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Busy in Beijing

Jun 12, 2006  Student Traveller
4.0 of 5 stars based on 11 votes

Get out and explore the less well-known areas of Beijing. Okay, and some well-known ones, too.

  • Explore locations featured in this Trip List: Beijing
  • Category: Best of
  • Traveler type: Sightseeing
  • Appeals to: Students, Budget travelers, Active/adventure, Tourists
  • 1. Bell Tower

    The Bell Tower of Beijing is one of the lesser-known sites. The Tower was built in 1272 CE but was burnt down shortly thereafter, rebuilt in 1420... and just as promptly burnt down again. In 1745 it was rebuilt during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong, this time for keeps.

    The Bell Tower was built so sturdily that the only damage it suffered from an earthquake in 1976 was the loss of a single stone animal head decorating the roof. The nightly peals of the bell can be heard from over 20 kilometers away.

    As for the site itself, it gives an amazing view of Beijing, especially the ever-vanishing Hutongs, and the nearby Drum Tower is also a site to see. Definite recommend.

  • 2. Beihei Gongyuan (North Sea Park)

    Beihai Gongyuan, meaning North Sea Park, was literally dug into being by the Mongols, who couldn't take Beijing's hot climate. It remains one of the biggest bodies of water in Beijing and served for centuries as a palace for the Emperors.

    The Park is big, so plan on spending a few hours there at least. Definitely check out the White Dagoba (Bai Ta), in the center island. It houses many Buddhist relics, caves and other great finds. It also gives a great view from the top - but be prepared for a climb!

    Finally, don't miss the Fangshan Restaurant on the north side of Qiong Island. It serves up the same foods upon which the Emperors used to dine. It's expensive, but worth it.

    The fee for admission at Beihai Park is only about 5 yuan, which is about 60 cents. Definitely worth it!

  • 3. Dong Hua Men Night Market
    Dong Hua Men Night Market, Beijing, China

    Ever tried fried silkworm? Roast egg with chick? Perhaps some snake, sea horses or grass hoppers? No, never? Well, the Night Market is the place to start!

    It offers everything, and I do mean EVERYTHINGthat you could ask for (and most of which that you didn't).

    For the truly adventurous. Weak stomaches need not apply.

  • 4. Ancient Observatory (Guguanxiangtai)
    Ancient Observatory (Guguanxiangtai), Beijing, China

    The product of Jesuit astronomical knowledge, the observatory is host to a variety of 17th and 18th century globes, astrolabes, quadrants, theodolites and every other astronomical device under the sun.

    See where East met West, and get a great view of Beijing to boot.

  • 5. Hutong District

    When you think of China, you think of hutongs. The name means an alley, and the thousands of hutongs, ever shrinking, which dot Beijing lay as silent testament to the old city. Built anywhere from the 13th to the 17th centuries, these quaint houses contain a vibrant life not seen in the high-rise apartments.

    Many of these are located right next to Beihai Park, so take a bike and just cycle through area. No schmaltzy tourist traps here --- this is real Beijing life.

  • 6. Pearl Market (Hongqiao Market)
    Pearl Market (Hongqiao Market), Beijing, China

    Don't be fooled by the name. While the Pearl Market does sell its name-sake, it also sells just about everything else. If you want to bone up on your bargaining skills, check this place out. Just remember, a lot of it is knockoff, so be wary if you plan on buying pearls (better to bring along a guide, if possible).

    As for the discounts, if you pay more than 50% of what they originally ask, you got ripped off. Enjoy!

  • 7. China North International Shooting Range

    Ever had the urge to fire a machine gun? Pop out a rocket-propelled grenade? Snipe a target from downrange?

    The China North International Shooting Range, located on the far outskirts of Beijing, has something for the Rambo in all of us. Payment is by the bullet (or anti-tank missile, if that's your preference) and is pretty expensive by Chinese standards. Still, where else are you going to get to fire an AK-47?