Beijing has been at the heart of Chinese culture and society for many centuries, and the combination of its ancient past and the developing “New China” is sure to excite and fascinate. 20 million people live here, with a further 125 million visitors coming every single year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
Begin your visit in the traditional heart of the city. The imperial gardens at Jingshan Park offer wonderful views over central Beijing, including the fantastic Forbidden City, which is a must-see attraction. After you've seen all there is to see here, head for the famous Tiananmen Square where you can enjoy two extensive repositories of culture and history, the National Museum of China and the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall. The Front Gate (Qianmen Gate) looms over the southern end of the square, an impressive reminder of the old fortifications which used to protect the city.
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre with a visit to the opulent Summer Palace of the hugely powerful and wealthy Chinese emperors, or gaze on the stunning and historic Marco Polo Bridge. Or for a more serene, spiritual experience, the Lama Temple is hard to beat.
Beijing is also a startlingly contemporary city, full of cutting-edge architecture, chic eateries and bustling shopping centres. The 2008 Olympic Games gave the city’s development a huge boost, and you can see the centre of it all at Olympic Park.
The hip artistic scene of modern China can be experienced at 798 Space, while you can pick up some mementoes of your visit along Wangfujing Street. When you get hungry, make sure to try the authentic local Peking duck with noodles or rice. Later in the evening, head for a karaoke bar or a nightclub to experience what the capital's nightlife has to offer.
Beijing is in the northeast of China and, despite being many thousands of miles away from the capitals of the West, is served by a well-connected modern international airport. The city is very flat, so it’s a pleasure to cycle around, and the public transport system is top-notch, with plenty of signs in English to help orientate the visitor. Getting around by car can be significantly more difficult, particularly if you don’t have a good command of Mandarin, so be warned.