City Center Orientation Walk (Self Guided), Beijing

Beijing has been a political, educational, cultural and economic center for centuries. Today, it is one of the greatest remnants of the Chinese Imperial past. Along with its famous City Wall and Forbidden City, this sightseeing tour will guide you through Beijing's most popular attractions in the heart of the city:
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for IOS   Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for Android

City Center Orientation Walk Map

Guide Name: City Center Orientation Walk
Guide Location: China » Beijing (See other walking tours in Beijing)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.6 Km or 3.5 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Qianmen (Zhengyangmen)
  • National Museum of China
  • Tiananmen Square
  • National Centre for the Performing Arts
  • Imperial Ancestral Temple / Working People's Cultural Palace
  • Forbidden City
  • The Palace Museum
  • Wangfujing Street
1
Qianmen (Zhengyangmen)

1) Qianmen (Zhengyangmen) (must see)

When you visit the historic Beijing city wall, do not miss out the Zhengyangmen, which is one of the wall's gates. Popularly called the Qianmen, this wall was constructed during the Ming Dynasty in 1419. The gate featured a large barbican all with an archery tower, the side walls and the side gates. Direct entry to the imperial city was guarded by this gate.

Qianmen Station, the first railway station in the city was constructed just outside the gate. During the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, the gate suffered extensive damage. In 1914, the gate was completely reconstructed and restored to its original glory.

The People Liberation Army's Beijing garrison occupied the Zhengyangmen gatehouse in 1949 after the victory of Communists. The gate became a major tourist attraction after the military vacated in 1980. This gate stands tall at 42 meters and is the highest gate in the city wall.

Tip:
You can access the interior of the structure that sits atop the former wall, where there are fascinating displays of the history of Beijing, along with art displays on one floor, and (of course) a gift shop. There is a magnificent 360-degree view of the city!
2
National Museum of China

2) National Museum of China (must see)

The National Museum of China flanks the eastern side of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Its mission is to educate about the arts and history of China. It is directed by the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China.

The museum was established in 2003 by the merging of the two separate museums that had occupied the same building since 1959: the Museum of the Chinese Revolution in the northern wing and the National Museum of Chinese History in the southern wing.

The museum, covering Chinese history from the Yuanmou Man of 1.7 million years ago to the end of the Qing Dynasty (the last imperial dynasty), has a permanent collection of 1,050,000 items, with many precious and rare artifacts not to be found in museums anywhere else in China or the rest of the world.

Among the most important items in the National Museum of China are the "Simuwu Ding" from the Shang Dynasty (the heaviest piece of ancient bronzeware in the world, at 832.84 kg), the square-shaped Shang Dynasty bronze "zun" decorated with four sheep heads, a large and rare inscribed Western Zhou Dynasty bronze water pan, a gold-inlaid Qin Dynasty bronze tally in the shape of a tiger, Han Dynasty jade burial suits sewn with gold thread, and a comprehensive collection of Tang Dynasty tri-colored glazed sancai and Song Dynasty ceramics. The museum also has an important numismatic collection, including 15,000 coins donated by Luo Bozhao.

Why You Should Visit:
The "Ancient China" exhibit on the lower floor could easily keep you busy for 2-3 hours and the quality of the works is at least comparable to the Chinese section at the Met in New York and Guimet in Paris. Additionally, you're able to see many outstanding visiting exhibitions from other parts of the world.

Tip:
Take a look at the several different sections in the information section before jumping in and decide what is most likely to appeal to you if you have only one day or a half day.
Entrance is free but do take your passport/ID with you. Security is tight so expect checks both entering and leaving the museum.

Operation Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Tiananmen Square

3) Tiananmen Square (must see)

The name Tiananmen Square is immediately associated with Beijing. This popular square is at the centre of the city. Tourists flock from around the world to this square that features the Tiananmen tower, Mao Zedong Memorial Hall, the Monument to the People’s Heroes and the Great Hall of the People.

Functionally this square was Forbidden City’s front door. Constructed during the Ming Dynasty in 1417, the square was used to inform people whenever a change of ruling power occurred. The tower located to the north of the square was accessible only to aristocrats and the royal family and was not open to the public until 1911 when feudal rule came to an end. The Monument of People’s Heroes, constructed in 1952 is the largest in China. This granite monument is located at the centre of the square.

