Discover Beijing with Scenic

Beijing is the cultural and spiritual heart of China – a colourful metropolis that’s forward-thinking and yet enriched by the traditions and heritage of the past.

For thousands of years, Beijing has played a pivotal role in the shaping of modern China, making it the ideal place to explore the wonders of this enigmatic, dazzling country.

Few places on Earth are as culturally rich as Beijing. Food, architecture, history, art; the city has an unbelievable number of must-sees and extraordinary experiences – including the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and the monumental Great Wall.

If you’re considering travelling to China as part of a luxury escorted tour from Scenic, our Beijing city guide provides the ultimate introduction to this extraordinary city – from its storied history and modern intrigue, to its cultural musts and culinary treasures.

Architectural Highlights

The Great Wall

Great Wall of China

Few places on Earth are as spectacular as the Great Wall of China. Stretching for some 13,171 miles, the Great Wall spans the breadth of China, and one of the best places to see it is on Beijing’s doorstep, where the Great Wall is arguably at its most impressive. Dating from the Ming Dynasty-era (1368-1644), this section runs through the Beijing suburb of Mutianyu, and it’s perhaps the most photographed of all the Great Wall’s iconic views.

Discover the Great Wall on our China Express tour.

The Forbidden City

Forbidden City

Described by UNESCO as a ‘priceless testimony to Chinese civilisation’, Beijing’s Forbidden City is without question one of the greatest architectural treasures of Asia. Built as the Imperial Palace of the Ming Dynasty (the ruling dynasty between 1368 and 1644), the Forbidden City served as the supreme seat of power in China for five centuries, from 1416 to 1911, and remains one of Beijing’s most celebrated heritage sites. The Forbidden City contains, among other precious artefacts, a library of books testifying to the foundation of Imperial China.

During our Grand China tour, you'll spend four nights in a luxury hotel on the doorstep of the Forbidden City.

The Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

Founded in the 15th century, the Temple of Heaven is one of the greatest architectural feats of the Ming Dynasty; a complex of elegant buildings, set in beautifully landscaped grounds, which served as a place of worship and sacrifice for the great emperors of China. The building represents the relationship between Earth and heaven, and was built to bridge a metaphorical and spiritual gap between our world and God’s world.

Visit the Temple of Heaven on our Amazing China tour.

Cultural features

From the imposing Great Wall to the awe-inspiring Tiananmen Square; the Peking Opera to the Forbidden City; Beijing brings the China of your dreams to life. Ancient customs and traditions remain well-loved and are readily practised across this seemingly ultra-modern city – promising enriching cultural events to savour. Here are a few of our favourites.

Peking Opera

Peking Opera

The Peking Opera is intangibly linked to the local culture and traditions of Beijing. This wonderful performance art combines martial arts, singing, acting and reciting, as well as authentic costume which harks back to the golden age of the Qing Dynasty (the ruling dynasty from 1644 to 1912). Authentic Peking Opera is performed in the Beijing dialect, and often tells simple and entertaining stories of local life. Peking Opera is beloved throughout China, and you’ll find many places to experience it during an evening out in downtown Beijing.

Kung Fu Show

Kung Fu Show

Dating back over 4,000 years, Kung Fu is the sacred martial art of China. Once relied upon as a form of defence, the ancient fighting style is today more of a ceremonial practice. Kung Fu refers to a number of different disciplines and skills, including Shaolin Martial Arts, Tai Chi, and over 300 forms of boxing. Experience this beautiful form of art at one of Beijing’s memorable Kung Fu shows.

Tiananmen Square

Tianenmen Square
The site of some of the most important moments in world history, Beijing’s Tiananmen Square is an influential and historically significant cultural must-see. Flanked by the Forbidden City and the Gate of Heavenly Peace, this ancient city square saw the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, as well as the now famous street protests some 40 years later. Whether you’re tracing Beijing’s Imperial past or exploring its communist present, a visit to the iconic Tiananmen Square should be at the top of your list.

The Art of Chinese Calligraphy

chinese caligraphy luxury tours

While many countries practise calligraphy as a national pastime, the art form is unmatched in China. Here, it’s viewed as the most supreme visual form, alongside that of painting and sculpture, and many of the country’s most celebrated artists are calligraphers. Calligraphy has a long history in China, with the writing of ornate inscriptions dating back to the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC). Today, it’s possible to take part in calligraphy classes with local masters in China, and learn more about the origins behind one of the country’s most beloved art forms.

Culinary Delights

Where else to sample the colour and spice of China than Beijing, arguably the foremost gastronomic capital in the world? From fragrant street food to the finest gourmet Peking duck, the Chinese capital is awash with food and flavour to suit any palate – so you’re guaranteed an exceptional culinary journey during your visit.

Here are a few of our favourite Beijing dishes and dining experiences to whet your appetite for the city.

Peking Duck

Peking Duck

If Beijing were a country with its own national dish, it would be Peking duck. A classic Beijing dish, Peking duck comprises strips of roast duck served with a sweet sauce and traditional Chinese salad. The quality of the dish does vary from place to place, so choose an authentic, upscale restaurant for the best take on this classic Chinese fare. 

Enjoy a welcome feast of Peking Duck on our Silk Road Discovery tour

Dai Cuisine

Peking duck

While Han Chinese make up the majority of Beijing’s population, the city’s Dai population (an ethnic group from southern Yunnan) have had a big influence on the city’s cuisine, with many restaurants serving Dai-style dishes like pork and chicken. Known for its spice and flavour, Dai cuisine takes cues from Thai and Cambodian cuisine, and its best enjoyed during a special dining experience at a restaurant which focuses on representing cuisine from China’s minority communities.

Where to find it

Ghost Street Market

You won’t travel far before stumbling across a great local market in Beijing, but one of the very best is the Ghost Street Market. With traditional Chinese lanterns overhead and hundreds of street food vendors and market stalls to browse at your leisure, this is the China you’ve been waiting to see.

Chinese Wet Markets

Night Market in Beijing

Not so much a specific type of food but a place to discover exceptional cuisine; Beijing’s wet markets are an absolute must for any foodie exploring the Chinese capital. Visiting one of these traditional local markets promises a day of culinary discovery like no other, and you’ll see all sorts of foods, ingredients and spices as you pick your way through the vendors. Beijing is home to several great markets, and we’d definitely recommend visiting at least one to get a taste for local life in the city.

Where to try it: Situated in the elegant Legation Quarter, Lost Heaven is one of Beijing’s finest folk cuisine restaurants, and benefits from a beautiful outdoor roof terrace that’s perfect for dining alfresco on summer days. Our Journey to Shangri-La itinerary includes a delightful meal at Lost Heaven.