Beijing Travel Guide
Beijing is an exciting city in which to visit ancient palaces, see exquisite Ming pottery, dine in the best Chinese restaurants in the world and enjoy a unique atmosphere.
It offers impressive historical monuments such as the Forbidden City, magnificent museums such as the National Museum and extensive markets such as the Panjiayuan Flea Market, where you can find all kinds of Chinese antiques, clothing and handicrafts.
It also has a thriving music scene, with neighborhoods like Tongzhou that are full of clubs. And there are lavender gardens like Blues Manor, wonderful oases of serenity for the summer.
- Top 5 reasons to visit Beijing
- What to do in Beijing
- When to visit Beijing
- How to get to Beijing
- Where to stay in Beijing
- Getting around Beijing
- Cost of living in Beijing
- Where to eat in Beijing
Top 5 reasons to visit Beijing
Thousands of years of Chinese history
Beijing has been the capital of China for more than 700 years, so it has many historical landmarks. The “Forbidden City”, the home of the Ming and Manchu imperial rulers, is a very famous enclave. Other lesser-known but equally impressive gems are the Ming Tombs, the Ancient Observatory and the cliff houses of Yanqing County.
Superb museums and art galleries
Beijing is a paradise for lovers of museums and galleries. Explore the huge National Museum and other smaller venues such as the charming Bee Museum in the Botanical Garden, the Aviation Museum, the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art and the Beijing Commune.
Extraordinary attractions for the whole family
The Chinese capital is a great place to entertain younger visitors. Amusement parks abound, including Happy Valley, and the Happy Magic Water Cube. There are also exotic attractions, such as the scary Underground City, for the whole family.
Chinese food is famous all over the world, but the best Chinese chefs are in Beijing. Don’t miss the Peking duck at Bianyifang restaurant, or the Zhájiàng noodles. Each neighborhood has its own gastronomic references, so explore them freely.
Music, dance and cultural attractions
Watch a show at the Beijing State Opera, enjoy DJ nights at clubs like Yugong Yishan or savour a glass of wine while listening to jazz at Modernist. Admire the Shaolin monks performing kung fu shows at the Red Theatre, or even incredible acrobatics at the Chaoyang Theatre.
What to do in Beijing
Exploring a unique city
Wrapped in a magnetic halo from another era, the Forbidden City is in the heart of Beijing. It has a vast array of ancient buildings, all miraculously well preserved. If you want to see more modern places, visit Tiananmen Square and its fabulous gate, from the People’s Heroes Monument to the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. The history of the country is within your reach. And don’t miss the National Museum and the Centre for the Performing Arts.
Visit the Imperial Gardens
This central and charming public park has a magnificent lake. The imperial gardens of Belhai Park have almost 1000 years of history, but were only opened to the public in the 20th century. From Jade Flower Island to the countless pavilions that dot the landscape, there are countless historical sites to discover when you visit.
Walking along the Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is a real wonder, a must see and a timeless visit in Beijing. Organise a day trip, northwards, to move around this imposing wall that winds its way up incredible slopes, climb its time-worn steps and explore Chinese history.
Admire the Temple of Heaven
In the center of beautiful Chinese gardens is located the Temple of Heaven, with some of the most impressive monuments in Beijing. Its 15th-century buildings date back to the imperial period, although they are notable for their colorful interiors and celebratory aesthetics. History, architecture and faith converge in this place.
Enjoy the Summer Palace
China’s largest royal park is the setting for this beautiful summer palace, built in the 18th century. Every inch is absolutely luxurious. You will find a landscape well maintained according to the standards of traditional Chinese horticulture. Walk through the lush park to find exceptional viewpoints. Lake Kunming shines from all perspectives and the luxurious works of art add to its beauty.
When to visit Beijing
Beijing has attractions all year round. However, the summer can be extremely hot and air pollution worsens. It is better to go in spring or autumn. June is also a good time: the temperature is mild and the lavender flowers take on their colour, offering better experiences.
How to get to Beijing
Most American visitors land at the Beijing Capital International Airport, located about 26 kilometers northeast of the center. The best option for transportation is the Airport Express train, which costs 25 yen.
If you’re traveling from Hong Kong or Shanghai, taking the train is a wonderful way to get around. China’s rail network is modern and reliable, and the scenery is breathtaking. High-speed trains from the south arrive at the West Beijing Railway Station, which connects to the subway lines 7 and 9.
If you’ve decided to drive from southern cities like Shanghai, the best route is probably the G106, which runs from Guangdong and Shenzhen. The G102 and G103 come to Beijing from northern capitals such as Harbin, while the G108 runs through the southwestern part of the country.
Beijing itself is a major bus terminal to which you can travel from almost anywhere in China. However, as there are 20 different long distance bus stations, you should check before you travel which one you are going to and how to get to your accommodation.
Airports near Beijing
(PEK) Beijing Capital
(NAY) Beijing Nanyuan
Where to stay in Beijing
Dongcheng is an excellent place to look for accommodation: central and with the main historical attractions. Its hotels are popular and comfortable, such as the opulent Grand Hotel Beijing, the Days Inn and the Hilton Beijing.
The Prime Hotel is a good choice near Tiananmen Square, while the JW Marriott Beijing Central is perfect in Xicheng. There are also many guest houses all over Beijing, offering affordable accommodation and good service.
Neighborhoods of interest in Beijing
Dongcheng covers the eastern half of central Beijing and is the main tourist district. It includes the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, has restaurant districts such as Dongzhimen and offers the beautiful Buddhist temples of Yonghegong.
Xicheng, in the western part of downtown Beijing, is a cultural district that includes the People’s Theatre, the Beijing Youth Palace and the impressive National Centre for Performing Arts, as well as the zoo and numerous museums.
Chaoyang is Beijing’s business district and a busy neighborhood that hosted the 2008 Olympic Games. In addition to the Olympic Village, you will find the 798 Art Zone, the excellent shopping opportunities of Sanlitun and the iconic CCTV building.
Getting around Beijing
Beijing has an excellent public transportation system. The subway, splendid, costs between ¥3 and 9 per trip. Its 17 lines cover the whole city, but remember it closes around 11:15pm. Save a lot of money by getting a prepaid card for ¥20.
Taxis are affordable and plentiful, and an excellent way to travel when the subway closes. The fare is ¥13, with a cost of ¥4 for every 1.6 km.
Driving in Beijing is a challenge, with frequent traffic jams and erratic drivers. Plus, you need to get a Chinese driver’s license. With the bureaucracy sorted out, it’s especially useful for visiting the Great Wall. The most common rental companies are Avis and China Auto Rental.
Cost of living in Beijing
In Beijing you can shop at markets such as the Silk Market, Panjiayuan Flea Market, Hong Qiao Flea Market and luxury resorts such as Oriental Plaza. Want to find great bargains? Go to Sanlitun Village. And don’t miss the spectacular Liulichang Antique Market.
Groceries and other
Peking’s supermarkets include Walmart, Carrefour, Auchan and Jenny Lou’s. You’ll pay 14 yen for 12 eggs and 5 yen for a pint of domestic beer.
Where to eat in Beijing
Dining out is one of the most popular and attractive activities in Beijing. If you are looking for authentic, crispy Peking duck, go to the Liqun Roast Duck.
You should also try Xinjiang’s gourmet cuisine at Turpan Restaurant, Sichuan-style delicacies at Zhang Mama and exquisite Peking style meatballs at Din Tai Fung. Normally, you’ll pay between ¥50 and 100.
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