Explore Beijing

Beijing Travel Guide

The capital of the People's Republic of China, Beijing (formerly Peking), is a very modern and exceedingly busy city (well over 20 million people call it home) with high-rise buildings, international hotels and sprawling suburbs. The city is abuzz with cranes on the skyline as construction projects give rise to new skyscrapers and modernisation proceeds apace. However, Beijing also encompasses numerous attractions of cultural and historical interest, some of which, including the Great Wall of China, the former Imperial Palace (known as the Forbidden City), the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and the remains of Peking Man at Zhoukoudian, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Chinese history and culture fascinates Western visitors, and Beijing is a great place to start exploring it. The city abounds in palaces, temples, mansions, gardens and tombs that epitomise classical Chinese architecture. It also has roughly 120 museums and more than 100 public gardens.<br /><br /> The first port of call for most visitors is the Forbidden City, which lies at the heart of Beijing with the rest of the city radiating out from it in a grid pattern. For five centuries this massive palace complex, with 9,999 rooms, functioned as the administrative centre of the country and home to a succession of emperors who lived in luxurious isolation, surrounded by courtiers and retainers. The Palace overlooks the infamous Tiananmen Square, a historical site of considerable political drama and dissent, but also a vibrant social and cultural centre point.<br /><br /> In preparing to host what they hoped to be 'the best games in Olympic history', Beijing undertook many major renovations in 2008. Public transport was improved, environmental issues addressed and a general clean-up of the city was ordered. The games highlighted Beijing's economic rise and emergence as a world power. Some of the infrastructure, such as the iconic 'Birds Nest' stadium, is still in use for different purposes, and contributes to Beijing's unique landscape. Travellers should go prepared for less than stellar air quality in this booming city, but luckily breathlessness is just as likely to stem from excitement and awe when confronted with historic Beijing.<br /><br />

Forbidden City

Address: Beijing

Admission: CNY 60 (April to October); CNY 40 (November to March) Daily 8.30am - 4.30pm (November to March); 8.30am - 5pm (April to October).

The Forbidden City is possibly the foremost attraction of Beijing. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been declared the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. Lying at the centre of Beijing, the Forbidden City, called Gu Gong in Chinese, was the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is the biggest and best preserved complex of ancient buildings in China, and the largest palace complex in the world. Construction of the palace complex began in 1407, and for 500 years this inner sanctum was off-limits to most of the world as the emperors lived in luxury, secluded from the masses, surrounded by their families, court officials, servants, eunuchs, concubines and other members of court. The Forbidden City and its centrepiece, the magnificent palace, have a permanent restoration squad, which continually works to keep the 800 buildings and 9,999 rooms inside the Forbidden City complex in perfect condition. The once Forbidden City is now open to all visitors, and is home to the Palace Museum which boasts a priceless collection of ancient artefacts. The complex can get very crowded so it is best to go early in the morning to fully appreciate the layout of the place.<br /><br />

Tiananmen Square

Address: Dongcheng, Beijing Beijing

Admission: Free to visit the square; CNY 15 to climb Tiananmen Tower. Open all day.

This famous square at the heart of Beijing attracts tourists not only with its pleasing design and views of numerous landmarks, including the famous painting of Chairman Mao, but also because it was the scene of so many historic events and is said to be the largest city square in the world. In the ancient imperial days, the square was a gathering place and the site of government offices, but more modern history, particularly the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators, has made it a site of great political significance. Major rallies took place in the square during the Cultural Revolution when Mao Tse Tung reviewed military parades up to a million strong.<br /><br /> The square is surrounded by several monuments, some ancient and some modern, including the former gates to the Forbidden City, the Gate of Heavenly Peace and Qianmen (the front gate), the Chinese Revolution Museum, and the Mao Mausoleum, where China's former leader lies preserved. There is also an underground walkway connecting Tiananmen Square with the Forbidden City. Like most big tourist attractions in China, it is best to try and go early in the day to avoid the masses (the square opens to visitors as early as 5am). Visitors in summer are advised to wear sunscreen or a hat, as there is little shade to be found.<br /><br />

