Capital of the People’s Republic of China, it is the country’s political and cultural center piece as well. It was one of the six ancient cities (also called Peking) and its history dates back more than 3000 years. There are a number of tourist attractions that carry significant amount of historical and political significance. Beijing also is a major transportation and industrial hub, with tall skyscrapers and regional headquarters of many multinational companies. The various neighborhoods of the city possesses unique characteristics, including food, history and cultural significance.
Here are some of our select attractions apart from the obvious ones –
- Forbidden City – At the heart of the city stands tall the home of Ming and Qing dynasties. Imperial collection of painting and sculptures and a museum are crown jewels of this walled complex. The residence of the Emperor, it was forbidden to enter the palatial city without permission from the Emperor himself, thereby the name. The outer court and the inner court takes about 3-4 hours to look and understand the history. It is also listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. The giant red walls, yellow tiled roofs and grand monarchical halls with magnificent treasures perplexes visitors of all nationality. TIP – There is a cap on the number of tickets sold per day, so try to get here early.
- Tienanmen Square – Easily accessible by subway, this massive complex houses the monument of the People’s heroes, great hall of the people in the Tienanmen Tower. With the history representing the sacrifices and protests here, thousands of people come to visit and chill here. It seems incredibly crowded any time during the day. While you are here, check out the National Museum of China and Memorial Hall of Mao around the square. You can easily view some military and guards marching around the square, and the flag raising ceremony if you are lucky.
There are several government offices around the square, and unmistakable portrait of Mao hangs from the hall across the street in front of the Tienanmen Tower. Makes for great photos.
For a quick drink and bite in the evening, walk east along the Chang’an Avenue to reach the marketplace. Along the way you will see some of the grand hotels, name brand shops, Ministry of Commerce, and the Oriental Plaza building. We found a local market and tried some street food, and had a ‘tea-tasting’ experience.
- Donghuamen Night Market – It is a sight in itself and is a night market selling street food of literally everything that you can think of. Deep fried in bamboo skewers, name any moving life-form ranging from octopus, bugs, grasshoppers, insects, snake, scorpions, and what not. The vendors will often charge more from the foreigners, but be patient and walk around, and bargain as hard as you can. Believe us, it is an experience indeed. We tried a few bugs on a skewer and bought a snake (but too faint-hearted to actually eat).
- Summer Palace – In the northwest side of Beijing lies the royal summer time retreat for the Emperors. Established by the Qing dynasty, it is a huge complex in front of the scenic Kumming lake and its islands. The three sides of the complex has different charms and
unique features. Stunning views of the lake and the Longevity hill can be found from the eastern side. Some of the primary scenic areas are Spring Pavilion, Palace of timely rain and moisture, the Arch Bridge, Wenchang Tower, A bronze Ox statue, etc. Enjoying the sheer beauty of the landscape, we wondered how healing and rejuvenating the Empires’ time in this palace would have been. We spent about 4 hours walking around the palace. It rains often in summer so carry an umbrella or buy a poncho from street vendors.
6. Temple of Confuscious – The place to pay tribute to the great Confuscious in the city was the second largest Temple of Confuscious. Built in the 1300’s, it was used by Ming, Qing and Yuan dynasties, as well as modern society. The statue of Confuscious welcomes you when you enter the complex, and four courtyards and two huge gates (DaCheng Gate and Xianshi Gate) adorned with precious jewels and artwork keeps you busy inside. We spend about 3 hours here without a guide. Having a history book or some pre-reading on the background should give you enough material to skip a guide.