For my 23rd Birthday I took the leap and booked a trip to China! I didn’t know much about the country but decided on Beijing and Xi’an as the cities I would visit!
Now I am here to tell you my 5 favourite things I did in Beijing on a backpackers budget, and why these should be on your list if you ever go!
1. The Great Wall of China
I think this kinda goes without saying, BUT of course it had to be number one of the best things I did in Beijing.
I spent my 23rd birthday climbing this fascinating wall. It was incredible.
I did a tour with my hostel, which I don’t usually like doing. But they took us to a scenic section where it was only our group there, of around 15 people. It was amazing not being surrounded by bus loads of other tourists and being able to see for miles around with no other people.
I highly recommend staying at Leo Hostel in Beijing and taking their trip. For 280 CNY, around $50 AUD you get taken there (a two hour trip), taken to a scenic section of the wall, then after a long hike you get lunch, then brought back home. Well worth it. Even being on a budget I am so glad I paid to do this, it took out the stress of planning and navigating my way there and made my birthday all that more enjoyable.
It was astounding to think of how long it would have taken to build, how many people have been on the exact place I have throughout history, I was just in awe. Best birthday present I could have given to myself!
2. The Summer Palace
I visited the Summer Palace on my very first day in Beijing. I’d heard mixed reviews of Beijing, people saying it would be dirty, filled with smoggy pollution, so I came there with no expectations.
Well the Summer Palace really shocked me, it was beyond beautiful.
Only a short distance from the city you can reach there in 30-40 minutes by train for 5CNY. Said to be one of the oldest and best preserved imperial gardens in the world it is also the oldest within China.
It is full of vibrant colours, history and architecture. You can spend hours wandering around, getting lost in the patterns and designs. It is also full of trees, flowers, shaded spots to stop for lunch and views of nearby Beijing.
For 30CNY it is a day well spent, and at number two of my favourites for a reason.
3. The 798 Art Zone
The 798 art zone was without a doubt one of my favourite places.
Made up of a complex of 50 year old decommissioned military factories this area boasts a unique collection of architect housing an incredible artistic community.
Every where you turn there is a new art exhibition, a cool cafe, a buzzing bar, all within winding alleyways.
I love street art, and only realized it isn’t everywhere you go in China like it is in the UK or Australia. So I loved seeing all the different designs and pieces as I wandered aimlessly throughout the alleys.
I could have spent days wandering around this area, it is so rich in art and just an amazing place to grab a coffee, chill and take in something new. Most exhibitions are free of charge, and something not to miss in Beijing.
4. Jingshan Park
Jingshan park is the park that sits above the famous Forbidden city.
Something I loved doing was wandering around the park and up the hill Jingshan. The park itself is beautiful, full of flowers, trees, locals practicing their singing, people reading or drawing.
But the best part, the view of the Forbidden city from the top.
It felt like such a special moment as I sat overlooking this vast and historic city. Even surrounded by lots of other tourists I felt at so happy and relaxed. I did some writing and listened to music, basking in the sun and the atmosphere.
The admission fee for the park is around 3CNY and you can easily spend a whole day wandering and enjoying the park, a budget backpackers dream.
5. The Beijing Hutongs
Hutongs are narrow streets and alleys, mostly common in Northern China, particularly Beijing.
They are formed by lines of siheyuan, courtyards and family homes, hutongs were formed by joining one siheyuan to another.
Now a lot are filled with shops, restaurants. cafes, always busy and full of people.
I loved wandering through the hutongs, getting lost in the winding alleys. Seeing new food and drinks I’d never seen before. Grabbing a beer and people watching an afternoon away.
They were one of my favourite things about Beijing and again free unless you want to sample some local food and drink.
So that’s it, my top 5 favourite things to do on a budget in Beijing. It just shows you don’t need to spend a fortune to enjoy a new city. From historic tourist spots, to art, to people watching, Beijing has a lot to offer and is extremely affordable.
‘Til next time.
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