Top 10 Free Things to Do in Beijing

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Plan your Beijing tour on a budget? Visitors may be a little bit worried that Beijing is an expensive city, but you must know that there are loads of free things to do in Beijing. If you want to know more about these ideas, please check below my version of the top 10 free things to do in Beijing:

1. Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square is located in the center of Beijing, 880 meters from north to south, 500 meters from east to west, covering an area of 44,0000 square meters. It can accommodate one million people for a grand assembly. Now it is the world’s largest city square of this kind.

October 1, 1949, Chairman Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square proclaimed the founding of the PRC, and personally hoisted the first flag. From then on, Tiananmen Square has become a symbol of new China. It it is the solemn image of an important part of our national emblem.

Check out the link for information: How to Visit Tiananmen Square.

Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Tower

After the founding of new China, Tiananmen Square has been expanded with the People’s Heroes Monument built on the central square, then on the west side of the square were built the Great Hall, on the east China National Museum  and on the south Chairman Memorial Hall.

2. Chairman Memorial Hall
Chairman Mao Memorial Hall is to the south of the People’s Heroes Monument in Tiananmen Square. Its construction began in 1976 and was completed in May 1977. It is 280 meters from north to south, 220 meters from east to west, over 57,000 square meters, total construction area of 28,000 square meters.

The main building is square in shape with exterior 44 Ming Fujian yellow granite columns, and between columns with floral ceramic plate made from Shi Wan, covered with Qingdao quintana granite veneer.

The roof has two layers of glass, with sunflower relief inlaid in between. Its base has two platforms made from red granite bricks, surrounded by evergreen ornamental railings from Fangshan marble.

Its North and South have two white marble steps down the middle zone, carved with sunflower, evergreen, bloom, pine pattern. Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 8:00-12:00 am


Chairman Memorial Hall

3. Qianmen Street
Qianmen Street in Beijing is a showcase of Beijing’s condensed culture and custom. It has also witnessed the old Beijing’s profound change in various historical periods. Qianmen Street each year attracts a large numbers of tourists from home and abroad, and plays an important role in sino- foreign economic and cultural exchanges.

Qianmen is also one of the places which have a fairly complete protection of the relics. Since the Ming and Qing Dynasties, experts say, Qianmen Street has become a unique street of architectural culture, merchants culture, folk culture, opera and cultural characteristics of the most developed and prosperous neighborhood.

It is a lively folk customs Museum of Ancient and Modern in Beijing. Qianmen Street is a broad and deep cultural area,  it has become the most live cultural memory for Beijingers.Qianmen Street is located to the south of Tiananmen Square.

Check out the link for information: Qianmen Street


Qianmen Street

Qianmen Street

4. Wangfujing Street
Wangfujing is nicknamed “China’s first Street”.  Wangfujing Street is just more than 1,000 meters starting from the northern Xisi Street to the southern Chang’an Street, but it is the famous “First Street of China”, also a must see visit place for tourists coming to  Beijing.

In 1999, one part of Wangfujing Street ( from Goldfish Lane to Satiao of Dongdan) was rebuilt into a pedestrian street, and also has established sister street with the famous Champs Elysees in Paris France. Now In summer time, there are open-air cafes, beer festivals.  The pedestrian is a kind of simulation of Europe with much imagination.Check out the link for more information: Wangfujing Street 

Wangfujing Street


Like the Bund in Shanghai exhibiting Shanghai,  Wangfujing Street bring together all kinds of department stores, showing the consumption of different times in Beijing.

Whether it is spiritual food or appetite food, Wangfujing has everything.

5. Shichahai ( Houhai – Back Lake )
Shichahai refers to the Shichahai Lake Area which is composed of three lakes – Qianhai, Houhai and Xihai.

To be different from the Beihai, Zhonghai and Nanhai, Shichahai is also called housanhai.”hai” means “lake”; “Hou” means “back”; “qian” means “front”; “Xi” means “west; “bei” means “north”; “zhong” means “middle” and “nan” means “south”. Shichahai is often referred as “Houhai”, or “Back Lake”  by foreign visitors who kill time in its bar area in the evening.

Check out the link for more information:  The Night View of Shichahai


Actually Houhai (back lake) is just part of Shichahai. Shichahai is composed of three lakes – Qianhai (front lake), Houhai (back lake) and Xihai (west lake). Sometime local people also use “Houhai” to refer to Shichahai.

Shichhai literally means “Ten Temple Lake”, indicating there used to be ten temples around Shichahai. Today some of the temples are still there, including Guangji Temple, Huitong Temple, Huoshen Temple, Guangfu Guan ( a taoist temple )…

If you are fed up with the gentrification in Beijing; if you lose interest in modern Beijing; if you feel sad about the fact that Beijing is becoming less like Beijing; if you want to see a traditional Beijing; if you try to find a quiet place in the busy Beijing, come to Shichahai!

6. Sanlitun Bar Street
Sanlitun Bar Street is one of the most “prosperous” entertainment street in Beijing nightlife. Foreigners living in Beijing as well as local big shots often frequent the bar street.Every glowing night, the street is teemed with people bustling, bright colors against the background of city noise and luxury.

Sanlitun Bar Street has been always given a “smoke and mirrors” feeling. Nobody can see the true face of it, and nobody can give the street a clear commercial position.

The Bar Street is south of the embassy district. Because of the great reputation of this street, and some foreign embassies will change the house number from the Sanlitun Road to “Sanlihe Bar Street”. The Bar Street is open every afternoon from to 2am everyday.