Great Wall of China

Address: Beijing

Admission: CNY 45 (adults); CNY 25 (children) April to October 7am - 6pm; November to March 7.30am - 5.30pm

The Great Wall of China, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a perennial favourite among tourists, and with good reason. As an attraction it is beautiful, awe-inspiring, daunting, and exciting. The Great Wall, stretching 4,000 miles (6,350km), was built in stages from the 7th century BC onwards, snaking its way across the mountains and valleys of five provinces in northern China as a mammoth defence bulwark against the neighbouring Manchurian and Mongolian peoples.<br /><br /> Several sections of the wall, which has become the most prominent symbol of Chinese civilisation, can be viewed in the greater Beijing area. In Yanqing county, in northwest Beijing, is the 600-year-old Badaling Fortification, representative of the Ming dynasty sections of the Great Wall. Other sections can be seen at Jinshanling, Mutianyu, and Simatai. The more popular sections can be very crowded, but generally if travellers walk a little way they can escape the worst of it. There are some wonderful stretches of the wall to hike, such as the roughly six-mile (10km) section between Jinshaling and Simatai, but visitors should be careful about setting off alone as parts of the wall are unstable and unsafe. It is best for visitors to take their own water and snacks and to pack very warm clothes if planning to go in winter, because temperatures at the wall can be freezing. There are countless vendors, but their goods are usually very expensive and of questionable quality. It is illegal to remove stone from the wall and Chinese authorities are clamping down on the practice.<br /><br />

Summer Palace

Address: Beijing

Admission: CNY 20 (November to March), CNY 30 (April to October) Daily 7am - 5pm (November to March); 6.30am - 6pm (April to October)

Telephone: (0)10 6288 1144

The magnificent Summer Palace at Kunming Lake, in northwest Beijing, was built in 1750 by the Emperor Qianlong, and continued to be an imperial residence until the Empress Dowager Cixi died in 1908. It is the largest and most well-preserved royal park in China, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace and stunning gardens are open to visitors, who enter through the East Palace Gate, pass through a grand courtyard into the Hall of Benevolent Longevity, the Hall of Jade Ripples, and the Hall of Joyful Longevity. Empress Cixi's private theatre in the Garden of Moral Harmony is a must-see, as is the long corridor that skirts Kunming Lake's northern shoreline to reach the marble boat, an elaborate two-storey structure of finely carved stone and stained glass. All in all the Summer Palace boasts not only famously beautiful grounds but also 3,000 man-made ancient structures, including mansions, temples, pavilions, bridges and towers. Once a place for weary royals to relax, the Summer Palace is now a sanctuary for travellers and, although it can get crowded, it always seems calmer and cooler than the rest of the city.<br /><br />

Zhoukoudian Cave

Address: Zhoukoudian, Fangshan Beijing

Admission: CNY 30 (adults), concessions available April to October 8.30am - 4.30pm; November to March 8.30am - 4pm.

About 25 miles (40km) south of Beijing, in the Fangshan District, is the Zhoukoudian Cave, source of the largest collection of Homo erectus fossils from any single site in the world. The fossils recovered from Zhoukoudian represent about 40 individuals. Most famous of these remains is a cranium element commonly known as the 'Peking Man', the world's earliest fire-using primitive man who lived between 200,000 and 700,000 years ago. German anatomist Franz Weidenreich studied the Peking Man remains in the 1930s and recognised 12 anatomical features that he believed Peking Man shared with modern Chinese, a milestone in the study of palaeoanthropology.<br /><br /> Visitors to the Zhoukoudian site on Dragon Bone Hill can view a comprehensive seven-room exhibition of fossils and artefacts depicting human evolution and the lifestyle of primitive man. The exhibits showcase fossils from all over China, allowing visitors to compare the apparently different lifestyles of the primitive communities that have been discovered. Visitors can also enter the cave where the Peking Man cranium and other Homo erectus remains were found. The area surrounding the caves has several animal sculptures and pleasant shady areas in which to relax. Travellers who go early might even have the site to themselves.<br /><br />

Tombs of the Ming Dynasty

Address: Beijing

Admission: April to October: Dingling CNY 65; Changling CNY 50; Zhaoling and Sacred Way CNY 35. November to March: Dingling CNY 45; Changling CNY 35; Zhaoling and Sacred Way CNY 25. April to October 8am - 5.30pm; November to March 8.30am - 5pm.

