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Your Beijing China Travel Guide

Your Complete Independent Travel Guide
To Beijing, China


Walk along the Great Wall of China amongst beautiful countryside.

Some parts of the Great Wall near Beijing are only an hour north from the city center.

Beijing is the capital of the most populous country in the world - the People's Republic of China. With a population of 15 million, and a high proportion of green space, Beijing is one of the world's most monumental cities - a place of superlatives, with the biggest central square in the world - Tian'AnMen Square - the largest and best preserved imperial palace complex - the Forbidden City - the largest sacrificial complex in the world - the Temple of Heaven - and sections of the world's largest manmade structure - the Great Wall - nearby.

With its long history and fascinating cultural traditions, Beijing is a hot destination for international tourists.

See all the places of interest in our lavishly illustrated Beijing guide, filled with beautiful photographs, videos and useful information for travellers.

Following the successful hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing is investing billions into becoming an economic powerhouse. Beijing is a fascinating urban destination for tourists keen to immerse themselves in China's long and colourful history and culture - and its unique, vibrant take on city living, 21st century style.

The frenetic building activity is creating a bold and stylish new Beijing that will surprise even if you have visited just two years ago. However, old Beijing is still to be found and is easily explored in the teahouses and temples, the hutongs and courtyards - and the many museums.

In no other capital on Earth can you enjoy such a wide variety of gourmet restaurants. Beijing offers excellent value dishes from all of China's eight regional styles of cuisine, not to mention korean, thai, japanese and all manner of western dishes too.

Visit the world-renowned and exquisitely beautiful Temple of Heaven, set in large and lively gardens.

Nightlife in Beijing is kaleidoscopic - from dizzying acrobatics, martial arts displays and street theatre to puppetry, outdoor ballroom dancing, the ubiquitous karaoke and trendy nightclubs. In addition, many shops in Beijing are open until 10pm and there are restaurants on every street, often with the choice of outdoor dining under red lanterns.

Beijing's new-found confidence on the world stage is best experienced during an evening spent strolling through this wonderfully welcoming city that retains an intimacy one would find hard to match.

Beijing China World

The Inner Court within the Forbidden City.

Explore China's imperial past in this vast and magnificent World Heritage site.

Your Beijing guide consists of three main sections.

First is the photo-based guide to over 40 places of interest, including the 'top 6' - the Great Wall of China near Beijing, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, Beihai Park and YuanMingYuan.

The second section of our Beijing guide discusses Chinese culture, food, shopping, transport and nightlife and more - and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The third section of our Beijing guide discusses the practicalities of a trip to Beijing - visa requirements, money, telephone, buying antiques, etc; everything that you need to know before you go.

New : China travel videos

Over 100 videos of places around Beijing have now been added. These high quality films have been made by us and there will be more in the future. Below is a taster : take a stroll through one beautiful part of the Summer Palace with Beijing China World ...

[video v=odByWkevpK0]

Beijing Travel Guide Videos

The History of Beijing

Human activity in the Beijing area dates back around half a million years, to when 'Peking Man' lived in ZhouKouDian, in what is now the southwestern suburbs of today's Beijing. The climate at that time was warmer and more humid than it is today so forests and lakes in the area supported a wide variety of life.

The fossil remains of Peking Man, his stone tools and evidence of the use of fire, as well as later tools of around 18,000 years ago, such as bone needles and articles of adornment from the age known as 'Upper Cave Man' are the earliest cultural relics on record in China today. Indeed, they are among the earliest in the world.

Tiananmen Gate, between the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

Emperor Wu was the first to declare the site of Beijing as the capital in 1057 BC. Since then the city has been known by the names Ji, ZhongDu, Dadu, then finally Beijing, when the name was chosen by the Ming Dynasty Emperor ChengZu in 1421.

Before 1949, Beijing was known as Peking in the western world. Beijing was once again the capital only when Mao ZeDong declared the People's Republic of China on October 1st 1949.

'BeiJing' literally means 'north capital', following the common east asian tradition whereby capital cities are explicitly named as such. Another Chinese city similarly named is NanJing, meaning 'south capital'. At various times in history, the capital was declared to be NanJing rather than BeiJing, according to whether the then current powerbase lay to the north or south of China.

'YanJing' is another popular informal name for Beijing, a reference to the ancient State of Yan that existed here during the Zhou Dynasty. For example, there is the locally brewed 'Yanjing Beer'.

Size and Location

Map of Beijing, China

China is bordered by the countries of Indochina to the south, has Russia and Mongolia to the north, rising-star India to the south west, and Korea and Japan to the east.

