Besides all the typical sights such as visiting the Great Wall, its innumerable temples and experiencing some of its world-class museums, Beijing has some more unusual things to do from quirky museums and alternative spa therapies to less well known or hidden attractions. Here are a few.
This unique museum is a little way out of the city, but close enough to the lovely Botanical Gardens that it’s worth visiting at the same time especially to see something a bit more unusual. This museum gives a comprehensive overview of how bees interact with their environment and the impact they have on our way of life and on Chinese culture in particular. Special attention is given to explaining the secrets of various kinds of bee’s dance and at the end of your visit, you’ll also get the chance to sample different kinds of honey.
If you’re suffering from some unpleasant aches and pains, you might like to try cupping therapy while in Beijing. A popular form of therapy in China and beyond, it involves creating a vacuum inside a glass cup using fire and placing it against the skin, causing the skin to bubble beneath and is usually preceded by an oil massage. While it can sound scary, it has been used for thousands of years with positive results for all kinds of ailments including general joint pain, arthritis, migraines and even anxiety. There are many places around the city offering the therapy, but one highly recommended place is the Oriental Taipan Spa in Chaoyang.
Shopping at Miniso
This cut-price knock-off of Muji sells all kinds of household items that walk the line between necessary and totally useless. Now, this might not sound so terribly exciting, but even if you’re not a shopper, a visit to Miniso gives you an insight into the fascinating world of Chinese imitation manufacturing, which is a huge business central to the lives of many modern Beijingers. At Miniso, you can find Hello Kitty themed anything, Apple-like device chargers, imitation Bose headphones and even perfumes.
To learn everything there is (and possibly more than you ever wanted) to know about watermelons, a trip to the Watermelon Museum to the south of Beijing, at the end of Subway Line 4, is a must. This modern museum features not only wax models of all the many different varieties of watermelon but also has an area outside with several growing. It explains the history of watermelon production both in the local area (which is one of the biggest producers of the fruit in China) and around the world, highlighting its origins in Southern Africa.
Why not avoid the inconvenience of actually travelling to many of the world’s most famous landmarks and just visit them all at once in an easily accessible area in Beijing’s World Park? Covering an area of almost 50 hectares, the park mimics the layout of the Earth’s continents and allows visitors to travel between them by speedboat, electric car or monorail. Here, you can see miniaturised versions of such well-known sights as Big Ben, the Pyramids of Giza, the Eiffel Tower and even local attractions such as the Great Wall of China.
This underground city below the residential streets of Chongwenmen in central Beijing was dug out by hand during the 1970s, intended as a shelter from Soviet bombs. It was never used for its original purpose, but has become one of the more unusual and less visited tourist attractions of the city. Complete with a cinema, skating rink and even schools, only part of this series of tunnels that together cover an area of 33 square miles is now open to visitors, but what can be seen offers a fascinating look into Cold War era China.