Built by the emperors of the Ming Dynasty of China, the majority of surviving Ming tombs are clustered near Beijing and easily reached on short excursions out of the capital. Thirteen emperors' mausoleums, dating from between 1368 and 1644 and collectively UNESCO-listed, can be seen in the Ming Tombs Scenic Area at the foot of Tianshou Mountain.<br /><br /> Currently only three of the tombs are open to the public (Chanling, Dingling and Zhaoling) but this is more than sufficient as all the tombs are similar in design and the three that can be explored are arguably the most interesting. The Changling Tomb is the largest, oldest and best preserved, looming majestically at the end of the Sacred Way. The Dingling Tomb is the only one which has been properly excavated but tragically many of the artefacts and the remains of the emperor and empresses entombed in the mausoleum were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Even so, the excavated Underground Palace in Dingling is fascinating and some magnificent artefacts can still be viewed.<br /><br /> Many operators in Beijing offer tours to the Ming Tombs, often combined with trips to the Great Wall and other nearby attractions. Visitors travelling independently will need to pay entry to each tomb separately.<br /><br />

Chairman Mao Mausoleum

Address: South end of Tiananmen Square Beijing

Admission: Free 8am - 12pm, Tuesday to Sunday. The Memorial Hall may be closed for special occasions.

Although Chairman Mao Zedong requested to be cremated, it was decided hours after his death, in 1976, that he would be embalmed. Moa Zedong was Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China from 1945 until his death. It is said that, after his death, doctors reportedly pumped him so full of formaldehyde that his body swelled excessively. After draining the corpse and getting it back to a suitable state, they created a wax model of Mao Zedong, as a backup. It is unknown today which version of the Great Helmsman is on display at the Mausoleum at any given time.<br /><br /> The Mausoleum itself was built in 1977 on the prior site of the Gate of China, the main gate of the Imperial City during the Ming and Qing dynasties. On the first floor people can visit the actual tomb, and on the second floor there is a museum of sorts dedicated to six great communist leaders, including Mao himself. Those visiting the Mausoleum line up for hundreds of feet and visitors can buy flowers at the entrance. Visitors should remember to dress respectfully and maintain silence in the mausoleum, as the site is a place of worship more than a tourist destination. Those dressed in casual wear like vests and flip flops may be denied entry.<br /><br />

Beihai Park

Address: Wenjin Jie 1 Beijing

Admission: CNY 10 (April to October), and CNY 5 (November to March). Open daily: 6.30am - 9pm (April to October); 6.30am - 8pm (November to March).

Telephone: (0)10 6403 3225

A place of tranquillity and grand imperial beauty, the Beihai Park is one of the great attractions of Beijing. The park is centrally located and close to the Forbidden City and Jingshan Park. It provides a peaceful, natural haven after a long morning of busy sightseeing. Beihai Park is one of the oldest and most authentically preserved imperial gardens in China; its history extends over 1,000 years to the ancient Liao dynasty, which ruled between 916 and 1125. Built up through five dynasties, the park is an emblem of old-world China and the ancient Chinese art of landscaped gardens with artificial hills, colourful pavilions and intricate temples, dominates. Kublai Khan lived in what is now the Circular City of Beihai Park, and the Tibetan-style White Dagoba, built in 1651 on Jade Island, is a landmark for both Beihai Park and Beijing, having been constructed on the suggestion of a famous Tibetan Lama priest, NaomuHan. Apart from the famous White Dagoba and the Circular City, landmarks of Beihai Park include Hao Pu Creek Graden, the Quiet Heart Studio, Nine-Dragon Screen, and the Five-Dragon Pavilions. Fangshan Restaurant, on the northern shore of the lake, is also worth a visit.<br /><br />

798 Space

Address: 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Dashanzi Art District, Chaoyang District Beijing

Admission: Free Open daily from about 10.30am until about 7.30pm.

