- Discover Beijing
In Beijing you will find some of Chinas' best hotels and restaurants, there is plenty of wealth to be seen and in that respect Beijing does not accurately reflect the rest of the country, which is much poorer. Although Beijing is much more modern than the rest of the country, there are still plenty of historically significant treasures to be found.
Tiananmen Square is one of the most famous, or infamous, pieces of land in the world thanks to a tragedy, that occurred there in 1989 when pro-democracy demonstrators were killed by government soldiers. It was created under Mao's reign and is a good place to relax and while away a few hours. Catch the flag raising ceremony at sunrise or sunset performed by PLA guards. Also check out Heavenly Peace Gate, Great Hall of the people, the Chinese Revolution History Museum, and the Mao Zedong Mausoleum.
The Forbidden City or the 'Palace Museum' as the authorities like it to be called was once off limits to commoners. Two dynasties of emperors lived here, the Ming dynasty and the Qing dynasty. It was from here that the emperors governed all of China. Although the original Forbidden City was completed in 1420, most of the buildings that you now see are post 18th century. It has burnt down on more than one occasion.
The most famous symbol of China, rumoured to be the only man made structure visible from space, (not true) is a must see when visiting Beijing. There are many tours and buses leaving Beijing for the great wall and you will be surprised at just how crowded it can get. These are the most popular sites to visit. Badaling - has the majority of visitors, and is the closest, 70km north-west of Beijing. Roughly Y25.Mutianyu - Very crowded also. Y90.Simatai - Less crowded, not restored. It's getting more crowded, but it's probably still the best place to see the wall. It's 110km from Beijing and you might have to get a bus there on your own as there might not be any tours going there. A bus leaves Dongzhiman bus station at around 6.10am. It takes 2 - 3 hours and costs around Y22. The bus only goes once a day so make sure of the return time, which is usually around 3pm.
Beijing Capital International Airport is 26km from the centre of Beijing. There are three terminals so make sure you know which one you are flying into.
Flight times to Beijing
Dublin 10.5 hours | London 10 hours | Hong Kong 3 hours | New York 13.5 hours | San Diego 13 hours | Sydney 11 hours
The easiest way to the centre would be to take a taxi. Have the name of your hotel printed out in Chinese characters for the driver and make sure the meter is turned on. It should cost around 100 Yuan (€14/$16). Make sure you take an official taxi.
It’s a cheap and easy way to get around Beijing. Always have the place name of where you want to go printed in Chinese as well as your hotel so you can get back. It’s unlikely you will find a taxi driver with good English. Before you leave ask at your hotel how much the fare should cost and how long it should take. Avoid taxis that are parked at hotels or train stations as they are looking for tourists and are likely to overcharge. Flag one down yourself at the side of the road. Be aware when taking unofficial taxis. Official taxis will have a dark red stripe and the name of the company on top. They also have license plates beginning with “B”.
Top tip: You could hire a cab for the entire day and get them to drive you around to attractions and sites. It is very affordable.
The subway is a great way of getting around, and cheap too. It can get hot and crowded at peak times. Look for the sign, a large “G” and a smaller “B”. Buy tickets at vending machines. You can buy a pre-paid card if you plan on using it often.
Beijing is a very safe city and you are unlikely to be a victim of violent crime. Be very aware of pickpockets however.
The air quality in Beijing is very poor, keep an eye on the Air Quality Index to see what times to avoid going outside. Make sure to drink bottled water and avoid street food.