Beijing Zoo Showcases Giant Pandas in Two Houses: Zoo Is Home to 7,000 Animals, But Most People Go to See Rare Bears

Beijing Zoo Showcases Giant Pandas in Two Houses: Zoo Is Home to 7,000 Animals, But Most People Go to See Rare Bears

The Beijing Zoo has two panda houses where the pandas can be seen: the original panda house and an Olympics house built especially for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The original house has bothh inside and outside viewing, while the Olympics house has a balcony overlooking the pandas’ outside play area.

Pandas are originally from south China and eat primarily bamboo. As south China developed, the bamboo fell prey to man’s activities, and the pandas were pushed into the mountains. The panda is on the international endangered species list because so few of them survive in the wild. China is partnering with other countries in breeding programs to ensure the survivability of the giant pandas.

The Panda Is a Symbol of China

Because these black and white bears are perceived as being cute and cuddly, they are replacing fierce fire-spewing dragons as the symbol of China. However, pandas have been known to attack strangers who intrude on their territory.

The Beijing Zoo also has red pandas, which look a lot like raccoons. Zoo visitors rarely give these a glance as they rush to the panda pavilion.

The Beijing Zoo underwent extensive remodeling for the 2008 Olympics. It now resembles a park with wide walkways, meandering canals, lakes and large shade trees. Animal living conditions have been improved but are still not up to par with zoos of other major international cities such as Seattle where Woodland Park Zoo provides plenty of room for animals to roam in re-created native habitat.

Zoo Has 7,000 Animals

Still, zoo conditions are a lot better than they were a few decades ago. In 1949, the zoo had only 12 monkeys, two parrots and an emu. Now it has the usual complement of lions, tigers, elephants and hippos, birds and reptiles. It has more than 7,000 animals belonging to about 600 species.

The zoo has much more than pandas. In addition to the other animals, it’s possible to catch a canal boat for a ride to the Summer Palace. But the biggest non-panda draw is the Beijing Aquarium which is the world’s largest inland aquarium. It’s located in the northwest corner of the zoo and, like the panda house, requires a separate admission. However, it’s possible to buy a combination ticket which admits visitors to all attractions, except the canal boat ride. The combination ticket costs about $21 per person.

The Beijing Zoo is located at 137 Xizhemenwai Dajie, a few minutes walk west of the Xizhemen subway transfer station. It is open year ‘round daily from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer months, closing at 5 p.m. in the winter months.

Beijing’s Summer Palace Remains a Playground: Boating, Ice Skating Take Place Where Imperial Family Once Played

Beijing’s Summer Palace Remains a Playground: Boating, Ice Skating Take Place Where Imperial Family Once Played

The Summer Palace is probably the most beautiful park in Beijing. It is known throughout the world for its landscaping and architecture. Its gardens are especially impressive, and are the primary reason UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site in 1998.

The focal point for the Summer Palace is Kunming Lake. In the summer months, tourists rent boats to paddle around the lake. In the winter, the lake freezes over, and is popular with Beijing’s ice skaters. Kunming Lake is manmade, with the dirt dredged up used to build Longevity Hill

Visitors who like to walk may enjoy a walk around Kunming Lake. This takes a couple of hours, but provides a respite from the crowds at the north end of the park. It also provides a different perspective on the Tower of Buddhist Incense which sits at the top of Longevity Hill.

Summer Palace Is a Top Beijing Attraction

The Summer Palace is one of the top four tourist attractions in Beijing. This means it can be extremely crowded. However, putting up with the crowds is worth it. Various halls are located at the north end of the Summer Palace. Tourists are not allowed in most of them, and must be content with looking through door ways and windows. There are intimate courtyards with benches to provide places to rest.

The Long Corridor is a highlight of the Summer Palace. It is the most famous walkway in China. The Long Corridor is almost 2,400 feet long, and is covered with thousands of hand-painted scenes.

