Beijing is a modern and sprawling city in north China. Having served as the capital of the country for more than 800 years, Beijing is home to some of the finest remnants of China's imperial past. The interest of visiting Beijing is on one side to explore its glorious past, and on another side to feel its modernity as well as an odd combination of the two.
In fact we visited the following places which I have described on separate pages:
The Forbidden City, which housed 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368–1911), is the best preserved imperial palace in China and the largest ancient palatial structure in the world. The design and the layout of the 870 buildings in the palace represent the essence of traditional Chinese architecture. Tian'anmen Square is on the south side. It is the largest public square, and can accommodate a million people. It is where the ceremony for the founding of the People’s Republic was held.
The Great Wall of China extends 4,000 miles. Construction of the wall began over 2,000 years ago and lasted for over 1,000 years. There are several Great Wall sections around Beijing, including restored sections and rugged sections. The most famous sections to visit include: Mutianyu, Jinshanling and Jiankou.
The Summer Palace is the best-preserved imperial garden in the world, and the largest of its kind still in existence in modern China. It is a representative of traditional Chinese garden and a charming place to appreciate the artificial landscape first created hundreds of years ago.
Sounded great but during our visit the late autumn and warm temperatures meant that the colours had not fully turned by end October so we didn't visit and went to the Summer Palace instead.
The Beijing hutongs are mazes of narrow alleyways linking old single-story traditional courtyard houses. Hutongs give a wonderful glimpse into the world of yesterday in Beijing. Visiting a hutong family living in a traditional quadrangle dwelling is a nice way to discover traditional Beijing life.
The Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven, the royal altar where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties worshipped heaven, is seen as the most holy of Beijing's imperial temples. It has been described as "a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design".
Located to the west of the Forbidden City and Jingshan Park, Beihai Park is the oldest existing imperial garden in China. First built in the Liao Dynasty (907—1125), you will see how Chinese garden were built based on fairy stories.
Yonghe Lama Temple
Yonghe Temple is used to be the mansion of the third emperor of the Qing Dynasty. It is an active Tibetan Buddhist temple containing a massive statue of Buddha carved from sandalwood (26 meters high, with 8 meters buried underground). It is highly recommended unless you are totally "templed out".
Jingshan Park is situated to the north of Forbidden City. On the top of the hill in the park you can enjoy a view of the whole of the Forbidden City. At sunrise or sunset you can take fine photos of the sunrise and sunset over the imperial palace.
Beijing's outdoor markets sell a great variety of souvenirs and old arts and crafts. They are living museums of folk artworks, old articles for daily use, and antiques (though some of them are fake).