Beijing is the political, cultural and historical capital of China. Shanghai is where the tourists flock to see China’s modern face, but Beijing is certainly number one for a glimpse at an older, more traditional Chinese city. It’s a city that is well served by its international airport from destinations across the globe. It is also linked to cities around China by an extensive and rapidly growing rail network that has become the envy of the world. The city itself can be explored by bus, taxi, or even better, the subway system. But be warned: Beijing’s subway can be incredibly crowded, especially during rush hour.
Beijing has more to see than most Chinese cities, and it’s easy to spend a week just sightseeing without getting bored. There are several world renowned locations within the city, such as the Forbidden Palace, Tiananmen Square and the Temple of Heaven. Outside the city, of course, there is the Great Wall of China – one of the most recognizable landmarks on earth. Getting there is easy, with numerous tours available from throughout the city. There are also a number of museums for a uniquely Chinese perspective on history.
The capital is well known for its great choice of food. Whereas some of the southern parts of the country are famous for spicy fare, Beijing is better known for more gentle flavours. Perhaps the best known dish of them all is Peking Duck. Prices range from around 40rmb to 200 rmb for a duck, and some of the restaurants are very upscale, with the chef coming from the kitchen to cut the duck as you eat it.
For drinking there are several popular areas littered around the city. Alcohol is not particularly expensive by Western standards, but in the nightclubs and bars – especially in areas frequented by foreigners – drinks can be a bit pricey, and certainly more so than throughout China. Some of the better known areas are Sanlitun in Chaoyuan district and Wudaokou in Haidian district. However, be prepared – if a man on the street tries to lure you in, you can haggle the price of a beer; otherwise just stick to what’s on the menu.
Although there are many reasons to visit Beijing, it draws a number of workers partly because it is so much cheaper than the next big city, Shanghai. Whereas Shanghai is seen as more expensive (but still cheap compared internationally), Beijing is closer to the rest of China in price. The touristy areas are still prime territory for being ripped off (be careful when dealing with anyone selling anything on the street), but generally in Beijing you can make your money go a long way.