Spending time on and around the Great Wall of China
For many people setting foot on the Great Wall of China is a dream and appears very high on their bucket list. Where is it on yours? The best place, to begin your journey on the wall is in the vibrant city of Beijing. The city has a wide range of interesting activities and certain to be unique and jam-packed adventure. The best months to visit Beijing are April, May and October, as the temperate climate is ideal for being outdoors. Here is what you can expect to see and do.
Before the Great Wall of China
Prior to hiking along the world famous Great Wall of China, spend a few days in China’s capital city, Beijing. The first item on your list of things to do should be The Forbidden City, closely followed by Tiananmen Square. Very conveniently they are located next to one another, both sites are popular with tourists, but their size, wealth of history and style make them simply unmissable.
The Forbidden City
This royal headquarters became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, 567 years after the first emperor of the Ming dynasty took up residence. He was the only person able to walk around the entire palace freely. His relatives and government officials only had a limited access. Today, you too can wander and admire the architecture, interior design and furnishings.
Allow approximately 2 hours to complete a self-guided tour of the 178-acre complex. There are plenty of readable displays through the compound, which provide interesting facts about the Forbidden City’s history.
This 100-acre square in the city centre was built in 1651. Since then it has held many parades and military displays. In the square visit the National Museum of China, dedicated to Chinese history particularly the Chinese revolution. Also, spend some time at the memorial hall where Mao Zedong, the leader of the communist revolution, is buried. To explore everything and admire the views, you will need a minimum of 2.5 hours.
The Summer Palace
Continue your time in Beijing in royal fashion, with an afternoon at the Summer Palace. This place is simply beautiful! The incredibly grand fortress dates back to 1153 and is perfectly located near Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake. While here, be sure to walk through the many gardens and smell the Cherry Blossoms. Then take a boat trip across the lake, to maximise your experience. This activity will take roughly 2 hours.
Lesser Visited Attractions
The Ming Tombs
On the outskirts of Beijing, 30 miles north of the capital explore the Ming Tombs. This is the burial ground for thirteen emperors of the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644). The first emperor buried there was Zhu Di in 1424, he is in the Changling Tomb. Explore all the tombs at your leisure to find out more about one of the most relevant eras of Chinese culture.
798 Art District
If you are a fan of Chinese Contemporary Art you must visit 798 art district, located in the eastern neighbourhood, Dashanzi. This bohemian neighbourhood is thriving with lots of art galleries, cafes, outdoor sculptures and colourful graffiti for you to experience and enjoy.
Are you a fan of the tv hit show Friends? If so, you absolutely need to visit 0616, Bldg A,Chaowai SOHO, as here you will discover a perfect replica of the coffee shop Central Perk. Locals visit this café to practice their English and watch episodes of the show, to pick up colloquialisms. Pop next door for another F.R.I.E.N.D.S surprise.
The Great Wall of China
You cannot fly all the way to Beijing and not spend at least 2 days to be at one with the Great Wall of China. Two days is suggested so that you receive a full experience, and must include both a sunrise and a sunset, as they are pure magic. The best way to explore the Great Wall of China is to be part of a private tour, as it will include an English-speaking guide who can share their in-depth knowledge about the wall and will have smaller group sizes.
The most popular place is the Badaling section because it is one of the closest spots to Beijing. So, avoid this at all costs, it is usually crowded pretty much all day. Instead, find an overnight tour to the mountain village of Mutianyu. This is a quieter location, with a few hotels and restaurants, but don’t expect luxury. This section of the wall has unlimited access and offers something a little different. After taking a gondola up to the wall take a page out of Michelle Obama’s adventure book and take a toboggan ride down this world wonder.
Did you know?
Contrary to popular belief the Great Wall of China cannot be seen from space, with the naked eye. Sorry to disappoint.