This gets my vote for the Beijng’s best unknown sight.
OK, so it’s not completely, unknown, but hardly anybody visits this place, which is strange because it’s a 600-year-old complex of sacrificial altars that used to play a significant role in imperial Beijing and which now houses the impressive Beijing Ancient Architecture Museum.
And it’s free! Well, it is if you arrive early enough on a Wednesday to be one of the first 200 visitors through the gate. Chances are, though, even if you arrive five minutes before closing, you’ll still be one of the first 200. When I visited on a Wednesday morning, I had the whole place to myself.
Look at any old map of Beijing to see how significant this place once was. Like nearby Temple of Heaven Park, the Temple of Agriculture isn’t actually a temple, but it used to be where the emperor would make animal sacrifices to the gods in the hope of securing a good harvest for the city.
Much of the complex is now taken over by a school, some residential housing and sports stadia (where public executions were held right up to the 1980s), but there are enough Ming-Dynasty buildings remaining to make this a worthwhile trip south.
The most impressive remaining structure – the Temple of the God of Jupiter – houses the excellent Beijing Ancient Architecture Museum, which includes a nifty scale model of pre-tower-block Beijing.
Although sturdy gateways punctuate all four compass points of the largely still-standing park walls, only the north gate is open to the public.
Within walking distance from here is historic Temple of Heaven Park, kite-flying hotspot Yongdingmen Park and kids favourite Taoranting Park.
21 Dongjing Lu, off Nanwei Lu