East of central Beijing, in a corridor between the Second and Third Ring Roads, is the district of Chaoyang. It’s not an area that is particularly old and it doesn’t have very many significant monuments, but it is home to two main clusters of international embassies, and it is where a large proportion of the city’s foreign expatriate community chooses to live. As a result, Chaoyang is the city’s entertainment and nightlife center, and, for the visitor, it is the prime area for eating and shopping.

Altared city

Ri Tan Park’s Altar of the Sun is one of eight such cosmologically aligned structures, along with the Altar of Heaven (Tian Tan), the Altar of Agriculture (Xiannong Tan; now part of the Ancient Architecture Museum), the Altar of the Moon in the west of the city, the Altar of the Earth ), the Altar of the Country in Zhong Shan Park, the Altar of the Silkworm in Bei Hai Park, and the lost Altar of the Gods of Heaven.

Top 10 Sights

  1. Ancient Observatory

    Dating to 1442, Beijing’s observatory is one of the oldest in the world. In fact, there was an even earlier Yuan-dynasty (1279–1368) observatory also located on this site but no trace of that remains. Today, a collection of reproduction astronomical devices lies in the courtyard, some decorated with fantastic Chinese designs. There are more impressive instruments on the roof.

    Ancient Observatory
    • 6524 2202

    • Subway: Jianguo Men

    • Open 9am–4pm daily

    • ¥10

  2. Southeast Corner Watchtower

    A short distance south of the Second Ring Road an imposing chunk of the old Beijing city wall survives, including an imposing 15th-century watch-tower. Visitors can climb onto the battlements and walk along a short stretch of wall. The tower is also home to the commercial Red Gate Gallery.

    Southeast Corner Watchtower
    • South of Jianguo Men Nei Dajie

    • 6527 0574

    • Subway: Jianguo Men

    • Open 8am–5:30pm daily

    • ¥10

  3. Ri Tan Park

    One of the city’s oldest parks, Ri Tan was laid out around a sacrificial altar back in the 16th century. The round altar remains, ringed by a circular wall, but this is very much a living park, filled daily with people walking and exercising. Being at the heart of the embassy district, the park is well tended and surrounded by lots of good restaurants and cafés.

    Ri Tan Park
    • Guanghua Lu

    • 8561 4261

    • Subway: Jianguo Men

    • Open 6:30am–9:30pm daily

  4. Central Business District (CBD)

    The Central Business District is Beijing’s business hub, housing more than 60 percent of the city’s foreign-funded companies. Marked by the CCTV Tower in the northwest and by the Twin Towers of the China World Trade Center in the southeast, the area is also home to about half of the city’s luxury hotels and two of its glitziest shopping malls, China World and Shin Kong Plaza .

    • Subway: Guomao or Dawanglu

  5. Dong Yue Miao

    This colorful and active temple, dating to the early 14th century, was restored in 1999 and is tended by Daoist monks. The main courtyard leads into the Hall of Tai Shan with statues of gods and their attendants. Tai Shan is another name for Dong Yue, in Daoist lore the Eastern peak to which the spirits of the dead travel.

    Dong Yue Miao
    • 141 Chaoyang Men Wai Dajie

    • 6551 0151

    • Subway: Chaoyang Men

    • Open 8:30am–4:30pm Tue–Sun

    • ¥10

  6. Blue Zoo Beijing

    Not a zoo at all, but an excellent modern aquarium, reckoned to be the best of its kind in Asia. The main attraction is a central tank holding literally thousands of fish, plus there are also 18 additional tanks with specifically themed displays .

    • South gate of Workers’ Stadium

    • 6591 3397 ext. 1560

    • Subway: Chaoyang Men

    • Open 8:30am–7:30pm daily

    • ¥75; children ¥50; under 3 ft (1 m) free


  7. Workers’ Stadium

    With an estimated capacity of 72,000, the stadium is home to Beijing’s premier football club, Hyundai Guo’an, and it is the city’s main venue for large-scale rock and pop concerts. Perplexingly, it’s also a hub of Beijing nightlife, with numerous clubs and bars clustered around its north and west gates, and some very good restaurants too (see Restaurants). Even oldies get in on the act, with mass open-air dancing taking place on the forecourt of the north gate most summer evenings.

    Crowds at the Workers’ Stadium

    Entrance gate at the Workers’ Stadium
    • Gongren Tiyuchang Bei Lu

    • 6501 6655

    • Subway: Dong Si Shi Tiao

  8. Sanlitun

    Beijing’s main expat-friendly boozing district, Sanlitun is famed for its “Bar Street”, more properly known as Sanlitun Bei Lu. It also has a high concentration of international restaurants (see Restaurants) and lots of boutique shopping (see Shops, Markets, and Malls). Streets around here, although modern, are at least tree-lined and, with plenty of cafés for refreshment stops, it’s a pleasant district in which to wander.

    Sanlitun bar
    • Subway: Tuanjiehu

  9. Ghost Street

    Gui Jie, or Ghost Street, is a mile-and-a-quarter (2-km) stretch of Dong Zhi Men Nei Dajie that come nightfall is jammed with cars double-parked outside its one hundred or so restaurants, many of which open 24 hours. The roadside is festively lit with strings of red lanterns bobbing in the breeze, while most establishments favor corny, old-China décor with lots of red lacquer and pagoda motifs, and waitresses in silk tunics. This is the home of hotpot, although all regional Chinese cuisines are represented here.

    • Subway: Beixingqiao

  10. Lufthansa Center

    This glossy mall-style development caters for aspirational Beijingers with a department store full of imported luxury goods, a basement Continental deli, and a BMW showroom. More down to earth, just west on the south bank of the river is the Liang Ma Flower Market, which is a riot of color and fragrances.

    • 50 Liang Ma Qiao Lu

    • 6465 1188

    • Subway: Liangmaqiao

    • Open 9am–10pm daily

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