1. The Great Wall
You’re thinking “duh” right? But we’re not suggesting the most popular section, Badaling. Try scenic Mutianyu or take the cheap train to Jinshanling then sleep overnight in the nearby village and get up at 3am to walk up the wall and watch the sunrise. Or just spend the night on top of the wall!
2. Summer Palace
Ok, so Summer Palace isn’t exactly a hidden place in Beijing. Everyone including tourists have been several times but it is one of the best places to go during a hot summer day. Rent a boat and relax out on the lake. There’s a cool breeze from the water and in the middle of the lake it’s quite peaceful and serene. Money saving tip: If you’re planning to stay in Beijing for over a year, you can get a very cheap year-round ticket from the middle until the end of December. It can be purchased at any of the main parks.
3. Jingshan Park
Forget the picture of you and Mao in front of the Forbidden City (FC). The best view of the FC is from the top of Jingshan park. It takes only a few minutes to climb to the top of the hill and snap a great picture of inside the City.
4. The Zoo Market
We suggest you take a Chinese friend with you if you actually plan on buying anything but the Zoo Market is one of the cheapest places in Beijing to buy clothing. Of course you get what you paying for so don’t expect buttons to stay on for very long and don’t plan on washing your clothing too many times as most of the clothing sold here was made to be worn only once before falling apart. The thousands of stores and bustling environment will leave you exhilarated and exhausted. It’s a unique experience that you have to do at least once. Just remember to keep your purse close by as there will be lots of people shoving past you.
Also quite well known, Houhai is a great place for exercise, partying or just enjoying the outdoors. What most people don’t know is that there are some hidden hutongs on the SW side of Houhai that are actually quite quiet. Spend some time wandering through the maze and imagining what ancient Beijing was really like.
Also known as the Harvard of Asia, Peking University aka Beida is a lovely campus and your first impression will be of the Chinese tourists standing outside the front gates proving they were there. Make sure to snap your picture as well but pay attention, most people don’t smile for pictures in China. Don’t make the faux pas of grinning from ear to ear. How embarrassing!
This narrow street in the center of town takes only a few minutes to walk through but there are all sorts of interesting things to see, buy and eat. Chinese President Xi also thinks so as he recently visited that area.
8. Baihua Mountain
You’ll want to tell everyone you know that you climbed the highest mountain surrounding Beijing. Baihua in the far west of town is almost 2000m above sea level and while you’re there you can also climb Baihua’s shorter sister, Huangcaoliang Mountain. The mountain is known for having over 700 different kinds of plants so you’ll be getting lots of oxygen during your climb.
9. Caochangdi District
Forget 798 (not really, it’s still a very cool place to visit). Caochangdi District is Beijing’s newest art HQ. Although it’s a pretty long ride, buses 402, 418, 688, 909, 955, and 973 all go there. To get some artistic inspiration, get off at either the Caochangdi stop or the Nangao stop.
10. Beijing Olympic Area
It’s a great place to hang out with friends and have a picnic surrounded by some cool architecture, flowers and greenery. There is lots of room for rollerblading, jogging, Frisbee and any number of other activities.