China's illustrious capital is a must-see destination
Located in northern China, Beijing, formerly known as Peking, is the country's capital and the world's third most populated city. As the nation’s political and cultural centre, it is home to the headquarters of most of China's big state-owned companies and houses the largest number of Fortune Global 500 companies in the world, as well as the world's four biggest financial institutions. Combining both modern and traditional architecture, Beijing is one of the oldest cities in the world, with a rich history dating back three millennia. With mountains surrounding the inland city on three sides, in addition to the old inner and outer city walls, Beijing was strategically poised and developed to be the residence of the emperor and was the perfect location for the imperial capital. The city is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, parks, gardens, tombs, walls and gates. It has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites; the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Ming Tombs, Zhoukoudian, and parts of the Great Wall and the Grand Canal, which are all popular locations for tourism. Siheyuans, the city's traditional housing style, and hutongs, the narrow alleys between siheyuans, are major tourist attractions and are common in urban areas. Beijing is an ancient city with a modern face, you can enjoy everything fine dining in Michelin star restaurants, to delicious street food costing next to nothing.
Here we have selected a few of the sights and experiences that you really should see on a visit to Beijing.
The Great Wall
A must-see sight for anyone visiting China, The Great Wall is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, running in an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of the nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe. The first sections were built as early as the 7th century BC, which were joined together and made bigger and stronger to form The Great Wall, as we know it today. The best-preserved and most imposing section of the Great Wall is at Badaling, to the north-west of Beijing. During a typical Links Travel tour you will visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, which is not as crowded as the Badaling section. You can take a ski lift up onto the Wall and an enthralling toboggan ride back down, if you wish.
The Forbidden City
This palace complex in central Beijing, was the former Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty, right through to the end of the Qing dynasty. It now houses the Palace Museum, and is near the top of the list for all visitors to Beijing. The Palace Museum is the largest palace complex in the world, comprising an inner and outer court, with approximately 8,700 rooms! Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, the galleries display an extensive collection or art and artefacts from the Ming and Qing dynasty.
Tiananmen Square is within the top ten largest city squares in the world, is able to hold one million people, and is a place of great cultural significance within China. Named after the Tiananmen ("Gate of Heavenly Peace") located to its north, separating it from the Forbidden City, the square contains the Monument to the People's Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.
The Summer Palace
The Summer Palace is a masterpiece of Chinese gardens, architecture and palaces . The grounds cover a large area centred around the majestic Longevity Hill, set in the tranquil waters of Kunming Lake. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, it is popular with both tourists and locals.
Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven was originally built in the Ming Dynasty, as a place for the emperor to worship heaven, and it underwent numerous reconstructions during the Qing Dynasty. In 1998 the Temple of Heaven was added to UNESCO’S World Cultural Heritage list.
The Hutong Tour is a unique cultural experience offering you a glimpse of traditional local life. The famous Hutongs, or alleyways, are unique housing structures that have been home to Beijing’s families for centuries. A “Hutong” is an ancient, narrow city alley or lane formed by “Si He Yuan” – a four sided courtyard.
This magnificent piece of modern architecture was the focal point for the spectacular 2008 Summer Olympic Games track and field events, as well as the opening and closing ceremony’s, is also known as the “Birds Nest”. Since the Olympics, visitors may enter to see the stadium from the inside.
The Water Cube
This iconic building was built for use in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and is now known as the Beijing National Aquatics Centre.
One of China’s oldest, largest and best preserved ancient imperial gardens, this is the place local Beijingers of all ages come to relax, walk, jog, practice tai-chi etc. The centre of the park comprises a magnificent lake upon which the imposing White Dagoba stands, as the parks main landmark. The mixture of ancient monuments and modern exhibitions make this the ideal place to explore Beijing’s history, culture and natural beauty
The Lama Temple is the largest and best maintained example of a Tibetan Buddhist temple in Beijing. It was built in 1694 as a residential palace for Prince Yin Zheng, then when he became emperor and moved to the Forbidden City, the building was converted to a temple. In 1744 it became a lamasery housing Buddhist monks from Tibet and Inner Mongolia. Today it is an active Tibetan Buddhist Centre.
Wangfujing Night Market
Try a taste of traditional Chinese street food in this bustling night market, exotic delicacies that you certainly won’t find at home, are in abundant here. The central location makes it easy to reach from most parts of town. With most of the street pedestrianised, it’s great to explore by foot.
A selection of our tours to Beijing
China Group Tour Culture
10 day tour from £1,997
The 10 day Essential China tour covers four of the most essential Chinese cities you should visit; Beijing, Xian, Shanghai and Zhujiajiao.
China Group Tour Nature
12 day tour from £2,397
This 12 day tour will give you the chance to discovery China’s contrasting areas of the North, South and West.
China Group Tour Culture
13 day tour from £2,447
Visit the charming countryside scenery of Guilin and Yangshuo. The must-see cities of Beijing, Xian, Shanghai and Zhujiajiao are also included.
China Group Tour Cruise
15 day tour from £2,947
For those fond of cruising, the China Highlights tour cannot be missed. Visit two of China’s most important waterways; the Yangtze River, and the beautiful Li River.