Beijing is known for its grandeur: wide boulevards, China's finest museums, impressive temples, and the grand Forbidden City. Made up of 800 buildings, it is the largest and best-preserved cluster of ancient buildings in China. North of Beijing are some of the best preserved sections of the Great Wall — a breathtaking sight as it snakes over rugged and rolling hills. Built in stages 2,000 years ago, the wall stretches for more than 3,000 miles.
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- Choice of accommodations
- Hotel taxes and service charges
- Airport welcome by English-speaking destination representative
Frequently Asked Questions
Who should go?
Thousands of years of history can be witnessed in Beijing and the surrounding area.
Travel or walk through the hutongs of the city or hike the Great Wall of China.
What's the climate like?
Spring and autumn are the best times to visit, especially late March and early November, but be prepared for rain. Also, be aware that the air pollution can be quite bad at times and may cause problems for those with respiratory issues.
How do I get around town?
For travel prior to April 1, 2012, transfers between the airport and hotel are included with your vacation package. It takes approximately 60 minutes via motorcoach to travel from the airport into Beijing. Travelers can also purchase private car transfers; see the Activities + More tab for more information.
Within the city there are several ways to get around, but taxis are the most recommended. There are two levels of taxis. An economical way to go is the ‘xiali,’ which comes in hatchback size and the larger and cleaner sedans. For real comfort, and more of what Americans are accustomed to, use the taxis that can be found near tourist sites and at major hotels. All legal taxis have the name of the taxi company stenciled on the front doors in Chinese characters. Legal taxis are metered, but make sure the meter is at zero when you start and then properly engaged once you start your journey.
Buses are crowded and not recommended, except for the more adventurous traveler. Tickets are purchased on the bus, so you’ll have to know your destination. Trolleys cost the same as buses. For help in determining which bus or trolley to take, ask someone at the front desk of your hotel.
Beijing also has a subway (Metro) system, which is clean, very cheap, and a great way to get from one place to another instead of the traffic-congested streets. There are two lines — one which runs east/west and one that runs in a grand loop. Several tourist stops are along both lines, including the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, the Friendship Store and Silk Alley, Bell and Drum Towers, and Liulichang Antique Street. And, considering how populated Beijing is, the subway is relatively uncrowded. Signs within the stations are usually in English, too, making getting around an easy task.
Pedicabs (three-wheeled bicycles with seating for 2-3 on a bench seat behind the driver) can be a fun way to travel shorter distances, especially through the narrow alleys (hutongs) of old Beijing and can be hailed outside the Friendship Store and near major tourist sites. Make sure to agree on the fare in advance, which currency is being used, if the trip is one-way or roundtrip, and if it’s for one person or two.
Walking is another great way to see the sights of the city. However, be forewarned that Beijing is a huge city and that traffic rarely, if ever, stops for pedestrians.
What kinds of dining and nightlife are available?
Beijing is a huge, and fast-becoming, totally modern city. Here you’ll find all types of Chinese cuisine, as well as British pubs, Italian ristorantes, American hamburger joints, and everything else in between. Here are a few places to try; your hotel will also have several restaurants to choose from. It is not recommended to try any of the tempting tidbits at street stands or night markets. While it is fine for locals to eat from these food vendors, foreigners dine at their own risk.
- Bianyifang Roast Duck
One of the most famous restaurants for Peking Duck. Founded in 1855, Bianyifang uses straw as fuel to roast your duck with indirect heat.
- Courtyard Restaurant
Great views of the Forbidden City with very good food that is a mix of Western and Asian. Service is efficient and there is a good wine list.
- Fangzhou Restaurant
Endorsed by the Tourist Department of China, Fangzhou features shandong, sichuan, quangdong, soup, snacks, and shabu.
Making the trip over the Sea of Japan, sushi has found a home in China's capital city. A modern theme is reflected in the decor as well as the menu with a long list of elaborate raw fish dishes.
- Kejia Cai
Extremely popular, traditional Hakka Chinese cuisine. A must try is mizhi zhibao luyu, a "secret recipe paper-wrapped fish" served with an excellent sweet sauce.
- Quanjude Kaoyadian
Nicknamed "big duck," this chain or restaurants serves some of the best Peking duck in the city. Here, the wood of a fruit tree is used to roast your duck over the fire.