Beijing's prominent art district is home to 798 Space, an art gallery housed in a former electronics factory that built components for China's first atomic bomb and early satellites. The gallery is large and airy, capable of comfortably holding more than a thousand people, and it provides an unusual and stimulating background for the art on display. Exhibiting the latest in contemporary Chinese art in its lofty viewing rooms, 798 Space is a visual delight for any traveller. Besides regular national and international exhibitions, 798 Space also hosts corporate and commercial events like fashion shows, product launches, conferences, and fairs. Within the gallery there is a film and video viewing area and a tempting gallery bookshop. There is also space for eating, relaxing and socialising, including a colourful little restaurant.<br /><br /> The art precinct itself is dotted with avant-garde statues, charming coffee shops and noodle bars, and a plethora of other wonderful art galleries to visit. It is a trendy and culturally exciting area of Beijing that is exciting to explore.<br /><br />

Great Bell Temple

Address: Bei San Huan Xi Lu 31A Beijing

Admission: CNY 20 Open Tuesday to Sunday 9am - 4.30pm

The Qing Temple is home to the Ancient Bell Museum (Gu Zhong Bowuguan) and is a great stop for travellers en route to the Summer Palace. The temple, originally known as 'Awakened Life Temple', apparently wasn't experiencing enough 'awakening' and a 47-ton bell, with a height of 22.7 feet (6.9m) was transported to the temple on ice sleds in 1743. The bell is inscribed with Buddhist Mantras on both the inside and outside of the body and features over 227,000 characters in all. The bell was often chosen by the emperors to pray for rain and blessings for the people of China and was one of three projects that Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) commanded after re-establishing Beijing as the capital; the other two were the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. The bell is considered as an auspicious article in Chinese tradition and nowadays it is rung 108 times to begin the celebrations at grand ceremonies. There are a further 31 bells on display in the Ancient Bell Museum, most with tributes to various emperors inscribed on them. Like many tourist attractions in China, the written material in English is limited, but the temple is definitely still worth a visit.<br /><br />

The Underground City

Address: Xi Damochang Jie 64 Beijing

Admission: CNY 20 Open daily 9am - 4pm but appointments are by arrangement only and must be booked in advance.

For more than 20 years, Beijing's Underground City, a bomb shelter just beneath the ancient capital's downtown area, built in case of nuclear attack, has been virtually forgotten by Beijing locals, despite being rather famous among foreigners since its official opening in 2000. A sign near the entrance announces this rarely visited attraction a 'human fairyland and underground paradise'. Aside from some rather odd recent additions, the Underground City features factories, stores, guesthouses, restaurants, hospitals, schools, theatres, reading-rooms, a roller-skating rink and many other curious features, like a mushroom farm to provide food easily cultivated in darkness. On Mao Zedong's orders, it was built from 1969 to 1979 by more than 300,000 local citizens including school children, mostly by hand. The tunnels were initially intended to accommodate all of Beijing's six million inhabitants upon completion. Winding for over 18 miles (30km) and covering an area of nearly 53 square miles (85 sq km) from eight to 18 meters under the surface, the underground City includes more than 1,000 anti-air raid structures.<br /><br />

Beijing Aquarium

Address: 18 Gaoliangqiao Byway, Haidian District. Beijing

Admission: CNY 165 adults (concessions available for children) 9am - 5.30pm (summer); 10am - 4.30pm (winter).

