With a permanent
official population of 13,000,000 living in a sprawling expanse
of 6,486 square miles, Beijing takes its place in the 21st century
as one of the largest, most bustling cities in the world.
As home to
such famous historical attractions as the Forbidden City and the
Great Wall, China's major tourist hub currently attracts more
than 10 million foreign visitors per year.
more about this hot travel destination that is about to become
hotter still with its growing acceptance of Western culture and
international status as an Olympic host city ...
Beijing travel must-sees
- Once a symbol for China's desire to keep foreigners out,
today the engineering and architectural wonder has become, ironically,
a main symbol of Chinese tourism. Badaling
was the first section of the Wall opened to tourists and is only
part of the more than 4,000 miles of mountains & valleys it
traverses throughout China. It's a thrilling spectacle even for
seasoned travelers who want to say they have walked the Great
Wall - at least once.
Forbidden City - Also known as the Palace Museum, it was the
official home of the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Today, it is a major Beijing tourist attraction where visitors
can walk the great halls and pavilions, marvel at the ornate
courtyards and view one of the largest collections of Chinese
art & jewels anywhere.
at least sections of the Palace Museum to be forbidden - once
again - as restoration work continues for its 600th anniversary
celebrated in 2020.
Square - Near the Forbidden City, the 440,000 square meter city
square is the largest in the world, and for its size and scope alone
is a must see on any visit to Beijing.
Be sure to visit the Tiananmen
Tower, the massive granite Monument to the People's Heroes, and
plan on seeing the national flag raising ceremony performed daily
(but get up early!) at sunrise.
main city square is where people have naturally gathered for centuries,
and here is where Mao Zedong declared the People's Republic of
China in 1949. 40 years later, a famous pro-democracy demonstration
inside the square resulted in the deaths of hundreds of protesters.
Although the protest went down in defeat, the government has since
clearly undergone a social and economic revolution that is ongoing.
Getting to Beijing
time from New York to Beijing is 20-24 hours (including
a stopover on the West Coast); or from Chicago, approximately
17-20 hours. On a direct flight from California, count
on 13 hours air time on a direct flight.
Capital Airport is 16 miles from the city center,
and of late has been a chaotic scene as a growing tourist
base outpaces the facility's capacity. A larger terminal
was completed in time for the 2008 Summer Olympics period,
however, which promises to ease some of the crush during
airlines serving Beijing from the U.S. include United, while Canadians
may depart either Vancouver or Toronto via Canadian
Airlines. In the UK, British
Airways offers flights to Beijing.
consider other major airlines departing for Beijing from
their major hub cities including KLM
via Amsterdam, Lufthansa
via Frankfurt, or Finnair
via Helsinki at considerable savings.
with traveling anywhere else, much cheaper airfares to
Beijing can be found by surfing the Net, booking tickets
far in advance, staying over Saturday night, or flying
mid-week or at less trafficked times.
Getting around Beijing
Look for blue & white Beijing subway signs.
- Beijing by subway -
Beijing underwent a multi-million dollar overhaul of
its subway lines with four new routes and a special
airport link completed in 2008. Beijing subways circle the city or bisect it in various directions.
The subway runs daily from 5 AM to 10:30 PM. Fares are
2 yuan per ride. Signs and announcements are in Chinese
and English - making this the easiest option for getting
around for foreign visitors.
- Beijing by bus -
Although Beijing has added more buses to its city fleet
at present the bus remains the less appealing option
for getting around Beijing. Buses are usually packed
during peak rush hours, and foreign visitors must have
their destinations written down (in Chinese, please)
to let conductors negotiate the fare rate.
- Beijing by car - Although car rentals have been an unusual
idea in Beijing, Hertz
China has made inroads into the market with an office
at the Jianguo Hotel, which rents cars from around US$50
per day. The rental usually comes with a driver and
restricts travel outside city limits. Many more options
are available via pre-arranged airport transfer or city
tours by limousine.
- Beijing by bicycle -
If you're up for it, seeing Beijing from a bike can
be THE way to see the city as a native. However, be
prepared to join the masses of other bicyclists trekking
through miles of designated bicycle
lanes on major streets and avenues. As the bicycle
is the major form of transportation throughout China,
rental shops are cheap and plentiful throughout the