Summer has come, and once more, the horde invades Beijing. Millions upon millions, armed with selfie sticks, squalling babes, Hawaiian shirts and khaki shorts, descend upon Beijing and rush to the famous tourist sites. The Great Wall, having held back the Mongols for over a thousand years, stand little chance against the millions of tourists. Even the forbidden palace seems incapable of forbidding the crowds of visitors. Beijing is crowded enough already, and no one wants to spend their weekends crammed alongside hordes of people. Here are five less known (and thus less crowded) spots that you should visit if you want to avoid the crowds.
1. The Poly Art Museum
The Poly Art museum is comprised of an exquisite display of Shang and Zhou dynasty bronze artefacts, Buddhist carvings and other Chinese cultural artefacts. This museum is especially noteworthy since a majority of its display is comprised of Chinese artwork that has since been recovered after being looted from China in the century of humiliation. An especially noteworthy section of the exhibition consists of the four recovered bronze zodiac heads whose repatriation to China has inspired a Jackie Chan movie (CZ12).
2. Dongjiamin Lane
It might be unexpected to find a little London, Paris and Berlin in the centre of Beijing, but that is precisely what you will discover at Dongjiamin. Serving as the embassy and legation of the British, French, American, and Russians following the 1860 opium war, it developed a series of foreign banks, post offices and barracks. Here you can see arches and verandas in almost every building in the Victorian style. You can also find one of the first Catholic churches in Beijing, the St. Michael’s Church, which still holds Mass on Sundays at 7 am.
Remember how I said earlier that tourists had overrun the Great Wall? Well, that’s only partially true, and the Badaling portion has indeed been breached by millions of people each year.
Another part of the Great Wall, the Zhuangdaokou section, however, is rarely touched by tourists and indeed even the government’s construction crews. Here you can see the Great Wall in its natural state (with the ancient bricks and tiles), alongside a breathtaking view of the nearby lake. Even better, once you are done your hike (which is quite challenging), you can treat yourself to an authentic 农民(countryside) meal — definitely an excellent way to get in touch with nature and escape the crowds and noises of Beijing.
4. Silk Market Clothing Wholesale Market
Do you have Prada taste but nada wallet? Have no fear for there is the Silk market. Here you can find “authentic” Prada, LV, Burberry and many more brands at a fraction of the cost. Even better, here you can experience the time honored tradition of 讨价还价(Haggling) with the shrewish stall owners. If you do go to the Silk market, then you should remember this helpful saying, “What do the five stars on the Chinese flag stand for? It stands for 5%, you should offer 5% of the original price!
5. Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square, you might mutter to yourself, I thought this was a guide to avoiding crowds in Beijing! Now hear me out, Tiananmen square might be a horribly crowded location 95% of the time, but there is a way you can not only skip the crowd but watch a display you can’t see anywhere else. You might have to get up a little early, between 4-7 in the morning, (see link https://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/beijing/tiananmen/) but you will get a chance to watch up close the hypnotic display of immaculate PLA guardsmen raising the Chinese flag. Even better you get a chance to see the morning sun over Tiananmen square. Two breathtaking sights to start the day.
Still too crowded for your liking? Wanna know where the locals actually go? Check out our Beijing off the beaten track article if you really want to get away from the crowds.