Beijing. The capital of the biggest country in the world in terms of population – the People’s Republic of China. It remains the seat of power since the great ancient imperial rulers to the present superpower of the east. I have always been fascinated by its colorful history stretching back to 3 millennia, dynasties reigning one after another.
We traveled to Beijing during mid-autumn. It is a good season to visit with days mostly sunny, temperatures averaging 7-19 °C. Although it could easily drop zero at night. The usual smog blocking the city landscapes also goes down during these months.
Mandarin is the most widely spoken language. Staff from major hotels and tourist destinations are conversationally capable of English. However it could be troublesome to eat at local restaurants as some have no translation at all. The trick? A lot of hand gestures.
The easiest and cheapest way to navigate around the city is by subway. The signs are romanized and majority of the attractions are nearby train stations.
Tiananmen Square is a must-see landmark at the heart of Beijing. A huge public square surrounded by National Museum of China on the left and Great Hall of the People on the right. At the center is the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.
Tiananmen Tower serves as an entrance to the 5 century old Forbidden City, an imperial palace built during the Ming dynasty. It is surrounded by moats on all four sides linked by narrow bridges and the main entrance at the south, the Meridian Gate. Forbidden City is vast. And I mean really vast. Standing on a 72-hectare piece of land it took us the whole day to tour around its palaces and courtyards.
By nightfall we headed to the shopping district of Wangfujing.
Great Wall of China. The country’s most iconic structure originally constructed as protection against the conquerors from the north. Its Beijing section is only a small part of a few thousand miles long wall running across the mountains and plains north of China.
After the day tour we spent the rest of the evening at Qianmen Street, a famous commercial pedestrian street lined up with ancient Chinese architecture remnants.
Temple of Heaven is a complex of religious and sacrificial temples used by the emperors.
Just across the North Gate of the Forbidden City is the hill of Jingshan Park. We climbed hundreds of steps to reach the summit where a magnificent 360 degree view of Beijing awaits. This is also the best spot for an overlooking shot of Forbidden City.
As the sun set we checked out the Olympic Park, the venue of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and Paralympics. Blue and amber lights glow the buildings of National Aquatics Center and National Stadium, also known as Bird’s Nest.
Summer Palace, “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden” as declared by UNESCO.
Few blocks outside Summer Palace we had snacks at Starry Street, a modern complex of shops and restaurants. A cup of hot Pu’er tea and freshly steamed tasty dim sum are perfect combination for a cold autumn afternoon!