The Great Hall of the People is located to the west of the square. Constructed in 1959, this hall is an impressive site where prominent diplomatic activities and political meetings are held. To the south of the square, you can find the Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao. Chairman Mao’s body is kept here in a crystal coffin and decorated with flowers.

The National Museum of China is located to the square’s eastern side. This museum showcases the country’s rich history. Above the Square, flying high in the sky, you will find the Chinese national flag. It is indeed a special moment when the flag is raised by the guard of honor. To witness this moment, you must be at the Square very early in the morning.

Why You Should Visit:
Obviously, a must-see place for its historical significance, but also great to meet and interact with people from China...
It is quite a sight in the night, completely lit up, with lots of people around, and lots of guards.

Tip:
To be allowed access to the Tiananmen Square you must go through a series of security checks and you must have your passport. This goes for a visit to the Forbidden City as well since the south entrance is facing the square.
Assuming that you're taking photos, don't forget to look up, as the decor of many ceilings is magnificent. Also, frequently stop and look back as you may find the better picture is that of where you've recently passed.
4
National Centre for the Performing Arts

4) National Centre for the Performing Arts (must see)

The National Centre for the Performing Arts, colloquially described as The Giant Egg, is an arts centre containing an opera house in Beijing. If you wish to enjoy the quintessence of China, you must not miss the Beijing Opera on your trip to Beijing. Also known as the Oriental Opera, this is the most significant form of Chinese opera in existence for the past 160 years.

Beijing Opera has witnessed an abundance of repertoires, opera troupes, artists and spectators through the ages. Developed from the “Huiban”, a local drama art of the 18th century China, Beijing Opera has grown into a scenic art that integrates literature, performance, music, face-painting and aria.

Ever since it came into existence, Beijing Opera has had different names such as Pingju, Daxi, Jinghuang and Jingxi. Four artistic methods namely dancing, dialogue, singing and martial art are used by the artists in Beijing Opera to present dramatic figures and plays.

Male characters, known as Xiao Sheng and Lao Sheng, are the two groups of male characters in the opera. Xiao Sheng refers to beardless young men and Lao Sheng to bearded middle-aged wise men. Dan or female characters, on the other hand, are subdivided into Laodan – senior women, Huadan – little girls at the bottom rung of society, Zhengdan – middle-aged, strong women, and Wudan – female fighters.

Why You Should Visit:
Incredible building from the outside, but with even more surprising things hidden inside.
Beautiful to discover, comfortable, optimized for music enjoyment and world class shows.

Tip:
Do check for the performance schedule online, as orchestras & musicians from around the world come to perform here on a regular basis.
Go in the day, well before shows start, to get a better choice of seats and prices, or you can just join the visiting tour for walking around inside the hall and viewing the exhibition.

Visiting Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am-5pm
5
Imperial Ancestral Temple / Working People's Cultural Palace

5) Imperial Ancestral Temple / Working People's Cultural Palace (must see)

Located to the east of Tiananmen Square, the Imperial Ancestral Temple is also known as the Working People’s Cultural Palace. It was here that the Ming and Qing dynasties offered sacrifices to Earth and Heaven. This temple was built in 1420 during the Ming dynasty ruler Yongle’s reign.

Covering an area of 197,000 square meters, this temple has three red walls surrounding it. As you enter through the Halberd Gate, you will be struck by the solemn and imposing central structures. The roofs of the three halls in this structure are covered with yellow glazed tiles.

The Sacrificial hall is where grand sacrificial ceremonies used to be held. The sumeru, three-tiered base of this hall is made of white marble. The hall’s interior looks grand with sixty-eight columns made of exquisite and expensive nanmu golden silkwood. The ceiling dazzles with its gilded colored paintings and is complemented by the golden brick paved floor.

On each side of the hall, you will find long, spacious corridors leading to a compound at the southern end. Here you can see exquisite stone bridges over the Golden River. In 1951, on International Labor Day, the Imperial Ancestral Temple was named the Beijing Working People’s Cultural Palace. On your trip to Beijing, visit this temple that takes you right back to those ancient times.

Why You Should Visit:
Way cheaper than the Forbidden City – like a smaller version that's quieter and also easier on the legs, but with similar architecture and still significant.
A great place to get uncrowded photos, to walk around with only a handful of others and to enjoy a pleasant park, right in the heart of Beijing.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6:30am-7:30pm
6
Forbidden City

6) Forbidden City (must see)

A trip to Beijing is incomplete without a visit to Forbidden City, the huge, majestic and best preserved imperial Chinese palace. This impressive and gorgeous palatial structure exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere.

