Beijing ("Northern capital" in Chinese) is the capital of the People's Republic of China and with a population just shy of 20 million, its second largest city after Shanghai. The city has a long history, going back thousands of years, but historians generally date back the start of present-day Beijing to 1215, when Mongolian troops under Genghis Khan burned down and subsequently rebuilt the city. It was in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) that Beijing really took its current shape, with the construction of the Forbidden City and the city wall. Beijing is currently the political and cultural center of China, and few places in the world can match the amount of history that is on show here.
At the very heart of Beijing is the Forbidden City, housing the Palace Museum, and serving for almost 500 years as the political center and home of the emperor of China. Its size is a staggering 980 rooms. Ironically, even though the Forbidden City is nowadays open for visitors as a showcase of the "old China", next door at Zhongnanhai the government has established a new "forbidden city" from which the country is ruled as it serves as the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party and State Council.
In front of the Forbidden city lies the astonishingly huge Tiananmen square, to this day overlooked by Mao's portrait and every day at sunrise scene of proud soldiers raising the flag and the national anthem blasting through speakers that have probably been in place for many, many years already. If you drop by the square at moments of (for whatever reason) political sensitivity, you can sometimes feel the tension. Seeing someone being dragged away by plain-clothes police is not uncommon. In the middle of the square is Mao's mausoleum.
Of course the list of sights goes on and on. There are no "can-see" attractions in Beijing, and the list of "must-see" attractions is seemingly endless. The Temple of Heaven, Ming Tombs, Summer Palace, Great Wall. It goes on. The problem with having so many world class sights is that attention is drawn away from the fact that present day Beijing is also a fascinating combination of old neighbourhoods (hutongs), communist slogans, skyscrapers, marching soldiers of the People's Liberation Army and shopping girls in mini skirts at Wangfujing... Of course don't miss the Peking Duck, dumplings and hotpot and for a nice drink in the evening check out Houhai. [Review by travelindicator]
You can find the best hotel deals in Beijing here.
- Beijing is a city in China. It has a population of 19,612,368, is situated at an altitude of 171ft and the best airport to fly into is PEK (Capital, Beijing)
- Note: Beijing is a good point of entry for trips to China as it is well internationally connected (by air)
- The currency used in China is the Chinese yuan renminbi (RMB) (CNY)
Historical average maximum temperature per month (℉):
Historical average rainfall per month (inches):
More Beijing travel resources
Start with Wikitravel and Lonely Planet, Rough Guides or the China-focused websites (which tend to be on point) China Highlights and Travel China Guide.
Newspapers like the NY times and Telegraph tend to write interesting pieces on Beijing, while TimeOut Beijing, Beijing Boyce ("a somewhat steady China hand on the F&B scene") and The Beijinger are good for knowing where to party at night.
Beijing Attractions (Foursquare)
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Other travel destinations in China (by popularity)
Jinan, Wenzhou, Shanghai, Shaoxing, Xian, Chongqing, Jiuzhaigou, Hangzhou, Beijing, Wuhan, Urumqi, Xiamen, Hainan, Lhasa, Nanjing, Chengdu, Yangshuo, Mount Huangshan, Hongcun, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Changsha, Qingdao, Harbin, Tibet, Kanas Lake, Lanzhou, Leshan, Fenghuang, Kunming, Lijiang, Shenzhen, Datong, Moganshan, Yushu, Changchun, Zhengzhou, Beihai, Yabuli, Mount Kailash, Fuzhou, Hohhot, Nanning, Guiyang, Dunhuang, Shenyang [Browse all]