Beijing, one of the six ancient cities in China, with its long history and fascinating culture has delighted and intrigued the world, in particular the West for quite some time now. Beijing’s ancient past and rising prominence in the world has seen it become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world with over 140 million domestic tourist and nearly five million international visitors a year. For the final installation of our things to do in Beijing series, we will be looking at some of the most popular attractions.
Beijing Zoo – Home to around 450 different species and some 5,000 animals, Beijing Zoo was the first of its kind to be opened in China. Situated in the Xicheng District, the zoo has 16 different exhibition areas and halls. One of the most popular attraction in the zoo is the Panda Hall. Covering an area of 2.5 acres, the inside of the Panda Hall replicates the style of traditional Chinese gardens and is shaped in the pattern of a Tai Chi diagram. Another popular feature in the zoo is the Gorilla Hall. Built in 1987, the enclosure has artificial hillocks, a number of wooden apparatus for the animals to play along with rockeries and pools. There is also a medical room, a mating room and a feeding room in the gorilla enclosure.
This photo of Beijing Zoo is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Opened in 1999, the zoo has been widely acknowledged by many as one of the country’s top attractions. In fact the zoo also houses the largest inland aquarium in the world. Featuring thousands of different aquatic species from man-eating fishes, precious Chinese sturgeons, to huge sea elephants and fierce sharks, the aquarium also has daily aquatic shows performed by sea lions, dolphins and whales. Besides animal enclosures and exhibition halls, there are also historical relics for visitors to explore. One such relic is the Lemarch Hall – built to commemorate Lemarch (1744-1829), a famous French natural historian.
Opening hours: Beijing Zoo: 07:30 to 18:00 (Apr. 1 to Oct. 31); 07:30 to 17:00 (Nov. 1 to the next Mar.31) Beijing Aquarium: 09:00 to 17:00
This photo of Tiananmen Square (Tiananmen Guangchang) is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Tiananmen Square – Tiananmen Gate sits to the north of the Tiananmen Square, separating it and also connecting it to, the Forbidden City. It was on the rostrum of Tiananmen Gate that Mao Zedong declared the People’s Republic of China on October 1st 1949, which is why a large portrait of Mao hangs from the rostrum of Tiananmen Gate. Originally built during the Ming Dynasty in 1417 Tiananmen Square was once a royal plaza outside the Forbidden City. At that time it was enclosed by walls from east, west and south, and the common people were all prevented from entering. The gate was destroyed twice, what we see today was finally built in 1651. When walking around the square, watch out for a granite monument (People’s Heroes) at the center of the square. Built in 1952, it is the largest monument in China. The characters engraved on the monument, ‘The People’s Heroes are Immortal’ were written by Chairman Mao himself. If you can, be sure to catch the flag raising ceremony in Tiananmen. There’s only one catch to it, you would have to arrive very very early (before sunrise) on the day to watch the guard of honor perform the ceremony. Thankfully Fraser Suites Beijing is only 10 minutes away by car so you can squeeze in a little more sleep. To get a good view of the proceedings, make sure you arrive at the square well in advance to secure a good spot as the crowd can get pretty big for the ceremony.
Jingdong Grand Canyon – This national AAA scenic spot is located to the north of Yuzi Village, Pinggu District. Jingdong Grand Canyon is renowned for its steep mountains and deep valleys. On a clear day, visitors can see a wide range of beautiful landscapes in the canyon. Upon entering, visitors will find green hills, clear waters, karst caves, deep ponds, wide valleys, and plunging waterfalls. Some of the scenic spots in Jingdong Grand Canyon are the Wulong pond, Tongtian gorge, the Plank roads, Longmen lake, the Memorial of the Sino-Japanese War and Holiday Village. The Wulong pond is actually, five ponds in total, each having a unique shape accompanied with an equally interesting name.
This photo of Jingdong Grand Canyon is courtesy of TripAdvisor
For the adventurous, you might want to try walking the Plank roads. Held up by shaky steel cables, walking has never been more terrifying or thrilling, depending on your capacity for adventure. Longmen Lake is a place where one can often find visitors taking a leisurely soak near the edge and/or boating. Opened in 1998, the Memorial of the Sino-Japanese War showcases objects and photographs of how the army and civilians fought against the invading Japanese army. Holiday Village is a rest stop for visitors. With sleeping accommodations for one hundred people, a dance hall, and a dining room which can accommodate 250 guests, this is the perfect place for all tourists to recharge their batteries. For the best view, we recommend taking the scenery aerial tramway. This is a great way to catch the splendid panoramic view of the whole scenery of the canyon. The canyon holds a harvest celebration every year from July to October where visitors are allowed to pick various fruits such as apricots, apples, pears and hawthorns.
Opening hours: 08:00 -18:30
Shichahai – Located in the northwest part of Beijing, and covering an area of 146.7 hectares, Shichahai is a scenic attraction surrounded by lakes, places of historic interest, scenic beauty, and remnants of old-style Beijing architecture, Hutong (a typical lane or small street in Beijing that originated during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and Courtyard residences (traditional unique folk houses). The history of Shichahai go as far back as the Jin Dynasty (1115 – 1234). During the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368), it was the terminal point of the Great Canal which made it a prosperous location. After which during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), Shichahai went from a bustling hub to a place of leisure and relaxation where people could stroll around and take in the beautiful scenery or enjoy the cool shade under the trees.
Shichahai’s attraction lies not only in its natural beauty, but also in the historical and cultural value of the architecture found in the area. The most famous ones among these historical buildings are Prince Gong’s Mansion, Price Chun’s Mansion, the Former Residence of Song Qing Ling, the Former Residence of Mei Lan Fang (the well-known Peking Opera master) and Guang Hua Temple. That being said, the most popular attraction in Shichahai today are the Hutongs and Courtyards. In Beijing, Shichahai is arguably one of the best places to view well-preserved Hutongs and courtyards. Visiting Hutongs by pedicab (also known as cycle rickshaw or trishaw) has become a popular activity for visitors from China and abroad. The most famous one is Jin Si Tao, which has 18 hutongs and has kept the original layout of Hutong Area. Another one is Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street, this street used to be a famous street selling long-stemmed pipes hence the name. In the east of Shichahai area, South Gong and Drum Lane is renowned for its long history, Hutong culture, specialty stores and distinctive foods. So when you are there, be sure to check it out!