City Explorations: Beijing, China

Day 1

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.

  THANK YOU SUMMER FOR A GREAT TOUR OF BEIJING!

THANK YOU SUMMER FOR A GREAT TOUR OF 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.

  ENJOYING A BEAUTIFUL MORNING ON KUNMING LAKE

ENJOYING A BEAUTIFUL MORNING ON KUNMING LAKE

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.

  SUMMER PALACE, BEIJING

SUMMER PALACE, BEIJING

  SUMMER PALACE, BEIJING

SUMMER PALACE, BEIJING

  THE BASE OF LONGEVITY HILL

THE BASE OF LONGEVITY HILL

  THE TOP OF LONGEVITY HILL

THE TOP OF LONGEVITY HILL

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.

  OUTSIDE THE GATE OF THE FORBIDDEN CITY

OUTSIDE THE GATE OF THE FORBIDDEN CITY

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.

  FORBIDDEN CITY, BEIJING

FORBIDDEN CITY, BEIJING

  FORBIDDEN CITY, BEIJING

FORBIDDEN CITY, BEIJING

  FORBIDDEN CITY, BEIJING

FORBIDDEN CITY, BEIJING

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.

  NOTICE THE LITTLE CUB UNDER HER PAW?

NOTICE THE LITTLE CUB UNDER HER PAW?

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.

  NOT A GREAT PHOTO OF US, BUT YOU CAN SEE THE CAULDRONS LINED AGAINST THE WALL

NOT A GREAT PHOTO OF US, BUT YOU CAN SEE THE CAULDRONS LINED AGAINST THE WALL

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.

  TEMPLE OF HEAVEN, BEIJING

TEMPLE OF HEAVEN, BEIJING

  TEMPLE OF HEAVEN, BEIJING

TEMPLE OF HEAVEN, BEIJING

  TEMPLE OF HEAVEN, BEIJING

TEMPLE OF HEAVEN, BEIJING

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.

  QUANJUDE ROAT DUCK, BEIJING

QUANJUDE ROAT DUCK, BEIJING

Day 2

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."

  NATIONAL PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, BEIJING

NATIONAL PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, BEIJING

Once we made it through security, we were able to get up close and personal with Mr. Mao Zedong.

  TIANANMEN SQUARE, BEIJING

TIANANMEN SQUARE, BEIJING

  TIANANMEN SQUARE, BEIJING

TIANANMEN SQUARE, BEIJING

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.

  BEIJING HUTONG

BEIJING HUTONG

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!

  ICE CREAM + CHURROS = DELICIOUS

ICE CREAM + CHURROS = DELICIOUS

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.

  BEIJING ZOO

BEIJING ZOO

  BEIJING ZOO

BEIJING ZOO

A couple of them were pretty lazy, but a couple of them were roaming around their habitat.

  BEIJING ZOO

BEIJING ZOO

  OH WAIT, THAT'S NOT A PANDA...

OH WAIT, THAT'S NOT A PANDA...

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.

Day 3

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.

  THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA

THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA

  THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA

THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA

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.

  THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA

THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA

  I'M THE KING OF THE WORLD!

I'M THE KING OF THE WORLD!

  GREAT WALL SELFIE

GREAT WALL SELFIE

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!

  CRUISING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN IN OUR TOBOGGANS

CRUISING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN IN OUR TOBOGGANS

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.

 SO MANY DUMPLINGS

SO MANY DUMPLINGS

Our waiter must've thought I was crazy because I think we had close to 50 dumplings.

All-In-All

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?