Sanlitun Bar Street

Sanlitun Bar Street

7. Hutong (narrow lanes)
Tourists in Beijing often ask a question “where are Beijing’s hutongs? Beijing’s Hutongs originated in the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) with more than 6,000 at the peak time. The word “hutong” is Mongolian in origin, meaning a “water well”.

In the old-time with the digging of new wells, came the new communities. Later it was referred to as narrow streets or lanes formed by quadrangles.

What’s the number of Beijing’s hutongs”?  According to historical records,  there were several thousand hutongs in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), of which more than 900 in the inner city, 300 in the outer city.

The Qing Dynasty 91644-1911) reached 1800 hutongs while the Republic of China ( 1912-1949) more than 1,900. Statistics shows that when the New China was founded, there were over 2,550 hutongs.

Check out the link for more information:  Hutong tour.


Walking along hutongs

Later due to the hutong name change as well as the economic and urban development, there has been much demolition and renovation of the existing hutongs, now Beijing has more than 4,000 hutongs.

8. 798 Space, 798 Art Zone
798 Art Space , or 798 Art Zone, or Factory 798, is the Beijing “Greenwich Village” or “SoHo”, a part of Dashanzi in the Chaoyang District of Beijing that house a rich artist community. It is nestled in a 50-year old out of service military factory complex with a functional Bauhaus-influenced design.

While many people all day thinking about how to live in a house with a viewing balcony, another group of people whose arrange their own home in the city’s wasted plant in the suburbs.

Check out the link for more information:  798 Art Zone.


798 Space, 798 Art Zone

These are special people who work for the arts, so they have more reasons than the average person to show their personality. In terms of timing, they are free people, they do not work nine to five stuck in an office.

What they need is the space. Now they own the space in groups.The “798 Factory” is now the most famous art community of Beijing. Quite different from Real estate companies using the same “SOHO” concept,  the 798 factory is the real “SOHO district.

9. Silk Market
The only world-renowned market, clearly marked on the world’s top tourist map;  in the eyes of foreign tourists, on a par with the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Beijing roast duck – she is the Silk Street!

20 years ago, a group of young people hoping for the future, set up shabby open-air stores from a simple pavement by the use of this prime location adjacent to the embassy district. They mainly sold silk clothing.

The old market has been demolished. The new market is now open to the public. The new building has an area of 30,000 square meters, known as the New Silk Alley Market. There are 1,600 booths in the new building.

Address:North of Dong Chang An Avenue, Jianguimenwai Street, Chaoyang DistrictBus:Bus No.1,9,28,37,43,120,126,403,639,640,668,728,and 729, take arrival at Yonganli Station

Check out the link for more information:  Silk Market


 Silk Market

Silk Market

10. Panjiayuan Market
Panjiayuan Flea Market, or Panjiayuan Market, or Panjiayuan Antique Market, or whatever names you use, is a must for those who like something really Chinese.Beijing Panjiayuan Flea Market is located in the southeast corner of Third Ring Road Beijing.It is the largest flea market opening from Monday to Friday for fixed shops and open Districts No.01 and 02. On Saturday and Sunday all the shops.Check out the link for more information:  Panjiayuan Market

798 Space, 798 Art Zone

Panjiayuan Flea Market has an area of 48,500 square meters. Market is divided into the stall area, ancient room area, classical furniture, area, modern collection area, stone carving area, food service areas of six business areas.

Mainly focusing on old items, crafts, collectibles, decorations. It has the annual turnover of several million dollars. Market has more than 4,000 operating business units with  business people nearly ten thousand people, including sixty percent of the operators from outside Beijing from Twenty-eight provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, involving Han, Hui, Manchu, Miao, Dong…

Tip:  Hassle-free Beijing Guided Tours

If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself route and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours,  here are some options for guided tours to Beijing:

Beijing Highlight Day Tour from US$59 P/P

(Tiananmen + Forbidden City + Mutianyu Great Wall)
Beijing Classic City Tour from US$65 P/P
(Tiananmen + Forbidden City + Temple of Heaven + Summer Palace)
Beijing Excursion Tour from US$59 P/P
(Mutianyu Great Wall + Ming Tomb)
Beijing Hutong Highlight Tour from US$59 P/P 
( Hutong + Rickshaw)

Mutianyu Great Wall Half Day Tour from US$55 p/p
Hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu Great Wall Day Tour from US$69 p/p

Mutianyu Great Wall Layover Tour from US$65 p/p
Beijing Highlight Layover Tour from US$75 p/p

Further Readings

Top 10 Attractions in Beijing
How to Visit Forbidden City
How to Visit Temple of Heaven
How to Visit Summer Palace
How to Visit Ming Tombs
How to Visit the Great Wall of China
How to Visit Tiananmen Square
How to Visit Hutongs
How to Visit Olympic Sites

Top 10 Markets in Beijing
Top 10 Shopping Malls in Beijing
Beijing Shopping

Wangfujing Night Snack Street
Qianmen Commercial Street
Beijing Huguosi Street

Any questions, just drop a line.

3 Responses to “Top 10 Free Things to Do in Beijing”

  1. Beatriz Gómez says:

    We love the list of free things to do in Beijing you have created. It seems a very good choice to enjoy the city without spend a lot. We have made a guide that includes the proposed spots, you can see it here –>

    Thanks for inspiring

  2. Afifah says:


    I’m Afifah from Malaysia. Was wondering whether our company also provides service of purchasing train tickets on the trans-mongolian train? My friend and I are planning to go to Mongolia after our stay in Beijing. Appreciate any help you guys can provide.

    Thank you and regards,


  3. Daniel says:

    Dear Afifah,

    Thanks for your inquiry! One of our trip advisers will contact you for the details.Much appreciated!

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