Governed as a municipality under direct administration of the central government, Beijing borders Hebei Province to the north, west, south, and for a small section in the east, and Tianjin Municipality to the southeast. Beijing is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China.
Beijing is divided into 14 urban and suburban districts and two rural counties. Beijing is a major transportation hub, with dozens of railways, roads and motorways passing through the city. It is also the destination of many international flights arriving in China. Beijing is recognized as the political, educational, and cultural center of the People's Republic of China, while Shanghai and Hong Kong predominate in economic fields. The city hosted the 2008 Olympic Games.
Few cities in the world besides Beijing have served as the political and cultural centre of an area as immense as China for so long. The Encyclopædia Britannica describes it as "one of the world's great cities," and declares that the city has been an integral part of China’s history for centuries; there is scarcely a major building of any age in Beijing that doesn't have at least some national historical significance. Beijing is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, and huge stone walls and gates. Its art treasures and universities have long made the city a centre of culture and art in China. (Wikipedia)
Images of Beijing
Table of Contents
- 1 Beijing
- 1.1 Contents
- 1.2 Districts
- 1.3 Understand
- 1.4 Get in
- 1.5 Get around
- 1.6 See
- 1.7 Prepare
- 1.8 Talk
- 1.9 Do
- 1.10 Learn
- 1.11 Work
- 1.12 Buy
- 1.13 Eat
- 1.14 Drink
- 1.15 Sleep
- 1.16 Stay safe
- 1.17 Cope
- 1.18 Get out
Beijing (北京 Běijīng) is the capital of the most populous country in the world, the People's Republic of China. With a population of 21.5 million people, it is the nation's second-largest city after Shanghai. It was also the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors until the formation of a republic in 1911. Beijing is the political, educational and cultural centre of the country and as such it is rich in historical sites and important government and cultural institutions.
The city is marked by its flatness and arid climate. There are only three hills to be found in the city limits (in Jingshan Park to the north of Forbidden City) and mountains surround the capital on three sides. Like the configuration of the Forbidden City, Beijing has concentric "ring roads", which are actually rectangular, that go around the metropolis and serve as good reference points as one attempts to move about the city. Beyond the ring roads are the most-visited portions of the Great Wall of China, which witnesses visitors the world over and Beijing serves as a good headquarters for those who wish to gaze upon one of mankind's more memorable and lasting structures.
Beijing was host to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, and will also host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, the only city to host both.
Beijing Municipality is a large region, equal to a province or state. It includes the densely populated metropolitan area of Beijing and even greater area of suburban, semi-rural and mountainous terrain. We have articles on each of the five city districts of Beijing (see the first map) plus some articles on important areas of these districts. The eleven outer districts are grouped into five regional articles (see the second map). The Great Wall of China passes through the rugged north of Beijing Municipality.
The two districts are located within or around the Second Ring Road and make-up the old walled city of yesteryear. Xicheng means West City and Dongcheng means East City. Surrounding these districts are Chaoyang, Fengtai and Hadian. These three districts hold impressive new urban and commercial development, have a population of many millions, and generate the economic prosperity of the city:
Outer suburbs and rural Beijing
The remaining eleven districts and counties are quite far from the centre. The main reason to go out is to visit the Great Wall of China, passing through Northern Rural Beijing. Each of the other districts has a number of less well-known attractions, such as the Ming Tombs, well worth exploring if time permits.
Beijing literally means Northern Capital, a role it has played many times in China's long history. Beijing's history dates back several thousand years but it first became notable in Chinese history after it was made the capital of the State of Yan under the name Yanjing. Yan was one of the major kingdoms of the Warring States Period, some 2,000 years ago. After the fall of Yan, during the later Han and Tang dynasties, the Beijing-area was a major prefecture of northern China.
In 938, Beijing was conquered by the Khitans and declared the capital of the Liao Dynasty. The Mongols seized the city in 1215. From 1264 Beijing served as the capital of a united China under Kublai Khan. His victorious Mongol forces renamed the city, Great Capital (大都). From there, Kublai and his descendants ruled their empire from a northern location closer to the Mongol homelands. During this period, the walled city was enlarged and many palaces and temples were built.
After the fall of the Mongol-founded Yuan dynasty in 1368, the capital was initially moved to Nanjing. However, in 1403 the 3rd Ming emperor, Zhu Di, also known as Emperor Yongle, moved it back to Beijing and gave the city its present name. The Ming period was Beijing's golden era. The Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and many other Beijing landmarks were built in this period. The capital developed into a huge city becoming the religious and cultural center of Asia.
In 1644, the Manchus overthrew the declining Ming dynasty and established China's last imperial line - the Qing. Despite the changing political climate, Beijing remained the capital. The Manchu imperial family moved into the Forbidden City and remained there until 1911. The Qing built both the Summer Palace and Old Summer Palace. These served as summer retreats for the emperors and their entourages. During the 19th century, Western countries established foreign legations in the Qianmen area south of the Forbidden City. These came under siege during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.
The Qing dynasty fell in 1911. In the chaotic first years of Republican China, Beijing was beset by fighting warlords. Following the Northern Expedition, the Kuomintang moved the capital to Nanjing in 1928, and renamed Beijing as Beiping ("Northern Peace") to emphasize that it was no longer a capital. Beijing remained a center for education and culture throughout the Republican Era. When the Kuomintang was defeated by the Communists in 1949, the new government proclaimed a People's Republic with its capital at Beijing.
Recommended reading includes Peking - A Historical and Intimate Description of Its Chief Places of Interest, by Juliet Bredon (written in the 1930's (ISBN 0968045987) and Twilight in the Forbidden City, by Reginald Fleming Johnston (ISBN 0968045952)).
OrientationHong Kong and Shanghai.
Beijing is the political centre of the country with official buildings and embassy areas dominating the city. Beijing is also the historical and cultural centre of China with many historical buildings and sites - especially within Ring Road Two. The city has undergone rapid modernisation in recent years, with improvements of institutions, business environment and work conditions.
