Explore Beijing, China
Explore Beijing; the capital of the People’s Republic of China, the most populous country in the world. With a population of 21,500,000 people, it is the nation’s second-largest city after Shanghai. It was also the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors until the establishment of the Republic of China in 1911. Beijing is the political, educational and cultural centre of the country and as such it is rich in historical sites and important government and cultural institutions.
The city is marked by its flatness and arid climate. There are only three hills to be found in the city limits (in Jingshan Park to the north of Forbidden City) and mountains surround the capital on three sides. Like the configuration of the Forbidden City, Beijing has concentric “ring roads”, which are actually rectangular, that go around the metropolis and serve as good reference points as one attempts to move about the city. Beyond the ring roads are the most-visited portions of the Great Wall of China, which witnesses visitors the world over and Beijing serves as a good headquarters for those who wish to gaze upon one of mankind’s more memorable and lasting structures.
Beijing literally means Northern Capital, a role it has played many times in China’s long history. Beijing’s history dates back several thousand years but it first became notable in Chinese history after it was made the capital of the State of Yan under the name Yanjing. Yan was one of the major kingdoms of the Warring States Period, some 2,000 years ago. After the fall of Yan, during the later Han and Tang dynasties, the Beijing-area was a major prefecture of northern China.
Beijing has a monsoon-influenced continental climate with hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. The best time to visit is in September and October, during the “Golden Autumn”. Spring is the season for dust storms and is otherwise warm and dry. Summer can be oppressively hot and the tourist crowds tend to be the largest as well; prevailing winds from the south trap pollutants (mountains lie to the north and west), making summer a poor season for air quality. Smog is at its worst, however, in winter, which is cold and dry with infrequent, but beautiful, snow. Temperatures can easily fall below −10 °C in winter, and just as readily rise above 35 °C in summer.
Demographics and geography
Beijing has a population of greater than 20 million people, with a substantial percentage being migrants, living on 16,800 km² distributed in 18 districts. The city borders Hebei Province (where much of the pollution which plagues Beijing originates from) to the north, west and south, and Tianjin to the east.
Beijing is changing at such a phenomenal pace and it’s one of the physically largest cities in the world. Foreign maps will be unavailable, so you’ll need English-language Sinomaps guides at official bookshops or 5-star hotel concierge desks. Avoid the fake Sinomaps on standard paper, which are years out of date and lack detail.
Before embarking on a trip around the city, have the names of places you want to visit written in Chinese characters. The staff at your hotel should help you and take their card to help you get back. Obtain as much detail as possible and take an up-to-date Sinomap guide with you.
When crossing the road in China, assume that none of the road users will give way to you, even if a policeman is present. Use zebra crossings but most drivers won’t stop. Always look around as a car or bike may be right behind you or heading straight for you. Should you find several cars and bicycles veering towards you from different directions, do not try to run to safety; instead, stand still. There is strength in numbers, so when a mass of people crosses together cars are more likely to stop or slow down.
What to see. Best top attractions in Beijing, China.
The language of Beijing is Mandarin Chinese. Standard Mandarin itself was the administrative language of the Ming and Qing dynasties and was based mainly on the Beijing dialect.
English is spoken by staff at the main tourist attractions, as well as at major hotels. Otherwise, English speakers are not common, so always get your hotel’s business card to show the taxi driver in case you get lost. Likewise, have staff at your hotel write down the names of any tourist attraction you plan to visit in Chinese, so locals can point you out in the right direction.
What to buy
Throughout nearly all markets in Beijing, haggling is essential. Especially when browsing through large, “touristy” shopping areas for common items, do not put it beneath your dignity to start bargaining at 15% of the vendor’s initial asking price. In fact, in the most “touristy” markets final prices can often be as low as 15%-20% of the initial asking price and “removing a zero” isn’t a bad entry point in the bargaining process. After spending some time haggling, never hesitate to threaten walking away, as this is often the quickest way to see a vendor lower his or her prices to a reasonable level. Buying in bulk or in groups may also lower the price. How high or low the vendor sets the asking price depends on the customer, the vendor, the product’s popularity, and even the time of day. Vendors also tend to target visible minorities more, such as Caucasians or people of African descent.
