Beijing is home to 21 million people. Despite its vastness, it has so many intimate delights. The Chinese capital is an extraordinary blend of history and culture. This megacity leaves tourists who visit with extraordinary, indelible memories and makes a lasting impression for a variety of reasons. The obvious one is its sheer scale. Here are five of the must-see highlights for first-time visitors to Beijing.

Forbidden City Beijing




Great Wall

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-see for anyone visiting Beijing. The site is encircled by two miles of citadel walls and unquestionably vast, with more than 900 buildings. Stepping inside the walls is like going back in time into another world. Up until 1911, it was home to China’s great dynasties as well as their servants, concubines, and eunuchs.

Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square gained worldwide attention in 1989 when a lone student protestor stood in front of a line of government tanks during anti-corruption protests. While that image may be one of the most famous of the 20th century, these days the square remains an extraordinary sight and place where the Chinese military flex their muscle on a daily basis. If you are up early enough you can watch the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers marching through the Gate of Heavenly Peace at a rate of exactly 108 paces per minute. Tiananmen Square itself is 440,000 square metres in size.  

Temple of Heaven Park

A unique oasis in the centre of this stunning megalopolis, the Temple of Heaven Park is Beijing’s most photographed temple. Dating back to the Ming Dynasty in 1420, the temple was originally built to appease the gods. Past emperors made sacrifices to the heavens for things such as prosperity and crop yield. It’s worth also taking the time to explore the Circular Mound Altar and the Imperial Vault of Heaven. Be sure to leave time to explore the beautiful park that surrounds the temple.

The Summer Palace

The truly stunning Summer Palace is a marvel of architecture and design. This is where the great Chinese emperors escaped to from the imperial city itself. Its’ grand lake and beautiful views remain an oasis of calm to this day. It’s difficult to verbalize the beauty of this site, but suffice to say that you must go and see for yourself. It’s best to leave a full day in order to explore the palace without having to rush. Make sure you also leave ample time to explore the gardens as well as the beautiful pavilions, temples, and bridges. 

The Great Wall of China

The wall is China’s most famous tourist attraction and for good reason. While you are visiting Beijing, you can’t miss out on the opportunity to take in its sheer magnificence. When you think of Beijing, you may not immediately think of the Great Wall. However, you can visit this extraordinary landmark as a day trip from the city. By car, the Badaling Remnant section of the wall is around one hour and ten minutes north of the Chinese capital. This section was section built during the Ming Dynasty. You may need to crawl up some of the steeper secions, but you will be able to stand in the beautiful beacon towers and look down on some of the 22.2 million metres that the wall stretches from one end to the other.

5 Must-See Beijing Highlights for First-Time Visitors