This Palace Museum houses precious historical and cultural relics of China. In 1961, it was listed by the Chinese central government as a historical monument to be specially preserved. Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

This palace is listed along with four others as the five most important palaces in the world. It was home to 21 Ming and Qing dynasty emperors between 1368 and 1911. In keeping with the traditional beliefs, the palace was constructed to resemble the Purple Palace in heaven, believed to be the residence of God. "Forbidden" referred to the fact that no one could enter or leave the palace without the emperor's permission.

The palace is built over an area of 72 hectares. There are 8704 rooms, 980 buildings and 90 palaces with 150,000 square meters total floor space. Structures including the palace and all the gates of the Forbidden City are arranged around Beijing’s south-north central axis.

A ten-meter high wall encloses the complex of 3,430-meter circumference. The moment you reach this impressive complex, you will be stunned by the magnificence of the four watchtowers at each corner and the moat that acted as the first line of defense.

Why You Should Visit:
Taking in the scale and majesty of the buildings from the open grounds inside is a terrific experience.

Tip:
Don't forget your passport – you will need it to buy a ticket and gain entry (scanning & body check required beforehand).
Get there as early as you can to avoid the hoards of tourists and bring food as the options are limited and usually quite busy.
When hiring a guide, make sure they speak good English and negotiate on price and time. At the very least, rent the audio guide.
Make sure you visit the Imperial Gardens before exiting and go to Jingshan Park (through the underground passage) for a panoramic view of the Forbidden City from above.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am-5pm (April-October); 8:30am-4:30pm (November-March)
7
The Palace Museum

7) The Palace Museum (must see)

Enjoying the distinction of being the largest museum in China, The Palace Museum is located at the centre of the city of Beijing. It is also referred to as the “Purple” Forbidden City in Chinese and was a royal palace for at least twenty-four emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Spanning an area of 720,000 square meters, the museum contains a number of ancient halls grouped architecturally.

The Forbidden City has more than 9000 rooms and 70 halls of various sizes. Architecturally, the buildings are constructed in such a manner that they line up precisely and look completely imposing reflecting the unique Chinese architectural style.

The Palace Museum or Forbidden City is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site since 1987. At least eight million tourists visit this museum every year to view the vast gardens, extensive collection of treasures and interesting pavilions. It was built by Yongle of Ming Dynasty between 1406 and 1420 when he shifted the capital to Beijing from Nanjing. 24 Ming and Qing emperors lived here till the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911.

The Palace Museum was opened to the public in 1925 displaying a well-organized exhibit that featured over a million treasures. You can take the help of audio guides available at the Meridian Gate to ensure that you do not miss out any part of this exciting palace.

Why You Should Visit:
Brilliantly displayed items going back centuries which tell the tale of the growth and creation of China from the earliest dynasties.
To anyone interested in history it is a fantastic experience to read about it from details in this museum rather than from a history book.

Tips:
As a foreigner, it is best to purchase your tickets online to avoid the long lines. Your passport serves as the ticket for all the 3 entrances that require tickets. Just hand the guards at these entrances your passport and they will scan them and you can be on your way to enjoying the exhibits in the museum.
If you want to walk around at your own pace, go for the electronic guide, as it offers sufficient information to keep one interested to explore the many buildings.
Pay attention to the interesting details hidden amongst the building. For example, the numbers of creatures lined up along the edge of the roofs is an indication of how important the building is.
Remember to schedule at least half a day for this beautiful palace. The quality of food had improved but the lines and seats may be a problem if one visits during the peak period.
Finally, remember to wear comfortable shoes as it is a very large complex.

Opening Hours:
8:30am-5pm (April 1 — October 31); 8:30am-4:30pm (November 1 — March 31)
8
Wangfujing Street

8) Wangfujing Street (must see)

Wangfujing Street is a very popular street in Beijing. This street is 1500 meters long and is well known for its combination of commerce, culture, modernity and tradition. Starting from the East Changan Street, Wangfujing Street extends to the China Art Museum.

On Wangfujing Street you can find a symbolically restored ancient well after which the street was named. Some of the prominent tourist attractions close to the street include the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

As you walk around this charming and attractive street, enjoy browsing around the 200 odd shops. Some of the most popular shopping spots here include Wangfujing Book Store, Beijing Department Store, Sun Dong An Market and Donghuamen Night Fair.

