- How big is Beijing?
- Pretty big! Beijing covers almost 6,500 square miles and it's is the country's capital city too.
- How many people inhabit it?
- At the moment, the population of Beijing stands at around 13 million.
- What are the language and the currency?
- The official language is Mandarin Chinese and the currency is the Yuan.
- The Great Wall
Things to see in Beijing
- What is Beijing's number one attraction?
- That would be the Forbidden City.
- What's so great about it?
- Well, it's hugely important in Chinese history as the imperial home of the Emperor. Today it hosts the Palace Museum where you can see a huge number of artefacts, largely from the Ming and Qing dynasties. There are around 30,000 pieces of jade in the museum's collection.
- Anything else which shouldn't be missed?
- Tiananmen Square is the second most popular attraction in Beijing. Built by Mao Zedong, this is the world's largest open urban square at 100 acres in size. Tiananmen (meaning 'Gate of Heavenly Peace') Square is home to the Monument to the People's Heroes and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. In 1989 it secured its place in infamy, when Chinese soldiers clashed with supporters of democracy, resulting in many deaths. A wander around the Summer Palace is also a good idea. Here, a giant lake takes up a good portion of the grounds. You can also marvel at the grandeur of the Marble Boat and also see the 17-arch bridge. Outside the city, you'll find The Great Wall of China. Even though it's not visible from the moon as legend would have it, it’s still one of the most impressive man-made constructs of all time. It took centuries to create and stretches through the country for around 4,160 miles. Millions of people visit it each year and the section closest to Beijing is especially popular.
- On average how much does it cost to get into Beijing's top museums?
- At the moment, Beijing's museums don't offer free entry but this will start in 2009. The city's most notable museum is probably the National History Musuem and the National Museum of China, which is located close to Tiananmen Square. If you are looking for something free to do though, why not check out some of the many art galleries scattered throughout the city. Most of these offer free entry. Modern art lovers can have a look in the Red Gate Gallery, while those interested in pictures depicting Beijing life should check out Kuaixue Hall.
- How's the shopping?
- Really good. There are some really popular markets, as well as large shopping malls and streets filled with stores. The old Silk Market was demolished in 2005 and moved to a new location, which now houses over 1,700 vendors. Known for its silk and counterfeit designer gear, Silk Street now also sells Chinese handicrafts and a whole host of other items. It can get really crowded on weekends. You'll find Beijing's main shopping street only a few minutes from Tiananmen Square. Wangfujing is a great place to spend some money. Not that many famous names are in evidence here, but there's still an abundance of quality stores to choose from. If it's brand names you want, then check out The Malls at Oriental Square. As well as a huge number of well-known shops, you'll find the Sony ExploraScience science centre in here.
Going out in Beijing
- Where are most of the bars found?
- The Sanlitun area is well-known for its vibrant nightlife, however, there's a good selection of bars to be found across the city.
- Any places you'd recommend?
- One of the city's most popular establishments is The Tree Bar in Sanlitun. It's got seating both inside and outside. Here you'll find a lot of imported European beers, as the owner is Belgian. Poachers, also located in the Sanlitun area, is really popular with backpackers. It's a favourite haunt of ex-pats too. As well as a wide selection of drinks, it hosts live jazz on Thursdays, and club nights on Fridays and Saturdays. For live music in Beijing, the Big Easy Bar is the place to go. On Chaoyang Park Road, you can hear live blues here almost every night.
- Do I need to carry my ID with me when going out?
- Really, you should always have some form of ID on you whenever you go out in Beijing.
- Is there anything to do that doesn't include alcohol?
- Sure. Check out the Acrobat Show at Chaoyang Theatre. Many talented acrobats take part in these amazing shows. Here you'll witness breathtaking stunts involving tightropes, bicycles, spinning plates and, above all, incredible flexibility and balance.
- Anything else I need to know?
- Teahouses are also an important part of Beijing's nightlife. These often stay open into the early hours of the morning and are a great idea if you're looking for an alternative to the usual bars and clubs.
Eating Out in Beijing
- Where is the best selection of restaurants in the city?
- Beijing is such a big city, there's no main area where all the best restaurants are centred around. You'll find them all over. And, as well as restaurants, you'll also see a large number of street stalls selling cheap food like meat skewers and noodles.
- Are international cuisines well represented?
- Yes, there are various places serving international cuisine like Gourmet St. Here you'll find Thai and Japanese food, as well as many Western style dishes too.
- Any places you
- If you're in the mood for noodles, Ajisen Noodle on LG Oriental Plaza is a good place to try. Part of a chain, this place serves a wide selection of noodles and side dishes at reasonable prices. For something a bit more adventurous, why not check out the Donghua Yeshi Night Market. From weird to wonderful, the food on sale here ranges from fruit and vegetables to frogs legs and snake skin.
- What times do restaurants close?
- A lot of places close at 10pm, so it's a good idea to get in before then to make sure you get served.
- Does Beijing have any famous dishes?
- Well, one of local specialities is Peking duck. The crispy skin and meat of the duck is most traditionally eaten with pancakes, spring onions and hoisin sauce. If you want to try some, Quan Ju De on Qianmen Dajie is a good choice. Popular with visitors to the city, it's been in operation since 1864.
Transport in Beijing
- Will I need to use public transport at all?
- Beijing's a big city and even though some attractions are within walking distance of each other, you will need to use public transport at some stage.
- So, what are my options?
- Well, one way to get around is the subway. It doesn't cost much and services are efficient. At the moment, it runs on four lines but this is set to increase. Stops are also signposted in English. Taxis are popular with visitors, and even though drivers don't tend to have a huge amount of English, it's reasonably easy and inexpensive to get around this way. A good plan is to get someone who works wherever you're staying to write down your destination in Chinese and then you can just show this to the driver. Make sure to write down your hostel or hotel in Chinese too, for the return journey.
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