Enjoy direct flights between Sydney and Beijing, China's majestic capital.
With a history stretching back more than three millenia, Beijing has long been at the heart and soul of cultural, political, economic and spiritual life in China. Home to such ancient treasures as the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, today the city continues to reinvent itself with a building boom that seems never ending.
No trip to Beijing would be complete without a stop at some of the following:
- Get a guided tour of the Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, Summer Palace and more
- See Beijing by night and watch an Imperial performance
- Get a private tour of the Great Wall of China
- Take a private tour of local hutongs (neighbourhood alleyways) and enjoy a dumpling cooking class
- Go off the beaten track with a Beijing walking tour
A city where (very) old meets (very) new, with ritzy shopping malls next to colourful markets and lively old hutongs (neighbourhood alleyways) in the shadow of sparkling towers.
To see the future of Beijing, head straight for the Chaoyang District, which borders the Second Ring Road, the boundary of the old walled Imperial City.
Don't expect ancient buildings though, the district symbolises the rapidly modernising city at its peak. You'll find immaculately dressed Chinese women browsing the boutiques and wealthy young tycoons parking their Ferraris and luxury European cars on the pavements.
Stretching above you will be the city's tallest towers and the spectacular CCTV Building - home of China Central TV. Head to Sanlitun, traditional home of expats, for some of swankiest bars and restaurants. Sanlitun lu, formerly Bar Street, is where all the action happens, but stick to open air Taikoo Li shopping centre side for the best bars.
Speaking of shopping, you'll find all the major global brands, from Apple to Zegna.
For a dose of history and to see Beijing's old soul, head straight for Dongcheng. The innermost sanctuary within the imposing city walls, expect ancient buildings and spectacular architecture that gives a visual clue to the country's history.
Covering more than 40km2, you may need a day or two to really explore and get a feel for the immense political weight and power of the capital. Stand on the Avenue of Eternal Peace, Chang'an Jie and admire the crossroads of ancient and modern. The world famous Tiananmen Square stretches in front of you, designed by Mao Zedong, his portrait hanging above you, to fit a million people at a time.
Beyond, the splendours of the Forbidden City await, with both offering a glimpse of China's official side. A vist to the Confucious Temple will see you pass through the Wudaoying hutong, with some fantastic local restaurants, boutiques and cafes.
Enjoy a slower pace of life and browse the boutiques or watch old men play chess as sleek chauffered Audis cruise along the avenues, you'll see a thousand little glimpses of this colourful and fascinating city.
Whether you're a first time or repeat visitor, this district is one of the easiest areas to fall in love with in Beijing. Think traditional and palatial courtyard houses, serene lakes, inviting hutongs and a selection of fabulous restaurants showcasing the delicious local cuisine.
The best way to see the area is on a bicycle tour, stopping at local houses and other historic sites to explore and soak up the relaxed nature of the area.
One thing not to miss, and a great way to get a feel for the city, is people watching. Stroll the shores of Houhai Lake sampling snacks from local shops as you go. Head just west of Mei Langfang's house (one of the most famous Peking opera artists of his generation) to Huguosi Jie for treats and local surprises. In the evening relax at a local bar or restaurant and enjoy views of the lake.
Things to do outside Beijing
The Great Wall of China
One of the main attractions for visitors to the city, and although it's not visible from space - as the myth goes - it's certainly an impressive symbol of the power and weight of the Chinese dynasty. There are multiple spots from where best to see the wall, each coming with different price tags, the more expensive, generally, the fewer tourists.
Half a day's travel by train and you'll find Chengde, home to lavish summer palaces, gardens and impressive pagodas left behind by generations of emperor.
Ming Dynasty tombs
One of the most culturally productive and historically significant eras in Chinese history, the dynasty ruled from 1368 to 1644 and has been described by scholars as "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history." The thirteen tombs, roughly 46kms north of the city, are an impressive collection of imperial architecture and a fascinating glimpse into the past.
Chinese Yuan Renminbi (CN¥)
220V / 50Hz
Summer gets hot, with temperatures soaring to 39°C. Winter gets cold, when they plunge to -20°C. Spring and autumn are the best times, especially May, June, September and October. Factor in pollution levels as well, as they can get very high.
From the airport
The easiest way to get to or from the airport to the city centre is via the Airport Express line. You'll find stations at Terminal 2 and 3 and the journey takes about 15-20 minutes.
You can also organise a private transfer to the city centre or your hotel.
In and around the city
Beijing has one of the largest underground networks in the world, with all rides a fixed price, no matter how far you travel. Beware, it can get heavily congested at peak times.
Hire a car while you're in the city to choose your own way to get around. You may find yourself sitting in traffic queues for a while though.
Walk at your own risk. The city is vast and the pollution can be a serious hazard. Plus the architects who have been redesigning the city in recent decades haven't factored in pedestrians.
Surely the best way to see the city. The city is flat and has many cycle paths, divided from the main roads by barriers. You'll soon be whizzing past the sitting traffic with a smug smile on your face.
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