A Tourist’s Guide to Beijing!

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Dear my wonderful readers,

So, I had originally planned to write about the culture of China, and some really interesting points about Beijing and Chinese language however it suddenly occurred to me that many of you probably haven’t visited Beijing China before. So, to try and introduce my new city a little more, here is my list of top 8 things to do in Beijing! This list is a little eclectic as I have only managed to make my way around a few of the seemingly endless tourist sights here, and there are some slightly more obscure things which I enjoy but might not necessarily be specific to Beijing. Also note, this list is likely to change as Beijing is S-O H-U-G-E that I am constantly discovering new bits and pieces to add to my ever growing ‘must-see’ list of things to do 🙂 And now that the disclaimer is out the way, on to the list!

1. Tian’anmen Square and The Forbidden City

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 Number one, absolute MUST if you are in Beijing. Possibly one of the most historically and culturally significant places in Beijing, Tian’anmen Square is, for starters, absolutely mahoooossive with many interesting and insightful buildings everywhere you look. Quite easily able to fill a whole day, Tian’anmen Square is home to the National Chinese Museum, The People’s Monument, Mao’s Mausoleum as well as The Forbidden City (also known as The Imperial Palace but that’s not as cool sounding). Whilst it seems like a really obvious place to go and probably won’t make your trip the most unique of experiences, just standing in Tian’anmen is really a truly ‘Bucket List Worthy’ experience 🙂

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2. The Great Wall of China

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Again, not one of the most obscure of sights, however still well worth seeing. The Great Wall totally lives up to the hype. There are five spots you can visit on the Great Wall and whilst the most entertaining location is often said to be Mutianyu (due to the massive toboggan!) I really enjoyed the visit we made to Jinshanling. It is one of the more steep parts of The Great Wall, with just steps upon steps upon endless steps however I absolutely LOVED the trip I took there. The view from the wall is amazing however I feel that if you choose to use a cable car, you sort of forget the sheer scale of the wall. Which is why I relished the steps. A physical reminder of how difficult the wall must have been to build…. I also felt like I got a sense into what life as soldier must have been like having to climb the wall everyday! (Except they also had weapons and huge amounts of heavy armour whereas I just had a small purse…..). A little tip though – DO NOT WEAR A SKIRT OR A DRESS WHEN CLIMBING THE GREAT WALL! As cute as it looks in pictures, it is so impractical given that the entire trip is just walking up millions of stairs and given the huge amounts of wind that the top is prone to! (Trust me on this, I learnt the hard way….)

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3. The Summer Palace

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So, whilst the Forbidden City/Imperial Palace is, like I said, a must-see, in terms of the palaces of Beijing, I much prefer the Summer Palace. You see, for me, whilst the scale of the Forbidden City is impressive (I mean 9999.5 rooms…. that’s insane!), I feel that the Forbidden City is a little lacking in terms of variety. The Summer Palace however is a beacon of beauty, with vibrant gardens, stunning pagodas and, of course, the Kunming Lake.

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4. Phoenix Mountain (Fenghuang Shan)

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One of the things I find really interesting about Beijing is that, despite being a major city, it is SURROUNDED by the most amazing mountains. Although surrounded is probably not quite the correct word, given that these mountains are considered a part of Beijing (the Phoenix Mountain for example is even part of my district in Beijing, Haidian, despite being about 2 hours away from where I live!). Given that the UK isn’t exactly the most mountainous of countries in the first place, and the fact that I have spent the majority of my life in London where we boast of concrete jungles but no actual wildlife/natural scenery (because no, Hyde Park does not count as natural scenery), I am really enjoying the opportunity to trek up into the mountains during my weekends.