Beijing's Latitude: 39° 55' North
Beijing's Longitude: 116° 23' East

Today, Beijing City covers an area of about 7,000 square kilometers spanning 38 kilometers from ShiJingShan in the west to TongXian in the east.

Beijing is China's second largest city in terms of population, after Shanghai.

Beijing is widely recognized as the political, educational and cultural center of China, whereas Shanghai and Hong Kong predominate in the economic field.

Beijing Municipality is centered on Beijing City and is equivalent to a province in China's administrative structure. The population is about 16 million of which about 11 million have permanent resident status.

Beijing is an independently administered municipal district, situated in the northeastern part of China at an average elevation of 43m above sea level. Beijing municipality is centered around the capital city and has a total area of 17,000 sq km (about 6,500 square miles), stretchingometres from north to south.

Beijing Municipality borders Hebei Province to the north, west, south and, for a small section, in the east, and Tianjin Municipality to the southeast.

The 38 kilometer long Chang'An (Eternal Peace) Boulevard that runs from east to west through central Beijing concentrates on state, political and economic affairs. The central areas around the Palace Museum (Forbidden City) and city gates, as well as the lakes - ZhongNanHai, BeiHai and HouHai - have been designated as protected landmark districts that retain the features of Old Beijing.


Following economic reforms, Beijing has evolved to be an important transportation hub, with dozens of railways, roads and expressways entering and leaving in all directions. It is also the focal point of many international flights to China.

Sadly, although it was probably necessary, most of Beijing's city wall was removed between 1965 and 1969 to make way for the construction of the 2nd Ring Road.

The traffic network now consists of six concentric ringroads (the outer four are expressways), 28 radial roads (9 express ways), and both underground and suburban railways that are being further developed to improve links from the center with outlying areas and surrounding towns, plus several long distance railway routes and an international airport.

Following the economic reforms of Deng XiaoPing, the urban area of Beijing expanded greatly. Formerly within the confines of the 3rd Ring Road, the urban area of Beijing is now pushing at the boundary of the recently-constructed 5th Ring Road and even the 6th Ring Road that is currently under construction. Many areas of Beijing that were formerly farmland have now been developed into residential or commercial neighborhoods, although a mandatory level of green space is actively preserved.

Tourism in Beijing

One of the temples at the Summer Palace. Meander the expansive grounds and take a Dragon Boat across the beautiful lake.

Experience the ancient Chinese ideal of harmony between Man and Nature. Situated in western Beijing, this beautiful park is a must-see.

China is one of the world's most visited countries. Tourism is now increasing rapidly and is forming an ever more important part of the economy. It has been projected that China may become the world's number one tourist destination by 2020.

Historical Beijing is a key attraction. The Forbidden City receives over 10 million visitors each year (foreign and domestic). In 2005, over 3.6 million foreign tourists visited Beijing, constituting an increase of 15% from 2004.

With an eye to the future, an increasing number of historical and cultural sites in Beijing are being renovated and opened to the public, a process that started long before Beijing won hosting of the 2008 Olympics.

Time Zone

Beijing's time zone is UTC/GMT +8 hours.

The whole of China shares the same time zone. There is no daylight saving time (or 'summer time') at the moment.

Distances from Beijing

The following table shows the distance to various cities in and just outside China.

TianJin 111 km
XiAn 913 km
Seoul, Korea 960 km
ShangHai 1,068 km
TaiPei 1,725 km
Hong Kong 2,024 km
Tokyo, Japan 2,098 km
Lhasa 2,556 km

Green City

The beautiful Beihai Park in central Beijing.

Beijing is liberally forested and contains many parks, big and small, and its green commitment has put in place many measures to limit pollution and further improve the environment.

For example, in 2005, 8,000 outdated taxi cars and 2,000 buses were phased out and replaced with vehicles meeting newly promulgated, more rigid state standards for pollution control.

New subway lines could make Beijing's subway the world's largest by 2020.

Already with many large parks, Beijing's green space has been increased further in recent years making it a beautiful city in which to live or visit.

The Economy of Beijing

The economy of Beijing has changed dramatically over the years. Traditionally, the city was primarily an administrative and cultural center, partly because of its distance from the country's key economic areas in the south, around the YangTze river valley and the Pearl river delta. However, from 1949 it also developed rapidly as an industrial and manufacturing city.

Today, Beijing is one of the most developed cities in China. It is now a post-industrial city with the tertiary sector accounting for at least 75% of its GDP. In 2008, Beijing's primary, secondary and tertiary industries were worth 11 billion RMB, 270 billion RMB, and 770 billion RMB.

