Updated: Mar 3
As China's capital city and the second-largest city, Beijing is the heart of all things cultural, historical, financial, and technological. Above all things, it is a history lover’s paradise with over seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Buckle in and get ready to travel back in time as we cover the top historical sites in Beijing.
As the world's largest imperial palace, the Forbidden City was initially built during the Ming Dynasty and rebuilt three times due to fires and attacks. This impressive monument covers over 1,600,000 square feet with 10 meter high walls surrounding the entire facility. Today, you can tour this ancient residence, and one of the most common ways to tour is along its central axis. Some of the can't miss spots are the Meridian Gate, Hall of Supreme Harmony, Palace of Heavenly Purity, Palace of Earthly Tranquility, and the Imperial Gardens. This could take anywhere between two and four hours for you to see all the destinations that pique your interest.
Another historic charm in Beijing is the Summer Palace. It was an escape for the emperors to leave the hustle and bustle of the city. The traditional gardens at this palace are a magical destination that allows for beautiful views, relaxing strolls, and the ability to experience what other heads of state were to have experienced when greeted by Empress Dowager Cixi. The palace has stunning views of Kunming Lake, wrapping up Longevity Hill. This mountain offers many other monuments, buildings, and galleries as you wind your way up the hill.
The largest and best-preserved imperial tombs, the Ming Tombs, are the burial grounds of 13 emperors, 23 empresses, and even more members of the imperial family. These mausoleums are spread across more than 30,000 acres and are beautiful in their own right. Some mausoleums had multiple courtyards, multiple kitchens, and even underground areas dedicated to combining Heaven and Earth. When you first arrive at the Tombs, you'll find the Sacred Way. This four-mile-long walkway is lined with sculptures, archways, and other memorials that lead you to the Chang Mausoleum. In addition to the Chang Mausoleum, you can pay an additional fee to discover the grandeur of the Zhao and Ding Mausoleum.
Home to the first fossil of Homo Erectus – Peking Man, Zhoukoudian is a cave system with many archeological discoveries. The site was discovered in 1921 and has since become home to 45 remains of early humans. Today you can explore Zhoukoudian Site Museum to learn about what was found, the impact that the discoveries had on science, and how a portion of the findings was headed to the US for safekeeping and were lost forever at sea. You can visit some of the main caves where the Peking Man relics were discovered with an additional ticket. A protective layer was added and is now projected to portray how the excavation took place. If you are visiting the museum, I highly encourage you to purchase both tickets.
The Great Wall
Originally built as a series of protection from northern invaders, these segments were combined to create the great fortification today. The most popular section near Beijing that has been reconstructed is the Mutianyu Great Wall. While on the Wall, you can explore and take in the luscious greenery and beautiful nature. You can stop here after visiting the watchtowers, but if you feel particularly fit and adventurous, you can continue westward for six miles to Jiankou Great Wall. I would only advise this for skilled hikers because it is considered a wild portion of the Wall, meaning there have not been any restoration efforts, and the trek can be a bit dangerous at times. Another great stop on the Wall is the Badaling section of the Great Wall. It was used as a military defense outpost to protect both Beijing and other sections of the Wall.
Now that you have learned a little bit of the history associated with the great country of China, you are ready to explore even more. Schedule a consultation to learn more about what Beijing has to offer and dive deeper into the historic heart of China.