Are you tightening the purse strings this month? Maybe you just got back from a splashy family vacation, or maybe you’re putting away those maos for the impending school year. We totally get it – we’re poor writers, after all. Inspired by an article we saw about five free things to do in Beijing, we’ve come up with 10 more gratis ideas for family fun.
1. China National Film Museum
Located near 798 Art District, China National Film Museum is a must-visit for film buffs of all ages. Take a celluloid trip through time and learn about the invention of film, the birth of Chinese cinema, animated films, children’s films, and more. Facilities include an Imax theater, 35mm theater, and digital projection theater.
2. Chinese Aviation Museum
This one’s more of a day trip (the museum is located 40km outside of Beijing), but it contains a treasure trove of military and aerospace displays. Admission to the museum itself costs RMB 50, but the outside displays are free of charge. Click here to visit the official website (Chinese-only).
The passionate, pink-shorted instructors from Heyrobics are all about spreading the joy of jympa, the Swedish import that combines cardio exercise and aerobics. They teach in locations all over Beijing, including the CBD, Shunyi, Sanlitun, and Chaoyang Park. Heyrobics often offers free classes depending on venue and event type; otherwise, they cost RMB 20/30.
The area around Qianmen Dajie in central Beijing is replete with history. Visit traditional shops and restaurants (some dating back to the nineteenth century), ride the Qianmen tram (RMB 20 per person), or browse the Cathay Bookshop.
5. Panjiayuan Market
Who says you have to spend money at Panjiayuan to have fun? Many visitors are content with window shopping and taking pictures at this eclectic 48,500sqm market. More than 3,000 stalls hawk antique reproductions, used books, Mao memorabilia, hanging scrolls, and more.
6. Museum of Ethnic Costumes
Is there an aspiring fashion designer in your family? Spoil them with a trip to the Museum of Ethnic Costumes at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology. This little-known museum covers 2,000sqm and presents the history behind traditional ethnic clothing, both traditional and contemporary.
7. National Museum of China
The National Museum of China (not to be confused with the National Art Museum of China) is bigger and better than ever after undergoing a facelift one year ago. Currently, there’s an excellent exhibition on Renaissance art in Florence called “Masterpieces and Protagonists.” Admission is free, but you have to show proper ID (passport or shenfenzheng) to obtain a ticket. Click here for more information.
It doesn’t cost anything to wander around Shichahai, the area that encompasses Houhai, Xihai, and Beihai. Apart from all the bars and cafes, there are also historic sights like the lavish Prince Gong’s Mansion (RMB 20 admission) and Prince Chun’s Mansion (click here for an informative and well-researched report on its history).
9. Si’de Park
We can never recommend Si’de Park enough. Featuring free admission, a children’s amusement park, and grass that you’re actually allowed to sit on, this cute little park is a favorite with Lido families and sports enthusiasts.
Yes, this pedestrian shopping street has a reputation for crass commercialism. Yes, it’s super crowded. Yes, there are creepy crawlies for eats on Wangfujing Snack Street. But have you ever stopped to appreciate St. Joseph’s Church (also known as Wangfujing Cathedral)? In addition to enjoying free entry, families can “ooh” and “aah” over St. Joseph’s nightly light show while relaxing in the square.
Got more ideas for free attractions? Let us know in the comments.
Photos: kennymatic, Philip Jagenstedt, Sam Ose/Olai Skjaervoy, Heyrobics, Nature Zhang, tsc_traveler, jadis 1958, Dan Kamminga, Fang Chen, Sijia Chen, and R924