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Travel Channel: The ‘Beautiful’ Beijing

Ah, Beijing, one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. Most of you have probably heard or have been to Beijing and visited the famous tourist attractions that are always featured such as the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Tian’anmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, and the endless stores for shopping. Although these should still be included in your itinerary, there’s still so much more to visit in this beautiful city! Here are 10 underrated places in Beijing that you just have to visit!

1) Summer Palace

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Once a royal garden and resort for imperial families, the Summer Palace today is one of the best places to visit in Beijing as you would be able to see the glorious palaces of different emperors of the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). Aside from admiring the view, it is advisable to also take the boat tour at the Kunming Lake.

2) Prince Gong’s Mansion

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Prince Gong’s Mansion is the largest princely mansion in China and it contains more than 30 ancient buildings each with an exquisite design and reasonable layout. It was once the private residence of Heshen, a powerful minister in the Qing Dynasty. This mansion has witnessed the whole timeline of the Qing Dynasty from the start until the end. The three places you shouldn’t miss visiting are the Western-Style Gate, the Grand Theater House, and the stolen “Fu” Stele.

3) Temple of Heaven

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The Temple of Heaven, a holy place for the emperors during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, was used everytime the Heaven Worship Ceremony would be held. In fact, some exquisite ancient palaces for heaven worship are still well-preserved and it has become a popular gathering place for the locals who do their morning exercises. 

4) Yonghe Temple

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The Yonghe Temple is the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple in Beijing. The temple’s characteristic is a combination of both Han Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. It houses various Buddhist statues, Tangkas and many precious cultural relics. It was said that the temple was once a residence for court eunuchs during the Qing Dynasty, as well as a residence of Prince Yong, one of the sons of the Qing dynasty’s fourth emperor. When the prince became emperor, part of the temple became a monastery for Tibetan Buddhist monks that came from Mongolia and Tibet. To this day, you can still find Tibetan monks at the temple, especially during the 7th day of the first lunar month when they are expected to perform the traditional Tibetan exorcism dance.

5) Capital Museum

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The Capital Museum, established in the year 1981, is an art museum that is home to a wide collection of cultural relics from several Asian cultures. Some of the ancient and historical treasures housed in the museum include paintings, statues, calligraphy, sculptures, as well as porcelain, bronze, and jade. Although the Capital Museum is not as popular as the Palace Museum and the National Museum of China, it is still recognized as one of the top cultural institutions in the city. On the topmost floor of the museum, you would see the “hutong neighborhood” on display where it provides insight on how life was during the Old Beijing.

6) Marco Polo Bridge

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The bridge is named after Marco Polo, the Venetian explorer and traveller who visited the bridge during the 13th century. It is described as a “very fine stone bridge that has a few equals in the world,” and is also called Luguou. The bridge houses more or less 500 stone lions, although reports say that it may originally have had as many as 627 lions. The foundation of the bridge was first laid in 1189 and finished in 1192. However, due to floods, the bridge had to be rebuilt in 1698. The bridge is also the site of the infamous Marco Polo incident (the 1937 battle between the Chinese forces and the Japanese Army) that marked the commencement of the Second Sino-Japanese War. 

7) Dongyue Temple

Photo courtesy of Jenny Far Away

Another overlooked cultural attraction that truly deserves a visit is the Dong Yue Temple in Chaoyang District. Also known as the Eastern Peak Temple, Dong Yue Temple is the biggest Zhengyi Taoist temple in Beijing. The temple was established in 1319 where it features 3 main halls, 3 courtyards, and a whooping 376 rooms spanning an area of about 4.7 hectares. It also displays some stone tablets dating back to the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Among these tablets is one with calligraphy by Zhao Mengfu, a famous artist, scholar, and calligrapher during the Yuan dynasty.

8) Ma Lian Dao

Photo courtesy of Felix Susanto

Ma Lian Dao, also known as Beijing’s tea street, is one of the most overlooked attractions in the city. It is said to be the biggest tea market in the region and is every tea-lover’s haven. Aside from the wide variety of teas from all over China – which you can have a sample for free – you’ll also find exquisite tea sets of all kinds and sizes in the market.

9) Ditan Park

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Ditan Park is a 42-hectare park that is home to the Temple of the Earth, one of Beijing’s most important historical monuments. The park features beautiful gardens, shaded walkways, jogging trails, and sprawling areas for outdoor activities. The park is also a go-to venue for traditional fairs and festivals, especially during the Chinese New Year.

10) Beijing Urban Planning Exhibition Hall

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The Beijing Urban Planning Exhibition Hall is one of the best modern attractions you can visit in the city! It is actually an urban planning museum that features an ornate scale model of the future urban developments in Beijing. The four-story museum also features multimedia exhibits covering the Old and Modern Beijing.

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