After finding out that the Forbidden City was closed for the day, it was time to come up with another way to spend the day in Beijing.
Upon coming across a bike rental store on a neighboring street, biking in Beijing seemed like the ideal way to spend the day. Beijing is surprisingly bike-friendly, with a bike share program for local residents, designated bike lanes with fences in some areas to protect cyclists from cars, and many fellow bikers out on the road.
Putting our gear in the baskets and hopping on our bikes, we headed North with the goal of reaching Beijing’s 2008 Olympic Park. On the way, we stopped at a park along Beijing’s old city walls and moat. While catching our breath, we checked out the view of the surrounding area from the elevated battlements. After getting back on our bikes, we somehow navigated a massive and busy intersection. The view of one of the world’s best-known examples of contemporary architecture called “the Bird’s nest” guided our way. Finally, we arrived at the Olympic Park.
The Olympic Park is massive and popular among tourists from parts of tour groups from all across China. The Bird’s Nest and Water Cube are even more impressive in person than they are on TV. Unfortunately, the Olympic Park appears to be largely unused today. It serves primarily as a tourist attraction. Beyond these two iconic structures is a massive park with expansive greenery and a lake to explore.
On our way back to the bike rental shop, we took a detour through a typical Beijing Hutong. Hutongs are densely-packed neighborhoods with narrow alleyways and charming character. We made a few stops along the way to try Beijing’s local pastries and to utilize our budding Mandarin language skills. This allowed us to be guided largely by our noses to some delicious local bakeries before hurrying back to return our bikes on time. While Beijing’s notorious air pollution may not always make biking the most reasonable option, on a clear day it is an excellent way to navigate China’s capital.