The quintessential Wall of China is one of the most visited sites in the country of China. The section that is usually visited by most tourists is the first part, which has a completely rebuilt wall and is closest to the center of Beijing. But there is a more rustic side of the wall: The Simatai section. This stretch has a unique landscape for two reasons: One, is the lack of people, since its conditions and remoteness is not very visited, and the other reason is its status: The wall remains how it was, with no reconstructions or additions . This gives a special touch to the place, given the fact that seeing the Great Wall completely reconstructed is like seeing the Roman Colosseum in its entirety. It is highly recommended for those who want to see things as they were and do not mind walking in-between rubble.
The name Forbidden City is derived from the rule that only the emperors and their court could enter the premises, with the exception of a select students who received the highest scores on a national exam (the "Emperor's Exam")and could enter the city for one day to share their knowledge with the emperor and his advisors. Not even the emperor himself could leave the city except on special occasions since the city was equipped to cover every need.
After the communist revolution, the emperor was expelled from the Forbidden City and the grounds became public property of the People's Republic of China. Knowing this historical transformation is important to understand the grandiosity of the Forbidden City. And when I say grandiosity, I mean it in every sense of the word.
The city covers about 1 square kilometer and there are over 800 buildings housing 9,000 rooms in the interior, comprising the largest group of ancient wooden buildings in the world. So, if you visit, make sure to go with comfy clothes, water, food, and above all, patience. It's not a place you can just rush through.
It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and is one of the most-visited places on Earth.
It's easy to get there by subway, just get off at the Tiananmen Dong stop (Tiananmen East, in English).
The Imperial Vault of Heaven is located on the grounds of the Temple of Heaven and was built in 1530 during the reign of Emperor Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty. It's notable for its striking color and the shape of its roof. It was used in ancient times by the Chinese emperors to pay homage to their ancestors. With a height of 19.2 meters and a diameter of 15.6, it's smaller than the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, which is the main building in the complex and one of the most recognizable symbols of the Chinese capital.
Beijing's legendary Tiananmen Square is the largest square in the world. It is one of the places where you can really "feel" the history. With 440,000 square meters and 880 meters long by 500 wide, this square was conceived by China's Communist government in 1949 in order to hold political acts on a grand scale. It is located beside the also famous Forbidden City. Some of its most important sights are Mao Zedong's masoluem, where the embalmed body of the former communist leader now lies, the obelisk that honors the People's Heroes, the National Assembly or the Museum National History and the Revolution. You must take a photo with the famous portrait of Mao which stands at the doorway to the Forbidden City! In 1989, this square witnessed the famous, massive demonstrations which were suppressed by tanks from the People's Liberation Army.
This impressive building, which houses the palace which was once used as a summer residence of Chinese emperors, is one of the most visited monuments of Beijing. To visit and see everything you'll have to spend at least all morning doing it, because there seems to be not only an infinite number of buildings, but also forests, temples, gardens, hills and lakes. There are always many tourists, especially Chinese ones ve come from other parts of China, but for being so big you will not feel too overwhelmed like what can happen in places like the Forbidden City. Chinese emperors fled here in the summer when the heat was scorching, to situated in the northwest of the city. In its original design there was a real garden, but in the 18th century it was extended, now including Lake Kunming. The last reform that took place was started in 1949, but it was damaged by natural disasters.
It is the main area of the celebration of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and is now one of the most emblematic places of the city. It is located to the north, and is easily accessible by metro. I recommend going at sunset to see it lit, but beware that you aren´t too late because I think at 21 or 22 they close the premises. Here you can see great works of modern architectures such as the Water Cube Beijing Olympic Stadium, better known as the nest.
It was my 2nd day in Beijing, from the 8 that were jammed with tourists and guides with a microphone, false guides, an audio guide sounding each time crossing a historical thing of national interest: Temple , palace, etc, and at the end of the tour I decided I was not going to ignore it. 1 morning in the Forbidden City. I left the North Gate close to my hotel, crossed the Grand Avenue and the other side I was expecting something different. A haven of peace, where, as in all city parks, you must pay admission to access, about 20 yuan, or 20 cents. On both sides of the entrance and the central artery of the Chinese park there were olde people exercising : Oriental Dances pace Seniors , tai chi, dancing and racquet ball, aerobics Chinese ... Multiple variations to keep the body limber and flexible. As I was going up the park the music group were elders who become a unison gray city on the move. I reached the highest point, one of the small hills that the park has, with bar improvised emperor costume picture, and best, overlooking the Forbidden City as far as urban haze let you see. Impressive. No wonder he was tired. He had walked about four hours into the streets and alleys of this monster and now admired him from here. It was a great time for relaxation, and the sights and sounds of Jingshan Park invited it.
The Lama Temple is one of the most famous religious centers in Beijing. This temple was declared a National Monument in 1949 and restored in 1979. It is considered the most prestigious Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. The whole complex consists of many low buildings. There are many patios where you can burn incense. A must-see is the Maitreya Buddha that is 17 meteres high.