Given their city's historical, cultural and political heft, Beijingers are justifiably proud to be citizens of the capital. An attitude known as 大北京主义 or "Great Beijing-ism" is often used to describe their attitude toward people from other regions of China. They are often much more interested in politics and willing to talk about current events than people elsewhere in China. Beijingers also seem to focus on not losing face and often use humor in order to do so. However, many Chinese from other provinces find Beijingers very friendly and straightforward compared with people from Shanghai especially.
Beijing has a monsoon-influenced continental climate with hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. The best time to visit is in September and October, during the "Golden Autumn" (金秋). Spring is the season for dust storms and is otherwise warm and dry. Summer can be oppressively hot and the tourist crowds tend to be the largest as well; prevailing winds from the south trap pollutants (mountains lie to the north and west), making summer a poor season for air quality. Smog is at its worst, however, in winter, which is cold and dry with infrequent, but beautiful, snow. Temperatures can easily fall below −10 °C (14°F) in winter, and just as readily rise above 35 °C (95°F) in summer.
Demographics and geography
Beijing has a population of greater than 20 million people (as of 2012), with a substantial percentage being migrants, living on 16,800 km² distributed in 18 districts. The city borders Hebei Province (where much of the pollution which plagues Beijing originates from) to the north, west and south, and Tianjin to the east.
Beijing is generally served by Beijing Capital International Airport, for both domestic and foreign trips. Beijing Nanyuan Airport serves one domestic airline. Travelers should also consider Tianjin Binhai International Airport, which is in the first-tier city of Tianjin and just 35-minutes away by express train.
Beijing Capital International Airport
Main article: Beijing Capital International Airport
Beijing Capital International Airport (北京首都国际机场 Běijīng Shǒudū Guójì Jīchǎng, IATA: PEK)  in suburban district Shunyi (approximately 26 km (16 mi) to the northeast of the central districts), is the world's second-busiest (as of 2013 data) and has three terminals. Travel between Terminals 1 and 2 is via a long corridor with travelators. A free shuttle bus runs between Terminal 2 and 3.
A taxi from the airport should cost ¥70-120. Get the Chinese name in characters of your hotel. Do join the regular taxi queue and certainly avoid the various touts. Read the section on taxis for details on how to distinguish between fake and legitimate taxis.
The Airport Express train runs in a one-way loop from T3 to T2, then into the city and Sanyuanqiao Station (connected to Line 10) and Dongzhimen Station (Lines 2, 13). One-way fare is ¥25 and the trip takes about 20 minutes from T2 to Dongzhimen Station, about 30 minutes from T3. Although the last Airport Express train leaves airport to city at around 23:10, the subway lines normally stop operating before 23:00 on weeknights.
A slightly cheaper way to get to the city centre is to take the airport shuttle (机场巴士 Jīchǎng Bāshì), ☎ +86 10 6459-4375 / 6459-4376, . Buses for each route leave every 10-30 minutes. There are several lines running to different locations throughout Beijing. ¥16 one-way. edit
Nanyuan Airport (南苑机场 Nányuàn Jīchǎng, IATA: NAY) is a former military airfield approximately 13 km (8 mi) from Forbidden City and 3 km (1 mi) to the south of Fifth Ring Road, currently used only China Eastern's budget operator, China United Airlines (中国联合 Zhōngguó Liánhé)  running domestic flights to Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Harbin, Sanya, Shanghai-Hongqiao, Wuxi, plus some other smaller (often military) airports such as Datong and Foshan. The airport is extremely small and extremely limited services for waiting travelers, so avoid arriving too early.
A taxi is the most convenient way to go, taking around 30 minutes and ¥50 from central Beijing. The taxi queue is immediately outside of the exit and underneath a weather guard. A shuttle bus to Nanyuan Airport leaves Xidan Aviation Building (西单民航大厦 Xīdān Mínháng Dàshà) at 06:10 (most days), 07:00, 09:00, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00. Another shuttle bus links to Capital Airport. Directions are written in Chinese and tickets cost ¥16.
See also: Trans-Siberian Railway
Beijing has many railway stations. Most trains arrive at the central, West, South or North stations.
Beijing is the hub of several expressways heading in all directions. The following is a list of the expressways and their destinations:
11 China National Highways (国道 Guódào) also link into Beijing:
Long-distance buses from areas as far as Shanghai and the Mongolia border connect to Beijing. You can reach areas as far as Harbin or Xi'an on a single bus ride. Beijing has over 20 long distance bus stations, but what you need to do is go to the bus station located on the edge of the city in the direction you want to travel.
Most of the buses from the Long Distance Bus Stations will be regular or express buses, which take the expressways; cost from ¥200-600 per trip, have comfy seats, and most rides do not take more than 6-12 hours, but sleeper buses are also available. Sleeper buses, with bunk beds in rows, average about ¥100 per trip, but many go really slowly up hills, avoid expressways, stop at every city or town, provide "meals" which you have to pay extra for, take the potholed National roads to save money, and a bus ride can take up to 24 hours. The average speed is only 40 km/hr on the moderately fast sleeper buses, and the range could be from 25 to 60 km/hr. It may be a good authentic taste of how less wealthy Chinese people travel.
Before embarking on a trip around the city, have the names of places you want to visit written in Chinese characters. The staff at your hotel should help you and take their card to help you get back. Obtain as much detail as possible and take an up-to-date Sinomap guide with you.
When crossing the road in China, assume that none of the road users will give way to you, even if a policeman is present. Use zebra crossings but most drivers won't stop. Always look around as a car or bike may be right behind you or heading straight for you. Should you find several cars and bicycles veering towards you from different directions, do not try to run to safety; instead, stand still. There is strength in numbers, so when a mass of people crosses together cars are more likely to stop or slow down.
More details: Public Transport by Subway
Beijing Subway  is a great way to quickly get around the city and is clearly marked in English for travelers. For budget-conscious travelers or those wanting to stretch their legs, it may serve as a better mode of transport than taxis. At ¥3-9 per trip based on distance, it is perhaps the nicest and cheapest subway system in the world. The network has expanded at a furious pace in recent years, with 17 lines currently operating and current lines expanding and new lines under construction or planned. Be warned that during rush hour trains can be extremely crowded and many popular stations have outdoor queues during rush hour(s) so plan accordingly (especially if weather is not agreeable). The last train departs between 22:15 and 23:15 depending on the station. The subway opens again around 05:00.
