There's plenty more to see around the Marco Polo bridge area (or Lugouqiao Bridge as it's known in Chinese) than just the bridge itself. The bridge leads directly to the gates of the recently restored town of Lugouqiao (in the district of Wanping).
The gates are a spectacle worth seeing. They are the only entrance through the city walls that encircle Lugouqiao. These solid stone walls are more than 15 metres high and five metres wide across their top. As you enter the gates from the bridge, a stairway to your left takes you to the top of the wall. Spectuacular views of the bridge can seen from here.
As you pass through the gates, you enter the main street of Lugouqiao, a colourful, tree-lined throughfare. The houses and shops, many with bright red pillars and screens, have been carefully restored. As you walk along the street, you get a sense of life in Chinese towns hundreds of years ago.
Halfway along the street on your left is the Memorial Hall of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japan. Here you can learn more about the war that started by the bridge on July 7, 1937. Entrance fee: 15 yuan for adults. Opening hours: 8:30am - 4:00pm daily, except Monday.
Continue past the museum to the city wall gateway on the opposite side of town. The walk from the bridge to here takes about 15 minutes. Beyond the city wall is the Lugouqiao Sculpture Park. This fascinating park opened in July 2005.
You can get to Lugouquiao by public transport or by taxi. Avoid paying a flag-fall fare to your taxi driver as this costs more than a privately negotiated fare. I was able to negotiate a ride from Beijing's CBD hotels for 250 yuan. My driver happily waited two hours at bridge before returning me to my hotel. The ride is about 20 minutes each way. Save 10 yuan for an entrance fee to the Marco Polo bridge itself.
The 309, 313, 329 or 339 bus from Liuliqiao (on the West Third Ring Road) also takes you there. Get off the bus at Luqouqiao Station.
The Anti-Japanese War Museum at Marco Polo Bridge shows a part of history that not many people in the West get a chance to learn about. Despite the name of the museum, it's not meant to offend anyone, just educate and pass on the history so that we might learn from it and stop it from happeniing again.
The museum showcases artifacts from what the Chinese consider the beginning of WWII, when they were invaded by Japan. (Note for English speakers, buy the guide book before you go in, that way you'll actually be able to learn about the history of the invasion instead of just looking at the pictures and artifacts.)
Located near Marco Polo Bridge, you can also see the actual bridge where the first shots were fired. On the bridge you'll find 501 stone dragons lining the sides as well as part of the original bridge. It's called the Marco Polo bridge after the traveller who reputedly took the design back to Europe, where you can find similar looking bridges.
Chinese People's Anti-Japanese War Museum. Located near the Lu-Gou Bridge in the southwestern suburb of Beijing, with facts showing outbreak of the war, the attacks of Japanese troops against Chinese troops and civilians, and the foreign friends who helped China win the war.
Lu-Gou-Qiao Bridge, has been made famous by at least 3 historic events: Marco Polo's description, Emperor Qianlong's inscription and the outbreak of the War against the Japanese Aggressors. It was built completely of white stone and looked majestic with a total of 485 stone lions lined on the balustrades of both sides. Mingchang period (1190-1208) of the Jin Dynasty, the bridge was listed by travellers and men of letters as one of the 'Eight Scenic Spots of Yanjing (Beijing)' under the descriptive title 'Lugou Xiaoyue' or Moon Over Lugou at Daybreak (The Morning Moon Over Lugou Bridge).