Beijing     北京

Gate of Heavenly PeaceBeijing is the epicenter of China. Immense and regal, China’s capital is a suitably imposing city. As the country’s capital for most of the past 800 years, many of the country’s major tourist attractions are located in Beijing. This is the city from which the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties ruled their empires and where the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949. Under Kublai Khan it was the capital of the largest empire in world history, and today Beijing remains the capital of the world’s most populous country.

The sheer size of Beijing is startling. Incredibly wide multi-lane roads, a product of Communist grandiosity in urban planning, run throughGreat Hall of the People the city in grid patterns. With no river or significant body of water to break up the rigid grid layout, the city of Beijing can feel sterile. Beijing is like an aloof monument to power; a giant that is oddly detached from its inhabitants.

Beijing’s main attractions are world-famous: Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Great Wall of China to the north. But there are many other palaces, temples and ancient buildings scattered around the city. There are no limits in exploring Beijing: its historical relics are endless.

The past decade has seen a major transformation of Beijing. Old neighborhoods were dismantled and high-rises now line all the major roads. While some foreigners bemoaned Dazhalan Xijiethe destruction of many of Beijing’s hutong districts (as if they should be kept for the satisfaction of tourists), the transformation of the city has achieved an excellent balance. The city’s history has been preserved, as have many of the traditional abodes. But around the vestiges of the past, Beijing has grown into an exceedingly modern city.

And with this modernity have come thriving commercial districts, business centers and an increasingly diverse and sophisticated dining and nightlife scene. Beijing is a truly fascinating city for a tourist. It is difficult not to be awed by the grandeur of its past and the incredible potential of its future.

Who should travel to Beijing?

It is a rare tourist itinerary that doesn’t include Beijing. Really, it is an essential city to visit. It might be crowded,Wangfujing Dajieheavily polluted, and not overly attractive, but Beijing’s sightseeing attractions are truly amazing.

How long is needed to see Beijing?

The major attractions (Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and the Great Wall of China) can be visited in around 2.5 days. However, you should really allow as long as possible in Beijing as there is so much more to see. A five day visit would provide a good overview of the city.