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Destination: Beijing

The Chinese capital is one of the country’s six ancient cities. Its name has changed several times and ‘Beijing’ means ‘Northern Capital’, setting it apart from Nanjing, the ‘Southern Capital’. With a municipality population of over 21 million Beijing’s size is still only third to Shanghai and Guangzhou in national rankings, but its citizens are supposedly among the friendliest in China. Around 4.4 million foreigners visit the capital every year, a number that is complemented by the mass of Chinese tourists flocking into the city as well.

 

Chinese Artwork

Geography

Beijing municipality also includes some rural areas is located in the province of Hebei in the north-eastern part of the country at a distance of roughly 120 kilometres from the coast. The Mongolian Plateau’s mountains surround the northern side of the city, while the northern Chinese plains frame the south.

History

Beijing can probably be said to be one of the oldest still existing places of organised human habitation in the world with fossils dating 230,000 to 250,000 years back. The first walled settlement in its place was the city state Ji that existed from the 11th to 7th century BC.

In the early days of the Chinese Empire the region around Beijing was of regional importance and became a military centre. However, it was not until the Ming Dynasty (in the 14th century) that Beijing received capital status due to political difficulties in the southern capital of Nanjing. The Forbidden City and many other present day sights were built in the early 15th century and the general layout of the city has not been significantly changed ever since. Modern Chinese history is inevitably tied to its capital city, be it the Republican era, the Cultural Revolution of the 60s and 70s, the Tiananmen Square Massacre or the 2008 Olympics.

What to do

There are few places in the world where the last 2,000 years of history are still as visible as they are in Beijing. Apart from the historical sights, temples, the over 100 museums and the Chinese gardens and parks are a popular attraction. Beijing also offers a vast amount of arts and culture activities and a particular highlight are the Peking Operas, a traditional form of Chinese theatre combining music, song, dance and acrobatics in one performance. There are also some attractions within the municipality that can be reached in a day trip, such as the tombs of the Ming Dynasty emperors and Great Wall of China. Despite Beijing’s reputation for bad smog there are a couple of nature reserves nearby, allowing for outdoor breaks.

Cuisine

Be assured that Beijing is a foodie heaven. The variety of gourmet restaurants offering not only traditional Chinese dishes but also western cuisine is unmatched in the world. Make sure to try some authentic Peking Roast Duck, one of the city’s major exports into the world as well as some Fulin Jiabing – traditional Chinese pancakes stuffed with a type of fungus. A visit to one of the traditional teahouses should also not be missed.

Climate

The weather in Beijing is determined by a monsoon-influenced, humid continental climate, meaning that winter can be extremely cold and dry, while the summer comes with an oppressive heat and humidity. Spring is dry, but it can bring sandstorms from the Gobi desert. The best time to travel is the short, but dry and warm autumn.

Weather in Beijing

 

Temperature rainfall

How to get there

Beijing Capital International Airport is the second busiest airport in the world and is only located about 20 kilometres, or a 40-minute-drive via the Airport Expressway to the city centre. The Beijing Subway also connects to the airport. The airport connects Beijing to practically every city in China that can be reached by plane, but is also served by a number of European airlines, including British Airways.

Beijing is one of China’s major railroad hubs with ten lines connecting the city to other places. Tianjin, Shanghai and Guangzhou can all be reached via high-speed trains.

Why you should visit

Beijing is the cultural, economic and political centre of the most populous country in the world. In the twenty-first century there is no way around China as one of the fastest growing economies. In the West, China has long surpassed the status of a cheap manufacturer, and fascinates with its rich and colourful history. Beijing is the perfect place for a first glimpse into one of the oldest living cultures in the world.