The hotel is located in the Hutong area in Beijing, on Leo Street Inn. The hotel is in a traditional and somewhat grimy area. Inside there are two levels, the top part with a low roof. The ceilings and walls are made of wood and the walls are decorated with old photos of Beijing. In the entrance there is also a small wooden table where you can see people with a camera taking photos of the old area. Outdoor lamps are converted birds cages. Its owner is a very nice Chinese man. This corner is also ideal for a cold beer.
You can take advantage of your last day in Beijing by doing some last-minute shopping (Silk Market is very touristy, and therefore more expensive), or at other more native-like places such as the Panjiayuan Market (on the street of the same name) which is much larger. Hint: it is essential to haggle 50% of the asking price first, but dropping slowly, so patience is recommended, as well as monitoring the quality of the offering. In the same "neighborhood" (although the distances are very large walk) is the Art District: whole streets with amazing sculptures, which serve as a counterpoint to the traditional Chinese art.
I suggest this place for anyone who's in the Beijing area. Without having to go to the opposite end of China, there are plenty of lesser-known places no on the typical tourist trail, but well worth visiting. The Hengshan Hanging Temples are one of those places.
It's located in the outskirts of Datong, which is not a really notable city. In fact, it was probably the least-interesting city in visited in China. But the Hanging Temples and the Yuggang grottoes more than justify the visit. To get there, you can go to one of the small towns in the area and just take a taxi, or you can go on one of the day-trips organized by CTIS in Datong, which also includes the grottoes. It just depends on your taste for adventure!
There are trains and buses running from Beijing to Datong. The bus is a bit quicker (only 4 hours), but a lot of people opt for the overnight train which leaves you in Datong first thing in the morning. If you're headed towards Xian, I'd recommend stopping here.
Sanlitun is one of the area's most popular bars for tourists and expats in Beijing. To give you an idea of the kind of atmosphere, it reminded me a bit of Madrid's Calle Huertas, although the architecture and landscape does not resemble it at all. It is located in the Chaoyang district and its main artery is the Sanlitun Lu (Sanlitun street), but there are also many places, much better than on the high street which is too crowded by tourists. Best of all is the Houhai lake and the bars that stretch along its banks have good views. The streets surrounding the lake are called Houhai Houhai Nanyan and Beiyan and are nightlife spots and there's sometimes an interesting restaurant there too. Other surrounding areas recommended are Alley Xiejue Yandai with cozy cafes or Nanluogu Xiang, which also has bars.
This market is one of the best in Beijing and is open until 10PM. In the commercial area of Beijing, there are two narrow streets full of as many bizarre food stalls and little shops as you could find in an entire country! Here, I had my first experience with a scorpion kebab, which, to tell the truth, wasn't bad. Didn't try the spiders though, that's my limit. Awesome place!
The Nine Dragons Wall is in the Imperial Palace, or the Forbidden City in Beijing. It was built in 1771 and is the largest out of the three walls of its kind in China. This wall, which is 30 meters long and 3.5 meters high, is made up of 270 pieces of brightly decorated ceramic pottery, which represents nine dragons playing with pearls in front of a sea and sky background.
Kunming Lake is undoubtedly the most characteristic feature of the Summer Palace in Beijing. For generations of emperors it was extended and embellished, and is now a place of extraordinary beauty and with amazing views of its surroundings. We went around the roads, crossing bridges or boats that sail or just use it as inspiration to lose yourself in its pure grandness.
Located next to Tiananmen Garden is the Beijing National Grand Theater, a spectacular building that breaks up the surrounding landscape. Within it you can see shows of great renown, including theater, dance, and opera. The building was built by Paul Andreu and has a sort of half egg shape that is situated on a large lagoon of calm water, enabling a reflection of it's image. The curious thing is that this building does not have any exterior door. To enter it, you must go through an underground tunnel that passes under water, allowing you to see it through the glass ceiling.
I remember with a lot of fondness the afternoon of April 2009, when I arrived to the park believing I was seeing another corner of the Chinese capital. During that tour, in the hummed and hot Pekin afternoon, I looked around me and saw elders playing chess, children bathing in the lake and a man playing a beautiful instrument, which I later discovered was called "erhu" (violin of two strings). I breathed-in deeply, and felt a moment of happiness ... I will never forget that place becoming the most beautiful corner of Beijing for me.
The Gate of Heavenly Peace is the main gate of Tiananmen Square and one of the most recognizable symbols of China. Above it is the famous portrait of the former leader of the Communist Party of China, Mao Zedong, and the gate leads to the Forbidden City, undoubtedly one of the most visited places in China. It was here that Mao proclaimed the People's Republic on October 1, 1949. Next to the large portrait of the former communist leader an enormous slogan reading "Long Live the Republic." Actually, both the hyper-political significance and the continued presence of the army and police in this square give it a decidedly uncomfortable atmosphere, at least for the western tourist. It was built in the fifteenth century and restored in the seventeenth. You can climb to the top of this gate, after passing through the inevitable searches, entrance fees and metal detectors.