As one of the most populous cities in the entire world, Beijing is a capital city that maintains a precarious balance of ancient tradition and modernity. As one of the six ancient cities of China, Beijing has its fair share of ancient relics and monuments that put it on the world travel map.
The city’s impressive sights and sounds don’t end at ancient history, though. It’s also home to a fascinating collection of narrow residential alleyway blocks, called Hutongs, that puts travellers up-close and personal with a quickly vanishing communal lifestyle in the city. These hutongs are the perfect example of China’s enormous cultural shift over the past century – and how it changed the way urban Chinese locals live.
On the contemporary side of the spectrum, Beijing boasts an array of impressive modern architecture. There are a host of unique buildings that were built for the 2008 Olympic Games, as well as record-breaking skyscrapers.
If you’re in Beijing, a trip to the Great Wall of China is essential. This 3rd century structure is over 8,800km long and crosses over nine provinces and municipalities. The wall is not only a colossal feat of engineering, but a symbol of China recognised worldwide.
The Temple of Heaven is another unmissable sight for history buffs, having hosted China’s emperors for centuries. It covers a grand area of 2,700,000 square meters and the complex design is reflective of the relationship between earth and sky. The Forbidden City and the nearby Tiananmen Square are also sights to behold, boasting the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures and one of the largest city squares in the world.
For modern architecture enthusiasts, a visit to some of the Olympic Games stadiums are a must. The National Stadium earned the name the “Bird’s Nest” due to its unusual twig-like design and the National Aquatics Center, which is considered to be one of the most complex structures in the world. Beijing is also home to one of China’s most intriguing skyscrapers such as the CCTV Headquarters, which has a gravity-defying design.
How to get there:
As the capital of China, Beijing is connected to the rest of the world via three airports. Both international and domestic flights are likely to land at Beijing Capital International Airport, the main international airport in China which has connections to some 157 cities.
The Airport Express provides frequent services from Terminal 2 & 3 to the city centre and the journey only takes about 20 minutes. Other options to reach the city are taking a prior arranged Hotel Shuttle Bus, the Airport Shuttle Bus or a taxi.
Beijing Nanyuan Airport and Beijing Xijiao Airport can also be used to reach Beijing but are primarily used as military airbases.
Destinations across the country offer regular long-distance buses to Beijing, including Shanghai, Mongolia, Harbin and Xi’an. However, these journeys can be extremely long and bumpy, depending on where you travel from and which service you take.
Beijing is accessible from a number of domestic destinations with over 200 services to and from the city. Trains from the east go to Beijing Railway Station and trains for other directions go respectively to Beijing West Railway Station, Beijing South Railway Station and Beijing North Railway Station.
However, as China is such a large country, trains take considerably longer than planes. For example, a train journey from Shanghai to Beijing takes approximately 14 hours whereas by plane the journey is just over 2 hours.