- Tingliguan Restaurant
Located in the Summer Palace, Tingliguan is famous for its “All-Fish Feast” of more than 50 kinds and is the only one in China.
Nightlife in Beijing is much like that in the rest of the world — nightclubs, discos, bars, and pubs attract foreigners and locals alike and some keep the party going till dawn. One of the hottest areas is the Sanlitun diplomatic district, running north along Sanlitun Lu from the intersection of Gongrentiyuchang Bei Lu, west of the Third Ring Road. There is even a sign in English announcing that you have entered the Sanlitun Bar Street, with more than 60 bars. Spreading out from the area, there are more cafés and bars.
Where should I go shopping?
Bartering is accepted and expected on the streets, at market stalls, and in some private stores. However, in government run stores, hotel shops, and department stores, the prices are fixed. Best buys can be found on cashmere, silk, athletic wear, gold, pearls, jade, and tea, as well as arts and crafts.
The Silk Alley has closed but the Friendship Store is still there. For quality goods at fixed prices, this is a great place to either purchase or do price comparisons before heading to the markets.
For a great selection of clothing, brand-name outdoor clothing, and inexpensive pearl jewelry, go to the indoor Hongqiao Market (Pearl Market) on the east side of the Temple of Heaven. There are thousands of stores in this five-story market, so ask around at your hotel for shops they recommend or head off to Amy’s Pearls & Jewelry, Beijing Wenli Pearls and Jewelry, or Sharon’s Stone.
Another market worth exploring is the Panjiayuan Antique & Curio Market, also called the Sunday Market, Dirt Market, and Ghost Market. Go early on Sunday for the best selection and deals in what some say is the best antique market in China, located a 25-minute taxi ride to the south.
Beijing’s main shopping street is Wangfujing with art galleries, scroll shops, chic boutiques, department stores, and modern plazas.
When are the local events?
To find out what events are taking place, your hotel is a good source of information, as well as Beijing This Month, published by the Beijing Tourism Administration. The monthly magazine has an events calendar, city map, and helpful ads. Annual events are common, as well; here are some of them:
First day of the lunar calendar. Residents decorate their houses and visit temples and friends. Local temples have outdoor celebrations with entertainment and markets. Takes place over five days.
On the full moon on or after the 15th day after Chinese New Year. Fireworks and entertainment take place at the many temples, the best being at Beihai Park.
October 1. The largest mass patriotic demonstration in Beijing and all of China, taking place over five days. Held at Tiananmen Square.
Red Leaf Festival
Late October through mid-November. Beijingers head to the Fragrant Hills Park when the autumn leaves change.
China International Jazz Festival
Mid-November. An annual festival since 1993 featuring top jazz performers from around the world.
The Wanfujing Paleolithic Museum is in the basement of the Oriental Plaza, one of Beijing’s newer shopping centers. The museum sits on amazing Stone Age artifacts, which were found while building the center.
History lovers will be enamored with Beijing. Dated back 500,000 years ago, Peking Man made his home about 30 miles southwest of Beijing. Fast forward to 1057 B.C. and King Wu was the first to declare Beijing the capital city. With such a rich and varied history from the Great Wall of China to Tiananmen Square, the area is home to countless historic sites. For relatively modern history, visit an authentic Chinese hutong. These traditional neighborhoods have been the ancestral home to its residents for hundreds of years, and are quickly disappearing as Beijing becomes a more modern city. See them now before they're gone.
For the best views of the city, head to Jingshan Park. Once a royal garden of the Ming and Qing dynasties, today you can view the entire city of Beijing from atop the 144-foot Jingshan Hill.
Good to Know:
|Beijing International Airport
|March – May and September – mid November
|November – March
|Yuan, but referred to as the Renminbi (RMB)
|Beijing is 12 hours ahead of Central Standard Time. Beijing does not use daylight savings time, so it is only 11 hours ahead of CST in the summer. All of China is in the same time zone.
|Government legislation requires all people traveling via air to and from the United States and Canada to have a valid passport. For details on passports, visas, and health requirements, see Entry Requirements.
|It is not necessary to tip in China. However, if no service charge is added, it is good to add 10% to the restaurant bill, give taxi drivers the leftover change, and do tip bellhops and other service people the same as you would in the states.
|China is very formal and conservative. Jeans, shorts, sleeveless tops, etc. should not be worn and may even prevent you from visiting a place you wanted to see, such as the tomb of Mao Zedong.