Transfers between lines are permitted with the exception of the Airport Express, for which a separate ticket is required.
Subway station entrances are identified by a large blue stylized letter G wrapped around a smaller letter B. Single tickets are purchased at vending machines (with English instructions) which accept ¥1 coins or ¥5 or ¥10 bills and require you to know the station you will be exiting at in order to calculate the correct fare. Subway trips are limited to 4 hours. You must pass your ticket through the turnstiles upon entering and exiting the station, so make sure you don't lose it. Do not buy multiple tickets thinking it will be a pack of general multiple-use tickets as a ticket is only valid from the station you bought it, on the day you bought it.
To avoid the inconvenience of single-ticket purchases, pick up anYīkātōng (一卡通 ) pre-paid card, which has a ¥20 refundable deposit and no expiry. Swipe the card at the entrance turnstile and again upon exiting. The use of the pre-paid card does not reduce the subway fare although it does dramatically reduce bus fares, by 50%. The card's deposit can only be returned at a few stations, so passing it on to a friend may be easier than getting your deposit back. Stations that offer a refund clearly state "Yikatong refund" in the ticket booth; examples include Xizhimen and Haidianhuangzhuang.
If you are carrying luggage, purses or camera bags you must pass through the X-ray checks at the stations. During morning and evening rush hours the stations and trains become very crowded. If you find yourself in a crowded interchange station tunnel, keep calm and go with the flow, however slow it may feel.
More details: Public Transport by Bus
Beijing's bus system is cheap, convenient and covers the entire city—perfect for locals but, alas, difficult to use if you do not understand Chinese or Mandarin. The bus staffs speak little English, and only a few bus lines in the city center broadcast stop names in English. Bus stop signs are also entirely in Chinese. But should you speak Mandarin, have a healthy sense of adventure, and a fair bit of patience, a bus can get you almost anywhere, and often somewhere that you never intended to go. It is a great way to see parts of the city that tourists normally do not visit.
Be aware of a scam offering bus rides to the Great Wall masquerading as the real bus service. Instead of directly driving to the Great Wall, you will instead be led to a series of tours to dilapidated theme parks, shops, museums, and other tourist traps before finally reaching the Great Wall near the end of the day.
Bus lines are numbered from 1-999. Buses under 300 serve the city center. Buses 300 and up run between the city center and further (such as beyond the Third Ring Road). Buses in the 900s connect Beijing with its "rural" districts (i.e., Changping, Yanqing, Shunyi, etc). Maps of the system are available only in Chinese. The Beijing Public Transport Co. website has some information in English, and an interactive map in Chinese. Alternative places to look for bus routes are Google maps, Baidu, Edushi (click the bus flash icon) or Mapbar.
Most buses with a line number under 200 run daily 05:00-23:00. Buses with a line number greater than 300 run 06:00-22:00. All buses with a line number in the 200s are night buses. Many routes get very crowded during rush hours (06:30-09:00 and 16:00-20:00). On major holidays, there will be more frequent service on most city routes.
Most metro-based bus fares are ¥2 (routes 1 to 199), but with a public transportation card you can get a 60% discount. Some buses have travel thru the metro and on to suburbs and charge distance-based fare, so be sure to swipe your card upon exiting or you will be charged as if traveling the full route (a good rule of thumb is if there is a meter posted at a bus exit, you should swipe). Always have exact fare.
Many other lines operate according to distance.
More details: Public Transport by Taxi
Taxis are a convenient choice when traveling as a family or with luggage. Fares are very reasonable. Downsides can be attempting to hail one during rush hours (when some drivers simply don't operate due to a hit on their profits) or suffering through traffic jams. Nearly all drivers do not speak English or recognize place names written in English, so it pays to have the Chinese characters for the location ready in advance. Some drivers may be reluctant to pick up foreigners, with some having bad experiences. If a taxi driver does pick you up, as one should wherever visiting, treat the driver with courtesy and you will likely not have any problems. Once the flag falls, that means the driver is legally obligated to take you to your destination.
In the more remote places of Beijing, you might not be able to find any official taxis. However, in these places there will most likely be plenty of unofficial taxis. Take them when there is no other option, and if so, negotiate the price, although it is likely you'll pay more than a standard fare.
Fares and meters
Taxis charge a starting fee of ¥13, and an additional ¥2.3/km after the first 3 kilometres. 5 min of waiting time equals ¥2.3 also. Outside of rush hour, an average daytime trip costs around ¥20-30, and a cross-town journey about ¥50. You will also pay any toll charges which are typically ¥5 or ¥10. At the end, it is a good idea to ask for a receipt (发票 fā piào).
If you want a tour around Beijing and its vicinity, you can ask your hotel to hire a cab for one day or several days. It usually costs ¥400-600 per day, depending on where you go. You can also ask just about any driver to perform this service as most are more than willing to do so.
Avoiding scams and fakes
All official taxis have license plates beginning with the letter "B" which is reserved for public transportation vehicles, as in "京B". "Black cabs" may look like taxis but their license plates will start with letters other than B. They generally hang out around tourist sights like the Great Wall and the Summer Palace or around subway stops. Black cabs will charge you a higher fee for the journey and may be entirely unreliable.
There are several "makeshift taxis" running around Beijing including a seat fixed up to the back of an electric scooter. These guys will scam you big time if you don't negotiate a clear fare beforehand. Upon arriving your destination, for a 2 minute ride, the driver will demand an exorbitant amount and will be very belligerent if you don't pay it.
Once known as a nation of bicycles, China today has an ever growing number of private car owners. It is estimated 1,200 more cars hit the streets in Beijing every day. As a result, nowadays you are guaranteed to see more bikes in the Netherlands than in Beijing. However, the infrastructure from its days as capital of the "Bicycle Kingdom" means exploring Beijing on a bike is excellent. The city is flat as a pancake and all major streets have bike lanes. Bicycling can be faster than traveling by private or public transport because of the traffic congestion in the motorized traffic lanes.
