China remains one of our most beautiful trips, the most memorable, the most disorienting, and the one that inspired us to keep exploring the world. We took this trip before the arrival of COVID, and I don’t know what it’s like today in 2022 for discovering this country. We hope to return one day with the little ones to show them this country so different from ours and from us.

For this trip, we went with a guide through an agency; we couldn’t see ourselves going on an adventure alone. 90% of Chinese people don’t speak English—not a word! All signs and instructions, especially for public transportation, are in Chinese. It’s very difficult to make yourself understood other than with hands and gestures. The guide was essential for us, especially if you leave Beijing to visit the Chinese “countryside.”

The Lama Temple

This was our first visit in Beijing, and what a splendor it was when you step through the gates of the temple park; the sense of being in a different world is complete: we are truly in China! And after this initial awe, you take your time, all the time you need, to admire every corner of the temple. Watching the worshipers pray with fervor, smelling the incense that permeates the entire temple, turning the prayer wheels clockwise to let the prayers fly away.

The Lama Temple is the main Buddhist temple in Beijing and the most visited. A former imperial palace transformed into a lamasery in 1744, you will be amazed by its five richly decorated buildings: the ceiling paintings, the intricate woodwork, the sculptures on the roofs, the tantric statues, and the magnificent guardian lions.

The calligraphers’ district

Take a leisurely stroll on Calligraphers’ Street, or rather Liulichang Street, not far from Tiananmen Square. This pedestrian street is obviously very touristy, but it’s also the place where locals can find all the materials needed for the art of calligraphy. Calligraphy is indeed an art that is taught and taken very seriously.

Along the street, you’ll find schools, bookstores, stationery shops, as well as painters’ shops selling their works.

Beijing by night and the Donghuamen market

Make sure to set aside at least one evening to visit Beijing by night. The city center is very lively after dark, with many shops staying open late. The youth of Beijing come out in droves to bars, restaurants, and the many popular karaoke spots.

Of course, we visited the Donghuamen Night Market, which is very touristy but not to be missed for the atmosphere! You’ll find everything there for small and large appetites! From skewers of chips to beautiful cakes shaped like animals, or actual small animals of all kinds, well grilled! All this is sold by energetic vendors who shout in all directions to sell you their skewers!

Tiananmen Square

A must-see during a stay in Beijing, but not particularly interesting. Tiananmen Square is the largest square in the world, and it’s true that one is struck by this vast, empty, and cold space, quite unlike the colorful and lively sights we had experienced during our trip.

We were also struck by the dark green uniformed guards marching in step and in unison, which is quite impressive but quickly makes you feel uneasy. We didn’t linger long on this square.

Mao Zedong wanted to showcase the grandeur of the Party when it was built, and he succeeded; the only thing you feel here is that you are indeed in a communist country! The very strict surveillance on the square makes it clear that we are foreigners and not always welcome.

This was the only place during our trip where we felt uncomfortable. Don’t miss the flag-raising ceremony that takes place every day at sunrise and sunset.

The parks and gardens

Beijing has many parks and gardens, which serve as the lungs of this vast and heavily polluted city. The residents of Beijing love to gather in these spaces to socialize, play games, listen to music, and dance. Since most of them live in apartments, they enjoy spending the entire day in these parks.

About Author

We are Sophie, Adrien, and our two adorable little ones. Passionate about travel, discovery, and gastronomy, we bought a 2007 Rapido camper van to travel differently, travel more, and introduce our children to the world. Here, we share our wonderful discoveries and tips for activities to do with children in France and beyond ! Welcome !

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