10 Must-See Historical Sites In Beijing That Will Bring You Back In Time - Updated 2024

10 Must-See Historical Sites In Beijing That Will Bring You Back In Time - Updated 2024
| 6 min read

Beijing, also known as Peking, is the capital city of the People’s Republic of China. Located in the northern part of the country, it is considered one of the most populous capital cities in the world. With its many shopping districts, different variety of foods, and historical spots, it is definitely a hit with foreigners. Plus, Beijing has a mix of buildings that are both modern and ancient. It is a perfect destination for travelers who have an interest in history. What’s more, going to places like Forbidden City or Great Wall of China can be an amazing experience, whether you are a history buff or someone who just wants to explore the city. If you want to check out some of the best attractions in the city, then read this article for the must-see historical sites in Beijing that you can add to your itinerary.

1. Forbidden City (from USD 114.0)

Overview of the Forbidden City
Source: Photo by Flickr user Bridget Coila used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The ultimate time-traveling experience is definitely going on a tour of Forbidden City. It is said to be largest ancient palatial structure in the. The construction of Forbidden City started during the early Ming Dynasty. It housed 24 emperors of both the Ming and Qing Dynasties from 1420 to 1911. It has 70 compounds with 980 buildings with almost 10,000 rooms. The palace also has beautifully landscaped gardens. In the mid-1920s, Forbidden City was opened to the public to show the royal collections. It also became a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1987. Now, it is Palace Museum, which showcases pieces of art and tells stories of history.

Forbidden City

Address: 4 Jingshan Front St, Dongcheng, Beijing, China, 100886

Website:: Forbidden City

Opening hours: 8:30am - 5pm (daily)

Entrance cost: April - October: 60 RMB (9.24 USD); November - March: 40 RMB (6.16 USD)

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Forbidden City Private Tour

Duration: 2 to 4 hours

85 reviews

2. Summer Palace (from USD 162.0)

The Summer Palace
Source: Pixabay

Summer Palace, located mostly on Kunming Lake, is known for its beautiful surroundings. It was built in 1750 and was called the Garden of Clear Ripples. It was destroyed in the 1860s during the Second Opium War. Then, it was rebuilt by Emperor Guangxu for Empress Dowager Cixi and renamed Summer Palace. The palace had many functions during its time— a residence, a recreational facility, and a place of spirituality, to name a few. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. Those who visit here will be greeted with stunning gardens, lake views, grand pavilions, and traditional buildings. You might even catch a traditional Chinese performance.

Summer Palace

Address: 19 Xinjiangongmen Rd, Haidian District, China, 100091

Website: Summer Palace

Opening hours: April - October: 6am - 6pm (daily); November - March: 7am - 5pm (daily)

Entrance cost: 30 RMB (4.69USD)

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Summer Palace and Temple Of Heaven Private Tour

Duration: 6 to 8 hours

3 reviews

3. Old Summer Palace (from USD 5.65)

Yuanmingyuan Ruins of Dashuifa 20120715
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user 颐园新居 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

While Old Summer Palace is not the grand building it used to be, its ruins tell a history. It was built in the early 1700s and destroyed during the Opium War in 1860. Also known as Yuanming Yuan, it used to be a complex of royal gardens and beautiful architecture, even gaining the nickname “Versailles of the East” back in the days. Believe it or not, Old Summer Palace was even bigger than Forbidden City. There was an attempt to rebuild it but the project was halted in 1874. Now, a park stands on the ruins. If you visit, you can still catch sight of traces of European-style palaces, gardens, and pavilions.

Old Summer Palace

Address: Yuanmingyuan Park, Haidian District, China, 100084

Website: Old Summer Palace

Opening hours: May - August: 7am - 7pm (daily); April, September & October: 7am - 6pm (daily); January - March, November & December: 7am -5:30pm (daily)

Entrance cost: 10 RMB (1.54 USD)

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The Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan) Ticket in Beijing, China

63 reviews

4. Temple of Heaven (from USD 185.0)

The Temple of Heaven Beijing (Tiantan)
Source: Photo by Flickr user faungg's photos used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Located in the middle of a popular park in Beijing, Temple of Heaven, also known as Tiāntán, is a serene getaway from the busy city. This temple was originally built as a site where emperors can worship and pray. Temple of Heaven was first constructed in 1406 to 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, around the same time that Forbidden City was being built. The Main Hall on the complex was struck by lightning and destroyed in 1889, and it was rebuilt to look identical in the next decade. In 1918, the surrounding area of the complex was turned into a park and the whole area was opened to the public. In 1998, Temple of Heaven became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its highlights include Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, Imperial Vault of Heaven, and Circular Mound Altar. Visitors can explore all of these and admire its architecture.

The Temple of Heaven

Address: 1 Tiantan E Rd, Dongcheng, China, 100061

Website: Temple of Heaven

Opening hours: 6am - 8pm (daily)

Entrance Cost: 10 RMB (1.54 USD ) - 15 RMB (2.31 USD)

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Private Beijing Tour: Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, More

Duration: 8 hours

102 reviews

5. Lugou Bridge (from USD 193.0)

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user User:Vmenkov used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Lugou Bridge, also known as Marco Polo Bridge, is located along the Yongding River in Beijing. It was first built in 1189 and rebuilt in 1698. This bridge has had many famous visitors throughout history, most memorably the 13th-century explorer Marco Polo. Marco Polo described Lugou Bridge in his journals when he was traveling. This bridge was also present during significant events in history. In 1937, it was witness to a conflict that led to the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War, which lasted until 1945. Just near this bridge, which is beautifully decorated with lions, is Wanping Fortress, which also houses a museum.