Four-wheeled motorized traffic in Beijing usually observes traffic signals with the exception of making turns at red lights which is often done without slowing or deferring to pedestrians or bicyclists. Pedestrians, bicycles and all other vehicles (for example, motorized bicycles, mopeds and tricycles) generally do not observe traffic signals. Also, cars, trucks and buses do not defer to cyclists on the road so it is common for a vehicle to make a right turn from an inside lane across a bike lane with no concern for cyclists traveling in the bike lane. Sometimes a right-turning vehicle crossing a bike lane will sound its horn as a warning, but not always. Cyclists also need to be on the lookout for wrong-way traffic in the bike lanes, usually bicycles and tricycles but sometimes motor vehicles, too. Wrong-way traffic usually stays close to the curb so you move to the left to get by them, but not always. Bicycling Beijingers tend not to wear helmets, nor do they use lights at night. Few bikes even have rear reflectors. The moderate pace and sheer numbers of bicyclists in Beijing appears to make bike travel safer than it would be otherwise.
While you will see cyclists use many creative paths across wide, busy intersections in Beijing, the safest way for cyclists is to observe the traffic signals (there are often special signals for cyclists) and to make left turns in two steps as a pedestrian would. But if you spend any significant amount of time cycling in Beijing, you will probably start adopting more creative approaches. These can be learned by finding a local cyclist going your way and following him or her across the intersection.
Several professional bike rental companies, as well as major hotels and some hostels, rent bikes on an hourly basis. For those who need the security of a guide, a bike touring company like Bicycle Kingdom Rentals & Tours  or Chihaner Adventures  or Beijing Bicycle Tour  would be a great way to go.
If you are staying more than a few days a reasonable bike can be bought for ¥200. Ensure that you have a good lock included in the price. The cheapest bikes are not worth the additional savings as you will get what you pay for. The cheapest bikes will start to deteriorate as soon as you begin to ride, so spend a little more and get a bike in the ¥300-400 range. Bike rentals may have good bikes, but you pay a high price and run the risk of the bike being stolen.
Minibuses are very common in the countryside outside the urban areas. Privately operated, most trips cost less than ¥10 per short journey and only a little more for longer journeys.
Driving in Beijing can be quite complicated, language difficulties included, coupled with seemingly perpetual traffic jams. Many hotels, however, rent cars that come with drivers up to ¥1,000 per day. Nevertheless, public transport will get you to most of the main tourist sites, and you should use them as your primary mode of transport.
You are not permitted to drive a car using the driver license issued by countries other than China. Even Hong Kong and Macau licenses are considered to be foreign and are not accepted. But for short visa holders (< 3 months), it is possible to get a provisional driver's license at the PEK airport or the transportation police stations in the city in minutes. You need to provide your passport as well as your foreign driver's license, and do a small examination(just to confirm you don't have physical or visual disability that effect the driving security), then you can get the provisional driver's license in minutes. With this license, you can legally drive cars in China. Ask any information desk at the airport for the direction of applying such a provisional driver's license.
At the arrival hall(maybe domestic only) of T2, PEK airport, you can find the counters of many car rental companies, but their English is usually not good. You had better contact them in advance by phone.
Here is an incomplete list of car rental companies serving at the PEK airport:
The daily rate of smaller economic cars is about ¥200-300. You need to deposit around ¥3,000 (possible by using CUP/VISA/MasterCard credit card).
See also Driving in China.
See the Districts articles for individual listings.
The centre of the city and most important landmark is Tiananmen Square in Dongcheng District. This is the world's largest public square and a must see for all visitors from abroad and from elsewhere in China. The square is surrounded by grand buildings including the Great Hall of the People, the Museum of Chinese History, the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, the Qianmen Gate and the Forbidden City. It is also home to the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall and the Monument to the People's Martyrs and was also the site of the infamous massacre of student activists by the Peoples Liberation Army in 1989.
The National Stadium or affectionately "Bird's Nest", in Chaoyang District is a major landmark and a lasting symbol of the 2008 Olympic Games. Two contemporary buildings in Chaoyang District are remarkable landmarks: the CCTV Building (sometimes called "The Underpants" or "Bird Legs" by locals) and the World Trade Center Tower III. Both are outstanding examples of contemporary architecture.
There are also a number of remarkable remains from the medieval city including the Ming Dynasty City Wall Site Park (the only remains of the city wall) in Chongwen District, the Drum and Bell Towers in Dongcheng District, and Qianmen in Chongwen District.
Palaces, temples and parks
The city's many green oases are a wonderful break from walking along the never ending boulevards and narrow hutongs. Locals similarly flock to Beijing's palaces, temples and parks whenever they have time. The green areas are not only used for relaxing but also for sports, dancing, singing and general recreation.
The most important palace, bar none, is the Forbidden City (故宫博物院) in Dongcheng District. The Forbidden City was home to the Imperial Court during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Unlike many other historical sights, the Forbidden City was relatively untouched during the cultural revolution due to the timely intervention of premier Zhou Enlai, who sent a battalion of his troops to guard the palace from the over-zealous Red Guards.
The Temple of Heaven (天坛) in Chongwen District is the symbol of Beijing and is surrounded by a lively park typically packed with hordes of local people drinking tea, practicing calligraphy or tai-chi or just watching the world go by. The Yonghegong (Lama Temple) (雍和宫) in Dongcheng District is one of the most important and beautiful temples in the country.
Other parks are scattered around Beijing. Some of the best are Zhongshan Park (中山公园) in Xicheng District, Beihai Park (北海公园) in Xicheng District, Chaoyang Park (朝阳公园) in Chaoyang District and Ritan Park (日坛公园) in Chaoyang District. The Beijing Zoo (北京动物园)  in Xicheng District is famous for its traditional landscaping and giant pandas, however like many zoos, the conditions for the animals have been questioned. The Beijing Aquarium is on the same grounds.
Haidian District is home to the Summer palace (颐和园), the ruins of the Old Summer Palace (圆明园), Fragrant Hills (香山), and the Beijing Botanical Garden (北京植物园). All are quite close together and worth a visit.
