We never thought about visiting China but we came back with the urge to immediately go again. What an amazing country! The cities are mind blowing, there is so much to do and so much to eat (dumplings please!) that you have no idea where to start. The villages are special, there you see the real China, meet the real Chinese and experience their culture, a culture that is far from everything you see in Europe. But let’s start with the beginning of our journey: Beijing!
9 tips for Beijing
Because lists make life a little bit easier
1. The Chinese Wall
Probably no surprise that the Chinese Wall is on top of my list, but the wall itself was really a surprise to me. I never really understood what the fuzz was about, you’re on a huge wall, so what? But of course you can’t visit Beijing without seeing The Wall, so we went. After a lot of research we decided to go on tour with our hostel. And it was a-ma-zing.
A small van took us to Mutianyu and there we took the cable car to the first watchtower. Breath taking. The view changes every meter you go, every time you look back you get the push to go a little bit further. One more tower. A couple of meters more.
2. Rent a bike!
Really, go ride a bike! The Chinese traffic might seem chaotic but in the end they have normal bike lanes, so no reason not to rent one and explore the city.
3. W chang’an ave
It might seem a bit silly to tip the street that separates the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square but if you go by bike you’ll know why. The feeling that comes over you when you enter this avenue is absurd. All of a sudden you realize it’s you, riding a bike through Beijing, on the biggest street you’ve ever seen. On the left Tiananmen Square shows itself, on the right the Forbidden City. You feel so tiny and small.
4. The Forbidden City & Tiananmen Square
Of course they are not to be missed.
Go early in the morning so can take a peaceful stroll through The Forbidden City before the busy hours start.
There are still plenty of old Hutongs to be found in Beijing. Their small alleys and narrow streets are unique, it’s like a big maze, surrounded by grey walls. Go in and explore. Leave the main road and wander into the smaller streets, turn left and right and left again. Just go and see where you’ll end up.
6. Summer Palace
The Summer Palace is truly gorgeous and the surrounding park is a nice place to spend a warm sunny day. It’s quite easily accessible by public transport (so don’t let those ‘cheap’ cab drivers fool you). Take a day out of your schedule to wander around and climb the mountain to enjoy a stunning view across the manmade lake.
7. EAT EVERYTHING
Oh my god the Chinese food.. It’s so much better than I ever thought it would be.
Eat dumplings at Xian’r Lao Man, choose hotpot for a night and of course try the Beijing Duck.
8. The park surrounding the Tempel of Heaven
The Tempel of Heaven itself is worth a visit but at a certain point you might be done with temples. No shame in that. Just go and enjoy the park. Enter at Tiantan Road and go where the music takes you. You’ll find small groups of people in each corner of the park, dancing, making music or practicing Tai Chi.
9. 798 Art District
Located in an old factory, the 798 Art District is a great place to visit when you’re a fan of the arts. It’s located a bit outside city center, so make it an afternoon and plan another sight to visit half way.
Other art area’s are Ai Weiwei’s Caochangdi Art District and Songzhuan Artist’s Village.
More tips for Beijing & China
– Don’t fall for the art students offering to take you to a tea-house, it’s a well known (and slightly sophisticated) scamm.
– Take, when possible, the public transport to your hotel from the airport. If you do choose to go by cab, take your place in line and wait calmly. We learned ourself that you will pay heavily for taking a non-official one because they might be able to help you faster..
– If you are in doubt when to visit China, the perfect travel season is autumn. Summers can get quite hot and the winters freezing cold. One advantage though of going in the midst of summer is the lack of smog.
– If you want to travel further to Shanghai, see if you can arrange a journey by train. It’s ideal for longer distances in China.
– Have you found a restaurant via Tripadvisor or another app? Double check the location via Google or Bing. Often the places are located somewhere else.
– Talking about Google.. Make sure you install a VPN-app before you go, so you don’t have to deal with China’s internet regulations. I can really recommend ExpressVPN!