2008 Beijing Games: Travel Tips for the Beijing Olympics

August 17, 2008 by

Asia, Places to Go, Suggested Itineraries, Travel Advice & Inspiration

Editor’s Note: If you’re visiting China as the 2008 Beijing Olympics come to a close, check out Viator’s mini-guide for travelers. We’ve also covered suggested itineraries in Beijing as part of our Beijing tours & things to do in Beijing listings.

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Visiting Beijing for the 2008 Olympic games? Then read on...

Since 2004, a giant digital clock in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square has been counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games, which kicked off on August 8. It’s a momentous time for Beijing, as the Olympics are in full swing and the media spotlight is shining brightly on China for the next week.

More than 1 million people are expected to visit Beijing for the Olympics. We’ll assume you have already sorted your Olympic tickets (if not, click here for information on obtaining tickets to events at the Beijing games). So now we can focus on the fun stuff.

Your first stop? Check out Viator’s day-by-day itineraries in Beijing over on the main Viator.com website. We’ve put together this guide to help you plan your Beijing travels, with several itineraries to accommodate those with only a day to spend, to those with several.

Next, have a look at the suggestions below for making the most of a trip to Beijing during the 2008 Olympics. If you have more time in Beijing, or if you’re looking for activities that only fill a few hours, the city is full of interesting walks and bicycle rides, shopping centers, art galleries and museums, and entertainment. Here are some of the highlights.

Top Things to Do in Beijing

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Standing guard in Beijing's Tiananmen Square

  • Rent a Bicycle. Though Beijing was famed in the past for the numbers of bicyclists clogging the streets, cars are more prevalent these days. Even so, there are plenty of cyclists riding along in special bicycle lanes with their own traffic signals and traffic directors, which make biking in the city relatively safe. Rides through hutong neighborhoods and around the Forbidden City are pleasant, and bicycle rentals are cheap and easy to find.
  • Peking Duck Banquet & Chinese Acrobatic Show. Enjoy world-famous Peking Duck, an absolute must-do experience in Beijing, followed up with exotic entertainment by a Chinese acrobat troupe. The whole evening lasts about 4 hours and includes complimentary hotel pick-up and drop-off.
  • Get a Drink. Head over to Sanlitun, the embassy district, which is a popular expat area with small international bars and cafes tucked in the avenues and side streets. Or check out the up and coming (and somewhat tamer) Houhai Lake for bars, pubs, cafes, and restaurants.
  • Go Shopping. Once the commercial heart of the city in the Qing Dynasty, Qianmen Street (just south of Tiananmen Square) has been redeveloped as a shopping area inspired by the past, with renovated shops, an opera house, and a tree-lined marble thoroughfare for pedestrians. Nearby, the glass-faced Oriental Plaza stretches from Wangfujing Street to Dong Dan, an upscale shopping center, the plaza is two stories of clothing stores and several museums. The six-story Shin Kong Plaza in the Central Business District is home to more than 100 stores for designer brands like Prada and Gucci, and restaurants that span the gamut from classic French to traditional Beijing cuisine. Also in the Central Business District, a ritzy new mall called The Place, located near the Silk Market, is best known for its main attraction: a giant, 98-foot-wide LED screen ‘video roof’ that projects everything from swimming sharks and flying birds to intergalactic light shows.
  • Visit a Gallery or Museum. Check out the Dashanzi Art District, a neighborhood of industrial buildings previously used for military and factory purposes that have been converted by artists into galleries, boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants. For antiquities, the Wanshou Temple is home to the Beijing Art Museum, with collections of paintings, carvings, pottery, and handicrafts, and The Capital Museum houses artifacts such as ancient coins, stoneware, calligraphy and paintings. The Beijing Natural History Museum, near the Temple of Heaven, offers an interesting mix of zoological displays and human cadavers. The National Museum, on Tiananmen Square, has a timeline history of the communist party mixed with an incongruent collection of art exhibits on the first floor and a kitschy wax museum on the second, with a better view of Chairman Mao than the nearby mausoleum.
  • Tour the ‘New’ Beijing Architecture. See for yourself what all the fuss is about by visiting the controversial new buildings in Beijing’s landscape, designed by some of the modern world’s greatest architects. The National Grand Theater, called The Egg, is a futuristic looking opera house of steel and glass surrounded by an artificial lake located west of Tiananmen Square. On the Olympic Green, get a look at the shiny metal National Stadium, called the Bird Nest, and the glass bubbled National Aquatics Center, also known as the Water Cube. Don’t miss the CCTV Headquarters, a skyscraper with an unusual trapezoidal ‘loop’ shape for China Central Television in the Central Business District.
  • Go Dancing. Check out China Doll in Sanlitun, a dance club with an underwater atmosphere spread over three floors, or Club Mix located at the Worker’s Stadium North Gate, recently expanded and packed every night, Mix has several dance floors playing different styles of music. StarLive, in Yonghegong, is the best place to catch live music and foreign acts passing through town.

Cheryn Flanagan

Planning a trip? Browse Viator’s complete list of China tours, Beijing tours & attractions and tours of the Great Wall. You can even prebook a private Beijing airport transfer (PEK). If you need a place to stay, check out Beijing Hotels on Planetware.com.

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6 Responses to “2008 Beijing Games: Travel Tips for the Beijing Olympics”

  1. Tyler Says:

    I’m not affiliated with this group, but have found them very helpful for reserving lodging during the Olympics. They have other services too.


  2. Kenn Says:

    What about the Great Wall ? Been there twice to admire the significance and beauty of man made marvels. But I couldn’t understand how on two occasions I kept seeing women with high heels trying to climb the steps …

  3. Jeff Says:

    Phone calls from Beijing can be very expensive when roaming on mobile phones. I have AT&T in the US and paid $2.25 per minute last time I was in Beijing.

    Here’s a special GSM SIM card for international travelers in Beijing for the Olympics which saves a lot of money. http://www.gotobeijingchina.com has Olympic SIM cards that have cheap international calling from Beijing and include unlimited photo and video uploads from phones to CBS iMobile Olympics.

    Hope this is helpful for travelers wanting to save money on calls and capture Olympic events to share with the world.

  4. Olly S Says:

    If you are in Beijing over the Olympics, but don’t have tickets for the events, Room 101 is showing all events on their big screen. Room 101 is a 24hr pub and live music venue located 15min south of Olympic green. View their blog here: http://www.room101.cn

  5. agriya Says:

    china did great work for the Olympic, I saw the opening ceremony in TV channel, that was amazing and also I heard some bad news through news channels that is lots of peoples are through out from there home for the Olympic. And off-course till now china got the No. 1 in the medal list .

  6. Fatin Says:

    Another two things you can’t miss in China is visiting a Beijing Hutong and taking maglev train in Shanghai. The Great Wall is worth to go too, personally i recommend the Great Wall Simatai part, very impressive, remember to bring the right shoes!