Both intricate and incredibly compelling, Beijing, China is one of those cities that leaves travellers stunned but likewise craving to experience more.
Beijing has recently received a bad rap due to its uninhabitable polluted skies. Interestingly, however, Beijing improved its air quality in 2015 despite the red alert that was placed on the city in December 2015. Now, China still continues to face pressure to reduce smog and make cities more livable for its citizens and the tourists who flock to visit this fascinating country.
We’re here to say don’t be put off by Beijing’s air quality. If we decided to not visit a country because X, Y and Z ‘bad’ things are currently happening there, we’d never leave our homes. And, as a country that is quickly developing and unfortunately losing much of its history due to the influence of Western modernisation, now is one of the best times to visit.
So why should you visit Beijing? Here are just a few reasons:
Though Beijing is rapidly becoming overrun by Westernisation, it still retains much of its inherent Eastern culture, typified by its stunning zigzagging Hutongs, an important part of Beijing’s local culture. Built in the 13th century, the Hutongs are in fact small public alleyways with private courtyard residences. If you want to experience the ways of old Beijing, Hutongs are it, offering a window into the traditional way of Chinese life.
798 Art District
A former arms factory, the 798 Art District has become synonymous of how old Beijing is being transformed into a modernised capital. Once a place for new artists to exhibit their work, the 798 Art District’s rising popularity caught the attention of the international art world which pushed the starving artists out who created the whole scene. Today, the district attracts art buyers and students, as well as many tourist groups.
You absolutely cannot go to China without taking the time to stop for a cuppa. Steeped in a rich history, partaking in a traditional Chinese tea ceremony is a must – along with a visit to Beijing’s thriving market where you can purchase all the oolong your suitcase can handle.
Chinese take-out once a week is a bit of an Aussie stock-standard, and for a good reason – it’s such a diverse and delicious cuisine. Now imagine eating a meal of Peking duck from where it all began, or authentic street-food that is peppered with Szechuan spices. Or you could try something completely new like the market food pictured below!
If that’s not your style, check out these restaurants for a tantalising and inexpensive feeds:
Bǎihé Vegetarian Restaurant
Address: 23 Caoyuan Hutong; 东直门内北小街草园胡同甲23号
Subway: Dongzhimen or Beixinqiao
Lìqún Roast Duck Restaurant
Address: 11 Beixiangfeng Hutong, 前门东大街正义路南口北翔凤胡同11号
Address: 28 Donghuang Chenggen Beijie, 东皇城根北街28号
Beijing boasts a history that goes back more than 3,000 years. There are plenty of historical monuments and sights, including the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, the Ming Tombs and the mausoleum of 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. However, there are some places that you shouldn’t leave Beijing without visiting:
The Great Wall
Winding its way from its strewn remains in Liaoning province, to the Gobi desert and the sands of Xīnjiāng, The Great Wall is one of the most impressive sights in the world. Trekking the Wall is one of the most majestical and authentic ways to experience its beauty, however marvelling from afar is a breath-taking experience too.
Spanning around 440,000 sq metres, Tiananmen Square is the world’s largest public square. To stand in Tiananmen Square is to stand at the symbolic centre of the Chinese universe. Interestingly, despite being a public place, the square remains largely in the hands of the government, monitored closely by TV cameras and policemen. Despite the lack of seating, the Square’s iconic status means few people leave Beijing without making a visit. For an extra special experience, try visiting Tiananmen Square at night and watch its lights illuminate the dark sky.
If architecture is more your thing, don’t look past the Forbidden City, which harbours China’s largest collection of ancient buildings and the biggest palace complex in the world. Previously off limits for 500 years, the ethereal palace was home to two dynasties of imperial rule until the Republic overthrew the last Qing emperor. Now open to the public, don’t miss the chance to visit these insanely beautiful quarters.
Whether you’re after a city escape to the mountains or love the hustle and bustle of the ginormous metropolis, Beijing has it all. The rural plains in the southern provinces are a stark contract to the sprawling metropolis of Beijing, offering a quieter and more peaceful experience. Or, if you’re more of an adventurer at heart (and aren’t we all?) there are many mountain ranges found in Western China you can trek.
Just remember: explore China with an open mind and an open heart. It’s true that visiting this country is one of the biggest cultural shocks you’ll face, however if you go in remembering that different cultures are what make the world amazing, you’re sure to have an enriching and wonderful experience.
- See all of our adventures to Beijing and trekking The Great Wall of China!
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