Telephone: (0)10 6217 6655

Located within the Beijing Zoo, the Beijing Aquarium is one of the world's largest inland aquariums. It's an absolute must-see for visitors with features such as an imaginative Amazon rainforest, complete with piranhas and pandas, as well as an exquisite shark aquarium where the very brave can plunge into the tank with these infamous predators. Other attractions include whales and a number of rare or endangered fish. Families flock to see the dolphin shows at 11am and 3pm but, although these displays are a consistent favourite with kids, they are conducted in Chinese only.<br /><br /> A boat from the canal south of the aquarium runs to the Summer Palace, giving visitors the opportunity to sightsee while en route to the attraction. The Beijing Aquarium offers a great mix of entertainment and education and is the perfect departure from more traditional cultural and historical tourism. For those travelling with children in Beijing, the aquarium is sure to delight the whole family. The fact that it is wonderful no matter what the weather also makes it a useful venue to have on the travel itinerary.<br /><br />

The Beijing National Stadium

Address: Olympic Green, Beijing Beijing

Admission: CNY 50 for general admission; CNY 80 for VIP ticket. April to October 9am - 7pm; November to March 9am - 5.30pm.

The Beijing National Stadium, also known as The Bird's Nest due to its appearance, was the hub of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, hosting all of the track and field events as well the opening and closing ceremonies. The unique-looking steel support structures framing the stadium, weigh in at 110, 000 tons (99,790kg), making the stadium the largest steel structure in the world. The colossal structure was created using a web of steel frames converging in a grid formation. The visual effect is unique and impressive and it was designed to symbolise harmony between technology and nature. The stadium has reopened as a tourist attraction, and the public can tour the facilities, or visit the ski resort now housed inside during the Happy Snow season (ticket prices go up during the skiing season). The area surrounding the stadium complex comes alive in the evenings with music, hawkers and vendors. Even if visitors only go to have a look from outside, and decline to do the tour, it is well worth visiting The Bird's Nest. The best time of the day to visit is late afternoon to evening when the lights come on, creating an incredible effect.<br /><br />

Happy Valley Amusement Park (Beijing Huanle Gu)

Address: Xiao Wu Ji Bei Lu, Dong Si Huan (East Fourth Ring Road) Beijing

Admission: CNY 260 (mid-March to mid-November); CNY 200 (mid-November to mid-March). Discounts for children are based on height. Mid-March to mid-November: 9.30am - 5.30pm Monday to Friday; 9am - 5.30pm weekends. Mid-November to mid-March: 10am - 5.30pm daily.

Telephone: (0)10 6738 3333

This amusement park, which opened in 2006, is a fantastic place to spend the day with the little ones, or even without little ones! Happy Valley features about 40 rides, such as the Energy Collector, Trojan Horse and the Crystal Wing Rollercoaster, an IMAX Theatre and even a shopping centre. It is very similar in style and layout to Disneyland, featuring six theme parks: Firth Forest, Atlantis, Ant Kingdom, the Aegean Sea, Lost Maya, and Shangri-La. Atlantis is probably the favourite of these, with a massive palace built in its centre. There is a mini train that circles the outer rim of the park offering scenic tours. Kids of all ages will have a screaming good time at the Happy Valley Amusement Park, and in the right conditions it is a wonderful way to spend a few hours for the whole family. However, Happy Valley gets very crowded on the weekends, with queues of up to three hours for rides; during the week, when it is much quieter, not all the rides stay open. Therefore, to avoid disappointment, visitors are advised to find out ahead of time whether the state-of-the-art roller coasters will be running when they visit. Happy Valley is best when it is warm and sunny.<br /><br />

Sony ExploraScience

Address: Inside Chaoyang Park South Gate (Chaoyang Park), Chaoyang Gongyuan Nanmen Beijing

Admission: CNY 30 (adults); CNY 20 (children) Open Monday to Friday 9.30am - 5pm; Saturday and Sunday 9am - 6.30pm.

