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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 04 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Thomas O’Malley

The Temple of Heaven is unlike any other temple in China. In fact, it’s not really a temple at all but a richly symbolic event space of sorts, where the emperor, accompanied by a grand entourage, would perform arcane rites twice a year to pray for heaven’s blessing.

Ceremonies took place upon the open-air Round Altar, next to the Imperial Vault of Heaven where the spirit tablets of the gods were kept. A 360m-long paved walkway connects to the splendid centrepiece, the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.

Surrounded by sculpted parkland, the layout of the complex was designed to reflect Chinese cosmology and symbolise the relationship between heaven and earth.

Don’t miss

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is an icon of Beijing, with its blue-tiled roof supported by enormous wooden pillars. It was first constructed in 1420; the present edition dates to 1890, rebuilt after a lightning strike.

Surrounding the site, groves of cypress trees draw locals who come to exercise, play musical instruments, and perform tai chi and other martial arts.

While you’re there

A popular exercise spot for locals, the Temple of Heaven has what amounts to an outdoor municipal gym in the northeast of the complex, where you’ll see sprightly pensioners working out, and even spinning on gymnastics bars.

Just outside the Temple of Heaven’s east gate is the Pearl Market, a mall-like shopping mecca set up for souvenirs, silk scarfs and cultured pearls, and boasting a great little food court on the lower level.

Price from: £2
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Beijing’s subway is the easiest way to get to the Temple of Heaven, with stations at both the east and west gates. Most visitors enter at the east gate via Tiantan Dongmen station (Line 5).

The functions of the Temple of Heaven were unusual and merit considerable explanation, so having a knowledgeable tour guide would be worthwhile. An audio guide is available at the main entrance – you’ll need 50 yuan in cash for the deposit.

When to do it

The complex is open all year round, seven days a week.

Try to visit as early as possible to avoid the crowds. The surrounding park actually opens at 6am, two hours before the main site itself, and is a great time to see the locals in their element.

Weekend afternoons and public holidays see tour group hordes descend on one of China’s most revered historic sites. Avoid if at all possible.

Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

New World Beijing Hotel

Beijing, China[1.8 miles]

New World Beijing is one of the city’s best value five-star hotels, with a unique location close to the Temple of Heaven. The indoor pool and rooftop lounge bar seal the deal.

Official star rating:

The PuXuan Hotel & Spa

Beijing, China[2.4 miles]

One of Beijing’s most stylish hotels, The Puxuan suits discerning grown-ups seeking a designer splurge. Convenient access to the sights, either by subway or on foot. Excellent restaurants and spa.

Official star rating:

Mandarin Oriental Wangfujing

Beijing, China[3.3 miles]

Palatial guest rooms and Forbidden City views make this Beijing’s best hotel for a special occasion splurge. Its Wangfujing location puts the city’s central sights within walking distance.

Official star rating:

Peninsula Beijing

Beijing, China[3.6 miles]

Enjoying a central location and huge, all-suite rooms, the long-established Peninsula is a safe bet for a holiday splurge.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience



A burgeoning megacity with one foot in the past, Beijing is a marvellous melange of UNESCO-listed heritage buildings set within an ever-more tech-forward cityscape. Come for the culture, the people, and of course the food.

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Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Tiananmen Square

Beijing, China[2.7 miles]

Overlooked by a giant portrait of Mao Zedong, this vast and politically-sensitive public space sits at the very heart of modern China, both literally and symbolically.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Forbidden City

Beijing, China[4.2 miles]

A magnificent and unique 15th-century complex of imperial palaces that served as the home of Chinese emperors for 500 years. Beijing’s must-see attraction.

Best for ages: 13+ | £6

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Jingshan Park

Beijing, China[4.8 miles]

Beijing’s best park is also one of its only central hills, offering inspiring views of the Forbidden City. It’s also where elderly locals come to sing, dance and let off steam.

Best for ages: 13+ | £3

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Beihai Park

Beijing, China[5.2 miles]

Once the preserve of emperors, the sculpted surrounds of Beihai Park are dotted with fascinating temples, halls and pavilions, and crowned by the magnificent White Dagoba, towering over the central boating lake.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Other worthwhile experiences near this experience if you have time or interest..

Inside the shop of Beijing Postcards, for hutan tours

Beijing Postcards

Beijing, China[2.2 miles]

The city’s best historical walking tours, covering everything from concubines to Communism. As well as a tour company, Beijing Postcards has a hutong shop selling old city maps, quirky souvenirs and framed black and white prints of early 20th century Beijing.

Best for ages: 13+ | £40 | 2-3 hours

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Laoshe Teahouse founded in 1988, located in Qianmen street, decorated in traditional Chinese style, it's the first modern teahouse after the reform and opening up of China

Lao She Teahouse

Beijing, China[2.4 miles]

Close to the sights orbiting Tiananmen Square, this longstanding venue is more theatre than teahouse, putting on a nightly highlights reel of Peking opera, acrobatics, magic shows and traditional Chinese music. Take a table and order snacks and tea while you watch.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Monument in front of Mao's Mausoleum on Tiananmen Square, China . Mao's body was embalmed and the construction of a mausoleum began shortly after his death.

Chairman Mao Memorial Hall

Beijing, China[2.5 miles]

Visitors line up in droves to shuffle past Mao’s embalmed corpse, on display in a mausoleum in the middle of Tiananmen Square. Guards keep the crowds moving through to the gift shop full of Mao-themed souvenirs.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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The National Museum of China on the east side of Tiananmen Square, one of the largest museum in the world

National Museum of China

Beijing, China[2.6 miles]

The National Museum of China contains a humongous cache of bronzes, ceramics, Buddhist art and jade dating back through the dynasties. The bombastic ‘Road to Rejuvenation’ exhibition traces China’s rise from the 1840-42 Opium War with Britain to the country’s 21st century space programme.

Best for ages: 13+ | £5

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Round-ups that include this experience

101 World’s greatest historic buildings

Multiple countries

The great civilisations of the past have left a legacy of constructions that still stand out and inspire. Built without the wonders of 20th-century technology, many are also monumental feats of engineering; others offer such grace and beauty, that they’ll literally take your breath away.

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