Museums and galleries
Beijing has more than 100 museums but most are not visited by foreign tourists. The city contains one of the largest and most well known museums the world, the Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several museums may have free admission throughout the year or on certain holidays. Additionally, entry tickets must be reserved three days in advance.
One of the most well-known museums in Beijing is the National Museum (国家博物馆) in Dongcheng District. The Military Museum (军事博物馆) in Haidian District has long been a favorite with domestic and foreign tourists. The Capital Museum (首都博物馆) in Xicheng District is a high profile museum with historical and art exhibitions. The China Aviation Museum (中国民航博物馆) located in the Beijing/Northern Suburbs hosts 200+ rare and unique Chinese (mostly Soviet-era) aircraft. Finally, a number of restored former residences of famous Beijingers, especially in Xicheng District, give a good insight into daily life in former times.
The contemporary art scene in Beijing is booming and a large number of artists exhibit and sell their art in galleries around the city. The galleries are concentrated in a number of art districts, including the oldest and easiest accessible, but also increasingly commercial and mainstream. The most well known is Dashanzi Art District in Chaoyang District. Other newer and perhaps more cutting edge art districts include Caochangdi in Chaoyang District, Dashilar near Qianmen, and Songzhuan Artist's Village in Tongzhou District.
While more or less everything can be obtained or arranged on the spot, you should nevertheless prepare a little.
The language of Beijing is Mandarin Chinese. Standard Mandarin itself was the administrative language of the Ming and Qing dynasties and was based mainly on the Beijing dialect. For language students this makes studying in Beijing an excellent chance to learn the language in a relatively pure form. That being said, Beijing dialect contains nasal "er" sounds at the end of many words. Hence the ubiquitous mutton kebabs (羊肉串 yáng ròu chuàn) become "yáng ròu chuànr". In addition, the Beijing dialect consists of many local slangs which have not been incorporated into standard Mandarin. Beijing taxi drivers are famously chatty and will gladly engage students of the language offering excellent chances to practice the language and get a feel for the changes in the city and country from an "Old Beijinger" -- although he or she may lay no claim to Beijing but instead spent most of his or her life in neighboring suburbs or surrounding provinces and thus like many of the people you will see on the street, not be considered a Beijinger.
English is spoken by staff at the main tourist attractions, as well as at major hotels. Otherwise, English speakers are not common, so always get your hotel's business card to show the taxi driver in case you get lost. Likewise, have staff at your hotel write down the names of any tourist attraction you plan to visit in Chinese, so locals can point you out in the right direction.
See the Districts articles for individual listings.
Time: Spring Festival (late-Jan to early-Feb depending on Chinese Lunar Calendar)
Time: Spring Festival Location: outside the Chang'anmen(厂安门)
Time: Labour Day (1 May), National Day (1 Oct)
Time: every November
Time: annually each mid-Oct to mid-Nov Location: Fragrant Hills Park
Time: annually 10 Dec to the end of Feb Location: Shijinglong Ski Resort, Badaling Ski Resort, Longqing Gorge
Walks and rides
Theaters and concert halls
National Centre for the Performing Arts in Xicheng District is the capital's modern theater complex covering opera, music and theater. The building itself is worth laying eyes on, even if you do not go to a performance.
The Peking Opera is considered the most famous of all the traditional opera performed around China. This kind of opera is nothing like western opera with costumes, singing style, music and spectator reactions being distinctly Chinese. The plot is usually quite simple, so you might be able to understand some of what happens even if you do not understand the language. Some of the best places to watch Beijing Opera are found in Xuanwu District including Huguang Huguang Theatre and Lao She Teahouse. There are also a number in Dongcheng District including Chang'an Grand Theatre.
Acrobatics shows are also worth a visit if you want to see some traditional Chinese entertainment. Some of the best shows are found in Tianqiao Acrobatics Theatre in Xuanwu District and in Chaoyang Theatre in Chaoyang District.
Drama plays has had a slow start in Beijing and is still not as widespread as you might expect for a city like Beijing, and you will most likely not be able to find many Western plays. However, some good places for contemporary Chinese plays do exist including Capital Theatre in Dongcheng District and Century Theater in Chaoyang District.
Classical music has got a much stronger foothold in Beijing than drama plays. Some of the best places to go are the National Centre for the Performing Arts and the Century Theater both mentioned above as well as Beijing Concert Hall in Xicheng District.
Spectaculars are been built all over China, in June 2014 DreamWork's ' 'How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular' opened in a 4,000 purpose built venue on the grounds of the Beijing Bird's Nest. tickets
Beijing is the center of higher learning in China. In fact, Peking University and Tsinghua University have been consistently ranked among the top universities in the world in recent times. As such it attracts the top talents from across China and is the destination for thousands of foreign scholars each year. Most of the universities are clustered in Haidian District in the northwestern part of the city. Nearly all of the universities in Beijing accept foreign students. Most foreign students are on Chinese language programs which can last from a few weeks to a couple of years. If you have a sufficient HSK level  you can enroll in programs to study other subjects.
Most of the international business offices are in Chaoyang District around Guomao, Dawang, Wangfujing and Chaoyangmen. The Central Business District or CBD is centered around Guomao. Many technology companies have offices in Wangjing (sub-district in Chaoyang District) and Zhongguancun (Haidian District).
Like all of China, finding a job teaching English in Beijing is relatively easy for native speakers. In fact, if you are of European descent some employers may assume that you are already qualified enough to teach English to Chinese students. However, more prestigious employers (especially universities and high-end language schools) will generally require an English teaching qualification and a Bachelor's degree (normally in any discipline, although sometimes specifically in English/linguistics). Reputable institutions will provide proper working visa category to ensure legal employment; those which do not are not advised.
Teaching jobs are available teaching a range of ages from kindergarten to elementary, middle and high school students as well as universities and private language centers. Schools usually require native speakers with a degree in any discipline and TEFL certificate. There are plenty of job boards online as well as recruiting agents.
See also: Teaching English.
See the Districts articles for individual listings.