Telephone: (0)10 6501 8800

The fascinating Sony ExploraScience museum is an interactive educational centre that encourages children to take an interest in science. The museum features live science shows and interactive educational exhibits combined with Sony's latest digital technology. The museum is divided into four themed sections, covering illusion, refraction, light and sounds. Attractions include robotic dogs that play soccer, musical sculptures, soap bubble rings, and much more. All small enquiring minds will love a trip to the Sony ExploraScience, but it is probably an experience best-suited to kids aged five to 12. Tickets can be purchased from the Sony booth outside the south gate of Chaoyang Park, to avoid paying for park admission separately. Profit made from ticket sales goes towards supporting rural education in China, so it is money spent for a good cause. The Sony ExploraScience museum is located in Chaoyang Park, the largest park in Beijing, which boasts multiple attractions including lakes, swimming pools, a bungee jumping tower, sports fields, a wetland area, fountains and a funfair. It is a beautiful area and a fun place to spend the day, especially for those travelling with children in Beijing.<br /><br />

Beijing World Park

Address: 158 Dabaotai, Huaxiang Fengbaolu, Fengtai District Beijing

Admission: CNY 100 per person Open daily: 8am - 5.30pm (April to October); 8am - 5pm (November to March).

For those travelling with children in Beijing, The Beijing World Park is an entertaining destination. The park features about 100 miniature models of some of the world's most famous tourist attractions, from over 50 countries across the globe, and is designed to let visitors experience a trip around the world without ever having to leave Beijing. It is an amusing place to take photographs and, among locals, has become a popular spot for wedding pictures. The sights include Egypt's Great Pyramids, France's Eiffel Tower, India's Taj Mahal, England's Stone Henge, and even New York City's Manhattan island, complete with landmarks like the Empire State Building. Although the park can be a bit run-down, depending on the season, it is a great place for kids to learn and enjoy naming the attractions as they stroll through the replicas. If travellers take it all in with a positive attitude and let their kids' excitement infect them, the park can be a delight for adults too. Summer is the best time to visit Beijing World Park, as it is a venue designed for sunny weather.<br /><br />


Address: Gongti Nanlu, Chaoyang District Beijing

Admission: CNY 65 per child (for three hours); CNY 15 per adult. Open Monday to Friday from 9am - 5.30pm; Saturday and Sunday (and public holidays) from 9am - 7pm.

For travellers looking for things to do with their kids in Beijing, Fundazzle is the venue to remember for a rainy day. This amusement centre delights children (it is open to anybody under 14) and gives parents a welcome rest. The huge indoor play area at Fundazzle features a massive ball pool, trampolines, a two-storey jungle gym, a toddler area with cars, swings, seesaws, and houses, and something called a space maze in which children can lose themselves happily for hours. On the weekends, there are arts and crafts classes and performances for the kids to enjoy. The centre is completely safe and can even be educational, as fun interactive language and maths classes are sometimes conducted. After days spent sightseeing, this is the perfect attraction for kids that need to blow off some steam and get some play time. Adults can spend the time reading or simply watching the kids cavort in the colourful playground, which can be highly amusing.<br /><br />

Longqing Gorge Ice and Snow Festival

Where: Longqing Gorge in Yanqing County, 56 miles (80km) north of Beijing,Beijing

When: 16 January to 28 February 2018

Those in Beijing between January and March should pay a visit to Longqing Gorge Ice and Snow Festival. The magical winter wonderland provides a fun day out for locals and tourists alike at the ice spectacle held annually north of Beijing. Visitors can try their hand at ice-fishing, tobogganing, ice-slides, skating, or one of numerous other ice or snow sports. There is also a human-sized ice maze to get lost in. Looming spectacularly above all the attractions and activities there is a 230 feet (70m) high frozen waterfall. Visitors can finish off the day by simply marveling at the intricately carved ice sculptures and ice lanterns on display, while fireworks turn the icy gorge into a colourful light show. There is something on offer for all age groups, making for a thrilling excursion for the whole family. Longqing is under two hours drive from central Beijing so it is possible to visit just for a day, but, as the ice sculptures are at their most beautiful and magical at night, it is recommended that visitors stay in the area overnight to enjoy the full experience.<br /><br />

