12 Free Things to Do in Beijing

Compared with other popular tourist destinations in the world, Beijing's tourism cost is low, whether it is the public transportation or food, let alone a great number of scenic spots requiring no admission fee. Here are 12 free things to do in Beijing for an affordable trip.


Tiananmen Square

Located in the center of Beijing, Tiananmen Square is the largest city square in the world, which can accommodate 1 million people to hold a grand gathering. Standing in the center of the square is the Monument to the People's Heroes. Visitors can also find other famous spots on the square including the Great Hall of the People, Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao, National Museum of China and Tiananmen Tower. For the newcomers to Beijing, watching a flag raising ceremony on this political center of China is a must. It is free to enter the Tiananmen Square, but you need to show your passport and accept security check. 

Visit the Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao 

Situated in the Tiananmen Square, Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao is the memorial hall of the first Chairman of PRC, Mao Zedong. There are two floors in the memorial hall, one is mainly where one can pay homage to Chairman Mao, and the other presents his achievements. Visitors may reverently view Mao's embalmed body as it lies in a in gray Zhongshan suit and partially covered with the bright red flag of China’s Communist Party. Since the memorial hall is only open in the morning, it is recommended that you queue up as soon as possible after the flag raising ceremony.

Opening Hours: July - August: 07:00-11:00; Other Time: 08:00 - 12:00; Closed on Mondays 

Learn Chinese Culture in National Museum of China

A visit to the National Museum of China is worth being included in the free things to do in Beijing, as it will help you get deep insights into traditional Chinese culture, evolutionary culture, advanced socialist culture, and arts. Covering an area of nearly 200,000 square meters (240,000 square yards), the National Museum of China on the east side of Tiananmen Square is the largest single-building in the world and has a collection of more than 1.4 million exhibits. The collection of cultural relics ranging from ancient Chinese bronzes to Buddha statues, jade, porcelain, national gifts, modern classic art works, African woodcarvings are displayed on more than ten exhibition halls. It will take a whole day if you pay a thorough visit to the museum. There is no need to buy an entry ticket, but you should make an appointment free of charge with your passport 1-5 days in advance.
Opening Hours: 9:00-17:00 from Monday to Friday; 09:00-21:00 on Saturday; stop entry one hour before the closure

Stroll Around Qianmen Street

Located on Beijing's central axis to the south of Tian’anmen Square, Qianmen Street is a commercial block that existed as early as the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), and still retains the ancient architectural style of blue bricks and grey tiles. Visitors can enter for free. Many time-honored stores on the east and west sides of the street enable visitors to take a hearty meal. The best local food to try includes roast duck offered by Quanjude, Shumai by Duyichu, vegetables pickled in soy sauce by Liubiju and braised pork with soy sauce by Yueshengzhai. Souvenirs with Chinese characteristics like the tea and silk can also be found here. Besides, it is also great fun to take a Dangdang tram which runs through the street for sightseeing.

Wangfujing Street 

If you want to experience the most prosperous shopping and food street, you need to give priority to Wangfujing Street, which requires no entry fee. The Street  features a great number of shopping centers like the Gongmei Mansion, APM and Yintai. There are also time-honored stores such as Shengxifu Hat Store, Tongshenghe Shoes Store, and Ruifuxiang Silk & Cotton Shop where you can buy fine local gifts. Also, numerous snacks from all over China on the Wangfujing Snack Street will treat you a great feast. 

Nanluoguxiang (South Gong and Drum Lane)

Nanluoguxiang (South Gong and Drum Lane) is a famous hutong block in Beijing open to all for free. On both sides of the hutongs, many former residences of celebrities and traditional buildings have been preserved. So visitors are able to have a glimpse of old life in Beijing. The Hutongs are also teeming with bars, cafés, restaurants, hotels and shops selling T-shirts, paper cuts and other handicrafts themed on Beijing and China. The traditional architecture and diversified shops have made Nanluoguxiang a unique landmark in Beijing and having a leisure walk in Nanluoguxiang has become one of most popular free things to do in Beijing.

Explore the Beijing Museum of Natural History 

Beijing Museum of Natural History has more than 200,000 fossils and specimens ranging from paleontology to ornithology, mammals and invertebrates. Its eight permanent exhibitions show visitors the origin and early evolution of organisms. The highlight of the museum is the lifelike Dinosaurs and their living environment. Entry tickets are not required, but you need to make an appointment at least 3 days in advance.
Opening Hours: 09:00-17:00, Closed on Mondays

Watch Art Exhibitions in 798 Art District 

798 Art District is a creative park and favored by many artists because of its old factory building style. Galleries, exhibition halls, art centers are distributed in these workshops transformed from factories, giving the zone a vibrant artistic atmosphere. All kinds of exhibitions are held here all year round, most of which are free to enter. The most famous exhibition area is the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art. The art shops, cafes and restaurants also provide visitors great convenience for shopping and relaxation.  

Enjoy Fabulous Lake Views and Ancient Buildings in Shichahai 

Many visitors choose to go the Shichahai to enjoy the beautiful lake views and historical architecture. The Shichahai consists of three waters: Qianhai, Houhai and Xihai. You can experience the old Beijing life through strolling around the Hutongs around and visiting the old Beijing style courtyards, many of which does not require any entry fee. The best time to visit Shichahai is in July and August when the lotus flowers are blooming. In winter, the lake becomes a skating rink. The bustling bar street in Houhai is absolutely the focus of Shichahai at night. 

Photograph in Beijing Olympic Park 

Beijing Olympic Park is 9 kilometers (6 miles) away from the Tiananmen Square and covers an area of 11.59 square kilometers (4.47 square miles). Many unique 2008 Summer Olympic venues have been preserved and are good places to take photos. These venues are on the roadside and you do not need to spend a cent for photograph if you do not get into, thus photographing in Beijing Olympic Park has been one of the most popular free things to do in Beijing. It is noted that they look more brilliant at night when the lights are lit up. Northern part of the Park is the Beijing Olympic Forest Park, the largest Beijing city park. For Beijing people, it is a hot place for enjoying natural scenery. Also, the Olympic Forest Park is free of charge. 

Know History of Great Wall in Great Wall Museum of China

Great Wall Museum of China is situated at the foot of Badaling Great Wall. Admission is free for visitors holding the Badling Great Wall entry tickets. The museum comprehensively reflects the history, military, architecture, economy, culture, art and current situation of the Great Wall. Covering a building area of more than 4,000 square meters (4,800 square yards), it has a preface hall, seven permanent exhibition halls and a temporary exhibition hall. It has collected more than 2500 relics including weapons such as artillery and blunderbusses and other cultural relics such as the ironware, masonry, ceramics and coins.
Opening Hours: 09:00 - 16:00, Closed on Mondays

Appreciate Antiques in Panjiayuan Flea Market 

Discovering antiques and treasures in the Panjiayuan Flea Market is a must-do as well as a free thing to do in Beijing for Chinese antiques lovers. You will be surprised by the numerous cultural relics, calligraphy and painting, writing brush, ink stick, ink slab, paper, porcelain and wood furniture in the Market. The market in the southeast corner of the Third Ring Road in Beijing is the largest antique market in China. There are more than 3,000 stalls where you can appreciate various antiques and handicrafts.
Opening Hours: Monday- Friday: 8:30-18:00, Saturday- Sunday:4:30-18:00
- Last updated on Apr. 14, 2023 by Catherine He -
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