With the weather getting hotter and more humid every day, I thought it’s time to finally write about our 5-day spring holiday with his parents in Beijing. We were lucky as it was sunny with low pollution levels on most days and the Tomb Sweeping Holiday had just ended, so the sightseeing places were not crowded.
We decided beforehand to visit the following attractions within the four full days that we had in Beijing:
3 – Tianmen Square & The Forbidden City
4 – Temple of Heaven
After arriving in Beijing by train (a quite comfortable 4 hour ride), we explored our beautiful ‘Red Wall Garden Hotel‘ and then walked to a recommended Peking Duck restaurant in the evening. I didn’t know there are so many different options of how to eat Peking Duck and it has been truly delicious! Being in this restaurant reminded me of the time when I studied Mandarin at university and our teacher told us to go to Beijing for the delicious duck and back then I thought ‘Yeah sure, as if I will go to China any time soon just to eat duck.’ How times change!
The Summer Palace was my choice for the first day, as it sounded very appealing in my guide book, described as an extensive royal park with lakes and temples. We had a fantastic time there, exploring the gardens and temples for a full 6 hours (!), starting from the top at the East gate and gradually making our way down to the lake. At the end of our walk we got on one of the Dragon Boats to go to the South Lake Isle and walk out on the 17 Arch Bridge. The weather was fantastic with blue skies and a mild temperature of about 24 degrees. Most expats rave about blue skies in China, but for me it actually feels like there are loads of sunshine days, as I’m from Hamburg where you have a constant little drizzle and cloudy skies. Anyway – we were all enchanted by the Summer Palace and it has been our favourite place in Beijing.
We booked a tour guide for the Great Wall and got up super early to make sure we are in Mutianyu before it gets too busy. On our way to the wall we stopped in a tiny village to get some local Chinese pancakes as breakfast. It was quite a long way from Beijing and after about 2 hours we arrived and took the ski lift up the wall. Again, it was a beautiful day and there were only a handful of other people up that stretch that we chose to climb. I actually underestimated how much hiking is involved with seeing the wall and wish I would have packed better outdoor climbing shoes and a backpack instead of my hideous Michael Kors handbag. The highlight for me was going back down by Sommerrodelbahn (summer toboggan run) which has been built by Germans and reminded me about visiting my grandparents in the Harz national park, where I have spent many summers just doing that. Overall, the Great Wall is a must to go when you’re in Beijing and the Mutianyu stretch has been very quiet until noon time. Experienced hikers can hike up the hill to the wall and go to more deserted stretches of the wall.
Mid-holiday, we got into a routine of getting up early every morning to get to all the sightseeing places before they got too crowded and were usually shattered by early afternoon after all that heavy walking and sightseeing. On the third day, we met with our tour guide again who showed us around Tianmen Square and then the Forbidden City just opposite of us. For these places it’s highly recommended to have a guide, otherwise you will have to queue for ages to get the entrance tickets. It was interesting to walk through the Forbidden City and to learn about the concept of different houses serving different purposes, but a pity that you couldn’t see most of them from the inside (or in some, they have put tourist shops into the historic buildings).
To complete our sightseeing checklist for Beijing, we visited the Temple of Heaven on our last (full) day. But gosh, we were tired and exhausted after all that walking! The whole Temple of Heavens area is beautiful, with several temples to see, as well as a huge park surrounding them. As it got busier after noon-time, we walked through the park where the locals were dancing, singing and playing with their children. To end our holiday, we had an amazing meal in the Hutongs enjoying Yunnan cuisine in a fancy setting at ‘Taste’.
Overall, we loved our time in Beijing and it is definitely one of the most interesting cities in the world, full of history. However, Shanghai is still our number one in China!