Since Elizabeth and I didn't want to take on Beijing all by ourselves, we booked an 8-hour tour with a lovely, english speaking guide named Summer. Summer came highly recommended from THE Points Guy, Brian Kelly, and did a fantastic job showing us around Beijing.
The first stop on our tour, coincidentally, was the Summer Palace. Just like the name suggests, it served as the summer home for many of China's emperors when they wanted to escape the heat of the city.
The Summer Palace was filled with traditional Chinese buildings and gardens all centered around Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill. It cost a little extra to climb up Longevity Hill, but it was totally worth it. We had a birds eye view of Kunming Lake and we could even make out the Beijing skyline in the distance.
After our visit to the Summer Palace, we made our way to the Forbidden City . The Forbidden City was home to the Chinese government for over 500 years before it was converted into a historical landmark.
Just like all of the other historical sites in Beijing, the Forbidden City had countless temples all of which served a very specific purpose . Summer did a great job of explaining each one, but I can't recall any of the names off the top of my head.
I do remember a couple of interesting facts though! The the two lion statues you often see outside of Chinese buildings are actually male and female. The female lion is always on the right side and has a cub under her paw signifying motherhood. The male lion is on the left and has a globe under his paw signifying power.
There were also large cauldrons lining the perimeter of the Forbidden City. Since everything inside is made of wood, they'd keep those filled with water just in case there were any fires.
The last stop on our tour was the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven was used by the Chinese emperors to pray for a good harvest each year. Apparently, it must not have worked because they still eat bugs over there...Kidding! All jokes aside, it is another architectural masterpiece with stunning blue roofs.
To cap off our tour, Summer dropped us of at Quandjude Roast Duck on Wangfujing St. It was only right that Elizabeth and I try China's famous Peking duck on our first night in Beijing.
Our second day started with a walk to Tiananmen Square. On our way there we passed the National Performing Arts better known as the "Giant Egg."
Once we made it through security, we were able to get up close and personal with Mr. Mao Zedong.
Elizabeth and I continued our walk and ended up in the hutongs, which were north of the Forbidden City. Hutongs are little Chinese alleyways filled with shops and food vendors. There are probably hundreds (maybe thousands?) of hutongs spread throughout Beijing.
One of the snacks we saw a lot of the locals eating was ice cream and churros. Obviously we had to get one and try it out for ourselves!
After exploring the hutongs, we made our way to the Beijing Zoo. The Beijing Zoo was really big and had all kinds of different animals. We mainly wanted to see the Pandas so we went to their exhibit first.
A couple of them were pretty lazy, but a couple of them were roaming around their habitat.
We spent a couple of hours wandering around the zoo and enjoying the beautiful weather. By the time we made it back to our hotel, Elizabeth and I decided to grab dinner and a cocktail in the Executive Lounge and call it a night.
On our third day I booked a private english speaking driver through TripAdivsor to take us to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. This section was a little further away from the city, but it's supposed to be the best so we made the trek. It was about a 90 minute drive and we got the Great Wall just after 8:00 a.m.
Setting foot on the Great Wall of China was arguably one of the coolest things I've ever done. The best part about the Great Wall is that it looks just as good in person as it does in the pictures. Speaking of pictures, I think I took close to 100 of them so I'll try and keep it to a minimum.
I'm not sure what the distance of the Mutianyu section is, but Elizabeth and I basically started at watchtower five and hiked the entire length of the wall and back. Now: to get down from the Great Wall you have to ride one of their toboggans. It's just a cart on a small tin slide, but it's super fun to cruise down the mountain!
After our adventure to the Great Wall we got cleaned up and went out for dumplings on our last night in Beijing. If there's one food that I can eat for every meal in China it's dumplings.
Our waiter must've thought I was crazy because I think we had close to 50 dumplings.
Elizabeth and I had a great time exploring Beijing. We managed to see all of the major sights in just a few days without feeling completely rushed. I know a lot of people have no desire to visit China, but there's so much ancient history and culture there I think you have to go at least once. If you want to check out the rest of the photos from my trip click here.
What's your favorite thing to do in Beijing, China?