There are many things to see and do in Beijing, a city that, besides being very populated, always receives many visitors. If you travel in winter, which runs from November to February, you will enjoy an ideal time to visit tourist sites such as the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and even the Great Wall of China, as you can visit them at your leisure.
Winter is also ideal for activities that allow you to enjoy the snow and cold, such as ice skating, skiing or snowboarding; attend festivals of incredible ice sculptures; taste the most delicious hot dishes or have fun at the New Year's celebrations. So if you plan to visit Beijing in winter, you will certainly be amazed by all there is to discover in and around the city.
1. Have fun at winter festivals
If you visit the city in winter, and after taking some of the best tours in Beijing, you will have the chance to attend different festivals, many of them related to ice and snow. Here is a selection of some of the most interesting ones, so you can choose the one you like the most.
The Lantern Festival, or Lantern Festival, is held in February, on the occasion of the Lunar New Year. It is held on the first full moon of the lunar year and kicks off Spring. It is a tradition that began in 206 BC, promoted by the Ming emperor of Han.
During the festival, houses, businesses, parks, streets are decorated with colored lanterns that have a riddle written on them, and if a person solves them, he or she can win a prize. There are also dance performances, parades, fairs, and there may be fireworks shows.
Ice and Snow Lantern Festival in Longqing
This is a festival held in January and February every year in Longqing, 85 km from Beijing. There you can see numerous colorful lanterns and ice sculptures that will amaze you, as well as trees decorated with lights. The entrance to the Ice Lantern Festival costs around 25 EUR.
A very interesting option, but further away from Beijing (5 hours by car), is the Harbin Ice Festival, in which sculptors from all over the world participate, creating real works of art. It is held during the month of January.
Bird's Nest Ice and Snow Festival
During the month of January, the Beijing National Stadium turns into a huge ice and snow rink and proposes various activities such as ice skating, skiing on an artificial hill, ice hockey and snow park. The entrance to the Bird's Nest Festival costs about 15 EUR.
2. Taste the best hot dishes in Beijing
The cold weather invites us to eat hot dishes that comfort us and charge us with energy. That is why winter is the best time for you to take a gastronomic tour of Beijing, and try the typical seasonal dishes.
Among the typical Chinese dishes perfect for winter is the hot pot, which consists of a spicy broth with different ingredients such as vegetables, tofu, dumplings, eggs, noodles, meat and even seafood. It is served in a large bowl that is shared by all the diners. In many restaurants you can select the ingredients and watch them being cooked.
Another typical winter dish is Tangyuan, a sweet soup with rice flour dumplings that is prepared to celebrate the winter solstice, the New Year or the Lantern Festival. These balls are made by hand and can be filled with various ingredients such as dates, almonds, peanuts or walnuts. They can also be made with savory ingredients such as meat or vegetables.
If you are looking to eat traditional dishes, it is best to look for a restaurant in the hutongs, where the locals eat.
3. Go ice skating on the frozen lakes.
When temperatures drop below freezing, Beijing's lakes turn into ice skating rinks perfect for the whole family to enjoy. On these rinks you can not only skate with traditional skates, but also ride bicycles on rails or electric cars, and glide on chairs on rails.
One of the favorite places to skate is Kunming Lake, the largest lake in Beijing, which is surrounded by gardens and palaces, such as the unmissable Summer Palace. Also popular is Houhai Lake, located in the center of Beijing, in an area where princes and nobles built their mansions.
4. Celebrate the New Year in China
New Year in China is celebrated on the first 6 days of the lunar calendar, which is usually during the month of January. Western Christmas and New Year are normal days in Beijing, but during the Chinese New Year, you will have the opportunity to learn more about the culture of the country, and enjoy a city decorated with colorful lanterns, flowers, fans, etc.
For the Chinese, the way you start determines how the rest of the year will be, so they perform cleansings and offerings to their ancestors. They also gather to eat traditional foods such as Chinese ravioli, fish or niangao, a rice flour cake. It is customary to give money in decorated red envelopes, especially to children.
In addition, many Beijing festivals are held during these dates, such as the Lantern Festival, so you will see colorful lanterns all over the city; and fairs in the Temples, where people go to pray with incense. Among these are very popular the Ditan Temple, Changdian Temple and Dongyue Temple, which are held between 9 am and 4 pm approximately.
There are also street celebrations, such as the traditional dragon and lion dance, parades and art shows, and craft and food fairs, especially sweets. As for fireworks, they have been banned on several occasions, due to the environmental pollution they generate, but they can be seen around the city.
5. Skiing or snowboarding near Beijing
There are numerous ski resorts near Beijing with slopes of varying difficulty where you can practice snow sports and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The slopes were expanded for the 2022 Winter Olympics, so you will find options for all levels.
One of the main ski resorts is Beijing Huaibei, 80 km from Beijing, which is very close to the Great Wall of China, so the views are wonderful. In addition to its 4.5 km of slopes, this ski resort is home to the world's highest cable car, 1200 meters high.
Also in Chongli, 3 hours from Beijing, there are several modern ski resorts such as Fulong Four Seasons Town, with 37 ski slopes, and the Wanlong, with 32 slopes.
6. Visit the Tiananmen Square at your own pace.
Tiananmen Square, one of the largest in the world, is also heavily visited almost year-round, so it's ideal to tour it in winter when there are fewer tourists.
There is much to see in Tiananmen Square, as it is where the People's Republic of China was proclaimed in 1949, and where many events of historical significance have taken place. It is next to the Forbidden City, so it is usual to visit them together on one-day stays in Beijing. It is also guarded and you have to present your passport and show your bags to enter.
