China’s ancient capital, with over 3 millennia’s worth of history, needs no introduction. Beijing is regarded as the nation’s political, economic, cultural, educational, international trade and communication centre and has served as the country’s capital for 850 years. Hosting 150 million visitors every year, the city is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Although the city has undergone some modernisation in the lead up to the 2008 Olympics, Beijing still holds on to its cultural and historical roots. You will find it difficult to find a building that lacks national and historical significance.
What to Know
With a list of historical sites the length of the Great Wall, visitors to Beijing will leave the city feeling historically and culturally fulfilled. Beijing’s history resonates through its architecture, from the Great Wall and Genghis Kahn’s invasion and the countless dynasties residing in the Forbidden City, to the religious complex of the Temple of Heaven and the flawless modern stadiums of the 2008 Olympic Games. With a rich and diverse history, Beijing is the most popular megacity in China to get your culture fix.
Beijing can be extremely cold in the winter, so if you are planning on visiting, you should remember to bring not TWO but THREE extra layers to keep the chilly Siberian winds at bay. Spring sees a lot of very gusty weather with a chance of sandstorms and summers are very hot and very wet. We recommend autumn as the best time to visit Beijing due to its mild climate and dry days!
What to Do
Kick off your visit to Beijing with a night camping on the Great Wall and then head over to the largest palace on the planet – the Forbidden City. Don’t forget your camera when visiting the world famous Tiananmen Square and the 2008 Olympics stadium, The Bird’s Nest. In the evening you’ll have a chance to sample some local street food, which can include anything from donkey to starfish! After sampling some of the local cuisine, head over to the Acrobat Show for an eye-popping performance.
Beijing has arguably the best preserved section of the Great Wall in China. Named as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall promises to take your breath away as you stand atop the longest man made structure of all time. The Badaling section is in pristine condition and is perfect for holiday snaps, but stray too far in either direction and you are confronted with the wild wall.
Next we move from the longest wall in the world to the world’s largest palatial complex – the Forbidden City. Containing 980 buildings, covering 180 acres and with 500 years of history, the Forbidden City is not to be missed. With a wealth of exquisite, well-preserved art and the countless legends of the people who inhabited it, make sure you reserve ample time to truly experience it. The nearby Tiananmen Square is another fascinating spot, that provided the backdrop for the famous “Tank Man” photograph taken during the 1989 protests.
However, if you are getting a little tired of site seeing, head to the local Peking Opera which combines music, vocal performances, acrobatics, mime and dance. Take a stroll around the city to marvel at Beijing’s unique modern architecture, the 2008 Olympic park and the 798 Art District, an exhibition centre displaying the creme de la creme of modern Chinese art.
What to eat
Beijing’s most iconic dish, traditionally served in China’s imperial court, is at the top of most visitors must eat list – peking duck. Having firmly cemented itself as a delicacy in Chinese restaurants globally, sitting down in a local restaurant being served up a plate of the most succulent and mouth watering sliced duck wrapped up in a crispy pancake along with spring onions and sweet been sauce will have you taste buds tingling with tantalising hunger. Wash this down with a steaming bowl of hot-and-sour soup, yes, comprising of chillies and vinegar this soup is a widely popular dish when mixed with meat, tofu or bamboo shoots.
For those of you with a more exotic taste, the impressive array of meat on display at Wangfujing snack street will give you all that China has to offer in the culinary department. From fried scorpions to spiders and crickets to snake and silk worms, you name it and it can be found here, deep fried and skewered on a stick! Barbecued kebab skewers are a close second for the most popular street food in Beijing, losing just marginally to Jianbing guozi, or savoury pancakes. These pancakes are fried with egg, layered with fried dough, scallions and sauce and then folded, ready to be eaten. For those with a sweet tooth, seek out a vendor selling candied haw berries along with other candied fruits. Dipped in sugar syrup and then left to cool and harden, these kebab-like sweets are best likened to candy apples but are much easier to eat!