The Catholic Church on this street was originally built in 1905. This church was refurbished in 2000 and is lit by bright lights. There are many luxury hotels around Wangfujing Street where tourists prefer to stay. Some of the popular hotels include The Grand Hotel Beijing, Beijing Hotel, Taiwan Hotel, Peace Hotel, Palace Hotel and Tianlun Dynasty Hotel.

A visit to this street is a must on your trip to Beijing. Shop to your heart’s content for exclusive Chinese artifacts and enjoy delicious food at any of the fine dining restaurants here.

Why You Should Visit:
To soak in the atmosphere and check out the little Chinese things you can buy not mentioning the various Beijing delicacies you can try – from noodle soup and dumplings to starfish-on-a-stick. Lots of people daring each other to try various insects and taking pics, so a very interesting place to visit. Easy to get around but crowded and open late.

Tip:
Make sure to check out the side streets, as there are plenty of curious things to see, but don't forget to barter with the vendors!

Walking Tours in Beijing, China

Create Your Own Walk in Beijing

Create Your Own Walk in Beijing

Creating your own self-guided walk in Beijing is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Souvenir Shopping Guide

Souvenir Shopping Guide

It would be a pity to leave Beijing without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Beijing, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.8 Km or 3 Miles
Beijing Museums and Art Galleries

Beijing Museums and Art Galleries

Beijing is the political and cultural center of China. The museums in this wonderful city will impress you not only with their beauty and fascinating collections, but also with the stunning architecure of the buildings the museums are housed in. Take the following tour to discover the most popular museums in Beijing and to find out more about the city's history, traditions and culture.

Tour Duration: 4 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 9.6 Km or 6 Miles
Antiques Hunting Tour

Antiques Hunting Tour

While enjoying the city, make sure to check out our amazing tour, comprised of handpicked antique markets, filled with original, rare and beautiful items. Discover both the work of local craftsmen and articles that traveled from other countries and cultures.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Walking Tour: Chaoyang District

Walking Tour: Chaoyang District

Chaoyang District is one of the largest, most modern Districts of Beijing. Here you will find the Central Business District and headquarters of many international organizations, as well as many famous market streets including Silk Street and Sanlitun Bar Street. Take the following tour to discover the fascinating Chaoyang District:

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 Km or 2.7 Miles
Shopping in North Beijing

Shopping in North Beijing

Northern Beijing is home to the famous historic Shichahai area. This picturesque area between Forbidden City and Olympic Park consists of three lakes, the Confucius and Lama Temples and is a great illustration of a traditional Chinese district. Check out the most popular shopping places in North Beijing in the next self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Walking Tour: Xicheng District, Beijing

Walking Tour: Xicheng District, Beijing

Xicheng District includes the largest part of the old city. In this part of Beijing, you will find fascinating Chinese architecture, the oldest standing Catholic Church and beautiful parks. Take the following tour to discover the most popular and prominent attractions in Xicheng District of Beijing.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 8.4 Km or 5.2 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


Shopping in Beijing: 18 Travel Mementos

Shopping in Beijing: 18 Travel Mementos

Today, it is safe to assume that 9 out of 10 souvenirs worldwide (regardless of the country) are made in China, the workshop of the world. But how about shopping for souvenirs in China itself and Beijing, in particular? Presented here are some of the traditional Chinese-made goods, initially...
Most Popular Desserts and Drinks in Beijing

Most Popular Desserts and Drinks in Beijing

No meal is complete without a sweet touch and a proper drink to wash it all down. Beijing's food scene is rich and colorful in many ways, and the dessert & drink areas are no exception. Some of the signature Beijing delicacies have gained popularity across Asia over the centuries, whereas...
Top 10 Foods to Try in Beijing

Top 10 Foods to Try in Beijing

Centuries went by and the regional Chinese, Manchurian, Mongol and Muslim cuisines boiled together to produce what's now known and loved as traditional Beijing cooking. Whenever you're in the Chinese capital, don't leave without tasting at least some of the key local meals or your...
Best Street Foods to Try in Beijing

Best Street Foods to Try in Beijing

China's passion for food – long in history as The Great Wall of China itself – is clearly manifested in its street food culture. This is particularly noticeable on the streets of Beijing, teeming with numerous vendors and thick with aromas. Whether you're a vegan, vegetarian or a...