Free Things To Do in Beijing
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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. One TripAdvisor user comments, "It feels like you already know this place when you arrive. However, as you look around, the vast size of the place starts to impress upon you." 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, Chairman Mao's Mausoleum, the National Museum of China, and the Forbidden City sit on the edges. Plus, taking a picture here is almost required to prove you've been to Beijing.
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North of the Forbidden City, this neighborhood (also called a "hutong") packs so much character into its narrow streets. 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. One TripAdvisor user attests, "Nanluoguxiang is an excellent place to get away from the hectic day to day life in 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's studios. The two-million-square-foot venue boasts galleries, eateries, and bars, making it a one-stop-shop for hip locals and curious tourists. As this space has filled up, artists (and developers) have started up around 798 Space.
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Deemed China's coming-out party, the 2008 Olympic Games placed Beijing in the world spotlight, and the city put on the most remarkable Olympic-display to date. 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 Aquatic Center (or the "Water Cube"), and the Olympic Forest Park. New buildings, like the National Convention Center, have changed the park's landscape.
- #10View all Photos#10 in BeijingMuseums, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseums, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
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, you'll find entire rooms dedicated to jade, porcelain, and bronze artifacts.
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