4 Top Places To Visit In Beijing, China

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Beijing, formerly known as Peking, is the capital city of China. It's the second largest city in the country, after Shanghai, and has a population of over 20 million people. Beijing is a city built around the principle of symmetry, and has a central axis running from North to South through Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, and the Drum Tower and Bell Tower. Throughout history the city has had over ten different names. Bei = North, and Jing = Capital, so its name literally means the North Capital!

Beijing was the first stop on my G Adventures Tour, Beijing to Hong Kong Express. Although I knew the city's pollution levels can be off-the-charts crazy, nothing could have prepared me for the thick smog. You had to look through a grey haze to see any of the buildings in the distance. Even for those that weren't too far away! Our guide told us that even though factories were moved out of the city for the 2008 Olympics, Beijing often only has one or two days of clear skies per year. It's not unusual to see people who live there wearing pollution masks.

Putting the pollution issues aside, the capital city of China is grand and unique. It's home to ornate palaces, and the largest city square in the world. Here are 4 places you must visit in Beijing, China:




1) The Great Wall Of China
No first time trip to China would be complete without walking along the Great Wall, the longest wall in the world. It's one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and attracts thousands of visitors from across the world every single day. 

Visiting The Great Wall of China was incredible, and I'd recommend any keen traveler to visit. It doesn't matter how many photographs you've previously seen, nothing compares to exploring the Great Wall in real life and experiencing the size of it for yourself. When I visited the Mutianya section of the wall in July 2016, it had been raining that morning which meant there were very few other visitors. In fact, our group often had sections of the wall completely to ourselves. It was a world away from photographs I'd seen beforehand of visitors crammed side by side with no room to freely explore. The weather was fairly misty, which although it meant you couldn't see miles ahead of you, it made the place feel so mysterious.





2) Tiananmen Square
Located right next to the entrance to The Forbidden City is Tiananmen Square, the largest city square in the world. The square is home to the Monument to the People's Heroes, as well as the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Outside of China, the square is sadly best known for the Tiananmen Square Massacre, where hundreds of demonstrators were killed whilst they protested for democracy, and freedom of speech, among other issues. It's said that the square is so large it can hold up to 1 million people in total.





3) The Temple Of Heaven
Located in Southern Beijing is The Temple of Heaven, a complex of ornate buildings set within park gardens. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and symbolizes the relationship between heaven and earth. For example, the main building, the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, has a square base and a round hall to represent heaven and earth. This impressive building was also made without using any nails! It's a must see in Beijing.





4) The Forbidden City
It's another UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the largest palace complex in the world. The Forbidden City is made up of over 800 buildings, thousands of rooms, and took fourteen years to build. It's been home to many emperors over the years, and today is used as a museum. I would recommend at least half a day to explore the area, especially if the weather is particularly hot and humid, as it covers roughly 180 acres of land

Going elsewhere in China?
From Beijing you can easily reach many of the other main cities within China. There are frequent flights between Beijing and Shanghai which take roughly two hours and can be very affordable. If you have more time to play with, there are also overnight trains (certainly an experience to have with the locals!) to cities such as Xi'An and Shanghai. Just prepare to be flexible with your plans! My overnight train from Beijing to Xi'An was supposed to only take 12 hours, but because of flooding it turned into a 29 hour train journey!

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