UNESCO World Heritage Sites Beijing - Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang
The Forbidden City is a must-see if you are going to Beijing. It is situated right in the centre of the city, to the north of the Tiananmen Square, and although today it houses the Palace Museum, it used to be the home of emperors and the centre of government for over 500 years.
If you are in Shenyang, definitely visit the Imperial Palace. It has been on the World Heritage List since 2004 because of the testimony of the development of architecture and history in China it represents, like the Forbidden City, who has been on said list since 1987.
It’s recommended to visit both the Forbidden City and the Imperial Palace in Shenyang on guided tours, since it would be a pity to go around places so full of history and culture without understanding it. Your breath will be taken away when you see how detailed ceilings, roofs and any decoration filling the rooms and temples.
Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian
A 40-minute drive from Beijing (42km south-west of the centre) will take you to this hominid site that witnessed the evolution of Asian human communities from around 600,000 years ago.
If you are into anthropology, you’ll be fascinated by the caves, well explained by signposts, and the museum’s collection of fossils, bones and ancient tools.
Summer Palace, an Imperial Garden in Beijing
The Summer Palace in Beijing is the largest and most well-preserved royal park in China. The site, consisting on gardens, lakes and buildings such as temples and palaces, appears on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1998.
The area of 2.9km2 consists mainly on the Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill, where you will find many of the main attractions such as the Long Corridor or the Buddhist Fragrance Tower.
The site is easily accessed via public transport, and due to the size of it you will want to spend at least a couple of hours wandering around. Take a boat ride in the Kunming Lake, go up the Fragrance Tower for beautiful views or simply take a stroll to enjoy the picturesque scenery and breath-taking decorations.
Temple of Heaven: an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing
The Temple of Heaven is a complex founded in the first half of the 15th century consisting on several cult buildings and a World Heritage Site according to UNESCO since 1998.
The temple is situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing. As its name states, the site symbolized the relationship between Earth and Heaven. The emperors were considered to be the interlocutors between humankind and Heaven, and every six months they would travel to the Temple of Heaven to pray for good harvests.
This site is full of symbols, and knowing about the main ones will make your visit extremely interesting: an ancient Chinese belief, for instance, was that the Earth was square and Heaven was round. The southern corners of the area on which the Temple of Heaven was built are right-angled, while the northern ones are rounded. Furthermore, each of the three main constructions is circular and on a square base. Hopefully this has awakened your curiosity!
The Grand Canal
If you look at a map of China and find the two main rivers, the Yellow River and the Yangtze River, you will notice that both of them go from west to east. The Grand Canal is an artificial river starting at Beijing in the north and finishing in the Zhejiang province in the south, connecting the two main rivers. This project had the objective of facilitating trading, shipping raw materials and supplying food to the population.
The oldest sections of the canal date as back as to the 5th century BC and were finally combined around the 7th century AD, still being used today. This waterway system became part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2014 for being the greatest civil engineering project prior to the Industrial Revolution.
The Great Wall
Under continuous construction from the 3rd century BC to the 17th century AD, the 20,000km of the Great Wall of China are the only man-made structure visible from the moon.
The implied knowledge of defence construction and organization in the wall has let the site into UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1987. If there is one thing all the visitors of the Great Wall agree on it is that it’s far more than just a wall, and that the experience of being on top of it will take your breath away.
As you can imagine, the length of the wall makes it possible for visitors to get on it from lots of different sections. Just from Beijing, you can choose between seven popular sections depending on whether you are interested in the sights, in avoiding crowds or in an easy path. Check the area from where you plan to visit the Great Wall and choose the section that best fits your interests!