Kempinski Blog Article
Overflowing with history and culture, the capital of the People's Republic of China offers surprises and delights around every corner of its busy streets. A city of contrasts, Beijing balances past glories and modern triumphs, the urban rush and beautifully serene settings. Standing tall as the last of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, nowhere else in the world is quite like Beijing – whether you are visiting for business or pleasure, you are sure to be amazed.
Preparation is key when visiting Beijing – although the visa process is not difficult to navigate, it may require some work well in advance to make sure you have done everything correctly. However, if your visit is particularly short, you can stay up to 72 hours in the city without a visa. The law dictates that all foreign visitors must carry their passports at all times, though, regardless of the length of your stay.
International visitors will mostly arrive at Beijing Capital International Airport, joining the millions of annual passengers that make it one of the world's busiest. It is well connected to the city, sitting just 26km northeast of the central districts. The Tianjin Binhai International Airport in neighbouring Tianjin is also a good option for visitors, with rail transfers to Beijing taking just half an hour.
Beijing's public transport is famously busy and affordable, with journeys costing just a few Yuan. The bus and subway both cover the entire city, although the subway is usually the best choice for visitors, with English language signs making navigating the 17 lines simple. Taxis are plentiful too, although you may struggle to flag one down during the city's frantic rush hour.
Exploring Beijing's streets on foot is recommended, but it is not a practical way to reach any destination due to the city's overwhelming size. For the more active traveller, going by bicycle is an excellent choice for shorter journeys – the majority of Beijing's flat roads (there are only three hills in the entire city) have bike lanes that will allow you to glide through the traffic with ease.
But where to stay in Beijing? There are plenty of choices for luxurious hotels all year round, with the Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center offering five-star service in the heart of the city, as well as the Sunrise Kempinski Hotel, Beijing further afield at the tranquil Yanqi Lake.
It can be difficult to get a sense of just how vast Beijing is until you have set foot on the city's streets, but once there the sense of scale becomes its defining feature. As China's political, educational and cultural centre for thousands of years, Beijing overflows with breath-taking palaces and tombs, beautiful parks, and stunning newer developments like the minimalist dome of the National Centre for the Performing Arts or the Bird's Nest design of the National Stadium. Many walls and gates from China's storied past remain intact, exuding incredible heritage at every turn. There are no less than seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the city, each one unmissable.
It would be truly impossible to see everything Beijing has to offer – the best way to experience this extraordinary city is to simply immerse yourself in it, and allow the flow of its current to sweep you away. Wherever you may find yourself, you will not be disappointed.
As China's capital, Beijing is home to cuisines from across the country – dishes originating from Tibet, Sichuan, Hunan, Xinjiang and many, many more provinces. For those looking to expand their palette, head to the Sanlitun area for Beijing's widest restaurant selection, and explore than Donghuamen and Wangfujing night markets for incredible street food – including exotic snacks such as starfish and scorpions.
The city's signature dish is, of course, the world famous Peking Roast Duck, still carrying Beijing's older Romanised name. Although available across the globe, the perfect duck can only be found in Beijing. Served in pancakes with plum sauce, and contrastingly crisp cucumbers, the local speciality is truly mouth-watering. As a rule, if a place is popular with locals, you can be confident that you are in for a treat.
No matter the reason for your visit to Beijing, there is an almost-endless list of sights that you should certainly find the time to explore.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Many of these will need no introduction – most of all the Great Wall, which can be reached by train easily from the city. The Grand Canal, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Ming Tombs, Summer Palace and Zhoukoudian are spread across Beijing and are all completely unique, revealing the best of China's incredible history in a variety of breath-taking ways.
798 Art District
A former factory complex built by the East Germans during the Cold War, the 798 Art District has been completely transformed by Beijing's art community into a massive network of contemporary galleries. Be sure to visit BTAP, which has been part of the district since the beginning, but a leisurely wander through the complex will uncover endless artistic delights.
One of the city's finest parks – a competitive category – Jingshan features one of Beijing’s few hills. Artificially constructed from earth excavated when building the Forbidden City, the view from the top offers a stunning panorama of the city. In summer the park is in bloom, but all year round it is a popular destination for local residents to perform tai chi.
Behind the imposing and modern façade of the Capital Museum, you will find a wealth of exhibits that capture China's culture and heritage throughout history. Chinese porcelain, Buddhist statues, ancient jade carvings, calligraphy and much more from across the nation sit alongside a fascinating look into the history of Beijing.