Beijing by bike: Tiananmen to Bird's Nest

Ogle the capital's big ticket items on one convenient ride

Image: @kaijisun
You can tick of some of the biggest names on your Beijing bucket list in one fell two-wheeled swoop, riding along the city's historic central axis.

Distance Around 16km
Bike time One-and-a half to two hours
Difficulty Hard – this is a long route and in places you’ll have to keep your eye out for traffic
Highlights Forbidden City, The Egg, Drum and Bell Towers, Water Cube and Bird's Nest

"TheGreatBikePath"

Beijing’s most iconic sights are rather conveniently laid out along one central north-south axis, making for an equally iconic ride. It’s most spectacular at night, when the architectural wonders are at their lit-up best. But you’ll have to set off no later than sunset to reach the Bird's Nest before 10pm, when its gates close.

Where better to start it all than before the 1 giant portrait of Chairman Mao upon the Tiananmen Gate? Cycle west along Chang'an Jie until you come to an enormous red arch on your right. To your left, in the mid-distance, you'll see 'The Egg', better known as the 2 National Centre for the Performing Arts, which looks like a gargantuan spaceship against the night sky. Head under the arch and northward on Nanchang Jie until its end, then turn right onto Jingshanqian Jie, heading east. On your right, you’ll see the back of 3 the Forbidden City reflected beautifully into its moat.

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National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA).

At the end of the road, continue on to Wusi Dajie until you get to the crossing with Beiheyan Dajie. Turn left and, as you head north, you will be serenaded by pumping tunes emanating from groups dancing in the long, thin park alongside the road.

At the T-junction, turn left onto Di’anmen Dong Dajie, then, 750m later, turn right onto Di'anmenwai Dajie. You will see the dark silhouette of the 4 Drum Tower at the end of the road. Cycle towards it and snap some moody shots when you reach it.

At the end of the forking road before the tower, take the left, then the first right onto Jiugulou Dajie. Head north, crossing under the Second Ring Road and over a canal. Head north along Jiugulouwai Dajie, turning right onto Andeli Bei Jie, then left onto Gulouwai Dajie. Marvel at how the buildings segue from hutong homes into monoliths; you are now leaving the old city centre. Cross the Third Ring Road and continue north on Beichen Lu. After Beitucheng subway station, you'll spot the strange towers of the 5 Chinese Ethnic Cultural Park.

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Bird's Nest Stadium. Image: Hong Jiang via Unsplash

At the end of Beichen Lu, 6 the Bird's Nest and Water Cube (glowing an eerie blue) come into view. Turn left at the Fourth Ring Road, head west, and cross over on the first sky bridge on your right. After crossing, turn right into Beichen Xi Lu; a path on your right leads towards the Water Cube and Bird’s Nest. On the east side of the Bird’s Nest is a canal; head north along its west bank, crossing several roads, until you reach Kehui Lu.

Turning left, you’ll spot the 7 Olympic Forest Park’s south entrance. This is the end point of our journey. Local cycling enthusiasts regularly circuit this area on summer evenings. You may not have gear (or gears) as fancy as theirs, but you can feel smug knowing you’ve conquered Beijing’s Central Axis.

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