The Marble Boat is a short distance from the west end of the Long Corridor. It’s really wood, but painted to look like marble. It’s famous because the Dowager Empress Cixi diverted naval funds to rebuild the boat, which was destroyed by British and French armies in the Second Opium War in 1860. The Summer Palace was heavily damaged during at this time. It was destroyed again 40 years later by foreign armies during the Boxer Rebellion. Little trace of the destruction remains today.

Suzhou Street Features Old-Style Shopping

Suzhou Street is another must-see at the Summer Palace. Suzhou Street is a shopping street built along a canal to resemble a Qing Dynasty street in the town of Suzhou near Shanghai. It was originally built as a place where emperors and their concubines could walk without interference. It is a good place to buy special souvenirs or rest over a cup of tea.

In China, the Summer Palace is known as Yiheyuan, and this is how directional signs read. Visitors arriving by subway should get off at the Yiheyuan stop on Line 4. The Summer Palace opens daily at 8:30 a.m.

Beijing Nightlife: Going Out at Night in Beijing

Beijing Nightlife: Going Out at Night in Beijing

There are quite a few unique bars, clubs and lounges in Beijing, along with a few districts that have sprung up as nightlife zones in various areas. Here’s a basic overview of where to go for a night out in Beijing.

Student Hangouts in Wudaokou

Located in the northwest corner of Beijing and often called simply “The Wu”, this is the student zone of Beijing. The international student population makes the area a hotbed of drinking, dancing and all-around partying. Popular hangouts in the Wu include Lush, Propaganda, Pyro Pizza, BlaBla Bar, and D-22.

The International Nightlife of Sanlitun

The Sanlitun area is close to both the embassy district and many of the higher-end hotels in town, so it attracts many western patrons to its bars, clubs and other attractions. Skip the bars on the main Sanlitun strip, where touts encourage passers-by to come in for overpriced cocktails and second-rate Chinese singers covering classic tunes. Instead, head to the “Nan Sanlitun” area- a cluster of venues just south of the main strip where bars like Rickshaw offer pub fare and pool tables and clubs like Tun and Salsa Caribe let visitors dance the night away.

Another cluster of clubs and bars lies in the other direction on Sanlitun, behind the 3.3 Mall at the north end of the strip. The Saddle and Lugas offer Mexican-style drinking and music, while Kai’s crowds come for the cheap shots and buzzing dance floor.

Bars and Clubs in the Houhai Area

This lake in central Beijing is so beautiful at night that visitors often don’t want to duck into one of the many clubs or restaurants along its shores and miss out on the view.


Lotus Lane is the most well-known area of the lakeshore, but exploring around the area is a great way to find other interesting places to hang out. In general, the Houhai area is more relaxed and casual than some of the other nightlife districts in Beijing. Popular nightspots in the area include No Name Bar, Lotus and La Baie des Anges.

Nightlife and Dancing Around The Workers Stadium (Gongti)

Many of the Workers Stadium clubs and bars were closed during the 2008 Olympics, due to security concerns over their proximity some of to the sporting venues. Post- Olympics, however, places like Kro’s Nest Pizza, Coco Banana and Mix are once again fill the Gongti area to capacity.

Unique Nightlife Venues in Beijing

The well-established nightlife districts aren’t the only place to find great clubs and bars in Beijing. In fact, some of the most unique places are the hidden gems scattered throughout the city. A few of the best are:

  • Bed Bar – Located deep within a hutong, down a long winding alley and through an ancient doorway, Bed bar’s big feature is its kang-style beds that patrons use as seating. Curl up among the cushions and have a cocktail while light electronic music streams from an adjoining room.
  • Obiwan- North of Houhai alongside the adjoining Xihai lake, Obiwan is a popular place for local expats to dance, drink, and enjoy the many events arranged by the management. Previous events have included film festival showings, capoeira demonstrations and a retro-themed dance party.
  • What Bar – Situated next to the Forbidden City, this small club hosts the best local bands every weekend. Insiders say What Bar is the best place to discover up-and-coming Chinese rock talent.