24 Hours in Beijing
Picture this: you’ve just completed our Great Wall of China trek, and after eight days in the beautiful Chinese country-side you find yourself back in Beijing with a little free time on your hands. Worried you won’t hit all of the hot spots before your flight home? Don’t worry we’ve got you covered with our 24 hour itinerary!
You’ll start the day bright and early at your accommodation. Make sure you wake up with plenty of time to head to the breakfast buffet - you’ll be offered a mix of both western classics, like pancakes, alongside Chinese staples like noodles and dumplings.
Your first stop is the Temple of Heaven. We recommend getting up early in order to catch the morning crowds in the surrounding parkland, as the open space is filled with groups practising tai chi, dancing or choral singing. There’s an amazing culture in China of exercising right up into old age, and you’ll find plenty of the older generation mixing together in the outdoor gyms that surround the temple. The park is also home to over 60,000 varieties of tree, and is a tranquil spot away from the bustling Beijing streets.
After you’ve passed through the park you’ll head into the Temple itself. Constructed throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Temple of Heaven is actually not a temple at all, but a sacrificial altar. It was originally used as a place of prayer and sacrifice for good harvest by Chinese Emperors. It’s most famous buildings are the Circular Mound Altar, the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest. Look out for the echo wall which encompasses the Imperial Vault of Heaven - it is said that a whisper can pass from one end of the wall to the other, but this is best tested when there aren’t big groups around.
After you’ve enjoyed the beauty of the Temple of Heaven, head to the nearby Pearl Market to pick up some souvenirs. Originally famous for, well, pearls, it is now home to a huge range of wares, including clothes and digital products. You can still pick up Chinese pearls for a good price if you’re after a slightly more glamorous homecoming gift! The vendors in the market are open to haggling, so don’t take their first price!
After a very busy morning, journey back toward the accommodation to explore two of China’s most famous landmarks.
Start at Tiananmen Square and take in Tiananmen, or the Gate of Heavenly Peace, which was the former Imperial City. You can also see the Monument to the People’s Heroes in the centre of the square. There is also the Mao Zhedong Mausoleum, where the body of Mao Zhedong lies - the public are able to go in and view it, and there’s often a long queue of people wishing to get a look at Mao’s embalmed remains.
Crossing the square, you will enter the incredible Forbidden City. Not actually a city, but a palace, the complex is made up up of around 980 buildings. It’s formidable in size, so make sure you’re wearing comfortable footwear! The former imperial palace was the home of emperors from the Ming dynasty until the last emperor of the Qing dynasty. Standout sections include the three Great Halls.
Your accommodation is within walking distance of Beijing’s infamous Walking Street. There are a range of Chinese delicacies on offer - delicious fluffy buns and steamed dumplings, bowls of noodles and lots of duck. There are also some slightly more, erm interesting offerings including bats, frogs, centipedes and scorpions (see right). They’re definitely not for the faint-hearted, but if you’ve got a strong stomach why not give it a go?
Once you’ve stuffed yourself at the Walking Street you can rent bikes or get the metro and head up to Houhai Lake to go to one of the small lakeside bars for drinks. The lake is beautifully lit up at night and there are a number of shops in the area open late if you fancy picking up some souvenirs too!