“We visited many of the classic sights in Beijing and always with a slightly different approach than all the other tourists...In the three days I spent with Laura, she filled me with more knowledge about China than I'd learned in a whole year of studying the country in school.”

“She managed to get us tickets to the Forbidden City quickly despite the fact that there was a huge line.”

The highlight of many visitors’ time in Beijing is their explorations of world-renowned and UNESCO World Heritage sights like the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace. Beijing has nearly 2000 years of layers—almost 600 as the capital of China—that add a rich web of complexity to the city and its sites.

Stretch-a-leg’s private, fully individual tours allow you to navigate these historically dense sites, and our guides take you deeper. Most guides learn about Beijing’s sites while in guiding school, where standard scripts are memorized. Our guides continually seek out more information about each of Beijing’s sites through regular team training and research visits, reading up on academic journals, and keeping in close contact with local and international experts—from university professors to artisans working on restoration to groundskeepers of the past 50 years. These experts appreciate our guides’ passion to share China’s culture and history, affording our company unique access to their knowledge and insights, which we weave into compelling narratives for our clients.

“We really had the feeling we were seeing a more ‘local’ side of the sights—or as local as tourist sights can be!”

“...Fantastic and took us to a range of sites including the Forbidden Palace, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, and the Great Wall, providing a perfect balance of information without us feeling overloaded.”

Forbidden City

Everything about the Forbidden City is grand.

Its size: 72 hectares/178 acres.
Its scale: nearly 1000 buildings.
Its history: 500 years as home to 24 emperors.

As the world’s largest palace, the Forbidden City contains enough history and material to fill a library. It serves as one of the ultimate primers on China’s history, art, and architecture. The Palace is woven throughout China’s history and connected to many of the country’s most important figures—and scholars continue to discover more.

How will you cover it all?

Based on your individual interests, your private trip to the Forbidden City with Stretch-a-leg could be a lesson in feng shui and Chinese spiritual beliefs, a window into imperial daily life complete with salacious court scandals, a recreation of history, or an examination of the evolution of construction and building techniques. Or all of the above.

Stretch-a-leg’s expert, personable, and flexible guides help you to excavate the intricacy of this must see historical site on your own terms.

“I have been to the Forbidden City any number of times—several times alone and with guides—and Stretch-a-leg’s guide was heads and shoulders above all the rest. He knew about all sections of the Forbidden City—so much more (and more accurate) than the typical guide. We spent two half days (8 hours total) there and could have gone back again the next day.”

“The way she shared all this [culture and history] really brought it to life. Imagine sitting in the Emperor's private garden, secluded in a shady corner of the Forbidden City, and having your guide transform you into the Emperor, doing the hard work of evaluating which concubine you want for the evening.”
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Summer Palace

“[The Summer Palace], at its worst, could've been a boring walk in the park, but Tony knew the ‘backroads’ and the history and we were fascinated. This was an amazing tour…”

In order to escape Beijing’s brutal summers, the Qing dynasty developed the extensive grounds of the Summer Palace in the 18th century. Nearly 75% of the Palace’s area of 3 square km is occupied by Kunming Lake, whose waters help to cool the air of the opulent gardens encircling it.

Stretch-a-leg brings the Summer Palace to life while sharing the best scenic spots that the Palace has to offer. We have developed unusual routes and passages through the site to avoid crowds and establish an orientation of the Palace early on. Part of what makes travel with Stretch-a-leg to popular sites special is our constant effort to provide our clients with relative quiet and solitude.

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Temple of Heaven

The complex known as the Temple of Heaven provides another example of the accumulated layers of Beijing’s history. One of four temples that lied along cardinal points radiating from the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven is considered a classic example of Taoist architecture. Symbolism from Chinese cosmogony fills the site in everything to the number of pillars in the iconic circular Hall of Good Prayer to the shape of the park itself.

Yet the Temple of Heaven is greater than just a collection of historic structures. Its 267-hectare park exemplifies the commingling of centuries—Ming era architecture provides a backdrop for middle aged and elderly Beijingers who begin each morning with various forms of exercise and recreation. We help you avoid the tourist crowds to get a sense of how local Chinese enjoy the grounds shaded by Cypress trees, some of which are more than 600 years old.

From our 40+ years of guiding experience, we understand that most visitors do not like to be inundated with mere facts. Stretch-a-leg’s guides create a cohesive story that spans these centuries. As local and native Beijingers, Stretch-a-leg’s guides trace how the religious ideas that gave physical form to the Temple of Heaven continue in modern Chinese practices.

“My wife wanted to visit the Temple of Heaven and Stretch-a-leg suggested we go early to see the people performing dancing, tai chi and various other activities. [Our guide] helped my wife join in with the locals and participate.”

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  • We specialize in historical walking tours in Beijing, exploring off-the-beaten path sights, and hiking at the wild Great Wall. Our private tours are completely tailored to each individual client.

    Founded by a native Beijinger, we are a Chinese-owned and operated team who will provide you with the uniquely authentic chance to experience China from the perspective of locals.
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