Destination insight: Beijing
China's capital is a key economic, trade and communication centre, as well as a cultural hotspot. One of the six ancient cities of China, it boasts 4.4 million international visitors a year and is a great destination for both business and culture.
5 things to see and do in Beijing
1. Enter the Forbidden City
Step back into Chinese history by visiting the Forbidden City, officially known as the Imperial Palace Museum. With over 9,000 rooms, its history is steeped in Byzantine regal protocol and for more than 500 years was an off-limits, private home to two dynasties of the imperial Ming and Qing dynasties. See the Meridian Gate, Golden Stream, galleries and the Three Great Halls. Also, if you have time, visit the Imperial Garden – 7,000m² of classical Chinese garden – and the Complete Palace of Peace and Longevity.
2. Explore Tian’anmen Square
The original entrance to the Imperial Palace, Tian’anmen Gate will lead you to the iconic Tian’anmen Square. A site of huge historical significance, you can visit the National Museum of China and watch the raising and lowering of the Chinese National Flag, which occurs at sunrise and sunset, retrospectively.
3. Walk the Great Wall of China
Impossible to miss! One of the new Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Great Wall measures approximately 13,170 miles from east to west China. Over 2,000 years old, its architectural scale, beauty and cultural history are truly amazing.
4. Discover Beijing's Hutongs by Rickshaw
Hop on a rickshaw and head to the Hutongs district of the city, where you will discover a network of traditional courtyard-style houses, lanes and alleys. Visit Yichidajie, also called One Foot Street, it's the shortest hutong at only 10-meters long, alternatively Qianshi Hutong is the narrowest at 0.7 meters in width – 0.4 meters in its narrowest part! While you're there, find out about the ancient traditional arts and crafts of Beijing, including painting, papercutting and authentic Chinese cooking.
5. Relax at the Summer Palace
Set within the largest and best-preserved park in Beijing, the Summer Palace is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also somewhere you can slow down and escape the pace of the city. Originally built in 1750, it was largely destroyed in the war of 1860 before being restored in 1886. The Palace is a prime example of imperial Chinese landscape garden design, where you can walk, take boat rides or explore the traditional shops by the river.
How to get there
Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) is 25km north east of the city centre and is China's busiest international airport. Head into the city by the Airport Express railway line or the Airport Shuttle bus. A taxi from the airport should cost around ¥70-120. Top tip: get the Chinese name in characters of your hotel for the most efficient airport transfer.
A Chinese visa is required for all travel to Beijing – find out more about Chinese visas.
Clearly marked in English, the Beijing Subway is a good way to travel quickly and affordably. Expect to pay ¥3-9 per trip, which gives you access to 17 lines throughout the city. Rush-hour trains are extremely crowded and trains run from 05.00 to 22.15. A Yikatong (pre-paid) ticket is available for ¥20 and can help save time and avoid single-ticket purchases. Luggage, purses and camera bags must be passed through x-ray checks at stations, so leave time for this.
Beijing taxis are recognisable by their dark yellow strip across the centre of the car over a dark brown background. Generally fares are very reasonable but it's wise to have the name of your destination in Chinese ready at hand, as many drivers will either not speak English or know the English name for a destination.
For short journeys, why not walk? But watch out for road users, as the may not always give way to you. If walking in the city, it is a good idea to be accompanied by Chinese colleagues.