Backroads Travel is an occasional series that focuses on out-of-the-way, lesser-known, or otherwise off-the-beaten-track travel destinations that are nevertheless well worth the time and energy it takes to get there. These are places that might not be highlighted in your travel guides or pop up in typical Google searches. They’re the hidden and unsung wonders of the world.
Let’s get this out of the way right up top: I don’t particularly care for Beijing. I lived in China for several years, and it’s where I met my wife and got married. I’ve been to Beijing multiple times, but the city and I just never hit it off. And this is coming from someone who currently lives in Washington, DC, so I’m familiar with cities overwhelmingly defined by politics and government.
However, my personal feelings about the city aside, it’s chock full of historic sites and tourist must-dos. I certainly wouldn’t dissuade anyone from visiting Beijing, nor would I recommend visitors to China avoid the capital. Far from it. Beijing has the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, and some of the best urban parks and museums in the country. It’s home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In short, it’s a required stop on any Chinese itinerary.
So it was that I recently found myself in Beijing for about a week. We took our kids (now 5 and 8) back to China for the summer and did a fair bit of backpacking around the country. How could we NOT take them to Beijing to see some of the country’s most famous and spectacular sites?