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The World Is Your Oyster in Beijing
If you have your sights set on a visit to Beijing, you’re in for a wild ride. China’s capital will have you reeling from sensory overload as you peel back the layers of this simultaneously ancient and modern city. Home to six former Chinese dynasties with a history spanning 21 centuries, plan on booking a hotel for several days to make the most of this dazzling city. Visit the must-see attractions like the Forbidden City and Summer Palace, but don’t forget to soak up the frenetic street scene that comes with a city of 20 million people. Dine like a local on savoury Beijing roast duck, bargain on everything from calligraphy brushes to jewellery at a night market, and step back in time with a ride on a rickshaw. From old to new, Beijing has it all.
Top Five Beijing
Planning a trip to one of China’s most fascinating cities isn’t easy – it’s hard not to get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of sights to take in, but no matter what direction your interests lead you, there are a few attractions that can’t be overlooked. Your trip will be off to a great start with a visit to Temple of Heaven Park. This 267-hectare park might also be the calm before the storm, with its vast grounds offering a respite from the city. Here you will find Confucian order and symmetry at its best, and will learn about the prayer ceremonies that were performed to ask for good harvests and atonement. To dive into another period in history, head over to iconic Tiananmen Square. Known largely for the violent 1989 crackdown on Chinese demonstrators, it’s worth a visit to take in the expanse of the world’s largest square. From here, it’s easy to continue to the Forbidden City located in the heart of Beijing. When you step inside the gates of the largest palace complex in the world, you’ll immediately realize that you might need more time than you thought, and that it might be worth it to hire a guide to get the most out of your visit. The Summer Palace is another mandatory stop on your Beijing itinerary, and if you only have time for one temple, the Buddhist Lama Temple is a showstopper.
Beijing, a Shopper’s Paradise
There’s so much shopping to be done in Beijing that it’s a good idea to stay in one of the hotels close to your main shopping destination. Hauling a bunch of newly purchased wares across the city isn’t anybody’s idea of fun. But no matter where you stay, shopping at Beijing markets is an unparalleled experience that shouldn’t be missed. And what better way to start than at the largest antique market in China? Panjiayuan Antique Market also has the distinction of being one of the most affordable markets in Beijing, especially if you remember to bargain. It’s open seven days a week and has six zones dedicated to things like furniture, paintings, books and handicrafts. If you’re thinking of bringing some souvenirs home with you, a great spot to check out is Qianmen Street. Specializing in traditional Chinese products, there is a good chance that you will find something unique. While you’re at it, the Lao She Teahouse is located nearby, providing a good opportunity to take a break while trying a selection of Chinese teas. If electronic goods are what you are after, Hongqiao Market is packed with every kind of gadget imaginable, and there’s even a seafood market in the basement if you need a snack. While somewhat touristy, Xiushui Street and its silk market is worth a visit for name brand clothes, shoes, and bags – many of which are available in larger sizes, a rarity in Beijing. And prepare to be awestruck by the architectural marvel that is the Galaxy SOHO Mall. What it lacks in cheap deals is made up for by its ultra-modern design that is straight out of a science fiction movie.
Beijing’s Best Outdoor Attractions
While it’s not uncommon to hear stories in the news about Beijing’s air quality issues, there are still many smog-free days to be enjoyed outside. If you’re inclined to find a picturesque spot to unwind in the city, look no further than Houhai Lake. Tranquil waters and swaying willow trees are a good way to set a quieter pace, and the best part is that when action calls, tea shops, hole-in-the-wall cafes and cocktail lounges are within walking distance. Another possibility for some solitude is Sichahai, which boasts not one but three peaceful lakes. It is especially subdued at night time, and you might even see paper boats alight with candles floating on the water. And of course, you can’t plan a trip outside without visiting Beijing’s crown jewel, the Great Wall of China. Some sections of the wall are accessible in about an hour from the city, but it’s worth it to visit a few areas of the Wall to truly appreciate the world’s longest architectural structure.