Embrace the sensory overload that is China’s historical, political and cultural capital. With more than 20 million people, Beijing is the most populous city in China after Shanghai.
Located in the northeast of China, Beijing is culturally and geographically a world away from Western capital cities, but easy to reach by plane. Once in the city, rent a bike or make use of the excellent public transport system to get around. English signage will lead you to most attractions. Driving around Beijing is more complicated, especially if you don’t speak Mandarin.
For one of the best views in Beijing, climb the hill in Jingshan Park and look out over the Forbidden City. Then, descend to Tiananmen Square and gaze up at the Front Gate (Qianmen Gate) before you visit the huge palace complex beyond it.
Back on the square, explore one of the largest museums in the world: the National Museum of China, opposite the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall. To dance, play or exercise with the locals, visit the nearby imperial gardens at Beihai Park.
Away from the busy city center, visit the Summer Palace and the Marco Polo Bridge to see more of the splendor that surrounded China’s mighty emperors. Find some peace and quiet in the Buddhist Lama Temple.
Beijing is not all about imperial history, religion and communism: Contemporary architecture, fine restaurants and fashion-filled malls represent the new China. The 2008 Summer Olympics resulted in Beijing’s redevelopment. See the stadiums in Olympic Park or browse galleries in restored warehouses, such as 798 Space. For souvenirs, take the subway to Wangfujing Street, a popular shopping strip.
You can’t leave Beijing without trying Peking duck, the city’s signature food, served with delicious Chinese noodle and rice dishes. After dark, visit karaoke bars or nightclubs for evening entertainment.
Beijing is an unforgettable experience. Get a taste of traditional and communist China and at the same time see the futuristic designs of the entrepreneurial East.