See Beijing for Pocket Change
In such a large city as Beijing, China, you might think everything would cost an arm and a leg. However, if you know where to go, you can spend a marvelous day seeing the sights without spending more than pocket change. Many things are free or cheaper if you visit offseason.
At dawn each day, retired Beijing inhabitants migrate to major parks to practice their arts. Sundays are the most popular day for this. Find masters of their craft practicing calligraphy, singing, and even performing operas, some of which you can join in. Many times the sheet music is provided.
Some parks such as Zhongshan Gongyuan, located southwest of the Forbidden City, and Yingshan Gongyuan, in Chang’an West, require a small entry fee, from 3 to 10 yuan for adults and half that for children, while smaller parks are entirely free. Enjoy the cultural sights and energy of Beijing.
Walk among the cherry blossoms with gentle winds invigorating you for the day ahead. Play an assortment of games. Or practice martial arts and perform variations of yoga in a serene, communal atmosphere.
Tiananmen Square is a symbol of pride. It represents the new People’s Republic of China and is a very popular attraction. Better yet, it’s entirely free to visit. Other destinations in and around the square require a small entry fee, such as 15 yuan to visit the Tiananmen Tower. See the Monument to the People’s Heroes, Great Hall of the People, and Mao Zedong Memorial Hall while you are here.
The Forbidden City, or Gu Gong in Chinese, was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and is another great attraction. However, it has a standard fee of 60 yuan in the peak season and 40 yuan out of season as of 2013. While conveniently located in central Beijing, it is something you would want to be prepared to spend a bit more to see than just pocket change.
Once you have finished strolling through the historic grounds of Tiananmen Square, and possibly the Forbidden City, stop by the nearby Qianmen Main Street Mall for a relaxing break, some great local foods at a pittance, and shopping.
This market has seen many years of cultural change, and monuments to the dynasties still stand, making the market a timeline and museum in itself. This is a great place to relax, eat, and peruse the historic architecture, buildings, archways, and statues.
For those interested in a great evening excursion, Beijing National Stadium is in the Olympic Green Village, Chaoyang District, and can often be visited for free in the offseason, but costs around 50 yuan on a normal day.
See the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube in addition to many other wonderful sights from the 2008 Olympics and Ai Weiwei’s visionary masterpiece. At night, take a refreshing and romantic stroll around the lake outside the Bird’s Nest. Reports from tourists are that the lights and views are mesmerizing.