8 amazing activities in Beijing
In the east of China lies Beijing, the largest and one of the oldest capital cities in the world. Strategically positioned as the Emperor’s home over eight centuries ago, the enchantingly historical but thoroughly modern city of Beijing invites you to discover all of its treasures.
Why not come on an exciting language-learning adventure with us? We can help you unearth China’s fascinating language, its unique culture, and its excellent gastronomy – the best way to understand authentic China is to immerse yourself in Mandarin in this magnificent metropolis!
With so many things to see and do, let our Chinese language school in Beijing be your guide with their specially crafted activity programme.
Since the number eight 🎱 is considered very lucky in China, and to give you an idea of what’s available in this mega-city, we’ve compiled a list of eight things to see and do in Beijing. What’s more, all the below feature on our Chinese language school’s cultural programme, so you’ll be able to experience them all!
1) The Great Wall of China 🧱
While this might be an obvious thing to do during your stay in Beijing, our school will guarantee you a visit to the Great Wall like no other.
You will travel in groups to this perennial Wonder of the World over one or two days. Our Beijing school knows an older and untouched section of the Great Wall, with awe-inspiring views undisturbed by mass tourism. Hike with your fellow students across several watchtowers that are hundreds of years old and take breath-taking pictures along the way.
The one-day trip usually takes place on a Saturday, with the total cost varying based on the amount of students in attendance. It is, however, guaranteed to be great value for money and a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Across the two-day weekend trip, you will stay in a traditional farmhouse, have a BBQ together, explore another section of the wall, and visit the Ming Dynasty Tombs on the way back.
This astonishing, immersive trip to one of China’s greatest attractions is definitely worthy of your time!
2) Museums 🏛️
With so much history, traditions, and culture – combined with a large population – Beijing seems to have a museum for everything. There are over 140 museums available in the city; whatever your topic of choice, the chance that there’s a museum covering it is quite high!
No museum trip is complete without a visit to the National Museum of China, which opened in 1959 and was expanded in 2003. Here you will find anything and everything from the spectacular history of the country. You can start with the Yuanmou Man – a Homo erectus fossil thought to be around 1.7 million years old – and end with artefacts from the Qing Dynasty, China’s last imperial dynasty.
Other museums in Beijing include artistic institutions such as the National Art Museum, the Capital Museum, and the Beijing Art Museum. The National Art Museum offers a mixture of ancient and contemporary Chinese art, as well as notable oil paintings, watercolours, and prints from the West. The Capital Museum focuses more on relics like porcelain, jade sculptures, bronze pieces, and calligraphy.
Nature enthusiasts might be interested in the Paleozoological Museum of China. Here you’ll find a great range of exhibits over three floors, including extinct fish, amphibians, birds, and dinosaurs. Most of the exhibits are Chinese specimens, so you can have a look at the homegrown ancient fauna of the East.
If you prefer things a bit more unusual, you can visit the Tap Water Museum (yes, that is a thing). Though it sounds like an unnecessary and boring topic to build a whole museum around, it’s actually rather interesting! Certainly worth a look if you are into history and engineering, as these two are often intertwined in the museum’s exhibits.
3) Beijing Hutongs ⛩️
Get a feeling for China from centuries ago! Any visitor to Beijing will soon learn about the hutongs. What might seem at first to be a maze of old houses and alleyways will soon reveal its ancient and iconic charm.
Hutongs are small alleys formed by houses that are called siheyuan. Some have existed for thousands of years and are a huge part of Chinese culture. Every hutong has its own unique character; they are definitely a must-see for culture vultures and history fans.
But there is still more to these strange streets! There are hundreds of shops, restaurants, and bars in these areas and hutongs are the perfect places to shop, dine out, or simply spend the day exploring. Even Starbucks has its place amongst the hutongs, though don’t let that put you off!
Luckily, the centre of Beijing still contains many traditional hutongs, each providing an invitation to get lost in this ancient part of the city. You will soon learn how to find your bearings, however. First-timers to the hutongs can use prominent landmarks such as Beijing’s Bell and Drum Towers to help guide them.
4) Dinner time 🥢
Although some people might be apprehensive about the food in China, you will be hard-pressed to find better range or value of food anywhere in the world! Our school has plenty of social eating events on offer to introduce you to the wonderful world of Beijing’s gastronomy. These events are ideal for any foodie, and they’ll help you make friends with your fellow students.
