Explore Beijing Without Breaking the Bank – Visit Plenty of Places in Beijing for Free.
Beijing for free — is it even possible? Although I can’t help you with free accommodations, I can help you in the attractions department. You see, there are plenty of free things to do in Beijing that won’t cost an arm and a leg.
Museums, activities, attractions, churches, and parks are numerous in this city and although many cost a pretty penny, many do not. Here are several things you can do in Beijing without spending a dime.
Be a Tourist in Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square is arguably the world’s largest public square which has the Forbidden City to the north, the Zhangyangmen archery tower to the south, and the Chinese National Museum and the Great Hall of the People (China’s parliament) flanking the east and west, respectively.
See the Body of Mao Zedong in Chairman Memorial Hall
There are usually long lines to see Mao Zedong in the mausoleum, and be aware that certain items are not allowed when you enter the mausoleum.
Because cameras and bags aren’t allowed inside the hall, you need to store your possessions in lockers east of the mausoleum, which does cost a small fee, depending on the locker rented. Do not pay “helpers” to store your possessions as they will overcharge.
Cool off around Houhai Lake
Houhai Lake literally means “Back Lakes.” You’ll be impressed by the older neighborhoods, lovingly preserved. There are boutiques, restaurants, shops, and street vendors here. A popular place to hang out at night.
Lose Yourself in the 798 Art District
Once a factory compound, 798 art district has been revitalized and converted to house galleries, cafes, and bookshops. You’ll be impressed by the contemporary Chinese art.
The Nanluoguxiang neighborhood takes its name from a narrow alley that still exists even though it was built during the Yuan Dynasty. It is part of the older sections of the Beijing’s city center. It is a popular place for tourists as it has bars, restaurants, live music houses, fast food, coffee shops, and souvenir shops.
Shop with the Locals on Wangfujing Street
If you’re looking for a place to shop, check out Wangfujing Street, which has had commerce as far back as the Ming Dynasty. There are 280 Beijing brands within the stores, which makes it popular with residents as well as tourists. The restaurants and food vendor stalls are often packed.
Look for Treasure in the Panjiayuan Flea Market
Also known as the Beijing Antique Market or the Dirt Market, this is the largest market of its kind taking up 48,500 square meters. The market is so big that it is subdivided into several parts.
The main market, known as the Middle Area, is only open on weekends, but you’ll see a lot even if you go on a weekday. There are 4000 shops and 10,000 dealers there.
Visit One of the Many Museums
Most museums in Beijing are free, but you’ll want a guide to show you around. The fees, however, are small. Museums include the Beijing Museum of Natural History, Capital Museum, Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution, and the National Museum of China.
The National Museum of China has large-scale exhibitions which covers everything from currency to painted porcelain. Visitors also enjoy the Beijing Museum of Natural History and the Beijing Theater Museum.