10 Non Touristy Things to Do in Beijing

Being a hot tourism destination, Beijing is an ancient city full of historical sites and fascinating attractions such as the famous Great Wall and spectacular Forbidden City. Would you like to find less-visited sights and experience local venues beyond the hot travel spots? Here are 10 non touristy things to do in Beijing, which will allow you to see lesser observed corners of the city.    


Jiankou - Mutianyu Great Wall Classic Hiking

Jiankou - Mutianyu Great Wall Hiking
Jiankou Great Wall is one of the most well-known Great Wall sections in Beijing, famous for its dangerous terrain, steep mountains and beautiful sceneries. It is also a great place for taking photographs. One of the most unusual things to do in Beijing is embarking on a two-day classic hiking route from Jiankou Great Wall to Mutianyu Great Wall. It is also advised that hikers join a professional outdoor team since the trek may be quite physically demanding for some tourists. The route itself basically draws an arc along the Great Wall, passing by the Nine-Eye Tower, Beijing Knot, Eagle Flies Facing Upward, Sky Stair, Jiankou Spot, Tiny Potala Palace, Ox Horn Edge before finishing at Mutianyu Great Wall.

Recommendation rate:
Location: Huairou District, around 80 km (50 mi) north and 2 hours’ bus ride from downtown area
Travel time: 2 days

 Recommended Tour:  Beijing Mutianyu Great Wall Hiking Tour from $102

Shopping in Panjiayuan Flea Market

Panjiayuan Flea Market
As the most famous and popular antique market in Beijing, you will find numerous kinds of antique goods in Panjiayuan Flea Market including antique furniture, paintings, and the “scholar's four jewels” – the writing brush, ink stick, ink slab and paper. If you are interested in these antique goods and Chinese culture, shopping in Panjiayuan is one of the non touristy things to do in Beijing. It must be pointed out that nearly all of the antiques are artificial products although they look genuine and hence it is best to avoid buying over-priced products in case of fraud.  

Recommendation rate:
Location: No. 18, Hua Wei Li, Chaoyang District
Travel time: 1- 2 hours

Wudaoying Hutong

Wudaoying Hutong, Beijing
Neither as busy nor as crowded as Nanluoguxiang Hutong, Wudaoying Hutong is definitely a good place to explore local and authentic Hutong culture. The Wudaoying Hutong stretches from Andingmen Metro Station to Yonghegong Street for about 800 meters. In such a short alley, you can wander freely and encounter both the local people living a leisurely old lifestyle, and young people leading a fashionable modern lifestyle. There are also plenty of unique stores, boutiques, coffee bars and specialty restaurants for any curious passers-by. Wandering along the lane is undoubtedly one of the most fun things to do in Beijing.

Recommendation rate:
Location: In north of Dongcheng District, on the east side of Andingmen overpass
Travel time: 1-2 hours

 Read More about Beijing Hutongs

798 Art District

798 Art District
As one of the new cultural landmarks of Beijing, 798 Art District is home to hundreds of galleries and artists' individual studios, The 798 Art District also houses various cultural institutions, exhibiting work by artists from around the world: China, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. Visiting this place can be one of the most interesting things to do in Beijing while allowing you to enjoy the most creative artistic works and interesting designs. The streets are also strewn with sculptures and graffiti. After visiting various exhibitions, you can kill your time in some arts shops, cafes and restaurants nearby.

Recommendation rate:
Location: No.4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District
Travel time: 2-3 hours

Capital Museum

Capital Museum
If you want to dive into the history of the city, the Capital Museum is the place to go. The museum displays about 3,000 years’ history of Beijing and is divided into both permanent exhibitions and special exhibitions over seven floors. The permanent exhibitions are the essence of the museum including Historical Culture and Beijing Folk-Custom. The special exhibitions include ancient jade, bronze works and pagodas. Furthermore, the museum offers a unique and attractive design, with a sunken bamboo garden and some exquisite ancient Chinese archways in its interior. The Capital Museum is free but travelers need to make an appointment on its official website in advance.

