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China's capital and second-largest city (after Shanghai) is more than 3,000 years old but it moves at a dizzying pace.  Beijing is home to some of the most notable attractions such as Tiananmen Square, the largest open-urban square in the world, the Forbidden City and its Palace Museum, Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven and the Badaling section of the Great Wall. Chairman Mao is also here - embalmed in his mausoleum. For a visit through old Beijing, a hutong (narrow alleyways) tour in a rickshaw under swaying, red lanterns is a great way to soak up the atmosphere of this amazing city.

For the Olympic Games in 2008, Beijing started an ambitious building programme and its architectural legacy includes the National Stadium ("Bird's Nest") and the National Swimming Centre ("Water Cube"). For art and culture, visit the Dashanzi Art District. For shopping, head to Oriental Plaza shopping mall, Wangfujing Street and Panjiayuan Market where you can pick up almost-perfect counterfeit fashion.

International (and domestic) flights to Beijing land at Capital Airport, China's busiest airport.

Beijing climate

September and October are dry and sunny with average temperatures in the 20s (Celsius) and teens. Winter is quite cold; December and January temperatures can drop below zero with cold winds off the Mongolian plains. April warms up to the mid teens. Summer is muggy and hot, and July and August can reach the upper 20s.

Getting around Beijing

There are plenty of ways to get around this enormous city. Beijing has an extensive bus and subway network to get you where you need to go. The subway is fastest and easiest, but will be very crowded during rush hour. Buses are always crowded. The taxis run off of meters, and are very easy to find, but many drivers don’t speak English, so it helps to have your destination written in Chinese. Cycle rickshaws are another option, but you will have to bargain your rate, and some drivers demand more when you arrive at your destination. You can also rent a car and driver for the day, or rent your own car. Be aware that you won’t be able to leave the city limits if you’re driving. 

The city is too large to walk, but you can certainly take public transport or a taxi to a particular area and then explore on foot. If you are brave enough, rent a bicycle and ride alongside the busy traffic. 

Biking is very popular in Beijing and bike lanes are clearly marked. If you get overwhelmed, go with the flow of cycling traffic, especially when crossing streets.

Beijing insider information

  • Sampling the Chinese food in Beijing is an absolute must. But don’t just to stick to Western favourites (albeit also Beijing specialities) such as roast duck, dumplings or hotpot. A Cantonese proverb says that if something walks, swims or flies with its back to the sun it is edible – and you’ll find anything and everything in Beijing, especially from the street markets. Be brave and sample something you wouldn’t dream of eating back home, such as silkworms, scorpions, sparrows, pigeons or cicadas. Try the street traders at Wangfujing (which you can reach by the metro) for a taste of the exotic.
  • If you’re visiting the Forbidden City (which almost every tourist will), take a detour to the roads to the north around the lakes. The houses here give a good sense of the way Beijing used to be. Rickshaws are available to hire if the walk seems too much.
  • The recently opened Beijing Aquarium is the largest inland aquarium in the world and likely to be a much more enjoyable trip than the nearby zoo. Though the zoo has a good panda enclosure, most visitors from the West leave appalled at the care and conditions for the animals. The aquarium, on the other hand, almost always impresses, with lots of “hands on” exhibitions – you can touch starfish and sea cucumbers should you wish to – and performances by sea lions.
  • The Underground City in Beijing is said to be better known by tourists than by Beijing residents. Built as a bomb shelter during the 1970s, it has been open to the public since 2000 and is a maze of 30km (18 miles) worth of tunnels. The tunnels were originally dug by volunteers and local citizens, even school children, on Chairman Mao Zedong’s orders and were intended to house at least 40 per cent of the city’s population if needed. Today they are an eerie reminder of the past conflict, standing deserted with more than 1,000 air raid shelters and spaces intended for shops, hospitals, schools and restaurants.
  • Don’t just visit Tiananmen Square in the day. At night, the entire square is lit up and the atmosphere changes completely to the bustle of the day. Worth watching is the lowering of the flag at sunset by the army. However, don’t stay too late. At 10.30pm on the dot, the army moves everyone out of the square and locks it up for the night.

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Useful information about Beijing

Photo of Beijing   Beijing
Avg temp for this month inBeijing19.5 °CSource: World Weather Online
Average monthly rainfall inBeijing35.3 mmSource: World Weather Online
Average flight duration toBeijing9 hrs 53 mins
Rate of exchange inBeijing¥1.00 = £0.10Source: Oanda
Which airlines fly toBeijingKorean Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways
Deals available on flights toBeijing1811
Partners with offers toBeijingCheapOair.co.uk, Crystal Travel and Happy Journey
Advertisers with deals toBeijing40
Lowest flight offer toBeijing£522
Average flight offer toBeijing£606

 How much do things cost in Beijing?

  • Cappuccino: £2.81
  • Cheap meal: £3.06
  • Cinema ticket: £8.16
  • Loaf of white bread: £0.99
  • Coke/Pepsi (0.33 litre): £0.40
  • Taxi - fixed fee: £1.33
  • Pair of Nike trainers: £69.99
  • 1 hour taxi waiting fee: £3.31
  • 1 mile taxi journey: £0.38
  • Bottle of wine: £8.67
source