China's capital city is a dynamic and fast-growing metropolis that keeps a tight grip on its rich cultural heritage as well as embracing rapid modernisation and still adhering to a strict Communist social order. The city is of colossal proportions and can often give a distorted view of China to foreign visitors. Beijing is both modern city with high-rise buildings, shopping malls and vast international hotels connected by an intricate freeway system crisscrossing the city. However, the contemporary buildings often mask traditional hutongs, parks, numerous architectural treasures and beautiful temples whose prayer flags and wind chimes dance in the gentle breeze produced by the passing traffic.
The highlights of the city are as numerous as they are varied. The best good place to initiate exploring the city is Tiananmen Square, where Mao Tse Tung declared the foundation of the People’s Republic. From the square you can see the imposing majesty of the Forbidden City to the north and the vast portrait of Chairman Mao on the Tiananmen Gate. Other more serene places of interest include the Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven and of course, The Great Wall. For the foodies out there, there are some excellent restaurants in the city.
We really recommend that you spend a day or so extra in Beijing to really soak up the amazing sights and sounds of the capital. Spend a little time in the public parks where you will see the locals practising Tai Chi, singing and even ballroom dancing, spend an afternoon in the traditional ‘hutongs’ narrow busy backstreets crammed with local markets and incense filled temples and really immerse yourself into this rich and complex society.
Population: 12 million