|Apart from the being the host of the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing is a very culturally rich city with many historic tourist attractions for visitors to enjoy which are being rapidly renovated in time for the Olympics.
Here are the parts of Beijing you will not want to miss:
The Forbidden City is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site so that it may be preserved for future generations though it was built as the Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties between 1406 and 1420. Since 1924 it has been the Palace Museum. The City is huge, taking up an area of 720,000 square metres and consists of 980 surviving buildings.
The gates open at 8.30am and this is the best time of day to visit if you want to wander around in relative peace before all the hoards arrive!
At the centre of Beijing, and directly south of the Forbidden City, you’ll find Tiananmen Square. The square was built by Mao in reply to the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is the largest open urban square in the world, measuring 880 metres by 500 metres, so has a total area of 440,000 square metres.
At the northern end of the square, separating it from the Forbidden City is Tiananmen, a gate which the square was named after – the name of the gate translates as ‘Gate of Heavenly Peace’.
The Summer Palace is an area which has extensive ruins and grounds of the palaces of the Qing emperors. You are free to wander around and have fun exploring and discovering secret ruins and caves away from the crowds!
The Temple of Heaven is a temple where the emperor used to pray every day, and is surrounded by a huge park which can be a relaxing and peaceful retreat from the noise and pollution in the city. It is the greenest place in Beijing and worth spending a little time to enjoy woods of ancient trees and watching the locals doing tai chi.
To experience Beijing’s traditional architecture, visit an area of Hutongs. Hutongs are the name of the ancient city alleyways, dating back to a period between 1266 and 1368. The majority of the buildings are built in the traditional courtyard style and although some do exist, many are unfortunately being demolished to make space for new, modern developments and roads.
You can also use Beijing as a base from which to visit the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall is about 1.5 hours from the city by bus, and several of these closest sections have been restored recently so you can see the Wall in all its original glory! Though one thing which wouldn’t have been there originally is the addition of a ski lift and toboggan run for going up to and down from the wall!!