Throughout nearly all markets in Beijing, haggling is essential. Especially when browsing through large, "touristy" shopping areas for common items, do not put it beneath your dignity to start bargaining at 15% of the vendor's initial asking price. In fact, in the most "touristy" markets final prices can often be as low as 15%-20% of the initial asking price, and "removing a zero" isn't a bad entry point in the bargaining process. After spending some time haggling, never hesitate to threaten walking away, as this is often the quickest way to see a vendor lower his or her prices to a reasonable level. Buying in bulk or in groups may also lower the price. How high or low the vendor sets the asking price depends on the customer, the vendor, the product's popularity, and even the time of day. Vendors also tend to target visible minorities more, such as Caucasians or people of African descent.
The are a number of interesting markets around Beijing where you can find all kind of cheap (and often fake) stuff. Some of the most popular places are Xizhimen in Xicheng District, Silk Street or Panjiayuan in Chaoyang District and Hong Qiao Market in Chongwen District.
As an alternative to the markets you can go to some of the shopping areas lined with shops. This includes Nanluoguoxiang in Dongcheng District and Qianmen Dajie Pedestrian Street, Dashilan and Liulichang in Xuanwu District.
If you are looking for traditional Chinese food shops try Yinhehua Vegetarian in Dongcheng District, Daoxiangcun, Liubiju or The Tea Street in Xuanwu District. Please note that Chongwenmen Food Market in Chongwen District has been demolished in 2010.
Visiting hotel shops and department stores is not the most characterful shopping in China, but worth a look. While generally significantly more expensive, they are less likely to sell truly low quality goods. The old style of Chinese retailing is gradually being transformed by shops with a better design sense and souvenir items are getting better each year. Silk clothing, table settings and so on and other spots around town, are worth a look, as are porcelain, specialty tea and other traditional items. Some of the most popular areas for this kind of shopping are Wangfujing and The Malls at Oriental Plaza both in Dongcheng District as well as Xidan in Xicheng District.
The carpet business is strong in Beijing and you will find all manner of stores selling silk carpets and other varieties.
See the Districts articles for individual listings.
Sanlitun has Beijing's widest selection of great restaurants, offering a second to none culinary tour of the world's finest cuisine, plus delectable dishes from Nearly every province.
Beijing's best loved specialities. You can sample almost anything on Ghost Street, from Sichuan Schuizhuyu and malatang to the rich taste of grilled seafood chuan'er, Peking Duck and even Chicken Kiev.
New york has its Fifth Avenue, London has Oxford Street and Shanghai has Nanjing Road. Best of them all, Beijing has Wangfujing Street. Just nort of the Night Market, a second Food Street opens at night along Dong'anmen Avenue, with a more traditional range of Chinese street foods. Standard restaurants will open at the top levels of each of the Shopping Centres.
Wudaokou is the heart of Beijing's university district. Cafés, bars, clubs and restaurants in the area cater to a growing Western and South Korean student population offering simple cuisine like Salads, Sandwiches, pizza and all-day American Breakfast. Prices are more student friendly compared to the embassy districts or Sanlitun.
Some restaurants that we may recommand and most famous are :
Peking Roast Duck is a famous Beijing specialty served at many restaurants, but there are quite a few restaurants dedicated to the art of roasting the perfect duck. Expect to pay around ¥90 per whole duck at budget-range establishments, and ¥160-200 at high-end restaurants. Beijing duck (北京烤鸭 Bĕijīng kăoyā) is served with thin pancakes, plum sauce (甜面酱 tiánmiàn jiàng)，and slivers of scallions and cucumbers. You spread the sauce on the pancake, put a few pieces of duck, cucumber, and scallions.The end result is a mouthwatering combination of the cool crunchiness of the cucumber, the sharpness of the scallions, and the rich flavors of the duck.
The best way to eat well and on the cheap is to enter one of the ubiquitous restaurants where the locals are eating and pick a few different dishes from the menu. Truth be told, visitors can find Beijing a very inexpensive city for food, especially considering that tipping is not practiced in China (instead along with taxes, built into the menu price). Some of this is due to low wages for restaurant workers and farmers, use of genetically modified or engineered ingredients, or flavor enhancers or preservatives to help speed flavors along or quicken the cooking process. A combination of small eateries and street vendors are popular in areas such as Wangfujing, Huguosi Street, Gui Jie, and Gulou areas.
Some of the cheapest and most delicious meals can be had on the streets:
The most famous street for dinner food in Beijing is probably Guijie (簋街/鬼街 Guǐjiē), see Dongcheng District for further detail.
Street food in Beijing  Gui Street (簋街) is located within Dongzhimen, East of the street from Second Ring Road of the Western part of the Dongzhimen overpass and West of the street from East Main Street eastern end crossing. Gui Street now showcases many excellent cuisines, the centre of a food paradise. Stretching over one kilometer, 90% of the commercial shops in the street house more than 150 eateries. You can definitely find most of the larger restaurants in the capital here. Therefore Gui Street is known for its street food in Beijing.
Beijing is also known for its mutton hotpot (涮羊肉 shuàn yáng ròu), which originally came from the Manchu people and emphasizes mutton over other meats. Like variations of hotpot (general name 火锅 huŏ guō) from elsewhere in China and Japan, hotpot is a cook-it-yourself affair in a steaming pot in the center of the table. Unlike Sichuan hotpot, mutton hotpot features a savory, non-spicy broth. If that's not exciting enough for you, you can also request a spicy broth (be aware that this is flaming red, filled with peppers, and not for the weak!). To play it safe and satisfy everyone, you can request a yuan-yang (鸳鸯 yuānyáng) pot divided down the middle, with spicy broth on one side and regular broth on the other. Raw ingredients are purchased by the plate, including other types of meat and seafood, vegetables, mushrooms, noodles, and tofu, so it's also perfectly possible to have vegetarian hotpot. A dipping sauce, usually sesame, is served as well; you can add chilis, garlic, cilantro, etc, to customize your own sauce. While "raw" sounds dangerous, boiling the meat yourself is the best way to ensure that more risky meats like pork are fully cooked and free of germs. In the city center, hotpot can run as much as ¥40-50 per person, but on the outskirts it can be found for as little as ¥10-25. Low-budget types may reuse the spices or cooking broth from previous guests, although it has been boiling for several hours.
