There are many things to do and sights to see in Beijing. So many in fact, that you’ll likely need several trips (or months) to see them all.
The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square
The OG, number 1 thing to do in Beijing. If you only do one thing, visit the Forbidden City. You’ll also get to tick off Tiananmen Square off your list, as you have to enter through the square.
If you feel adventurous and ready to brave the hordes, start at the southern part of the Square at the Qianmen gate and then walk the whole square to the Tiananmen Gate (the gate with Mao’s face on it that leads to the Forbidden City). And if you are feeling extra patriotic, take the detour through Mao’s mausoleum.
The Temple of Heaven
My favourite of all the things I did in Beijing was definitely the Temple of Heaven. Not only because I went with my dad, but also because it basically is a massive park with lots of sights, many pretty plants and lots of walkies. And I guess there is nothing cooler than going with your gardener dad to a massive garden and watch him nerd-out about flowers.
The Lama Temple
No, unfortunately, there are no lamas at the Lama Temple, but plenty of other pretty things to see.
Biking around Town
Depending on the season, a bike ride around the first, second and third rings might be a great way to not only see a lot of things but also to get some sense of the scale of Beijing. The city is huge, and nothing shows its size more than biking for 30 minutes in one direction and not leaving the second ring. Trust me, been there, done that.
Things I didn’t get to this time around but are absolute musts
Yes, I was in Beijing for nearly three months. No, I did do nearly enough sightseeing. Why? I work too much. But if you, unlike me, are there for fun and not profit, there are some day trips you really have to consider making.
First and most famous of course the Great Wall. There are many areas to go too if it is your first time I’d advise you get a private tour with a driver. And don’t go to the “tourist” parts, especially not Badaling. Unless you want to see more people than the wall.
Another big to-do is the Summer Palace. There are actually two of them, one a ruin from the Opium Wars, and the more known tourist location that was built after the first was destroyed. They are right next to each other, so it might be a good idea to combine it into one big day. Like the Forbidden City, it will likely be completely run over by tourists.
And finally, there are many day trips by train possible from Beijing. One many recommended (and I did not do) was Tianjin.