Text by Prime Sarmiento

Photos by: Prime Sarmiento and Nina Sarmiento
   ( Note: Prime’s Beijing is a series of several posts about my recent trip to the Chinese capital.  in the next few weeks, I’ll be publishing inspiring travelogues, Vlogs and practical tips for women traveling alone in Beijing. And if you are one of my subscribers, then you have one bonus gift: By the end of February, I’ll give you Beijing Confidential – a list of resources, tips and contacts that will help you in traveling Beijing – which I’ll deliver straight to your inbox.  Want to be a subscriber? Then sign up here and get this FREE and USEFUL travel resource to BEIJING on Feb. 28,2013.)




  This is perhaps one of the most difficult city guides that I had to write as you need more than a weekend traveling to Beijing.      Beijing, China’s capital, is the second largest city by urban population in one the world’s biggest countries in terms of land size. Traveling to Beijing means wandering in a  cosmopolitan city rich in history and tradition, the gateway to the Great Wall, home to opulent palaces, temples and gardens – how can you fit on your weekend’s itinerary? 
  But more than the time constraint is the fact that Beijing is not an easy city to love. I may be heaping superlatives on Beijing now, but during my first two days there, I almost wanted to return to Manila, frustrated by the air pollution, crazy traffic, huge language barrier, rude subway commuters and cranky cab drivers. It was only when I explored the city in the next few days  just walking all over the place, with no clear destination in mind that I get to appreciate – and fell in love – with Beijing, China. I stayed there for a week and loved it. Compare this with my lil sis who traveled in Beijing for only two days and hated it – a lot – and that will show how time will ultimately determine whether you’ll enjoy staying in Beijing (or not).
  I decided to divide this guide into two parts to give you a complete list of things to do in Beijing over the weekend.  The first part is devoted to sightseeing – all the temples/monuments/gardens/palaces that you want to visit, photograph and post images of in your Facebook account. I deliberately excluded the Great Wall from this post as it deserves a separate article.
  The second part list down other things that you can do in Beijing apart from sightseeing – food tripping, shopping, tea drinking.  
You can just mix and match based on your personal interests, schedule and location of your hotel.  I also wrote separate posts on consulting a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor, trekking the Great Wall and tea drinking and buying as these three activities are the highlights of my travel to Beijing and what I believe should be included in any list of things to do in Beijing.



1. Forbidden City
Anyone who watched the classic 80's film The Last Emperor won’t forget the stunning palace complex that was once home to the earth-bound counterpart of the Celestial Emperor.  Built in the 15th century, the Forbidden City served as the home of emperors and their households for five hundred years, from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty.
The sprawling walled complex is in the middle of Beijing, it consists of 980 buildings and covers more than seven hundred square meters of land. It is a treasure trove of the country’s most valuable artworks and artefacts that are part of the Imperial collection. These include rare books and historical documents, ceramics and porcelain, paintings, bronzework, timepieces, and jade jewelry.
The Forbidden City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is celebrated worldwide for shaping East Asian arts and architecture



2. Lama Temple
  The Lama Temple is one of the world’s biggest and most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. Built during the Qing Dynasty, it used to served as the official residence for court eunuchs, and later, converted into the court of the Prince Yong, the future Yongzheng Emperor. It was him who converted it into a monastery, providing a home to monks from Mongolia and Tibet.




3. Confucius Temple
  Dedicated to China’ most influential philosopher and educator. The morals and principles of his philosophy are an integral part of values and ideology of modern Chinese society., this is the second largest Confucian Temple in China, after the one in Confucius' hometown of Qufu.
  The temple was built in 1302, during the Yuan Dynasty, and it is home to  an array of stone tablets listing the names of scholars who passed the Imperial Examination, the stone steles containing the Thirteen Confucian Classics and a room that displays extensive information on the life and history of Confucius.
The grounds of the Confucius Temple cover more than 20,000 square meters of land, composed of several courtyards and buildings.



4. Summer Palace
  The largest and most well-preserved royal park in China, the Summer Palace’s is recognized as the Museum of Royal Gardens and shaped  Chinese horticulture and landscape.  It’s hailed for creating a beautuful harmony between natural and manmade structures –the natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges.
  Based in Haidian district at the north-western suburbs of Beijing, the Summer Palace was constructed in the 18th century and was used for rest and relaxation by the imperial household. It later became the main residence of royal members during the Qing Dynasty.
  The royal garden covered over three hundred hectares of land and its two key components are the Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake – which for centuries, served as a source of water for irrigation.  A UNESCO Heritage site, the Summer Palace became a public park in 1924.



5. Temple of Heaven
  Regarded as a Taoist temple, the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties visited the Temple of Heaven to offer prayers to Heaven for good harvest. The offering done in the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests which has four inner pillars to represent the four seasons, twelve middle pillars for twelve months and twelve outer pillars for traditional Chinese hours. Like all buildings within the complex, it has dark blue roof tiles to represent the Heaven.
  The Temple of Heaven was constructed in the 15th century during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 for being “a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design.” These days, the Temple of Heaven is open to the public and is a popular park for exercising.



6. Beijing National Stadium
  Also known as the Bird’s Nest – because it literally looks like a nest – the stadium was designed for use throughout the 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.  Designed by a Swiss architecture firm, with renown Chinese artist Ai Weiwei serving as artistic consultant, the project was inspired by
Chinese ceramics. Steel beams were erected to hide supports for the retractable roof  that resembles a bird’s nest.



7. Beijing Ancient Observatory
  This is one of the oldest observatories in the world, built in 1442 during the Ming Dynasty, and was established years before telescopes were used for astronomy. Star gazing was very important then as the Emperor was considered the Son of Heaven, hence astronomers have to monitor the movements of heavenly bodies.
Now, it’s home to several of the bronze astronomical instruments used thousands of years ago like an armillary sphere which determined the coordinates of celestial bodies; astronomical sextant and sundials.



 Is this your first time to travel to Beijing?  Beijing is a difficult city to navigate and an organized city tour can help you in save time and still enjoy your travels in China. I highly recommend booking a trip with my favorite travel tour group Urban Adventures – as a more organized city tour is a way for me to save time and money. Less stressful too.