Spend a day in a museum this winter! Museums aren’t just for learning; you spend your time playing, eating and having fun while avoiding the winter cold!
Beijing Capital Museum
As soon as you enter the Capital Museum you will be mesmerized by the huge copper building in the design of a slanted barrel. This building is actually home to a television and film education center.
The museum’s main aim is to show the true style and personality of the capital city as shown on the fourth and fifth floors where there are permanent exhibitions showing the style of Old Beijing by recreating the scenes of the hutongs. Here you can see pawnshops, theater stages, and a large line of small clay figures; some are selling goods, while others are involved in a bridal procession. The result is a lifelike recreation that makes you feel like you are standing in the heart of Old Beijing.
On the fifth floor there is a souvenir shop and on the second floor there is a tearoom.
The exhibition halls must be kept quiet, food and drink are not to be consumed inside them and kids need to be on their best behavior.
The underground floor of the museum has a self-service restaurant so when you’re tired of strolling you can go and enjoy lunch there before continuing your journey. There is also a ceramic art and a color workshop helping children get to work with ceramics, stone rubbing, or painting. These kinds of activities help children to learn more about Chinese history and to take more of an interest in it.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9am-5pm (there is no admission after 4pm), but it is open as usual during public holidays.
Please note: You must book your free ticket from the museum website. Tickets for a visit on the same day must be ordered before 12 noon. With each identity card/passport you can book a maximum of five tickets. There is a space to deposit bags and belongings near the entrance.
China Railway Museum
There are two China Railway Museums in Beijing; the Jiu Xian Bridge museum is in the East of the city. The museum has more trains than the other one in central Beijing and is perfect for children who are really interested in trains. Not only can they watch the cartoons shown in the museum, they can also climb to the top of the trains and inspect the complicated machinery inside the operating room. By pulling the levers and pressing the buttons inside the train, children can get a real experience of life as a train conductor.
Parents can take unique photos of their children standing by the train tracks and interacting with the trains. On the disused rail tracks outside the museums there are several old trains which, along with the old train station and rail tracks, have become a children’s playground.
The museum does not attract many visitors and it is quiet and beautiful.
On entering the museum you will notice a very strong smell of metal.
Inside a few of the trains are waxworks that at a glance are easy to mistake for real people, this can give you a real fright!
There is a small convenience stand selling water and snacks and also a few books about trains.
Tuesday to Sunday, 9am-4pm. RMB 20 per person. Student tickets RMB 10. Children under 1.2m free. 1 Jiu Xian Bridge North Road, Chaoyang District (6438 1317, 64381517) www.china-rail.org 朝阳区，1酒仙大桥北路
National Art Museum of China
Surrounded by trees, the National Art Museum of China is in the style of an Ancient Chinese pavilion. Sunlight gives the glass tiles a golden color and makes it seem like part of the Imperial Palace.
The courtyard by the entrance of the gallery is very spacious and suitable for children to run about and play.
Floors 1-5 have a total of 17 exhibition halls. The museum does not have any permanent exhibitions and at different times the work of different artists is shown. We recommend families register with the museum’s website to find out more information on their short-term exhibitions. Parents should give children a background introduction to the various exhibitions before bringing them to the museum to make the experience more interesting.
Facilities include a cafe and a restaurant, but unfortunately there is no convenience store and places to sit and rest are limited. You can however, ask to hire a pushchair for children. The museum also has an art bookshop and boutique where you can buy specialized books and postcards.
Opposite the art museum there is a shop selling art materials which is recommended by prestigious artists. Buy yourself some paints, a paintbrush and paper and you too can create your own masterpiece.
Bring your identity card or passport to get your free ticket. Tickets are not issued after 4pm.
Mon-Fri from 9am to 5pm. 1 Si Da Avenue, Dong Cheng district. (6400 1476) www.namoc.org 东城区，1五四大街
Beijing Confucian Temple and the Imperial College
The Beijing Confucian Temple and the Imperial College both have a strong cultural importance. The Imperial College was once a place where candidates would write their imperial exams. Students sitting these exams would revise strenuously for a period of ten years with the hope of one day getting top marks.
Despite the famous reputation of the Confucian Temple and the Imperial College they do not attract many visitors. Inside the Imperial College museum there is a lifelike scene of small clay figures showing imperial students immersed in intense study.
After passing the grand doors of the Confucian Temple, there is an exhibition on the life of Confucius. There are old books, and small models are used to illustrate some stories, while cartoon sketches and replica props are very popular with children.
Outside this exhibition hall there is a quiet and spacious courtyard allowing young visitors to go outside and play.
If you go to the Imperial College museum the editors advise having a tour guide. It makes the experience more interesting and informative. In the neighboring Lama temple and the areas around the Confucian Temple and Imperial College there are lots of people claiming to be ‘fortune-tellers’, but don’t pay too much attention to what they say!
Daily 8:30am to 6pm (Ticket office closes at 5:30pm). Primary school pupils with a student card can visit for free. Adults RMB 30.
15 Guozijian Street, Dong Cheng district (64075259) www.kmgzj.com/index/aspx 东城区，国子监街15
The Imperial Palace Museum
When it comes to talking about museums in Beijing, you cannot but mention The Imperial Palace Museum. Throughout the year the museum attracts many guests but it still has its reasons for being worth a visit! For example the recently opened chambers of the imperial concubines now display some of the objects and makeup used by Empress Dowager Cixi.
Approaching the Forbidden City from the south you will see the awe-inspiring large red doors of the museum.
Although visitors are not allowed to enter individual rooms in the palace, the square outside the museum is very big, which means that kids can run around freely. However since almost every day there are many visitors in the Forbidden City, pay attention to safety, especially during holidays.
If you go on a working day and get in the 8am queue to enter the museum, there will not be nearly as many visitors. By about 11am when the onrush of visitors come to the museum, you’ll already have seen everything and already be able to leave.
Tuesday to Sunday 8.30am to 5pm. Tickets unavailable after 4pm. Adults RMB 60, students RMB 20. Children free (under 1.2m). 4 Jingshan Front Street, Dongcheng District. (65131892) www.dpm.org.cn/index12801024 东城区，4号景山前街
Madame Tussauds Beijing is positioned at the top of a pedestrian street, and following Shanghai and Wuhan, is the third museum of its type in China, and the 42nd Madame Tussauds worldwide. Now children who want to see wax figures for themselves, don’t have to leave Beijing anymore to do so. The wax figure collection in Beijing also has its own local characteristics.
Daily 10am to 9pm. Last tickets sold at 8pm. Adults RMB 170. Students RMB 120. Children 80cm to 1.3m and over 65s RMB 110. 8 Qianmen Pedestrian Street, Dong Cheng District. www.madametussauds.com 东城区，8号前门步行街
Photos by Sui