Beijing Travel Guide
Beijing offers a glimpse into the nation's expansive history and its rapid modernization. You'll find preserved palaces rubbing elbows with new subway stations and tranquil lamaseries sharing space with world-class stadiums. Many of the city's historical sites, such as the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, are well-known to the world. Yet, the most popular attraction is located outside Beijing:The Great Wall of China serpentines through the hills north of the city.
From ancient walled capital to showpiece megacity in barely a century, Beijing (Běijīng, 北京), spins a breathless yarn of triumph, tragedy, endurance and innovation.
Capital of China since Kublai Khan came a-knocking (with a hundred thousand or so Mongol horsemen behind him), Beijing has hosted the last three imperial dynasties: the Yuan (Mongols), the Ming (Han Chinese), and the Qing (Manchu). Hutong, the city's rambling residential alleyways, are a Mongolian legacy. The Forbidden City? Hat-tip to the Ming dynasty. Summer Palace? The Qing. Nor does it stop there. Chairman Mao's portrait stares out across Tian'anmen Square, hallowed turf for China's latest ruling clique, the Communist Party of China. And over it all loom giants like the 528m CITIC Tower, topping out in 2018. What next for this restive superpower? You're about to find out.
If you are interested in gaining information on the history, tradition, and culture of China then you should visit Beijing. On the other hand, if you enjoy shopping in huge malls and dining popular but inexpensive Chinese cuisines then you should definitely visit Beijing! In short, Beijing provides the best of the modern and ancient world.
The subway is the cheapest way to get around (a one-way trip starts at about $0.30). Taxis are plentiful and cheap, though cycling is arguably the best way to see the city, especially if you’re staying in an area with many hutongs.
When To Go
The best times to visit Beijing are autumn and late spring, which bring clear skies, mild temperatures, and resplendent flora. Crowds are thick during the October holidays (October 1 through 7) and Spring Festival (late January to mid-February, depending on the lunar calendar).
Though Beijing is the capital of China, few locals speak English, compared with Shanghai and Hong Kong. Haggling is expected at markets like the Silk Market, Maliandao, Panjiayuan, and Hongqiao, so brush up on your survival Chinese for best results.