You can also find some local specialties in a supermarket such as tofu candy with different tastes, or mooncakes with various fillings. Green tea ice cream is something very special too.
See the Districts articles for individual listings.
Most of Beijing's bars are located in one of the bar clusters around the city. A few years back, the only one was Sanlitun, but almost every year the last few years have seen a new area emerge. The most important areas are:
Tea, tea, and more tea! Some shops are in malls and others are stand-alone establishments. Whatever their location, always ask the price before ordering or else brace yourself for the most expensive egg-sized cup of tea in the world. You can experience different styles of tea ceremonies and tea tastings at tea houses especially in the Qianmen area south of Tian'anmen Square. These can range widely in quality and price. Some tea houses are really tourist traps whose main goal is to milk you of your money (See warning box). You can get a free tea demonstration at most Tenrenfu tea houses which are located throughout the city and at some malls. A private room or a quiet back table in a tea house with mid-range tea for two should cost ¥100-200. After an afternoon in such shops the remaining tea is yours to take home. Once tea is ordered, the table is yours for as long as you like.
As a tea-loving country and grower of much of the world's tea, coffee is not as easy to find but a taste for it--along with more expats dotted throughout Beijing--has seen more emerging middle class and students drinking it. For example, the city alone has more than 100 Starbucks locations. Most are situated around shopping malls and in commercial districts of the city. Other international chains such as Costa Coffee and Lavazza also have locations around Beijing. Coffee of varying qualities is also available in the ubiquitous Taiwanese style coffee shops such as Shangdao Coffee. These are usually located on the second floor of buildings and often times offer Blue Mountain Coffee, making places like Starbucks seem a real bargain. Most coffee shops offer wireless. Baristas in non-chain coffee shops may not be educated on how to make generally accepted espresso drinks, like lattes and cappuccinos. Espressos, alone, usually taste better and are more consistent.
The most common hard liquor is baijiu (白酒 báijiǔ), made from distilled grain (usually sorghum) spirits. It comes in a variety of brands and generally for very cheap prices (¥8 for a small bottle) and should be avoided if you want to have a clear mind for your travels on the next day. The most famous local brand is called Erguotou (二锅头 Èrguōtóu), which has 54% alcohol content. It should be noted that the local Erguotou is sold in gallon containers, often on the same shelf as water and with a similar price-range and indistinguishable colour. Care must be made not to confuse the two. Maotai (茅台 Máotái), the national liquor, is one of the more expensive brands, and it used to cost about as much as an imported bottle of whiskey--but now it costs a lot more, from ¥1,000 to well in excess of ¥10,o00. Wuliangye (五粮液) is another high-end brands, costs around ¥1,000. Due to its mild taste, Wuliangye might be a better option for first time baijiu drinker. A large selection of imported liquor can be found at most bars and big supermarkets. One should better buy expensive liquor (both domestic and imported) from big supermarkets in order to avoid fake ones. Capital Spirits Bar is a good place to sample and learn about baijiu through their tasting flights.
Beer can be quite good and nearly all are low-alcohol lagers. Beijing's own, Yanjing (燕京 Yànjīng), has perhaps the most dominating presence in the city (Yanjing being the city's name from its time 2,000 years ago as capital of the state of Yan). Beer mostly comes in large bottles and has 3.1%-3.6 alcohol content. Tsingtao (青岛 Qīngdǎo), the beer most easily found throughout all of China, is similar in taste and has several bottles which, like Yanjing, come in green. Price per bottle can be ¥10-20 in a restaurant, or ¥2-4, depending on size, from a street vendor. Both Yanjing and Tsingtao come in standard (普通 pǔtōng) and pure (纯生 chúnshēng) varieties; the difference mainly seems to be price. Beijing Beer (北京啤酒 Běijīng Píjiǔ）is the probably the third most popular brand in the city and typically found for even cheaper than other local brands. Craft beers and microbreweries and specialty beers can found in various German-themed restaurants throughout the city, which have been in the city since the 1980s, as well as a second wave of foreign-style microbreweries in the mid- to late-2000s.
Great Wall is the most popular local brand of grape wine. Wine made in China does not have a great reputation, though this is changing. Giving wine as a gift is not a common custom in most places in China and most people will not be accustomed to wine etiquette or appreciation (white wine is often mixed with Sprite in clubs). Imported red wines are usually of a better quality and can be found in big supermarkets, import good stores, and some restaurants.
See the Districts articles for individual listings.
Accommodation aplenty exists in the CBD, various embassy areas, universities and business parks. A few hotels are also located very close to the airport (essentially in one of the airport parking lots).
Tour groups can, perhaps unsurprisingly, reserve rooms at high-quality hotels at rates far below those published. Hostels and western-style travel hotels are almost universally open to foreign guests. The lowest end Chinese accommodations - Zhaodaisuo (招待所) - are generally inaccessible to the foreign community. However, for those determined to get a bargain, you may be able to get a room if you speak Mandarin. Many of the hostels are located in Dongcheng District and Xuanwu District. Discounted rates start around ¥30 for dorms and just below ¥200 for doubles in the cheapest hostels.
There are a large number of three and four star mid-range hotels throughout the city and in all districts. The listed rates for these kind of hotels are often in the range of ¥500-1,000 but you can often get a discount of around 50%.
Some 'expensive' hotels are in the city centre, especially in Dongcheng District and on the eastern 3rd Ring Road in Chaoyang District, however by some Western standards these hotels may be viewed as a bargain. In the outlying areas, especially out by the Great Wall, are some country club type resorts as well as some unique, one-of-a-kind, hotels. For the most expensive hotels, the listed rates start at around ¥4,000, but are often discounted to a level around ¥1,500.
Overall, Beijing is a very safe city. Violent crime is extremely rare, and it's not a problem to walk at night in urban areas. Beijing also enjoys the reputation of low crime rates in Asia and even the world.
Some petty crimes such as pickpocketing do happen, and one should be cautious in shopping areas, tourist sites and public transportation. Thieves are more active in the days before and during public holidays like the Lunar New Year and weeklong holidays like the Oct 1-7 National Day. Be very careful in those days.
