Stop¨Cstart capital since the Mongol Yuan dynasty, B¨§ij¨©ng is one of China¡¯s true ancient citadels. It is also an aspiring, confident and modern city that seems assured of its destiny to rule over China ad infinitum.
A vast and symmetrical metropolis, B¨§ij¨©ng is the orderly seat of the communist political power in China, so its architecture traces each and every mood swing from 1949 to the present, from felled h¨²t¨°ng (narrow alleys) to huge underground bomb shelters scooped out during the paranoid 1970s. One moment you are sizing up a blank Soviet-style monument, the next you spot a vast, shimmering tower rising up from the footprint of a vanished temple.
History may have been trampled in B¨§ij¨©ng over the past half century, but there¡¯s still much more substance here than in China¡¯s other dynastic capitals, bar N¨¢nj¨©ng or K¨¡if¨¥ng. You just need to do a bit of hunting and patient exploration to find the historical narrative. It¡¯s also essential to sift the genuine from the fake: some of B¨§ij¨©ng¡¯s once-illustrious past has been fitfully resurrected in the trompe-l¡¯oeil of rebuilt monuments. Colossal flyovers and multilane boulevards heave with more than three million cars but ample pockets of historical charm survive. It¡¯s the city¡¯s epic imperial grandeur, however, that is truly awe-inspiring.
Frank and uncomplicated, B¨§ij¨©ng¡¯s denizens chat in B¨§ij¨©nghu¨¤ ¨C the gold standard of Mandarin ¨C and marvel at their good fortune for occupying the centre of the known world. And for all its diligence and gusto, B¨§ij¨©ng dispenses with the persistent pace of Sh¨¤ngh¨£i or Hong Kong, and locals instead find time to sit out front, play chess and watch the world go by.
Autumn (September to early November) is the optimal season to visit B¨§ij¨©ng as the weather is gorgeous and fewer tourists are in town. Local Beijingers describe this short season of clear skies and breezy days as ti¨¡ng¨¡o q¨¬shu¨£ng (literally ¡®the sky is high and the air is fresh¡¯). In winter, it¡¯s glacial outside (dipping as low as -20¡ãC) and the northern winds cut like a knife through bean curd. Arid spring is OK, apart from the awesome sand clouds that sweep in from Inner Mongolia and the static electricity that discharges everywhere. Spring also sees the snowlike li¨³x¨´(willow catkins) wafting through the air and collecting in drifts. From May onwards the mercury can surge well over 30¡ãC. B¨§ij¨©ng simmers under a scorching sun in summer (reaching over 40¡ãC), which also sees heavy rainstorms late in the season. Maybe surprisingly, this is also considered the peak season, when hotels typically raise their rates and the Great Wall nearly collapses under the weight of marching tourists. Air pollution can be intolerable in both summer and winter.
Daily Seat-In-Coach Tours small vehicle in good condition
Great Wall at Badaling and Ming Tomb 150 RMB p/p.
Great Wall at Mutianyu and Ming Tomb 200 RMB p/p.
Great Wall hiking tour from JingShanLing to SiMaTai 300 RMB p/p.
Forbidden City ; Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven one day tour 250 RMB p/p.
Acrobatics Show Discount Price
China Puppet Theatre Acrobatics Kingdom 60 RMB p/p.
Tiandi Theatre 60 RMB p/p.
Tianqiao Acrobatic Theatre 80 RMB p/p.
Chaoyang Theatre Acrobatic show 80 RMB p/p.
Beijing Opera Show Discount Price
Liyuan Theatre Opera show 100 RMB p/p.
Huguang Guild Hall Opera show 100 RMB p/p.
Forbidden Love Opera at Nationalities Culture Palace 140 RMB p/p.
Kungfu Show Discount Price
Red Theatre Legend of Kungfu 100 RMB p/p.
Private Tours private driver and tour guide
Great Wall at Badaling and Ming Tomb one day tour.
Great Wall at Mutianyu and Ming Tomb one day tour.
Great Wall from Jinshanling to Simatai hiking one day tour.
Forbidden City; Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven one day tour.
Mutianyu Great Wall half day tour.
Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace one day tour.
Hutong Tour by rickshaw.