Recommendation rate:
Location: No. 16 Fuxingmen Outer Street, Xicheng District
Travel time: 2 hours

Fayuan Temple

Fayuan Temple, Beijing
Fayuan Temple was founded in the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907), making it one of the oldest temples in Beijing. Visiting the temple can be one of the unusual things to do in Beijing. Home to the Chinese Buddhist Institute and Chinese Buddhist Library and Antiquities Museum, Fayuan Temple houses many statues of Buddha and precious antiques. This includes a huge wooden statue of the lying Buddha from the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), Eighteen Arhats’ wooden statues dating from the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911) and even two ancient stone pillars from the Tang Dynasty. The temple clearly is a must-see for Buddhists too. Aside from this, the tranquil environment in the temple can bring you inner calmness to escape from bustling city life.

Recommendation rate:
Location: No. 7, Front Street of Fayuan Temple, Xicheng District
Travel time: 2 hours

Enjoy Peking Opera in Zhengyici Theatre

Enjoying the Peking Opera
Peking Opera is a typical folk art of China which makes enjoying authentic Peking Opera in Zhengyici Theater one of the most fun things to do in Beijing. Interestingly, the Zhengyici Theater is a 300-year history theater and has been the stage for countless Peking Opera artists and operas. At the same time, the theater marks a milestone in the development of Chinese opera as well as being constructed from pure wood. Simply being in this ancient building and enjoying the colorful costumes, peculiar music and beautiful performances is a unique Beijing experience in itself.

Recommendation rate:
Location: B No.12, Xinzhong Street, Dongcheng District
Travel time: 2 hours

Taste Imperial Cuisine in Fangshan Restaurant within Beihai Park

Fangshan Restaurant in Beihai Park
Tasting authentic imperial cuisine at an authentic restaurant is one of the off-the-beaten-track things to do in Beijing. The founder of the Fangshan Restaurant was an imperial chef in the late Qing Dynasty and most of the cuisines prepared in the restaurant take inspiration from the royal palace. Today, it is still one of the most popular restaurants in the city and has received many celebrities including former American president Richard Nixon. The restaurant also serves more than 800 kinds of dishes including the Complete Manchu-Han Banquet, a full, formal banquet combining Manchurian and Chinese delicacies as often prepared during the Qing Dynasty.

Recommendation rate:
Location: No. 1, Wenjin Street in Beihai Park, West Jingshan Street, Xicheng District
Travel time: 1 hour

Night Trip in Gubei Water Town & Simatai Great Wall

Night Trip in Gubei Water Town & Simatai Great Wall
Having a night tour of Gubei Water Town and Simatai Great Wall should be added on the list of interesting things to do in Beijing. Simatai Great Wall is the only section of the Great Wall that has maintained its original appearance from the Ming Dynasty with interesting and diverse slopes and ridges. Gubei Water Town is a typical ancient water town at the foot of Simatai Great Wall, which possesses a lot of ancient buildings, bridges, and archways. At night, hiking on the Simatai Great Wall and overlooking the whole town to enjoy the night view is an enjoyable activity. Don’t forget to make an appointment at least one day in advance on the official website.

Recommendation rate:
Location: Miyun District, 130 (81 mi) km northeast of downtown, 2.5-3 hours’ bus ride
Travel time: 1-2 days
 Ultimate Guide to Visiting Simatai Great Wall at Night

Cuandixia Village

Weekend Trip to Cuandixia Village
If you want to try some off-the-beaten-track things to do in Beijing, you cannot miss experiencing rural life in Cuandixia Village. The village has a history of more than 400 years and is well-known for dozens of ancient courtyards. Besides seeing the ancient buildings, you will have a chance to experience the Chinese Heated Kang, a kind of brick bed, which you can not only rest on but also cook on. Tasting local farm vegetables and enjoying the sunrise and sunset on the nearby village platform also make pleasant experiences.

Recommendation rate:
Location: Zhaitang Town, Mentougou District, about 100 km (62 mi) west and 3 hours’ bus ride from downtown
Travel time: 1-2 days 
Further Reading:
How to Plan a Trip to Beijing Step by Step
- Last updated on Apr. 14, 2023 by Catherine He -
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