Beijing, located in Northern China is one of the most popular cities in the world with a population of over 20 million, it is one of the the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. It’s a city that is rich in culture and renowned for the abundance of temples, palaces and huge stone walls. There is so much to do in Beijing, so much to experience and so much to explore in this massive city, so here are a few interesting ideas and facts to kickstart your adventures.
Five interesting facts
- Beijing was known as ‘Peking’ in Imperial China and literally means ‘Northern Capital’.
- Beijing has the most restaurants per square meter than any other city.
- Beijing is the ‘bike’ capital of the world with over 20% of the population using this means of transport.
- Most popular surname in Beijing is Wang with over 11% of the city’s population sharing this surname.
- Beijing had over 100 million tourists visiting in the first half of 2012.
- The Forbidden City, Located North of Tiannanmen Square (the largest square in the world), has up to 9000 rooms and covers over 250 acres, it was the Imperial Palace for twenty-four emperors from 1368 – 1644. It consists of 90 palaces and courtyards and is surrounded by a 53-meter wide moat; this is a fantastic day tour.
- The Great Wall of China, running 596 kilometres welcomes millions of tourists each year to visit its magnificent sights enriched with historic value.
- The Temple of Heaven, a must see sight and even bigger than the Forbidden City covering an area of about 2,7000,000 square meters. Besides the many fascinating buildings and temples, visit the Nine Dragon Cypress that was planted almost 500 years ago.
- Beijing Zoo is the biggest zoo in China with the most animal species, here you can see anything from elephants, gorillas and dolphins, the big highlight here is the Giant Panda.
- The Birds Nest, China’s National Stadium is the worlds largest steel structure and was the main venue for the 2008 Olympic Games. The architecture is amazing and cost over 423 million dollars to build.
Photo by frankartculinary (Flickr)
Beijing is a great place for shopping, but if you don’t like the high end expensive and glamorous shopping malls, then hit the local markets and you are bound to walk out with a good few bargains.
- Beijing Antique City, located just to the west of Huawei Bridge is the largest Chinese antique trade centre in Asia, it is four stories high and has over six hundred dealers. Here you can get anything from furniture, rugs, clocks and watches, paintings and so much more.
- Beijing Yashow Market in Chaoyang District is a popular market where you can find great bargains, this market is surrounded by many of the most popular places to eat and drink from restaurant and bars to cafés, this has a little something for everyone.
- Zhongguancun Electronics Market located in Hai Dian Distric has such a wide range of equipment, from cameras, computers, mobile phones and MP3 players, this market covers a huge area and is made up of several shopping malls and buildings.
- Xiushui Street, a fantastic place to go shopping as the rule is ‘no fixed price’, here you can get great bargains, the more you haggle (bargain) the cheaper it is. Here you can find a great variety of silks, name brand clothes and handbags etc.
- Zoo Market is a huge wholesale market group situated in Xicheng District around The Beijing Zoo and is made up of seven markets. Here you will spend hours walking around, you can find almost anything from jewelry to clothing and eating out.
Beijing’s national food is the Peking Duck, this cannot be missed on your visit to this wonderful city, here are our top five recommendations for restaurants that are worth a visit but remember to arrive hungry as the portions in Beijing are very large and made for the whole family to share.
- Din Tai Fung, an award winning restaurant situated at 24, Xinyuan Xili Zhongjie will have you walking away more than satisfied with its fresh food, cleanliness and friendly staff offering you an unforgettable Chinese experience.
- Da Dong, best known for the famous and iconic Roasted Duck, indulge yourself with one of the city’s best restaurants, it is reasonable priced, has a great atmosphere and very popular to foreigners, it can be located in Dongsi Shitiao.
- Huguosi Snacks Restaurant in the Xicheng District has a great variety of typical Chinese snacks and gives you a good sense of Chinese cuisine. It is a small restaurant with no menus but has everything from savory to sweet to tantalize those taste buds.
- Temple Restaurant is a new restaurant ranking high up with many five star reviews. It is located in the vicinity of Dongcheng, the spectacular venue used to be an ancient temple and sets a perfect atmosphere with great food, service and finesse.
- Pure Lotus is a vegetarian restaurant only; it does not serve any alcohol but is well worth a visit for its excellent food and fantastic decor. This ingenious restaurant has an eccentric atmosphere where you will find that each dish has its own creative and unique name and servers sing folk songs.
Five travel tips
- Bargaining, in Beijing the rule of thumb is no fixed prices, you can walk away with great deals if you know how to bargain a good price, so get cracking on those negotiation skills.
- Eating out, the reason there are round tables is for food to be shared, you don’t order one plate per person but rather several plates for all to share.
- Toilets, a word of warning especially to the ladies out there, toilets in this part of the world are far from private and sometimes not the cleanest, a lot of the time you may be required to squat and you will also need to take your own roll of toilet paper, certainly a different experience but don’t let this put you off as they have improved vastly since the 2008 Olympic games.
- Autumn is the best time to travel to Beijing as its crisp, clear and warm days are very welcoming at this time of year.
- Getting around Beijing is made easy with many options of transportation, the subway is generally the fastest way to get around, and taxis are often used too but beware of the illegal taxis.