Top Winter Activities in Beijing Last updated on 2019-10-24
While Beijing may not be everyone’s ideal winter getaway due to its cold, windy weather, if your travels happen to be taking you to the Chinese capital during this time of year, there’s no need to worry! Beijing has loads of winter activities that are fun for everyone, and because it’s low season, you can expect far smaller crowds than usual and cheaper ticket prices at all the big tourist sites. So, with a little bundling up and creativity, you can have a fabulous and memorable winter adventure in Beijing.
Hit the Slopes
In preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics, Beijing has vamped up its nearby ski facilities big time, and there is certainly no shortage of amazing and modern resorts in the mountains surrounding the city that are fit for pros and beginners alike.
One of our favorite ski resorts in the area is Beijing Huaibei International Ski Resort. This large and state-of-the-art resort features a 3km-plus ski trail, as well as Beijing’s tallest cable car, which takes you up to a height of 1,200m. There are ski runs of multiple levels, from beginning to advanced, so this resort is a good destination for both experts and those who are just starting out. Not only that, this resort is located right next to the Great Wall, offering stunning views in addition to loads of winter fun. It’s not everyday that you get to ski in the shadow of one of the world’s greatest wonders!
For those who want to experience the latest in China’s ski sector (and who are willing to venture a bit farther out of town), we recommend heading to Chongli, future site of most of the 2022 Olympics’ snow sports. Chongli is chock-full of various top-quality ski havens, from the glitzy Fulong Four Seasons Town to the sprawling, 32-trail Wanlong resort, where you can ski or snowboard like an Olympian.
With so many options, it’s difficult to go wrong! Hitting the slopes at one of the many nearby ski towns is one of the best ways to make the most of a Beijing winter.
Go Ice Skating
No cold-weather activity is more charming and romantic than ice skating, and Beijing is full of opportunities to partake in this quintessential winter pastime.
Located in the heart of Beijing and surrounded by the city’s historic hutong neighborhood, Houhai Lake is a particularly nice spot to do a little skating. However, the options don’t stop with traditional ice skates. At Houhai Lake, you can try your hand at anything from electric bumper cars to ice bikes (bicycles fixed onto toboggan rails instead of wheels), and more, all while enjoying the historic atmosphere of the surrounding area. Chair-skating is a particular favorite of the locals.
The Summer Palace’s Kunming Lake is home to the largest ice skating rink in Beijing and is another charming spot for a winter skate. You’ll love cruising around this beautiful lake, surrounded by peaceful gardens and extraordinary imperial palaces and temples.
Visit the Great Wall
While spending time outdoors might be the last thing on your mind when cold weather strikes, winter can be a particularly nice time to pay a visit to China’s best-known claim to fame, the Great Wall.
Many sections of the Great Wall close to Beijing are infamous for their large crowds, but these same sections are virtually empty during the winter (except during the week of Chinese New Year, which you should avoid). If you’d like to see the Great Wall without the hordes of people it’s reputed for, and maybe even catch the unforgettable sight of the Wall and the surrounding hills dusted with snow, a winter visit could be a great option. Our favorite sections of the Great Wall near Beijing are Mutianyu and Jinshanling, due to their stunning scenery, although the more nearby Badaling is likely to be less crowded than usual, making this a solid choice as well.
If you do visit the Great Wall during the winter, be sure to dress warmly, as it can be very cold and windy in the mountains. If you’re lucky enough to visit the Wall on a snowy day, remember to wear sturdy shoes with tread, as there are steep, uneven steps that can get slippery.
Eat Hot Pot
A cold-weather favorite all over China, a simmering pot of delicious hot pot can do wonders to lift your spirits and warm you up on a blustery winter day in Beijing. Said to originate in the southern province of Sichuan, hot pot consists of a large pot of (usually spicy) broth to which you can add any number of customizable ingredients, including meat, vegetables, noodles, tofu, and more. In addition to warming you up, hot pot is a fun and interactive meal, as you get to watch your chosen ingredients cook before your eyes. For those who aren’t so keen on spice, most hot pot restaurants offer the option of a divided pot with plain broth on one side and spicy broth on the other.
Celebrate Spring Festival
The week surrounding Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is one of the most festive times to be in Beijing. During this holiday, most locals travel and spend time with family, and it’s common for smaller restaurants and shops to be closed. That said, if you happen to be in Beijing around Chinese New Year, it’s the perfect opportunity to learn more about local culture by attending any one of a number of temple fairs.
Beijing is home to a large number of temples, many of them centuries old, and almost all of them host a temple fair around Chinese New Year, some of which last for weeks. In addition to festive decorations like rows of red lanterns, typical activities at a traditional temple fair include musical or dance performances and reenactments of ancient rituals. There are usually lots of vendors with tasty snacks and New Year-themed trinkets as well.
Some of our favorites in Beijing include the Summer Palace Temple Fair, where you can enjoy a traditional dragon dance and drum performance, and the Ditan Park Temple Fair, which holds a number of traditional Tibetan performances and a reenactment of an ancient sacrificial ritual.
Longqing Gorge Ice Festival
One of China’s most famous winter attractions is the Harbin Ice Festival, which brings in visitors from all over the world due to its intricate and massive ice sculptures. The smaller and lesser-known cousin of the Harbin Ice Festival happens to take place just outside of Beijing, in the scenic Longqing Gorge. Lasting from early January through February, the Longqing Gorge Ice Festival features hundreds of ice carvings and sculptures that follow a different theme every year. While smaller in scale than its counterpart in Harbin, the Longqing Gorge Ice Festival is still very impressive and is definitely worth checking out during your winter stay in Beijing. Longqing Gorge is close to Badaling Great Wall and Badaling Ski Resort, so you can easily stop by after a day on the slopes. The ice sculptures are illuminated with colorful lights at night, so an evening visit is best. ■
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