When Marco Polo, the famous Venetian traveller of the 1200s, first threaded the Silk Road into China, he was awed by China’s immense power, wealth, and complex social structure. That was dynasties ago. All that is left of that time now lie in the countless museums, parks, temples, and palaces. The now modern cosmopolitan city of Beijing is home to numerous of such sights; the only things frozen in time while the rest of this capital city races forward.
Arriving at the Airport
Beijing, one of the most populous cities in the world, is primarily served by the Beijing Capital International Airport. When you arrive at the airport, you can expect the usual hubbub of a capital city airport, but also all the amenities and services you would expect. To get into the city you can either take a taxi, airport express train or an airport shuttle and navigate from there.
Where to go
The sights and places of interest to visit in Beijing are numerous. You may join a tour if you wish. Most sights and places of interest are clustered in the centre of the capital, with the exception of the Beijing Zoo, the Summer Palace, and the ruins of Yuan Ming Yuan, the old summer palace.
A sight definitely not to be missed is the Forbidden City. The now Palace Museum, covers about 74 hectares, with walls approximately 10 metres high, surrounding close to 9000 rooms. The museum with its guided tours, permanent and special exhibits will take you back in time to see how two dynasties of emperors ruled, lived, and also see the countless halls and articles left from that era. You will have plenty of photo opportunities.
Just South of the Palace Museum, you will find the iconic Tiananmen Square. There you will find the Tiananmen Tower, the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, as well as the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall where you will find the late leader’s remains encased in a crystal coffin. If you get up before sunrise and wait in the square, you will also be able to watch the flag-raising ceremony. The timing for the flag-raising and lowering may vary, so you are advised to check with your hotel concierge or online while planning your trip.
Slightly further south, you will find the Temple of Heaven; a prime example of ancient China’s architecture. This temple was constructed during the Ming dynasty, and is where the emperors of both Ming and Qing dynasty would go to pray for a good harvest.
Put aside half a day when planning your itinerary for a visit to The Great Wall of China. Join a tour and take a day visit to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. A visit to Beijing cannot be considered complete without a trip to the Wall, and a customary photo to take home.
Beijing is not all temples, relics, and monuments. Hit the Chaoyang Theatre Acrobatic Show. Visit the theatre for a show any day of the week for a different side of Beijing. If acrobatic shows are not enough, pop by The Red Theatre any evening and watch a Kungfu Show. If you are feeling a little more adventurous and want to see more performing arts of China, find your way to the Liyuan Theatre in the evenings for a taste of Beijing Opera.
If you are planning a week-long trip, visit places like the Beijing Zoo and see the Giant Pandas, the Summer Palace near it, take a walk down the Liu Li Chang Cultural Street or take a peek at the Pan Jia Yuan Antique Market.
While in the middle of enjoying all these sights and places, do not forget the food. Try everything you can get your hands on, especially the famed Peking Duck – definitely a must.
How to get there, and around
Search for a flight you prefer on Skyscanner to fly from New Zealand to Beijing Capital International Airport. Upon arriving, you can choose between taxis, and the Airport Express Train Service that will take you to stops on two of the Subway lines.
The easiest way to navigate the city is via the Subway. The Beijing Subway is clean, efficient, and air-conditioned. Get a map from your hotel or from a convenience store. Taxis are also easy to find, save at peak hours. These modes of transport are enough for you to take Beijing by storm.