Not only is Beijing the capital of the People’s Republic of China, but it is also the cultural and historical centre of this vast country. There should be no question why this ever changing city is easily the most visited city by nationals and curious tourists alike! No where else is the juxtaposition between modern and antiquity more evident than in the city that contains ancient palaces, gardens and temples next to modern arenas, skyscrapers and shopping districts.
Beijing is the jumping off point for many of China’s most famous landmarks, most notably the Great Wall. Built two thousand years ago to keep the Mongols from invading the country, this amazing achievement of Chinese architecture must be seen to be believed! The Summer Palace, also nearby, is one of many glimpses into the lives of the Imperial families that reigned over the country for millennia.
Back in the city, be sure to visit the best preserved monument of all China: the Forbidden City. Because it was impossible to enter this enormous palace for over five hundred years, it is beautifully preserved and now accessible with only an entrance fee. China’s famous pandas are viewable at the Beijing Zoo and shouldn’t be missed! Of course, next to this history is Beijing’s chic and lively nightlife, from restaurants to nightclubs.
The best way to travel around Beijing is by the Underground Dragon, or the subway system. Fast and efficient, the subway is often preferred over the bus system, which is often overcrowded. Taxis are available for reasonable prices, but those that do not speak Chinese should be prepared with written directions in the local language. Many hotels also offer bicycle rentals.
As with most of the world’s major capitals, there are flights arriving into Beijing’s international airport from most major cities around the world. Many tourists also arrive in Beijing through a connection with Hong Kong. Those that are not pressed for time or that wish to see a bit of the countryside before arriving may choose to arrive by train from Russia, Vietnam, Mongolia or Hong Kong.
There dozens of hotels available for every budget. There are over a dozen hostels available for young travellers or those on a tighter budget, sometimes as low as $10 a night, while those wishing to sleep in luxury can expect to pay $200 or more a night in Beijing’s five star hotels. Where Beijing really excels is in the wide number of mid-range hotels. Some of the most popular include the Xiaoxiang Hotel, the Jianguo Hotel Qianmen and the Zhuyuan Binguan.