Despite safe urban areas, some parts of Beijing's suburbs are not safe, because they concentrate almost all severe crimes of the city. They are called "Beijing's corner". Such as the middle western area of Fengtai, the western area of Shijingshan, the eastern frontier of Chaoyang, and the most parts of Daxing (except communities surrounding the metro route). As a tourist, it's unlikely you'll visit these areas anyway and you'd be unlikely to accidentally end up in them. If you did need to go for some reason though, taxi drivers may refuse to take you there.
Tourists are often preyed upon by cheats and touts, who attempt to pull a number of scams on tourists. Be especially cautious in the inner city, around Tiananmen Square, and on the tourist-crowded routes to the Great Wall.
Beware of the Rickshaw scam around Forbidden City. They will ask you to sit in your Rickshaw when you get down from your taxi (because taxis are not allowed near the main entrance) and then they will take you around in narrow lanes. They will then stop in a lonely area to extort money from you. These Rickshaw are best avoided.
On the other hand, fears of scams have led many travelers to be overly dismissive of Chinese people who approach them. Many Chinese are tourists in their capital for the first time as well and they are genuinely curious about foreigners and may just want to practice their English and get a picture with you. Being asked to have your picture taken is very common and there are no known scams associated with this. Be friendly but don't feel pressured to go somewhere you hadn't planned on going in the first place. If you are outside the tourist areas then your chances of being scammed drop dramatically.
Chinese people are very friendly to travelers and foreigners in general; seeing through a scam requires the same common sense as travelling anywhere in the world. Beijing scams are not particularly innovative or brutal in world-wide comparison, and as long as you keep your wallet out of sight, you can always walk away without fear of violence or theft. That said, there are some common scams to be aware of.
Traffic can be crazy in Beijing, and reckless driving is fairly normal. Loud, persistent honking is commonplace. It is simply another way to indicate that the driver is there. Be prepared for drivers to violate traffic laws even to the extent of going in reverse on highways to back up to a missed exit or driving on a sidewalk. Also expect occasional road debris (a piece of wood or torn out tire) to be laying in the roadway. At night, be careful of missing manhole covers or road work taking place without warning or without proper illumination at night. Pedestrians should be very careful crossing the street people will generally stop for you, but they will honk. Keep an eye on the locals and cross with them — there is strength in numbers. Also note some construction trucks will abuse the speed limit and also are known to at times ignore traffic signals. Proceed when clear, not necessarily when the traffic light is green.
Emergency telephone numbers
Remember these three telephone numbers, and they are valid in almost entire mainland China. If you speak in English, you'll be transferred to a translator but keep it simple.
Good bilingual maps are hard to find in Beijing. Free maps are offered by good hotels, but with a scale of about 1cm=1km they give a general outline and not enough detail to explore by foot.
Air pollution has traditionally been a big problem in Beijing as the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area has a lot of industrial production. Coal burning (used to generate majority of energy and heat), automobile exhaust, and dust storms from the Gobi desert combine to make some of the worst city air problems. In winter the cold air creates an inversion layer and traps the pollution in the city. A white surgical face mask may help with the occasional dust storms. A much higher-grade filter is needed to prevent 2.5 micrometer particulates (known as PM 2.5) from entering the body. Tourist are strongly recommend to check hourly and daily reports of air quality index (http://aqicn.org/city/beijing/) to know when a mask is necessary.
The government has implemented various measures to attempt to combat with the man-made and natural air quality issues.
Beijing's water supplies are monitored, but it is better to drink filtered or bottled water.
For general health and food advice see the main China article.
Many available throughout the city which can post international mail.
Internet is highly restricted in China. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and most Western news websites are completely blocked, and it is not uncommon for many foreign websites not to load. Examples of partially blocked sites include Wikipedia, Blogspot, and Tumblr. To circumvent this problem you can purchase a commercial VPN to tunnel out of the firewall. These can cost from free to ~¥120 per month. Be aware that free versions have security holes and can increase your chances of getting hacked.
Free WiFi can be found in all sorts of chain and independent cafes and fast food restaurants, and many sit-down restaurants as well. These cafes can look like restaurants from the outside, but most any place that is called a cafe will have WiFi. WiFi is also common in hostels and hotels. Faster connections may be available for a small fee.
Terminal 3 has a wireless network "Airport WiFi (FREE)". Passengers need to register for an account and then be granted five hours of use.
Laundry is inexpensive to be done in Beijing, as are some dry cleaning shops. Other dry cleaners near embassy areas or the CBD may be of higher quality, or simply of higher cost. If near Peking University, try Jingquan laundry service next to several dormitories in the southwest corner of the campus. There is also a pickup and delivery service called Laundry Town.
Long distance cyclist-tourists will find national road 109 is a pleasant way to enter or leave Beijing, though lots of work. It immediately enters steep hills on the edge of the city, but sees little traffic, is well maintained and passes though lovely landscape of farmland and forests. It's remarkable how close to Beijing you are, and how far it feels.
If you intend to take the Trans-Siberian-Railway to Mongolia you can take a overnight sleeper bus from e.g. Muxiyuan Long Distance Bus Station (木樨园长途客运站) to Inner Mongolia Erlian (二连) (¥180). Note that bus tickets can only be purchased at day of departure. To cross the border from Erlian (二连) to Zamyn Uud (扎门乌德):
"2) Crossing the border by bus
Buses from Erlian to Zamyn-Uud leave from Erlian bus station on the corner of Chaha’er Street and Youyi Lu near to the Mongolian Consulate. At the time of writing, there is a bus at 13:30 and at least one more later in the afternoon around 15:00. Taking the 13:30 bus should give you enough time to get on the 17:35 Zamyn-Uud to Ulaanbaatar train. This is subject to tickets being available when you arrive in Zamyn-Uud. If you arrive in the afternoon, may be unlikely.
The process when taking the bus is pretty much the same as when taking the jeep, only since more people have to get off the bus, go through immigration, and get back on the bus again, it takes a little longer. That said, you should be able to get from Erlian to Zamyn-Uud in around two hours. ¥40 plus the same ¥5 exit tax.
Four hours by train or bus or two hours by car, visit the former imperial retreat of Chengde (256 km/159 mi northeast of Beijing).