Free Things To Do in Beijing
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North of the Forbidden City, this neighborhood packs so much character into its narrow streets (hutongs). Nanlouguxiang continually surprises you with exciting discoveries in boutique shops and tantalizing flavors from unassuming vendors. When you need a shopping break, visit the Bell and Drum Towers that also reside here. While this bohemian district has witnessed an increase in tourist volume, it has avoided the commercialization and urban renovations that characterize other Beijing areas.
Many visitors appreciate the blend of new and old and enjoy spending time browsing around. Reviewers said this is a great place to browse for souvenirs.
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Up there with Times Square, Red Square and St. Peter's Square, Tiananmen Square is among the world's most famous public spaces. Almost anyone can recognize the Gate of Heavenly Peace emblazoned with a portrait of Chairman Mao as a symbol of Beijing. The square is the geographic, political and tourist center of the city, which makes it unavoidable. Although Tiananmen Square looks like a field of concrete (which it is), you'll want to see it for the surrounding attractions: The Great Hall of the People, the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, the National Museum of China and the Forbidden City sit on the edges.
Recent visitors warned the area is usually crowded, with lots of guards, which some found disconcerting. Nonetheless, most visitors said it's a must-see landmark. Plus, taking a picture here is almost required to prove you've been to Beijing.
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Fact: The arts are booming in Beijing. You only need to tour the Dashanzi Art District to witness this creative surge. The epicenter of this artistic explosion is 798 Space (also known as Factory 798), an old electronics manufacturing site and warehouse. Originally designed by East Germans in the 1950s, the stern architecture beautifully juxtaposes the richly colorful contents of artist studios. The 2-million-square-foot venue boasts galleries, eateries and bars, making it a one-stop-shop for hip locals and curious tourists.
Recent visitors said the neighborhood appeals to nearly everyone because of the diverse offerings found here and recommend giving yourself plenty of time to simply wander around. Reviewers said you'll want to take a bevy of pictures thanks to the colorful atmosphere. Many others suggested purchasing souvenirs here as the offerings are quite unique. If you're an art lover, heed the advice of past travelers and plan to make multiple visits.
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For a survey of Chinese history, head to the National Museum of China. Positioned on the eastern edge of Tiananmen Square, the exhibits in this museum neatly outline the nation's past for visitors, both native and foreign. After a massive renovation, the facility reopened in the spring of 2011 with updated displays and an interior facelift. Among the many treasures (more than one million), you'll find entire rooms dedicated to jade, porcelain and bronze artifacts.
When looking at the collection, travelers are generally impressed, with many saying you need at least two to three hours to even begin to see all the treasures it holds. Visitors also appreciate it is free to visit. If you plan to visit, keep these tips from reviewers in mind: stop by the museum at the start of your trip to Beijing to better understand the city and Chinese culture overall; the museum is better suited to visitors interested in history and archaeology than art; English translation is lacking in certain areas.
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Deemed China's coming-out party, the 2008 Summer Olympics placed Beijing in the world spotlight. Beijing carved out huge tracts of land to construct this international stage. The excitement has since passed, and the park and some of its facilities have been repurposed for public use. The surviving structures include the National Stadium (or the "Bird's Nest"), the National Aquatics Center (or the "Water Cube") and the Olympic Forest Park. New buildings, like the China National Convention Center, have changed the park's landscape.
The majority of past travelers still enjoyed making the pilgrimage to Olympic Park and recent visitors expressed their amazement at its architecture, especially at night when some of the structures are illuminated. During the day, you'll frequently find locals flying kites. However, some reviewers were underwhelmed with the complex and advise against making a special trip to see it.
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