I had planned to flee (yes, flee) for a few days to Beijing for a while, if not for anything but to escape the boredom of yet another weekend in Changchun.
So I drafted a plan to visit China’s capital for a weekend, even if that meant taking 2 overnight trains in 3 nights.
By now you’re confused as to why the title reads “24 Hours In Beijing” if I actually spent a full weekend there.
The thing is that on Saturday I spent the entire day bar-hopping and drinking as a prelude to the last football match of the season I went to see at Beijing Stadium, after which more bar-hopping and drinking shenanigans were in order. And in reality, I only had the Sunday to get to know Beijing.
Beijing is a city that deserves a few days to be seen thoroughly and through; but even if you only have one day to visit it and get to know it, there a few interesting sites that are worth any time you can give to them.
Here’s how I spent 24 hours in Beijing:
No visit to Beijing is complete without stepping foot into Tiananmen Square, a huge square located in the centre of the city, which name vaguely translates into “Gate of Heavenly Peace”. It is one of the most famous landmarks in all of China.
Tiananmen Square is surrounded by several landmarks, with the Monument to the People’s Heroes (and obelisk) and the Mausoleum of Mao Zeodong at its center.
On the north part of the square is Tiananmen, one of the most famous monuments in China. It is used as the main entrance to the Forbidden City which is itself, another one of the most popular attractions Beijing has to offer.
Tiananmen Square is mostly infamous due to the June 4th 1989 protests, which saw the Chinese army open fire on civilians, many of them students, killing hundreds.
Line 1 of the Beijing subway has stops on the east and west side of Tiananment (Tian’anmen East & Tian’anmen West), while Line 2 stop Qianmen station stops on the south part of the square.
I got there around 10AM and needless to say that the place was already swarming with tourists. Get there early to avoid the crowds, especially if you plan to get inside the Forbidden City.
Strolling Down Wangfujing Jie (Street)
Wangfujing Jie in the Dongcheng district is one of the busiest commercial streets in Beijing. High end shops on the main artery share the scene with small craft and street food hutongs (alleys).
I found my way to Snack Street for some of the most bizarre treats I will found in the city. Fried scorpions, fried worms, some sort of bird, and other unidentifiable meats were available for trying.
I noticed that not many people, read anyone, was actually eating the scorpions or worms. These seemed to be more of a draw for tourists than anything else, hence the hefty price of 20RMB for a stick of 3. I wanted to try it, but the last time I ate worm back in Peru, it didn’t go as well…
Wangfujing Jie is a 30-minute walk east from Tiananmen Square. Although there is nothing particularly pretty to see between the two sites, it is still worth taking the walk on a nice day.
The closest subway station is Wangfujing station on Line 1.
Yonghe (Lama) Temple
Also located in the Dongcheng district, the Lama Temple is one of the most recognized Tibetan Buddhist temples outside of Tibet.
The temple itself is an amazing work of art, with many halls all depicting various Tibetan Buddhist statues, including a giant 20-meter one. The detail of each hall and their respective roofs is On the outside part of each of the halls, people line up to light incense and pay respect to their deceased loved ones.
Although you may be able to see a few Buddhists walking around the temple, one thing you will not miss is the amount of tourists. If you can, avoid going during the weekend, as it was somewhat hard to get around and have a few of the inside of the halls in a Sunday afternoon.
The streets outside of the temple are also an small attraction in their own right, with many small shops selling talismans, small Buddhist statues and incenses.
To get to the Yonghe Temple, stop at Yonghegong Lama Temple station on the subway Line 2 or Line 5. The temple is a short 5-minute walk from the subway station exit.
One of the most scenic areas in the north part of Beijing. Hutongs (alleys) and courtyards surround the Qianhai, Houhai, and Xihai lakes.
This area is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike, and it’s a place where one can find many bars and restaurants.. Its paths by the riverside are an ideal place to stroll by bicycle.
The Hutongs (alleys) surrounding the area offer many great restaurants, many at a less expensive price and offering better quality than those by the river side, Touts are a common sight at night, and they won’t hesitate approaching anyone looking remotely like a foreigner.
Walk towards South Luogu Alley for another of Beijing’s best commercial streets. Local shops selling souvenirs and local artefacts line up the hutong right by the exit from Nanluogu Xiang station (subway Line 6).
South Luogu Alley is only a few steps away from Nanluogu Xiang station on the subway’s Line 6.
The prettiest area of Shichahai can be reached by the subway’s Line 8, exit at the Shichahai station.
This is what I saw during my 24 hours in Beijing. Even though I did not get to see most of the city, I still managed to see some of its most impressive sights. Thoughts?