This week, I’m excited to share this guest post, ‘The Insider’s Guide to Beijing’ from Jess Signet of Tripelio. Jess is a travel blogger who lived in China for nine months, so who better than to give us the inside scoop on Beijing?
The Insider’s Guide to Beijing
The great Chinese capital of Beijing has a long, vibrant history, meaning any visit to the city is sure to be packed with endless exciting activities and things to do. Tourists flock from all over the world to see the diverse and unique culture and to lap up everything Beijing has to offer.
However, with so many poignant landmarks, touristic attractions, historic sites and cultural spots, it can be hard to narrow down your itinerary and make the most out of your time here. Fortunately, the only thing you need to make your trip one to remember is a bit of insider’s knowledge and advice. This list covers the five main factions of life in Beijing and gives you handy tips on where to go and what to see and do.
It may be stereotypical and touristy, but visiting the Great Wall in Beijing is most definitely a must. This astounding piece of architecture changed the course of history and played an incredible part in making China the country it is today. There are several sections available to visit around Beijing and each offers a different and unique experience.
The majority of the wall in this area was build by the Ming Dynasty between 1368 and 1644 and combined the sections stretch to a massive 600km. The most popular with visitors is the Badaling section, being the best preserved and most equipped to handle large amounts of tourists. It’s 12km long and still houses many of the traditional buildings and watchtowers that would have appeared along the whole length when it was in use.
For the more adventurous, I highly recommend checking out the Wild Great Wall, with sections such as Jiankou and Huanghuacheng, where there are many great opportunities for hiking, scrambling and climbing, all against the backdrop of the beautiful Chinese countryside. Follow links for tour information about each section!
Anyone who knows anything about politics knows that the political situation in this country has always been a controversial one. Throughout its long history, China has been an outspoken advocate of closed borders and heavy censorship, being one of the last countries to reject westernization right up until the 19th century.
In more recent years, China’s dramatic leadership was taken over by the Communist Party, founded in 1949 by Chairman Mao. The strict regime eventually led to the prolific, historic and controversial Tienanmen Square massacre in 1989, where protesters were killed after a demonstration broke out following the death of ex-Communist Party Secretary Hu Yaobong, who was pushing for liberalist reforms.
Although talking politics in China is not a good idea, you can still visit the square in memory of the tragedy. However, don’t expect to find any signs or memorials. If you want to find out more it’s best to do so online, but you’ll have to use a Virtual Private Network to hide your location and bypass geo-blocking, as even search terms related to the incident are censored.
Just off Tienanmen Square, and a somewhat more light-hearted attraction, lies the Forbidden City, now known as the Palace Museum. Another incredible Ming Dynasty landmark, the palace was built during the 14-year reign of Emperor Chengzu and was originally known as the Purple City. However, entry to the palace was highly restricted, which over time earned it the title of Forbidden.
The complex itself is an impressive 74 hectares and is divided into the inner and outer courts. Fourteen emperors ruled from within its walls before the last one was driven out in 1924. The museum that it turned into has become a popular tourist destination, gaining status at a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, and it is a brilliant way to understand China’s regal yet turbulent history. It’s easily accessible as it lies in the heart of the city center and tours can be booked for those looking for a more informative visit.
Religion has always been a central feature of Chinese culture, with a long Toaist and Buddhist history reaching back centuries. One key feature of Chinese spirituality is their relationship with the nature. Even after death, an incredible importance is put on preserving the land where the deceased are laid to rest. Interestingly, one of the major factors delaying the modernization of China was the fear of disturbing the earth and the tombs of the dead during the laying of railway tracks.
An incredible testimony to this imbedded belief lays 50km northwest of Beijing. The Ming Tombs are the resting place of 13 emperors and their intricately designed and stunningly preserved mausoleums. Carefully placed to correlate with the natural environment, this massive 120km2 cemetery is a true masterpiece and a brilliant example of the Chinese dedication to spirituality. At present only the Sacred Way, Changling, Zhaoling and Dingling tombs are open the public, but with a distance of anywhere between half a kilometer to 8km between each site, this is more than enough for a spectacular day out.
It’s probable that any visitor to Beijing will have had a Chinese takeout once or twice in their lifetime. However, nothing you can pick up from your local restaurant can compare to the delicacies on offer over here. From street food to five star restaurants, authentic versions of western classics or controversial traditional dishes, your taste buds are sure in for an adventure. Just off Wangfujing Dajie, the Wangfujing Snack Street is by far the best place to pick up a quick bite. With an array of different stalls, selling everything from noodle dishes, skewered meat and savory pancakes, it’s a cheap and easy way to try the local cuisine.
For those wanting more familiar flavors, the Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant on Dongsi 10th Alley is a long-running and traditional place that offers some of the best Peking Duck in the city. For the most daring foodies, keep your eyes peeled for deep fried scorpions, skewered insects and even cooked seahorse, which are all available from Beijing’s night market.
Beijing is a huge, wonderful and dynamic city and many people who visit soon fall in love with all that it has going on. With a bit of insider’s advice, you can get the most out of your trip and see the city as we know it. If you have any more tips or advice for people new to Beijing, be sure to leave a comment below!
I would like to thank Christine for publishing this article. Her site is a great place for travel trips and tricks and to share in her wanderlust. For wonderful photography and helpful suggestions, I highly recommend you check out her series on Hong Kong on a budget after reading this article.
About the Author
Jess Signet is an avid traveler who was previously based in Beijing. She hopes these tips will inspire you to visit and explore this fantastic city – it has so much to offer!
You can follow Jess and her adventures on her blog: Tripelio
and on Twitter: @jessstravels
PS. Check out The Wonders of Russia on Jess’ blog!