Anywhere you go in Beijing, you’ll be immersed in thousands of years of history while also glimpsing China’s modern, sleek future. In many ways, Beijing is the beating heart of China where some of its greatest sights are found, like the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City. For foodies, eating is an important part of daily life here, both ritualistic and social. From delicious Sichuan beef noodle soup to Cantonese dim sum, there are many more varieties of Chinese cuisine that you might not be familiar with. Stop in for traditional green tea or oolong, savoring every sip before moving on to your next adventure.
After your cruise ship docks in Tianjin on one of our Asia cruises, you can head straight to the center of Beijing or take a short detour beyond the city for a tour of the romantic Summer Palace. Scaling the steps of the Great Wall of China is a bucket list item for almost everyone, and you can check that off your list on a Beijing cruise. While you’re in Beijing, don’t miss a chance to see the iconic Tiananmen Square and the Gate of Heavenly Peace. At the Lama Temple, crane your neck upward to take in the impressive 60-foot Buddha statue. And of course, Beijing boasts some of the world’s best history and art museums, like the Beijing Capital Museum.
Cliche but true: no Beijing cruise is complete without seeing the Great Wall of China, located about an hour outside of Beijing. There, you’ll step into China’s history as you scale the wall and enjoy the landscape dramatically unfolding before you. There’s a cable car ride available to the top of the wall, but walking up the steps is a rite of passage for many. The Great Wall is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s one of the longest and oldest walls in the world.
Memorialized in film and popular culture, the Forbidden City and the Imperial Palace has been home to Chinese royalty throughout history, a lasting relic to the Qing and Ming dynasties and beyond. A full day to tour the grounds is a popular shore excursion. After all, the palaces are huge, and you’ll want as much time as possible to take it all in.
No matter what time of day, Tiananmen Square bustles with activity. There’s a flag raising ceremony each morning at Tiananmen Square, so you can watch the sunrise with a cup of tea and observe as soldiers march. The area is best known to Westerners for 1989 citizen protests of communism that turned violent, resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives.
Tour the stunning Lama Temple, one of the most significant Buddhist temples in the area. Take in the splendor of ornate decorations, ancient Tibetan sculptures, and the nearly 60-foot tall Buddha statue located on the grounds. Though it’s a popular spot for tourists, the Lama Temple remains a tranquil and meaningful excursion for travelers coming to Beijing.
Art enthusiasts won’t have any shortage of things to see in Beijing. The city itself is a work of art, but the Beijing Capital Museum is a feast for the eyes. Think ancient bronze works, porcelain, and Buddhist sculptures dating back hundreds of years to Imperial China. It’s a must-see for aficionados of Chinese history and culture.
Walk in the same footsteps as world-renowned international athletes at the Beijing National Stadium, where the 2008 Summer Olympics were held. Nicknamed the “Bird’s Nest” for its unique shape and sleek steel design, the stadium lights up at night and has earned its place among Beijing’s iconic sites.
The Summer Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a quick 30-minute car ride from the heart of Beijing. Take a half day to explore the beautiful gardens, paddle a boat along Kunming Lake, and watch a traditional theatre performance held on the grounds. It’s a romantic spot in Beijing complete with shopping and cafes along the riverside.
Once you step onto the well-kept grounds of Beihai Park, you’ll be surrounded by one of the largest, oldest public gardens in all of China. The palaces and temples within the garden date back to the 11th century. History buffs, walk back in time and relax at the park’s tranquil lake.
The Silk Market in Beijing is famous not only for its authentic silk, but also for counterfeit name-brand clothing, jewelry, and bags. As a tourist destination on a Beijing cruise, the Silk Market is perfect for people-watching and plenty of shopping. The market is massive, where over 1,500 vendors set up shop on a daily basis. If you’re feeling brave, haggle down your prices with vendors and see what you can negotiate.
The food in Beijing is bold and exciting. You might think you know Chinese food, but there’s much more to it than meets the eye. Different regions of China have their own unique cooking styles, and Beijing has every type of Chinese cuisine imaginable. Try Hunan food, which typically includes traditional hot pot dishes, stews, and spicy fish. Cantonese cuisine is famous for shrimp dumplings, delicious dim sum, and subtle flavors with fresh textures. Sichuan cuisine has exploded in global popularity as well, where hot and spicy is the name of the game. This is where you’ll find dishes like flavorful dandan noodles and mapo tofu.
Beijing and Tianjin have been significant cities in China for over 3,000 years, when the area was inhabited by the Yuan Dynasty. Over time, Beijing has acted as a cultural and intellectual hub for China and a center of importance in global trade and international relations. It’s also had many names, from Jin City to Beiping during the Ming Dynasty. Today, Beijing is famous for the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, and many other unique sites unlike anywhere else in the world.
As China’s capital city, Beijing possesses a wisdom and sophistication that younger cities try to emulate time and time again. When the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, Beijing had already suffered some damage as a result of World War II. However, the city quickly rebounded, preserving its cultural sites and cementing its place as a economic and cultural world power.
The Tianjin International Cruise Home Port is the first port of call of its kind in Northern China and only opened back in 2010. Today, it only takes an hour on a high-speed train to get from the city of Tianjin to Beijing. A taxi ride to the heart of the city takes about 45 minutes. There will typically be free wifi at the Tianjin cruise port, but note that some websites cannot be accessed as part of China’s privacy policies.
Beijing is one of the biggest cities in the world, and it’s incredible interconnected, so you won’t have a hard time getting from place to place. If you’re in the center of the city, walking is an option to get to some attractions that are located closely together. Taxis are everywhere here, and using the meter is common practice. Be sure to make a written note of your destination or show your taxi driver on a map. Of course, Beijing’s bus and train systems are one of the best in the world, and it’s surprisingly simple for foreigners to get around thanks to some instructions and maps in English and other languages.
When you cruise to Beijing’s Tianjin port, you won’t find much shopping nearby. You’re better off waiting to shop until you get into Beijing proper, where luxurious shops and boutiques rival some of the best in New York or London. Beijing’s marketplaces are a negotiator’s paradise. Don’t be afraid to politely talk down your price with local vendors. You never know what you might be able to save.
Be sure to carry some Chinese Yuan (CNY) whenever you’re out and about in Beijing. Though credit cards are sometimes accepted in hotels and restaurants, you’re better off bringing cash for all day-to-day transactions. Tipping isn’t necessary when you’re taking a taxi or hiring a car, but it is recommended to tip your bellhop or waiter in upscale hotels and restaurants. If you’re at a market or shopping in Beijing, haggling and negotiating is a big part of the culture.