing lawn darts, flying kites, or simply taking in the fresh air!
2. Houhai Lake
Houhai Lake is a haven of peace and serenity during the day, offering plenty of activities like biking, strolling or hiring a boat for some relaxation. But come nightfall, this area comes alive with bars, restaurants and cafes that make it one of Beijing’s most vibrant evening spots.
The manmade lake was constructed during the Yuan Dynasty and showcases both ancient history and contemporary comforts. Nowadays it serves as a popular spot for families to cycle around the lake as well as couples strolling hand in hand.
Another enjoyable activity to try is renting a paddleboat and floating around the lake, especially on sunny spring or fall days. It’s also an ideal way to view all of the nearby hutongs.
Aside from the lake, nearby hutongs offer an insight into traditional Chinese architecture. Established during the Yuan Dynasty, these streets are perfect for exploring old Beijing.
Houhai Lake freezes over during winter, creating an ice skating rink that can be utilized for skating or sledding. In summertime, Houhai Lake is filled with lotus flowers and wild mandarin ducks.
Houhai Lake is also a great spot to view the Bell and Drum Towers, which were once official timekeeping installations during the Ming, Qing, and Yuan Dynasties. These towers are just a short walk away from shoreline and can be visited simultaneously with exploring the lake itself.
Houhai Bar Street in Beijing’s vicinity offers an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars and karaoke clubs that draw people from around the world for its stunning lake views and exciting nightlife activities. Here, you can find everything from budget-friendly bars to high-end eateries – making for a truly unique nightlife experience in Beijing!
3. Liulichang Street
Liulichang Street is an ancient cultural street situated outside Hepingmen Gate in Beijing and it spans 750 meters long. With a vibrant cultural atmosphere, this street attracts visitors from around the world.
On this street you will find many old stores selling traditional Chinese folk arts and culture products. You can find tri-colored glazed pottery from the Tang Dynasty, vases, chopsticks, silks, Buddhist statuaries and classical paintings to name a few.
The street offers an eclectic selection of old books, brush, ink and paper. Rongbaozhai stands as the premier store for authentic ancient calligraphy and traditional Chinese paintings; The China Bookshop houses block-printed editions as well as hand-copied classic texts from bygone eras.
By the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Liulichang had become a favorite destination for scholars, painters and calligraphers. They congregated here to write, compile and purchase books – creating an ideal hub for textual criticism research.
In the Qianlong period (1736-1796), Beijing became even more prosperous as a cultural center for studying the Complete Library of the Four Branches of Literature (Si Ku Quan Shu). Homes and buildings lined up like fish scales as people from all over China came here to prepare for their imperial examination.
Recent years, Beijing has become a destination for tourism thanks to its abundance of books and antique stores. Additionally, it serves as host to performances of Beijing Opera – an ancient local tradition.
Beijing Municipal Government has developed a plan to establish a creative industry park in Liulichang, but it must be undertaken gradually and carefully. Instead of building modern, high-rise buildings, Hu Jianhua – director of Cultural Heritage Administration Department in Xicheng District – recommends that efforts should be put into preserving Liulichang’s functions.
4. Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square, situated in the heart of Beijing city, is one of the largest city squares worldwide. Covering an area of 440,000 square meters and accommodating over 1 million people simultaneously, its impressive features make it worth visiting during your trip to Beijing.
At the center of Square lies the Monument to the People’s Heroes, commemorating eight revolutionary events. To its south is Chairman Mao Zedong’s Memorial Hall – home to Mao’s body.
On the western edge of the square stands The Great Hall of the People, used for ceremonial and legislative activities. Constructed in 1959, it is the largest congressional building worldwide and features a meeting hall with over 10,000 seats as well as a banquet hall that can seat up to 5000 guests.
On the east side of Tiananmen Square is the China National Museum, which documents China’s history. Established in 2003, this museum contains many cultural artifacts from over 1,000 years of existence.
Other must-visits during your time in Beijing include the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, where Chairman Mao’s body rests inside a crystal coffin. For anyone interested in China’s history and politics, this place should not be missed.
In 1989, thousands of university students spontaneously gathered in Tiananmen Square to protest the government’s slow pace of reforms and corruption. Their demands included press freedom, the release of information regarding state leaders’ incomes, and lifting the ban on privately-run newspapers from publication by the government.
In June 1989, Chinese soldiers launched a violent crackdown on protesters near Tiananmen Square that resulted in the deaths of more than 300 civilians. This issue remains sensitive in mainland China today but forms an integral part of China’s national history.