Great Wall Marathon

Where: Tianjin Province,Beijing

When: 19 May 2018

The longest man-made structure in the world lends just a small portion of itself for one of the most gorgeous races in the world. Apart from the full marathon, which is approximately 26.2 miles (42km), and half marathon which is about 13.1 miles (21km), there is a Fun Run in which anybody over the age of 12 can participate. Up until 2013 there were two additional races of three miles (5km) and six miles (10km) each but they have been cancelled in favour of the Fun Run which will go the same route. The race has two basic sections, one on the wall itself (in which runners famously climb 5,164 steps) and one which sees contestants running on reasonably flat terrain through picturesque villages and rice fields. Although much of the Great Wall is very uneven and treacherous in parts, the marathon route is steep but even and well-maintained so that no special shoes are required and injuries should be minimal. There are refreshment stations every few miles giving away water, energy drinks, and bananas. Although the section of the wall run is among the hilliest of this hilly wall the breathtaking scenery of the Tianjin Province will make it worthwhile. From a scenic point of view, it is without a doubt one of the most spectacular marathons in the world.<br /><br />

Chinese New Year

Where: ,Beijing

When: 16 February 2018

Chinese New Year is a famously festive period. In Beijing it is a noisy, colourful (and that's not just the fireworks) and busy occasion. Boys and girls on stilts, life-sized puppets, and costumed carousers sing and dance in the streets. Not a whole lot of sleep is possible during this week of celebration. The Eastern Mountain Taoist Temple on the east side of the city hosts the New Year Temple Fair, where one can find some respite from the reveling in the main hall, which features a Taoist orchestra playing traditional flutes and pipes.<br /><br /> New Year also starts with a bang in Shanghai, where exuberant and exceedingly loud fireworks displays rock the city all night long on this, China's most merry of celebrations. Not everyone appreciates the scale of the fireworks, but traditionally the noise is necessary to frighten off evil spirits for the coming year. During the national holiday the Bund and clubs throughout the city are thronged with revelers, making for a city-wide party.<br /><br /> All over China there are raucous celebrations over this period, making it a truly thrilling time to visit any of the big cities.<br /><br />

Cafe Sambal

Address: 43 Doufu Chi Hutong Beijing

Food Type: Asian

The word is that this modest looking little courtyard restaurant has a flawless menu. Everything from their (water spinach) to the spicy signature dish, the Kapitan chicken, is exquisite and their Malaysian chef takes great pride in his work.<br /><br />


Address: Beihai Gongyuannei, inside Beihai Parks south gate Beijing

Food Type: Chinese

Chinese royalty were renowned picky eaters and ate only specialty dishes with carefully selected ingredients and even more carefully selected names. Such dining gave way to its own culinary tradition, which can be enjoyed at the enormous banquet-style dining hall with such imperial classics as 'jade phoenix returning to the royal'. Choosing from a huge selection of dishes is a fun way to eat like an emperor.<br /><br />


Address: 23 Songzhu Temple, Shatan North Street, Dongcheng District Beijing

Food Type: European

Providing top-notch international cuisine in a uniquely Chinese setting, TRB is set in a 600-year-old temple which has been tastefully renovated to create a modern fine-dining haven. The food is mostly European but with a bit of local flavour thrown in. The restaurant is open for lunch and supper on weekdays and brunch, lunch and supper on weekends. Reservations are recommended.<br /><br />

China Grill

Address: Park Hayatt, 2 Jianguomenwai Street, Chaoyang District Beijing

Food Type: International

Sixty six floors above the sparkling city makes any dish seem dazzling, but the views aren't the only reason to eat at China Grill. The international menu is a simple selection of fine dining with both Chinese dishes and grilled western classics. The romantic ambiance is set by a surprisingly cosy interior surrounded by floor to ceiling windows for a 360-degree view of the city.<br /><br />

