Beijing is a giant metropolis with a fascinating history of ancient dynasties, Chinese tradition and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Its 22 million residents live in a buzzing and colourful city while a pleasant countryside lies just outside the city limits. Many travellers visit Beijing to get a glimpse of the Great Wall of China, which runs through the north of the city.
Mandarin Chinese is the main language in Beijing, though tourism staff speak English at tourist attractions. Visit in spring or autumn for dry, warm weather.
When you arrive, get familiar with the ring road looping around the city centre, where the majority of attractions lie. Make your way to one of the world’s largest public plazas, Tiananmen Square, to see the breathtaking attractions dotted around it. Built in 1415, the square is famous for a protest in 1989 with deadly outcomes.
Across the road is the Forbidden City, a 15th-century Emperor’s palace comprising almost 1,000 buildings and a museum. The fascinating city rises in layers and is full of traditional relics and artworks from the Ming and Qing dynasties. The plaza is also home to the National Museum of China, the Qianmen Gate and the Great Hall of the People.
Look for picturesque water features, known as the Shichahai Lakes, beside the enormous square. Once part of the emperor’s immense summer gardens, the lakeside is popular for picnics or a leisurely stroll. Rent a boat for a relaxing time on the water which is particularly enjoyable on hot days. You can also enjoy the 13th-century Buddhist stupa statue near North Lake.
While the majestic architecture draws you to the city centre, the most famous monument in the history of mankind awaits you just to the north. Hike to the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu. When you arrive you can choose left or right - a leisurely walk or the tougher, hillier side. Either way you will enjoy taking in the views from this ancient defensive wall, built in the 6th century BC to protect the Chinese Empire.
Beijing is so vast that you could spend months exploring the culture. Lose yourself in quaint alleys of the hutong neighbourhoods and find bars and restaurants that serve traditional culinary treats. Locals refer to the capital’s food as Jing Cuisine, while specialties from a large region of China are known as Mandarin Cuisine. Sample Beijing’s specialty Peking duck, fried meatballs, pig’s ear in sauce and many other exotic meals.
The Beijing Capital International Airport is one of the busiest in the world by passenger traffic supporting tourism and commerce in the city. It is 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) northeast of the city centre. Take the Airport Express train from the airport to Sanyuanqiao Station or Dongzhimen Station. Buses and taxis are also popular methods of reaching the city.
Once there, travel on Beijing’s comprehensive metro system with English maps.
Beijing has an endless variety of fascinating sites and intriguing culture at its core and the Great Wall of China decorating the city limits.