The Chinese capital city of Beijing is the heartland of Chinese culture and politics, where historic sites and fascinating museums rub shoulders with glittering new skyscrapers. Known as the “Forbidden City” Beijing is China’s most famous attraction. Formerly Peking, Beijing is a very modern and busy city which nearly 14 million people call home. Beijing encompasses numerous attractions of cultural and historical interest such as the Great Wall of China, the former Imperial Palace, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace and the remains of Peking Man at Zhoukoudian are UNESCO-endorsed World Heritage Sites. The Imperial Palace overlooks the infamous Tiananmen Square, site of so much Chinese history with political drama and dissent. The city abounds in palaces, temples, mansions, gardens and tombs that encompass classical Chinese architecture. It also has roughly 120 museums and more than 100 public gardens.

In preparation to host the 2008 Olympic Games Beijing underwent many major renovations and improvements to the city’s transportation, environmental issues and general clean up. The Chinese saw the games highlight its economic rise and emergence as a world power. Some of the infrastructure, such as the iconic 'Birds Nest' stadium, is still in use for different purposes, and contributes to Beijing's unique landscape.

The Climate in Beijing

Beijing is mostly cold and dry in the winter and hot and rainy in the summer. There are four distinct seasons in Beijing with winter temperatures well below freezing and very hot summers that make up the city’s extreme climate. Most of the rainfall takes place in the summer season when the city is subject to the East Asian Monsoon. Spring takes place between February and April and brings warm yet windy conditions. Autumn occurs between August and October and brings beautiful blue skies, mild temperatures and some humidity. Spring and autumn are the best seasons to travel in Beijing because they are the most mild and temperate. Beijing is also subject to occasional sandstorms from the deserts of northern China, and the air can be somewhat smoggy.

Activities in Beijing

If you are in Beijing between January and March a visit to Longqing Gorge Ice and Snow Festival is a fun day out. Participate in ice-fishing, tobogganing, ice-slides, skating or one of numerous other ice or snow sports or visit the human sized ice maze. There is something for all age groups during the festival and if you are travelling with kids this makes for a great time for the whole family.

The Great Wall Marathon takes place beside the largest man made structure in the world. Three races make up the event. A full marathon of 26.2 miles (42Km), a half marathon of 13.1 miles (21Km) and a Fun Run open to anyone over the age of 12. The marathon route is steep but even and well-maintained so that no special shoes are required and injuries are minimal. 

The “Meet in Beijing” Arts Festival began in 2002 and is held annually between April and May. This is a month long festival that includes theatre, music, dance and art exhibitions which includes artists from all over the world. The festival is thought to be the largest spring cultural event in Asia. Shows are performed in both indoor and outdoor venues including famous scenic spots and buildings like the National Theatre and the Forbidden City. The festival makes April and May a prime time to visit Beijing.

Chinese New Year takes place in February and is a colorful and festive celebration. All over China there are vibrant celebrations during this period and the festivities make it a truly thrilling time to visit any of the big cities.

Sightseeing in Beijing

Eye-catching structures and modern architectural marvels are among the city's most visited attractions. These include the National Stadium, better known as the Bird's Nest, and the National Grand Theatre, known as the Eggshell. 

The Great Wall of China is the most famous attraction in Beijing. Beihai Park and the Summer Palace are also very popular places to explore. 

The Zhoukoudian Cave contains the largest collection of Homo erectus fossils in the world.

Tiananmen Square or the Chairman Mao Mausoleum offer more recent history to take in. Being able to walk through some of the world's most ancient and most modern attractions in one day makes Beijing especially captivating.

Beijing cuisine

Chinese food in Beijing differs dramatically from the fare in Chinese restaurants worldwide. Beijing's famous Peking roast duck is the most popular dish with several restaurants devoted entirely to it. Beijing has made for some of the longest menus in the world where diners can choose from traditionally cooked meals or new takes on old favorites. More expensive restaurants in Beijing will accept credit cards, but street vendors and takeaways will only accept cash. Hotel restaurants will sometimes include a 15% service charge; however, tipping is not expected in Beijing.

Travel to Beijing/Passports

Beijing Capital International Airports is one of the world’s largest and busiest airports. The airport was renovated for the 2008 Olympic Games and has become a world class international hub. Beijing Airport has three terminals which have quality places for shopping, food and beverages. Shuttle busses to the city, major hotels and the rail station are readily available. Metered taxis are also available, but it is recommended that passengers have their destination written in Chinese to avoid confusion. Travelling time to the city is about an hour. Visitors must have a valid passport with at least 6 months' validity from time of entry into the country, and two blank pages remaining though you might get away with just one blank page.


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