Capital M

Address: 2 Qianmen Street, Pedestrian Area Beijing

Food Type: European

Centrally located near Tiananmen Square, the lovely outdoor terrace at Capital M is a popular place to have Sunday brunch in Beijing. The menu offers modern European food including Crispy Suckling Pig, Hot House-Smoked Salmon, and the restaurant's famous Pavlova. They offer a special afternoon tea as well, with a selection of fresh-baked scones, finger sandwiches, and pastries that add up to a perfect mid-afternoon break for tired sightseers. Open daily 11:30am-10:30pm.<br /><br />

Neon lights are a staple of Beijing nightlife, with a predictable swarm of DJ dance clubs and karaoke bars lighting up most corners of the downtown districts. This is encouraging, as not too long ago there wasn't much nightlife in Beijing at all. The city is just beginning to create the modern discos and chic bars favoured by foreigners. Beijing's nightlife still doesn't quite compare to that found in cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai for pure debauchery, but its cultural offerings and diversity of entertainment are unrivalled.<br /><br /> Those wanting an authentic Beijing experience should probably avoid the hotel venues and their cookie cutter disco offerings. Some unique areas popular with expats include Hou Hai Bar Area, a picturesque lakeside nightlife hub, and Sanlitun Pub Street in the Embassy Area of Chaoyang District, a favourite for westerners keen on cheap drinks and a vibrant atmosphere.<br /><br /> There still isn't too much crossover between western and Chinese clientèle, but it can be interesting to soak in some Chinese karaoke and liquor at local haunts. Many venues stay open until the early morning, although most people in Beijing go to sleep before some of them even open!<br /><br /> There are a host of Chinese art shows to enjoy, if late-night booze joints don't sound enticing. These include top-quality Chinese opera, dancing and theatre most nights of the week. Many visitors enjoy seeing kung-fu demonstrations and acrobatic shows. The Laoshe Tea House and the Tianqiao (Overbridge) Area are great places to explore traditional Chinese performances.<br /><br /> A note of caution: it is advisable to research and plan your night out rather than leave matters to spontaneous choice as one might do in other cities. Be very cautious of allowing taxi drivers or helpful locals guiding you to an off-the-beaten track bar or club - these arrangements are often designed to fleece visitors of money.<br /><br /> Grab a copy of Timeout Beijing or That's Beijing for updated event listings and gig guides.<br /><br />
Shopping is a delight in Beijing, and the haggling and bargain-hunting is a cultural experience.<br /><br /> Walking and bargaining in the countless markets in Xiu Shui Jie Shopping Mall or the Xiu Shui Market will no doubt build up an appetite but luckily there are plenty of food stalls where shoppers can refuel. Popular buys include fake designer labels, clothing and bags. Bargaining is an essential skill and an expected part of the transaction but remember to keep smiling.<br /><br /> The main shopping area is around Wangfujing Dajie, where a number of department stores can be found, including the Beijing Department Store. The Xidan area offers wonderful big department stores selling fixed-price goods including electronic equipment. The Hong Qiao Market is a popular indoor market in the south central area of Beijing, where bargaining is expected. Here buyers can haggle for goods such as cheap no-name or fake brand electronics, sunglasses, batteries, watches and jewellery.<br /><br /> Panjiayuan Collectors Market is an outdoor market with a good array of arts and crafts from all over China, including popular Beijing souvenirs like jade bracelets, cloisonné and lacquerware, silk, calligraphy, porcelain and vintage Cultural Revolution books and posters. The Maliandao Tea Street is the best place to find anything associated with tea, including tables, tea sets and a wide variety of teas; it can be found in the southwestern Xuanwu District, near the Beijing West Railway Station.<br /><br /> Liulichang, in south Beijing, is a great place for Chinese antiques. Buyers should be aware that authentic antiques over 100 years old display a red wax seal. An export licence must be issued before these can be taken out of the country.<br /><br /> Travellers are advised to avoid shopping sprees on evenings and weekends when possible, as the crowds can be overwhelming. Shops in Beijing are generally open daily from 9am to 8pm.<br /><br />
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