Inside you can see landmark buildings such as the National Museum of China, one of the most important in the world; the Tiananmen Gate, where the People's Republic of China was proclaimed; the Monument to the Heroes of the People, on the occasion of the revolutionary struggles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the Great Hall of the People, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, where his embalmed body is and people bring him offerings.
For more information, please visit
- Address: 4 Jingshan Front St, Dongcheng, Beijing, China.
- Hours: daily from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm.
- Admission fee: free of charge.
- Recommendations: Passport required for admission.
7. Visit the Taoyman Xiangu Frozen Waterfalls
In Miyun County, about 100 km from Beijing, lies Taoyuan Fairy Valley, a forest with ponds, lakes, fountains and a 50-meter high waterfall that freeze in winter and offer an unmissable ice landscape with caves and sculpted shapes that only low temperatures can create.
In addition to contemplating the winter landscape, many people visit this site to practice ice climbing in the Taoyuan Waterfall, which offers different levels of difficulty. Also in this valley is the Longquan waterfall, which is more suitable for beginners and is about 20 meters high.
8. Enjoy the winter scenery on the Great Wall of China
Winter is a good time to visit the Great Wall of China, proclaimed one of the seven wonders of the world, as the snow undoubtedly gives a special charm to the surrounding landscape. Besides, it will not be as crowded as in spring or summer in Beijing.
There are different sections of the wall that you can visit, depending on your physical condition or how much you want to walk. In winter, low-difficulty tours such as Mutianyu or Badaling are more suitable, which are ideal for children and seniors. Intermediate difficulty routes are those of Simatai and Jinshanling (10 km), while Jiankou is for more trained people.
All sections of the Great Wall are interesting, that is, there is no one better than the other. Regarding how to get to the Great Wall of China, you can go by bus or subway in about 2 hours, or hire a tour, which will be more practical and comfortable at this time of the year.
9. Take a leisurely tour of the Forbidden City
Also known as the Imperial City, it is one of the must-see sites in Beijing, so it is usually very crowded almost all year round. However, in winter, when there are fewer tourists, you can take a leisurely stroll, without missing any details.
The Forbidden City is a palace complex consisting of about 114 palaces and buildings, from where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties ruled from the fifteenth to the twentieth century. Inside, in addition to the unique architecture of the palaces, you will see sculptures, reliefs, gardens, jewelry, paintings and ceramics that will leave you in awe.
In this complex, as in Tiananmen Square or in the temples and palaces, everything has a symbolic meaning, or is related to Feng Shui, which in a quick visit surely escapes you. That's why winter is one of the best times to visit Beijing and learn in detail the secrets of these sites.
The site covers about 72 hectares, so it will take you several hours to walk around it. Inside there are places to eat and buy drinks, although their prices may seem a little higher than outside the complex. Remember to bring your passport and book your entrance to the Forbidden City in advance.
What to see in the Forbidden City
Here are some of the must-see sights of this historic complex, but there are many more to see:
- The moat with frozen water surrounding the City.
- The Tiananmen Gate, where the People's Republic of China was proclaimed.
- The carved marble staircase, on which reliefs of dragons and other mythological motifs have been carved.
- The Imperial Yuhuyuan Garden, which covers about 7000 m2 with artificial hills, terraces, halls, temples and flowers.
- The Hall of Supreme Harmony, the most important of the Forbidden City, where important events such as the proclamation of the emperors or the New Year were held.
- The Treasure Gallery: there you can see jewels, crowns and other precious objects of the emperors.
- The Nine Dragons Wall, which is about 30 meters long.
Please note that these last two sites are not included in the general admission, but you must pay an extra cost. It is best to bring a map with you, or you can listen to the audio guide that you can buy at the entrance, leaving a deposit for the use of the sound player. Another possibility is to take a guided tour with an expert to get to know this site in depth.
- Address: 4 Jingshan Front St, Dongcheng, Beijing.
- Hours: daily from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm. Closed on Mondays.
- Admission fee: about 6€ from November to March. You can book your ticket on the website of the Forbidden City.
- Recommendations: carry your passport to be able to enter. Check if it is open before going on the website of the Forbidden City.
10. Visit the main temples and palaces of Beijing without queuing up
Beijing is a city famous for its temples and palaces full of symbolism, which are undoubtedly among the best options to enjoy in winter, when you will find more locals than tourists and you can visit them at your leisure.
Among the best temples in Beijing are the Temple of Heaven, the Temple of the Lamas (or Palace of Supreme Harmony) and the Temple of Confucius.
Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is one of the most important temples in China, which was a place of prayer for the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is located just 5 km from the center of Beijing.
The temple is inside a park of about 273 hectares, so it will take you some time to walk around it. Inside you can't miss the Circular Altar, the Hall of Harvest Prayer, the Emperor's Vault and the Fasting Palace, among others.
- Location: 4 Jingshan Front St, Dongcheng, Beijing, China.
- Hours: daily from 6:30 am to 10:00 pm from November to March. Attractions such as the Prayer Hall and the Echo Wall open at 8 am and close at 5 pm. Mondays are closed.
- Admission fee: general admission per person is around 2€ from November to March). The entrance to the attractions is around 1-2€ each attraction.
- Recommendations: carry your passport to enter.
Temple of the Lama or Yonghe Temple
The Lama Temple is one of the most famous Tibetan Buddhist temples outside Tibet, where you can see monks in robes and people lighting incense and praying, as it is an active Buddhist monastery. Inside is the world's largest Buddha statue, 18 meters high.
Very close to this temple is an area of hutongs, traditional Chinese neighborhoods, where you can see how the locals live and browse some stores.
- Location: 4 Jingshan Front St, Dongcheng, Beijing, China.
- Hours: daily from 9 am to 4 pm from November to March. Closed on Mondays.
- Admission fee: general admission per person is about €2 from November to March.
- Recommendations: carry your passport to enter.