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So far, my trip to the Phoenix Mountain is the highlight. It was a truly amazing experience! I have been city hopping all my life (London, Manchester, Frankfurt and now Beijing!) so the ability to leave behind the roar of cars and just get out was amazing! And the sense of achievement you feel when you reach the top is truly unrivaled. Again though, bring lots and lots of water and some food as there isn’t much in the way of shops on the actual mountain. Also, something worth pointing out maybe – Chinese mountain climbing is very different from what I’d previously experienced in the west. Instead of making your way up a vague dust path and having to cling to precarious rocks to get up, in China, most mountains have stairs, which makes it a little easier! (Although does have the after effect of making me not want to see steps ever again!)

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5. The Olympic Stadium

This one, is, for me at least, best appreciated at night because, whilst the Bird’s Nest is still spectacular during the day, as is the aquatics cube, at night is when this sight really comes alive. The lighting is just simply spectacular! Although, I might be a little biased because I’m sort of obsessed with bright and colourful things (making fireworks one of the most exciting events ever for me!) However seeing this at night does have the downside of not being able to go up the viewing platform and you wouldn’t get to see the Olympic Park. Sooo I guess you could either go twice, or just choose which you value the most!

6. Wangfujing Night Markets

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One thing I really do love about China is the shopping. I must admit, given my penchant for both pretty things as well as cheap prices, China is pretty much my dream in terms of places to shop! And the night markets are just the start of it! Night markets in China tend to be predominately dominated by food’y things and trinkets, from jewelry to cards to toys as well as many more things I’ve almost certainly forgotten. As well as being reasonably cheap, the night markets are also notorious for serving weird and wonderful ‘specialities’. The weirdest I’ve seen so far has got to be the deep fried scorpions on sticks! I mean, I love experimenting with new foods and in general I love Chinese cuisine but even I had to give that one a miss!

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 7. Tianjin

Alright. So. I know this isn’t *exactly* Beijing, however Tianjin is a city really near Beijing and so it perfect as a ‘day trip’, just …. well just because you can really! Personally, I love Tianjin. I mean, I probably won’t go back as there isn’t enough to do for more than a day, but the day trip was, again, perfect. Tianjin has a very different feel to it than Beijing, and is noticeably smaller and definitely less busy! It is home to the infamous China House, which is truly magnificent albeit a little expensive and again there are more markets (The Ancient Street is the best place for shopping!) You also have the option to do a 2 hour bike ride round part of the city, which is a truly great way to view all the sights whilst also have fun biking! My favourite part of Tianjin, however, has got to be the night time scenery next to the river. Skylines, rivers, bridges are all things I love in cities, however Tianjin also has so much more than that! There is a lovely Tianjin Eye (although the London Eye is obviously better 😉 ) and there are lanterns! Everywhere!!! I must admit, part of the reason I was so desperate to visit Tianjin in the first place was because I heard about the lanterns. Having watched Tangled at least 500 times, letting off my very own lantern has been a dream of mine and I was not disappointed! So many people, all letting theirs off one by one next to the river into the dark sky has definitely been a highlight of my trip. It was truly like something out of a dream!

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8. The F.R.I.E.N.D.s Cafe

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A rather odd addition to the list, given that Friends is a) finished and b) not Chinese, however considering the fact I am a massive Friends fan and the fact that I missed the pop up version in London, you can only imagine the excitement I felt when I discovered there was one here! Located in the CBD (Central Business District), the Friends cafe can be found at the top of an abandoned mall and, despite the eeriness of the abandoned mall, exudes a very homely, if slightly surreal, feel. The cafe is almost a perfect replica of the one from the TV show, with a TV dedicated to playing friends on loop and quotes scrawled all over the walls. They even have their very own smelly cat!

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And there you have it! My top 8!

Also, tja, ich weiß doch, dass acht ein bisschen komisch ist… Ich wolltete eine ´Top 10´ Liste schreiben aber dieser Post war schon lang genug und ich habe weniger Zeit momentan also… Ja. Top 8. Ich hoffe, dass Sie es gut oder am mindenstens interessant gefunden hatten, und bis hoffentlich bald!

xxx