Lugou Bridge

Address: Fengtai District, Beijing, China

Opening hours: April - October: 7am - 8pm (daily); November - March: 7am - 6pm (daily)

Entrance Cost: 20 RMB (3.12 USD)

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Beijing, Peking Man Site, Stone Flower Cave: Private Day Tour

Duration: 8 hours

4 reviews

6. Beijing Bell and Drum Towers (from USD 68.0)

View from Bell to Drum Tower (36206746225)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Florian G. used under CC BY 2.0

Beijing Bell and Drum Towers, located north of Forbidden City, were originally built in 1272. Like most historical buildings, they have been burnt down and reconstructed. They were once used to inform the population of the time. The bell was used in the morning and the drum at night. The Bell and Drum Towers were used as early as the Han Dynasty to tell the time, and it continued until the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties. Today, the Drum Tower is home to replicas of the original drums. Guests might also catch the chance to watch a drum performance. The Bell Tower, meanwhile, is no longer being used but guests can still visit and learn about its importance.

Beijing Bell and Drum Towers

Address: Di'anmen Outer Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China

Opening hours: April - October: 9am - 5:30pm (daily); November - March: 10am - 5pm (daily)

Entrance cost: Bell Tower: 15 RMB (2.35 USD); Drum Tower: 20 RMB (3.12 USD)

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Beijing Hutong with Drum and Bell Towers: Private Walking Tour

Duration: 4 hours

6 reviews

7. Tiananmen Tower (Gate of Heavenly Peace) (from USD 50.43)

Tiananmen Gate
Source: Pixabay

Located on the Northern side of Tiananmen Square, Tiananmen Tower is a symbol of modern China and Peoples’ Republic of China (PROC). However, it has been around since the Ming Dynasty and was a place where portraits of great leaders were hung. This tower has five arches. The Ming and Qing Emperors would use the tower’s center arch as the main passageway. The smaller arches would be used for lower-ranked people such as ministers and officials. Currently, in the front of the gate hangs a portrait of Mao Zedong and lion statues that are said to protect the Chinese people from evil spirits. It was open to the public in November 1987, allowing guests to step inside and look at views of the area.

Tiananmen Tower

Address: Dongcheng District, Beijing, China

Opening hours: 5am - 10pm (daily)

Entrance Cost: 15 RMB (2.31 USD) - 20 RMB (3.00 USD)

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Tiananmen, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven & Summer Palace

Duration: 9 hour

305 reviews

8. Ming Tombs (13 Tombs of the Ming Dynasty) (from USD 40.67)

Beijing 2006 3-46
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user G41rn8 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Ming Tombs are located northwest of Beijing at the foot of Tianshou Mountain. This place holds the bodies of 13 Ming Dynasty emperors, making it the best-preserved mausoleum area. The third Ming Dynasty emperor built Changling Tomb in 1409. The succeeding emperors were buried around Changling Tomb in the shape of a fan. Each mausoleum of the emperors has varying structures, and its burial plots were formed according to Feng Shui. The Ming Tombs became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. Currently, three of the tombs are open to the public. Guests coming here will be greeted with statues and stories of history.

Ming Tombs

Address: 212 Provincial Rd, Changping District, China

Opening hours: 8am - 5:30pm (daily)

Entrance cost: 30 RMB (4.62 USD) - 130 RMB (20.04 USD)

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Ming Tombs Underground Palace & Mutianyu Great Wall Bus Tour

Duration: 8 hour

43 reviews

9. Great Wall of China (from USD 38.03)

Badaling China Great-Wall-of-China-02
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user CEphoto, Uwe Aranas used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Great Wall of China is always a place that comes to mind when thinking about taking a tour of Beijing as it is one of its most popular tourist destinations. The construction of the wall started in the 7th century BC, and its continuation happened throughout many dynasties. It was built to prevent kingdoms and states from going to war against each other and to protect the Silk Road Trade. The wall that we see today was actually built during the Ming Dynasty. In 1957, the wall was restored and open it for tourism. 30 years later, Great Wall of China became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The total length of the wall is 21,196 km (13,170.7 mi). It has various sections with various entrances. Badaling is the most popular section amongst tourists since it can be easily reached by public transportation. Jinshanling, meanwhile, taking four to five hours to walk on but it has the most beautiful scenery.

Great Wall of China

Address: Huairou District, China

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From Beijing: Mutianyu Great Wall Day Tour

Duration: 6.5 hour

392 reviews

10. Bada Hutong (Eight Great Hutongs) (from USD 130.59)

Hutong Rooftops
Source: Pixabay

Bada Hutong, also known as Eight Great Hutongs, was once used as the red light district in Beijing during the mid to late Qing Dynasty. Travelers who go here can have an insight into what the alleys looked like during Ancient China since many of the old structures were preserved. The names of the eight alleys are called Baishun, Yanzhi, Hanjia, Shaanxi, Shitou, Zongshu Xiejie, Zhujia, and Xiaoli.

Bada Hutong

Address: Zhushikou, Xicheng District, Beijing, China

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

Entrance cost: Free

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Hutongs: Walking Tour to Shichaihai & Prince Gong's Mansion

Duration: 4.5 hour

Learn about China's history

Visit these must-see historical sites to immerse yourself in the Beijing of the past. Learn something new about the history of China, and remember to take many pictures so you will remember this incredible experience.

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Kaitlin Mills is a Toronto-based freelance travel writer, luxury travel coordinator, and former ESL teacher. She enjoys traveling and immersing herself in local cultures. She loves to experience...Read more

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