Beijing's Temple of Heaven

Inside Beijing’s cultural hotspots

With around 3,000 years of history, it’s little wonder the Chinese capital has its fair share of culturally significant sights. What might be surprising however, is that the best and most curious are all within easy reach of Mandarin Oriental, Beijing – perfect if you’re keen to explore the city’s cultural heritage during your stay

View of the Forbidden City from across Taiye Lake

Imperial treasures

Having a spectacular view of the Forbidden City (pictured above) comes as standard for guests of Mandarin Oriental, Beijing. The outdoor terraces of the Beijing hotel overlook the world’s largest palace, built around 600 years ago and home to the Ming and Qing emperors. Venturing inside this magnificent piece of grandiose architecture involves a short stroll along wide boulevards to the main palace entrance. The size and scale of the palace is simply staggering: courtyards, temples, gardens and pavilions are all housed within its extensive grounds.

Verdant gardens in front of the National Museum of China

A nation’s history

The Palace entrance is at the northern end of Tiananmen Square, which is flanked by the National Museum of China (pictured above), which documents around 3,000 years of the nation’s illustrious history. It’s best to go with a knowledgeable guide who can identify the key pieces, or you run the risk of aimless corridor-wandering.

 The exterior of the Temple of Heaven

Peace and quiet

Slightly further away is the Temple of Heaven (pictured above), arguably the most exquisite of the imperial-era gems, set in a pretty and always lively park. Enter, or exit, by the east gate where spirited performers put on free performances ranging from screeching Peking opera to gentle modern jazz.

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

Visiting the two other renowned cultural sites, the Summer Palace and the Great Wall (pictured above) involves setting aside at least half a day. Obviously, it’s unthinkable to miss the Wall, the world’s most extraordinary engineering feat, and visible from space (but not the Moon, as some travelogues erroneously state). The restored section at Mutianyu is just 90 minutes away.

The National Centre for Performing Arts by night

Amazing architecture

Beijing’s more modern architecture provokes strong reactions – not all of it positive. The silver CCTV Tower, designed by Rem Koolhaas, has become a contemporary symbol of the city, referred to colloquially as ‘The Big Pants’. Even locals ask themselves the question, just how does the twin-towered building not topple over? Other 21st-century additions are the National Centre for Performing Arts (pictured above), which has an ovoid shape that earned it the nickname The Egg, and the Bird’s Nest Stadium which hosted the Olympic Games in 2008. By day, Soho Galaxy is an unusual-shaped mixed-use building; at night it turns into a shimmering, ethereal structure, giving the impression that a giant UFO has landed down right in the heart of Beijing.

A sculpture outside Pekin Fine Arts

Art’s desire

The 798 Art Zone has become a must-visit spot and, indeed, the Bauhaus-style brick buildings and plethora of galleries make it worth braving the mass-tourism hordes. More discerning art-lovers might want to try browsing nearby at Caochangdi, which has a number of galleries including the always challenging pieces at Pekin Fine Arts (pictured above), or climb the city walls to view the novelty of modern art hung on ancient city watchtowers at Red Gate Gallery.

 Jingshan Park

Lesser-known gems

Close to Mandarin Oriental, Beijing, tucked away among the high-rises, is the glorious Zhihua Temple, which dates back to the 15th century. Another not-too-far spot is Jingshan Park (pictured above), which offers a fabulous city view from its upper pagoda, taking in the entire imperial panorama. The most offbeat temple of all is the Dongyue Temple and folk museum. Each of the 50-odd rooms around the main courtyard features life-size statues, depicting the work of various religious judgment panels including the Department of Pity and Sympathy, the Department of Accumulation of Justifiable Wealth, and even the Deep-rooted Disease Department.

A woman sketching a piece of art at the 798 Art District

Take a tour

Guests can also enjoy bespoke tours at Mandarin Oriental, Beijing, which are offered in partnership with Bespoke Travel Co. Take your pick from three tours: In the Footsteps of the Emperor, Tai Chi in Tai Miao Park – a class with a master, which takes place amid old cypress trees in Tai Miao, the most hidden section of the Forbidden City – and a Tour of the 798 Art District and visit to artists’ studio (pictured above), which gives visitors the chance to meet the artists who shaped Beijing’s modern art scene.

Mandarin Oriental Beijing - Wangfujing
Come Stay with Us
Mandarin Oriental Beijing

No. 269 Wangfujing Street , Dongcheng District Beijing 100006, China

+86 (10) 8509 8888

Visitors boating on the Behai Park lake

Your essential guide to Beijing

With Mandarin Oriental Wangfujing located in the heart of Beijing’s historic centre, there’s no better place to ensure you experience the best of the city, from culture to cuisine