comScore
The Great Wall picture in Beijing
firepile / Flickr

Key Info

Details

  • Hiking, Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing Type
  • Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.8
Overall
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Scorecard

  • Value
    4.5
  • Facilities
    4.0
  • Atmosphere
    5.0

Read about how we rank Things to Do.

Just north of Beijing, you'll find one of the most famous monuments in the world—the Great Wall of China. Although it's unlikely you'll see the whole thing (after all, it measures about 5,500 miles long), you should aim to experience a portion of it. That begs the question: Which section?

Only an hour's drive northwest of Beijing, the Badaling section is convenient, hosts a large souvenir market, and has a gondola to whisk visitors up and down the wall. Sounds perfect, right? Well, and that's why thousands of tourists decide to venture here. This creates mob-like scenes that can spoil the trip. Entrance to the Badaling section of wall (not including the gondola ride) costs 40 CNY (about $6.50 USD) in the winter and spring and 45 CNY (about $7 USD) in the summer and fall. You can start hiking the Badaling portion at 6:40 a.m., and you must be down by 6:30 p.m. every day.

The Mutianyu section, an hour's drive northeast of Beijing, is the favorite of recent travelers. Here, you'll find majestic mountainous vistas, a cable car for quick-and-easy access, a fun sled ride down, and (best of all) fewer tourists. One TripAdvisor user describes Mutainyu as "less [crowded] than at Badaling and far from the roads and villages so you can really enjoy a peaceful walk." Admission costs 35 CNY (about $5.50 USD), and visitors are welcome from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day.

Farther from the city, the Juyongguan, Simatai, Jinshanling, Huanghuacheng, Jiankou, and Gubeikou sections offer adventurous travelers more challenging hikes and unique landscapes. If you opt for one of these sections, take the time to carefully research it beforehand. Each portion meanders through different terrain and has its own pros and cons. Some sections are in better condition than others, and transportation to and from them can be less reliable.

Whichever portion you choose, be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and snacks. The hike alone can be tiring, and hot weather can take its toll on unprepared visitors. For more information, speak with your hotel's concierge, who can arrange the appropriate transportation for you.

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#1 Tiananmen Square 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 ... Read more » watchsmart / Flickr

#2 The Great Wall of China Just north of Beijing, you'll find one of the most famous monuments in the world—the Great Wall of China. Although it's unlikely you'll see the whole ... Read more » firepile / Flickr

#3 Summer Palace (Yiheyuan) When the bustle of Beijing becomes too much for you, do as the emperors would do and retreat to the Summer Palace. Located in the northwest suburbs, this oasis—literally ... Read more » firepile / Flickr

#4 Forbidden City (Imperial Palace) Operating under the official title of "The Palace Museum," the Forbidden City (also known as the Imperial Palace) has been a place of wonder and mystery for over 500 years ... Read more » giladr / Wikimedia Commons

#5 Beihai Park (Beihai Gongyuan) After the concrete jungles of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, head to nearby Beihai Park for a breath of fresh air. Whether you're under a tree overlooking the ... Read more » IvanWalsh.com / Flickr

#6 Nanluoguxiang 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 ... Read more » dimitris.argyris / Flickr

#7 Dashanzi Art District and 798 Space 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 ... Read more » Banalities / Flickr

#8 Ming Tombs On your way to the Great Wall, consider stopping at the Ming Tombs. As the final resting place of 13 of the 16 Ming Dynasty emperors (who ruled between 1368 ... Read more » Wikimedia Commons

#9 Lama Temple (Yonghegong) Originally an imperial residence, this "lamasery" (a monastery for Lamaist monks) features decadent gateways and intricate artwork. You'll immediate notice the rigid symmetry of the complex, which derives from ... Read more » Alberto.. / Flickr

#10 Olympic Park 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 ... Read more » kyle simourd / Flickr

#11 National Museum of China 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 ... Read more » <3erin / Flickr

#12 Bell and Drum Towers (Hutong) The Bell and Drum Towers crown the charming Nanluoguxiang district. Amid the maze of alleys, you'll appreciate having these two historical pillars to guide your exploration of the neighborhood ... Read more » Patrick Streule / Flickr

#13 Temple of Heaven Park (Tiatan Park) To reach the Temple of Heaven, you don't have to have an untimely passing. Just get off the subway at Tiantan Dongmen. As you'd expect, this green space ... Read more » IvanWalsh.com / Flickr

Tiananmen Square picture in Beijing
The Great Wall picture in Beijing
Summer Palace picture in Beijing
The Forbidden City picture in Beijing
Beihai Park picture in Beijing
Nanluoguxiang picture in Beijing
Dashanzi Arts District picture in Beijing
Ming Tombs picture in Beijing
Lama Temple picture in Beijing
Olympic Park picture in Beijing
National Museum of China picture in Beijing
Bell and Drum Towers picture in Beijing
Temple of Heaven picture in Beijing
Tiananmen Square picture in Beijing
The Great Wall picture in Beijing
Summer Palace picture in Beijing
The Forbidden City picture in Beijing
Beihai Park picture in Beijing
Nanluoguxiang picture in Beijing
Dashanzi Arts District picture in Beijing
Ming Tombs picture in Beijing
Lama Temple picture in Beijing
Olympic Park picture in Beijing
National Museum of China picture in Beijing
Bell and Drum Towers picture in Beijing
Temple of Heaven picture in Beijing

watchsmart / Flickr

firepile / Flickr

You'll find the Marble Boat at the Summer Palace. Will it sink or float? firepile / Flickr

For centuries, the Forbidden City was closed to the public. So, it'd be a shame to not see it now. giladr / Wikimedia Commons

You can sail from pagoda to pagoda in Beihai Park. IvanWalsh.com / Flickr

This neighborhood brims with personality, quaint stalls, and good food. dimitris.argyris / Flickr

Visitors love perusing contemporary art galleries in this industrial neighborhood. Banalities / Flickr

You'll pass this stature on the Sacred Way near the Ming Tombs. Wikimedia Commons

Alberto.. / Flickr

The Water Cube (aka the National Aquatics Center) made a splash at the 2008 Olympic Games. kyle simourd / Flickr

This massive comlex holds artifacts that recount China's long history. <3erin / Flickr

When you reach the top of the Bell Tower, you'll find this gigantic bell and a spectacular view of Nanlouguxiang. Patrick Streule / Flickr

This cicular pagoda has become a symbol of Beijing. IvanWalsh.com / Flickr

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