Highlights of The two Greatest ancient Capital cities in China – Beijing and Xian

Beijing, China’s capital city is an ancient and modern city, with interesting historic and cultural heritages. It also has so much to offer in terms of art, food, nature, shopping, entertainment, and nightlife.

Modern side of Beijing

Must see in Beijing

Tiananmen Square – the largest city square in the world that also borders the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Gate on the northern square was the site where the Chairman Mao founded the modern-day People’s Republic of China. This square will truly surprise you with its immense size with interesting historical structures. It is useful to have a guide explain some of the history and importance of the sights. Tiananmen Square is free to visit and is open every day of the week.

Tiananmen Square

Forbidden City, a huge palace complex that has more than 9,000 rooms where 24 emperors of Ming and Qing Dynasties used to live in. It is best to visit here after Tiananmen Square. Get to the city at least half an hour before opening so you can be among the first in line, and visit the big-name sights first.

Forbidden Kingdom

Summer Palace

The largest and best-preserved Royal garden in China. The Summer Palace was the playground for emperors. It was so pleasant to stroll around the ancient pavilions, temples, mansions, bridges and corridors.

Summer Palace
Parts of Summer Palace

Great Wall of China is about 130km/81 miles away from Beijing city. China’s greatest engineering triumph and a must-see. It was originally built to keep out Mongolian invaders. Climbing atop one of the Seven Wonders of the World was certainly one of my bucket list. I only had time to climb the Mutianyu section.

The three renowned sections are

Mutianyu — the most beautiful fully restored Great Wall section.
Jinshanling — the most popular Great Wall hiking route, with original architecture.
Jiankou — the section that appears on most postcards, quite steep and perilous.

The most popular thing to do on the Great Wall is walking/hiking on the wall. Besides hiking, camp on the wall, enjoy a picnic with the majestic mountain views, you can do a night walk, run a Great Wall marathon, and take a roller cart.

April and May is the recommended time to visit the Great Wall.

Great Wall of China
View from up the Great Wall
View from below The Great Wall

Visiting Pandas at Beijing Zoo

Although Chengdu is a better place to see pandas, this is also worth a stop while in Beijing. Known to be the earliest Chinese zoo open to the public and has the largest variety of animals. The Beijing Zoo has multiple Giant Pandas in very large enclosures and they were all very active during the time I went there.

Panda potteries
Giant Panda
So colorful and cute

Other things to do

Grab a Drink at a Rooftop Bar Overlooking the Forbidden City, Participate in Tai chi,
Ride a Tandem Bike around Houhai Lake, and Relax in hot spring.


Xi’an is famous in China for a few reasons. First of all, it’s one of the ancient capitals of China and one of the oldest cities in the country. It was also the starting point of the Silk Road. Not only I had the opportunity to visit one of the greatest man-made wonders in the world, the farmer who found the Terracotta Warriors and Horses was present that day.

History has it that it was built by the first emperor of China Qin Shihuang to protect him in his afterlife. Over 8,000 life-size warriors, horses and chariots, buried in 3 pits for more than 2,000 years uncovered by this local farmer in 1974.

The museum includes Pit 1, Pit 2 and Pit 3 as well the exhibition hall of the chariots and horses. The Pit 1 is the largest of the three.
Notice the fabulous artistic skills of ancient Chinese artisans.

Visit the Ancient City Wall in Xian, the largest and best-preserved ancient city wall in Xian. Enjoy panoramic views of modern Xian while you leisurely walk this well-maintained city wall. I did not have time but this visit can be followed by a relaxing wander around bustling and lively Muslim Quarter, a place where you can try different local snacks and explore Muslim culture.

Optional activities that I recommend are 1). Take a relaxing cycling on the Ancient City Wall 2). Enjoy a wonderful Tang Palace Dance Show (usually from 8pm to 9pm) after a dumpling dinner at a local restaurant. 3). Go to Deju alley, a bar lined street, perfect for bar hopping in the evening. 4). Visit the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is Xi’an’s most established Buddhist temple.

Xian – a rainy day
Ancient City Wall
Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

I hope this list gives you some ideas and travel inspiration. If you have been there, what are your thoughts?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.