You’ll start with a welcome breakfast on the first day of your course, then take a deep dive into the Chinese language, a tour of the school and surrounding neighbourhood. After this you’ll have a treat of pancakes or jiaozi, a perfect way to start your time in Beijing and your Chinese food journey.
You will also get plenty of chances to try the famous, delicious, Peking roast duck. Many restaurants offer this absolute classic, but again our school can help organise a trip for you. Korean BBQ is a big trend in Beijing, and you shouldn’t miss it! The city’s proximity to Korea and the fact that some citizens have Korean roots makes this place the home of China’s Korean BBQ masters.
The school also organises weekly lunch clubs and dinner. The school staff order food directly to the school each day for lunch club, so you won’t have to search for a place to eat. They also rotate the orders so you’ll get to try lots of different delicious dishes. What a relaxed way to enjoy Chinese food and hang out with your fellow students! Dinners are held every Wednesday evening and are similar to the lunch club; in this case, however, you’ll go out to a restaurant and eat there, selecting a different establishment every week. This allows you to sample popular cuisines such as Sichuan, Xinjiang Muslim, and southern Dim Sum.
5) Karaoke 🎤
A really popular pastime in China is going to a karaoke bar or booth and, of course, there are lots of karaoke bars available in Beijing! These trips are always lots of fun for everybody involved. We advise going to a karaoke bar at least once, and don’t worry: it’s not just Chinese songs to choose from. The list of available songs is massive and also includes a lot of famous Western songs, so there’s no excuse for you not to perform a solo!
Do beware that there are some rules for karaoke. Don’t shame other singers and always applaud after a performance; don’t hog the microphone; and most importantly: have fun!
6) Local sports 🏅
There will also be an option to get active at the school’s campus. Sport is the perfect way to get to know other people – if you get chatting to some locals, you’ll also be able to improve your Chinese! The school has its own basketball court, which is ideal for playing team games.
The university campus across the road offers a tennis and football court. Besides these, there are also several places nearby to go bowling and golfing. Whatever you like, it is pretty certain that Beijing can offer you it!
7) Market trips 🏬
The local markets are definitely worth a trip, simply because you can get everything you can imagine at them! From designer clothes to DVDs and Blu-rays, to vegetables, souvenirs, street food, and artisan crafts, there is so much to discover on the streets of Beijing.
Check out the Panjiayuan Flea Market if you’d like to get a feel for an authentic Chinese market. On Saturdays you will find more vendors than during the week. If you love antiques, you should visit the Beijing Antique City and Beijing’s Antique Street. The Antique City is just 300 metres away from the Panjiayuan Flea Market and is considered the biggest antiques trade centre in Asia. Stuffed with classical furniture, ancient watches, rugs, and ceramics, plus calligraphy and paintings, there is surely enough to keep you busy for a while. You might even find yourself a new accessory!
8) The Forbidden City 🏯
The Imperial Palace, also known as The Forbidden City, was once the home to the emperors who ruled China. The local saying goes that it was the home of the Celestial Emperor – a representation of the first God – and also to the terrestrial Emperor. The City takes its name from the fact that no one could leave or enter the palace without permission from the reigning Emperor. Today, the citizens of Beijing refer to it as the ‘Former Palace’.
The Forbidden City is an absolute must-see if you stay in Beijing, a colossal site with a lot to offer. You can visit the Palace Museum, with its fine collection of ceramics, seals, steles, sculptures, inscribed wares, bronze wares, and more. The last audit of the collection counted over 1.8 million pieces!
Another attraction to visit is the Imperial Garden, which is relatively small but features many different landscapes to enjoy. This complex can keep you busy with art and culture all day long, and sights like the ‘Gate of Divine Might’, the ‘Palace of Tranquil Longevity’, and the ‘Palace of Heavenly Purity’ live up to their extravagant names!
What to do next ?
Hopefully, this post has ignited your desire to visit Beijing. If you are thinking about a language trip to China, then you should definitely consider this city. Many sights, sounds, and new experiences are waiting for you. Let Beijing tell you its own story! If you’re planning on staying in China for a month or two, then you may want to take the high-speed train from Beijing to Shanghai, or even stay for a few weeks learning Chinese in the picturesque coastal city of Qingdao.
Please feel free to contact us for more information!
– compiled by Dennis, Jan 2020