After Hong Kong, I continued my trip with Cathay Pacific to Beijing. And after my photography series for Hong Kong, I really wanted to shoot a series for Beijing as well. While Hong Kong‘s top photography spots consist mostly of the stunning architectural high rises, Beijing top photography spots are slightly more cultural, with lots of older buildings, temples and palaces. I love how the old architecture is preserved in a lot of areas in Beijing. So I focused primarily on that. And then, of course, I had to go to the Great Wall!
Here’s my top photography spots in Beijing!
1. Temple of Heaven
First up is the Temple of Heaven – a large park in Beijing with an imperial complex of religious buildings. Emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasty used to visit the temple to pray for good harvest. The Temple of Heaven is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making this a crowded tourist spot! For a ‘clean’ photo with as little tourists around you as possible, visit the park at your earliest convenience. The park opens at 8am.
2. Forbidden City
An iconic site you cannot miss in Beijing is of course the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was the imperial Chinese palace from the Ming dynasty to the Qing dynasty. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the imperial complex now is a museum. With its red walls and yellow roof tiles, the palatial architecture was an influence of cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. I didn’t visit the site at a good time. At 2pm, this place is swarmed by tourists. We went back to the palace on a Monday, when it was closed and walked around the palatial garden and out of the inner courts. Walk by the water to capture the towers and its reflections in the water! Another tip is to take a photo of the Forbidden City from Jingshan Park.
3. Drum & Bell Tower
This shot was actually pure luck. I was at restaurant Capital M, when suddenly I see the view. It turned out to be the Drum & Bell Tower. Sometimes you look for the best photography spots and sometimes you find it by accident!
4. The Great Wall
The fourth spot took me out of Beijing actually – to the Great Wall. It’s a two hour ride, depending on where you want to start your walk. The most popular starting point is Badaling – but unless you go really early (at which time – I’m told – you’re not going to get a good photography spot anyway) or you’re traveling to Beijing off season, you’re not going to get the photos you want. I decided to go to the Mutianyu point – this is also a crowded spot but far less crowded than Badaling. Walk up the wall or take the cable car (takes you up in minutes) and start your Great Wall walk. The only thing was, it was 35 degrees when we were there. And when you’re walking under a scorching hot sun, the last thing you’re going to think about is how to take the best photos! I did manage to shoot some decent shots though. Keep your iso low to not overexpose and shoot away!
The last photography spot I’m saving for hutongs. If you don’t know what a hutong is, look it up. You’ve probably seen it in films anyway. Hutongs are narrow alleyways formed by groups of old courtyard residences (siheyuan). A lot of hutongs were demolished in the nineties and mid-20th century to make way for new residential buildings. But you can still find a lot of hutongs in Beijing. To me, it’s interesting to see how people used to live in these small courtyard houses and how there are still people living in them today! I even heard they’re constructing new hutongs or renovating old hutongs for expats and hipsters who want to live in a refurbished hutong. I love walking around in hutongs to take photos. It’s like going back to the past. You can definitely snap some good photos here!