The ancient Chinese viewed their kingdom as the center of the world, with their sophisticated society and culture once considered the center of civilization by many. They referred to the vast stretch of their land as Zhongguo, meaning ‘Middle Kingdom’. The focal point of that world was then and is now Beijing, the Chinese capital. Today, Beijing remains China’s political, administrative, and cultural center.
The cultural legacy of the ancient Chinese can still be seen in the many grandiose palaces and temples of Beijing, perhaps no more so than in the Forbidden City, located unsurprisingly in the center of the city. Beside its ancient sights and neighborhoods, Beijing is at the forefront of a new China, with construction occurring at a mad pace. The city is home to some of the best-known marvels of modern architecture.
Beijing will occupy any visitor’s itinerary for days with its sheer number of ancient and modern sights, some of which span vast areas. Visitors should find it easy to fill up their schedules with all kinds of interesting outings.
The first stop for any visitor to Beijing is naturally the most prominent of its sights, the Forbidden City, so named because the palace was once home to China’s emperors and was therefore off-limits to commoners under pain of death. Today, commoners and tourists alike can visit the Forbidden City to behold gate after gate and courtyard after courtyard of one of the best-preserved ancient palaces the world has ever seen. Easy access to this well-known landmark can be had for those staying at Hotel Kapok Beijing or Jade Garden Hotel Beijing.
Just outside Beijing are many preserved sections of the Great Wall. Many tourists venture out from the capital to hike, climb, and walk around this ancient fortification, parts of which date back to 220 BC and were once used to keep ‘barbarians’ from invading the ‘civilized’ world.
While not as ancient as the palace fronting it, Tiananmen Square is historic in itself. This square, comparable in size to 60 football fields, was the site of the 1989 protests which tragically ended in the death of hundreds of civilians following the government’s declaration of martial law. Today, visitors and locals alike stroll through Tiananmen Square to take in some of its surrounding sites, including the Revolutionary History Museum and the Great Hall of the People.
A more modern architectural legacy in Beijing lies in the many structures of the Olympic Park, built for the 2008 Summer Olympics which were held in the city. Two of the most prominent structures here are the Beijing National Aquatics Center and the Beijing National Stadium, more famously referred to as the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest, respectively.
One of the great culinary experiences a traveler can have in Beijing is a meal with the famous dish named after the city: Peking duck. This roast duck dish has been cooked in China for hundreds of years. The dish is particularly noted for the specific raising of the ducks and for its preparation, which produces a deliciously crispy skin and succulent meat. Several districts, meanwhile, provide drinking and nightlife options for locals and visitors alike. These include Houhai, Dashanzi, Wudaokou, and many others. Naturally, in the areas in and around the big tourist attractions like the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, there are souvenir shops aplenty. However, the most interesting shopping areas in the Chinese capital are Silk Street in Chaoyang District, Xizhimen in Xicheng, and Hong Qiao Market located in Chongwen District.
The capital of one of the fastest developing world powers is accessible through many transportation options. Beijing Capital International Airport has three terminals which receive flights from all over China and from practically every continent of the world. Beijing also has a number of railway stations which are connected to many corners of the country. To get around the Chinese capital, visitors can use the Beijing subway. The network has over 16 lines, including the Airport Express line, which cover virtually all areas of the capital.
Shopping in Beijing is mainly about hitting the street markets or mega shopping malls. Virtually without...
The capital of the People's Republic of China is the political and economic heart of this vast country...
Tiananmen Square and the associated Forbidden City are the main sights in Beijing and attractions that...
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