There are a number of interesting markets around Beijing where you can find all kind of cheap (and often fake) stuff. Some of the most popular places are Xizhimen in Xicheng District, Silk Street or Panjiayuan in Chaoyang District and Hong Qiao Market in Chongwen District.
As an alternative to the markets you can go to some of the shopping areas lined with shops. This includes Nanluoguoxiang in Dongcheng District and Qianmen Dajie Pedestrian Street, Dashilan and Liulichang in Xuanwu District.
If you are looking for traditional Chinese food shops try Yinhehua Vegetarian in Dongcheng District, Daoxiangcun, Liubiju or The Tea Street in Xuanwu District.
Visiting hotel shops and department stores is not the most characterful shopping in China, but worth a look. While generally significantly more expensive, they are less likely to sell truly low quality goods. The old style of Chinese retailing is gradually being transformed by shops with a better design sense and souvenir items are getting better each year. Silk clothing, table settings and so on and other spots around town, are worth a look, as are porcelain, specialty tea and other traditional items. Some of the most popular areas for this kind of shopping are Wangfujing and The Malls at Oriental Plaza both in Dongcheng District as well as Xidan in Xicheng District.
The carpet business is strong in Beijing and you will find all manner of stores selling silk carpets and other varieties.
What to eat
Beijing provides an ideal opportunity to sample food from all over the country. Some of Beijing’s best restaurants serve food from Sichuan, Hunan, Guangzhou, Tibet, Yunnan, Xinjiang, and What else to eat in Beijing.
Internet is highly restricted in China. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and most Western news websites are completely blocked, and it is not uncommon for many foreign websites not to load. Examples of partially blocked sites include Wikipedia, Blogspot, and Tumblr. To circumvent this problem you can purchase a commercial VPN to tunnel out of the firewall. Be aware that free versions have security holes and can increase your chances of getting hacked.
Free Wi-Fi can be found in all sorts of chain and independent cafes and fast food restaurants, and many sit-down restaurants as well. These cafes can look like restaurants from the outside, but most any place that is called a cafe will have Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is also common in hostels and hotels. Faster connections may be available for a small fee.
Places to visit near Beijing
Long distance cyclist-tourists will find national road 109 is a pleasant way to enter or leave Beijing, though lots of work. It immediately enters steep hills on the edge of the city, but sees little traffic, is well maintained and passes though lovely landscape of farmland and forests. Its remarkable how close to Beijing you are, and how far it feels.
Tianjin – Around 30 minutes away by bullet train, Tianjin is one of four municipalities within China and contrasts with the capital due to its colonial European influence. Tianjin even has a charming Little Italy area in addition to other interesting historical sites.
If you intend to take the Trans-Siberian-Railway to Mongolia you can take a overnight sleeper bus from e.g. Muxiyuan Long Distance Bus Station to Inner Mongolia Erlian. Note that bus tickets can only be purchased at day of departure.
The process when taking the bus is pretty much the same as when taking the jeep, only since more people have to get off the bus, go through immigration, and get back on the bus again, it takes a little longer. That said, you should be able to get from Erlian to Zamyn-Uud in around two hours.
Four hours by train or bus or two hours by car, visit the former imperial retreat of Chengde (256 km/159 mi northeast of Beijing).
Russia – There are two all-year-around Trans-Siberian trains from Beijing to Moscow. One is K3 which reach Moscow via Ulaanbaatar,departing on Wednesday every week. The other one is K19 which departs from Beijing on Saturday every week, reaching Moscow via Manchuria. Same as K23, these tickets are only can purchase from travel agent. You can purchase the Trans-Siberian tickets from Beijing to Moscow in advance.
In order to explore Beijing you will need a few good trips because you cannot have enough
Official tourism websites of Beijing, China
For more information please visit the official government website: