From the sprawling Forbidden City  to the former imperial gardens, the Tian’anmen area is the city’s political and historic nerve center. World-changing events took place on the wide expanse of Tian’anmen Square  and Chairman Mao’s body lies preserved in his austere mausoleum . Some of the city’s most important thoroughfares crisscross this district, such as wide Chang’an Avenue and bustling Wangfujing Avenue , with its shops and restaurants. A crop of high-end restaurants overlooks the Forbidden City and streets around the palace provide some great nightlife options.
The capital’s northerly reaches are home to some of the best-preserved hutong alleys, the Drum and Bell Towers , and Lama and Confucius Temples—all reminders of a slower time in Beijing’s past. As well as these imperial relics, the area is home to a vibrant nightlife scene . Houhai is famous for the neon-lit bars that line its shore, but the hip crowd skips the lakeside in favor of the cafés and hutong bars of Gulou Avenue and Nanluoguxiang. The area is a cradle of Beijing’s famous rock music scene, with a plethora of live music venues, jazz clubs, and smoky bars.
Home to the Temple of Heaven where emperors prayed for a good harvest, Beijing’s southern area also includes districts that retain aspects of their history and tradition even after a spate of modernization. The colonial-era buildings of the Legation Quarter  are occupied by contemporary restaurants and art centers. Qianmen pedestrian street, Liulichang, and Dazhalan  continue to host merchants and food stalls, as they have since the early Qing Dynasty.
There’s plenty to do and see in Beijing’s eastern quarter. This is one of the city’s busiest areas. Sprawling Chaoyang is home to foreign embassies, markets, and shops. Sanlitun is Beijing’s longest established nightlife district. The Central Business District (CBD) has some of the city’s most striking modern architecture, like the New CCTV Tower .
Home to Beijing’s ever-growing financial district, this area is also blessed with historical treasures like the Temple of Great Charity, White Dagoba Temple, and the Temple of the Ancient Monarchs, as well as the excellent Capital Museum and Lu Xun Museum. The area is bisected by Fuxingmenwai Avenue, the western continuation of Chang’an Avenue, and contains the sprawling Yuyuantan Park.
The Univeristy District, Wudaokou, is the epicenter of student life in Beijing, with the cafés and bars to prove it. Farther west and north, the bustle quiets down, with iconic sights like the Summer Palace , where emperors and empresses once retreated for a little rest and relaxation, and the lesser-known ruins of the Old Summer Palace.
Beijing’s outer districts provide an escape from the busy downtown area. Spend an afternoon among the flora at the Botanical Garden, stroll in the Fragrant Hills, check out the iconic Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium, and the hip 798 Art District  andCaochangdi Art District , then finish off with an evening at one of the trendy bars or restaurants nearby.