In 2008, Beijing's nominal GDP was USD$ 150 billion, an increase of 9% on 2007, a growth rate that has peaked at 13% per year over the last 10 years. Its GDP per capita was 63,000 RMB ($ 9,000 USD), an increase of 5.2% from 2007. Disposable income per capita in 2008 was 25,000 RMB for urban residents and 11,000 RMB for rural residents; a year-on-year increase in both cases of 12.4%.

The rise in disposable income has seen a boom in the retail sector. Five of the world’s six largest malls are currently in China, and one of the top two is in in Beijing, plus about 100 others. Retail space almost doubled from 2005 to 2008, to well over 10 million square meters (counting only developments with a size of 10,000 square meters and greater). Beijing has nearly half a million retail stores and there are more than one thousand chain-store brands operating in the city (retail and catering), including some internationally famous brands. Car sales have also mushroomed.

Finance is one of the most important parts of the economy; with the number of financial institutions in Beijing fast approaching 1,000, finance is a major component of the GDP in the city - about 15%. Insurance is also a fast developing sector. The service and real-estate sectors are also growing strongly, as are the media, information and creative sectors.

Beijing has a wealth of cultural interests and tourism is becoming an ever more important source of income. In 2008 it accounted for about 7% of Beijing's GDP.

Though relatively small in scale, primary industry in Beijing is diverse in nature and composed of a mix of large, medium and small-sized enterprises; it remains an important part of the economy. Automotive, electronics, construction and high-tech industries have played a key role in promoting economic development. These activities have boosted exports and the significance of international trade in Beijing's economy.

Outside of the city, in the rural areas of Beijing municipality, agriculture remains significant, and is increasingly efficient.

Beijing has invested heavily in infrastructure and enjoys quite a high level of investment from overseas, mostly in the form of joint ventures. Beijing now has numerous technology research and development parks; innovation in technology will be a key driver of economic growth in the near future. Beijing will also focus on energy conservation and emissions reduction, improving both people's livelihood and environment, and constructing a resources-conserving society.

The Central Business District (CBD) is centered on the GuoMao area and is home to a variety of regional corporate headquarters, shopping malls and high-end housing. The 'Financial Street', in the FuXingMen and FuChengMen areas, is a traditional financial center, and today a glimmering array of steel and glass skyscrapers. WangFuJing, ChongWenMen and XiDan are major shopping zones. ZhongGuanCun, often dubbed 'China's Silicon Valley', remains a center for electronics and computer-related industries (as well as retail).


Beijing is home to a large number of colleges and universities (about 160), including a number of highly-regarded universities of international stature, including China's two most prestigious institutions: Peking University and TsingHua University. Other well known institutions, both domestically and internationally, include Beijing Normal University, RenMin (People's) University of China and Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Owing to Beijing's status as the political and cultural capital of China, a larger proportion of tertiary-level institutions are concentrated here than any other place in China, reaching at least 60 in number. Many international students from Japan, Korea, North America, Europe, Southeast Asia and elsewhere come to Beijing to study every year - a growing trend, especially among Western students. At the same time, there has been a big increase in the number of Chinese studying abroad.

Research and Development [in preparation]

shift from exports, manufacturing and inward investment towards higher-end manufacturing and services. from labor to know-how, skills and capital. In what will be like a second industrialisation, research and development is a key factor. innovation. such as green technology. 5 trillion yuan (US$758.4 billion. space's largest high-speed rail system. 'made in China' to 'created in China'. Education students in Shanghai trounced the OECD averages in reading, mathematics and science. China already has 1,160 research institutes, producing 2 million engineering and science graduates; that is four times as many as in the year 2000. Patents.


People native to urban Beijing speak the Beijing dialect, which belongs to the Mandarin subdivision of spoken Chinese. Beijing dialect provides the basis for Standard Mandarin, the standard Chinese language used in the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Singapore.

A romanised script of Chinese called Pinyin is widely used next to the traditional Chinese script on signs of all types, including place names.

There is a major drive for people to learn english and younger, educated people often speak it well. You will always find staff in hotels who can speak english. In other places, such as restaurants, this may not be the case, but there is usually someone nearby who will be happy to help.

The Beijing 2008 Olympics & Paralympics

The Summer Olympics began in Beijing on August 8th 2008 (08,08,08) - at 8pm (8 being a 'lucky' number to Chinese people). This helped speed up the rate of change in Beijing so that there is now a fascinating mix of old and new, and cultural traditions rub shoulders with a new dynamism.

Our Beijing 2008 Olympics & Paralympics Archive

A Tribute to the Beijing 2008 Olympics

The full article plus many more pictures and videos at Beijing Buzzz


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Beijing Guide

Beijing Background

Beijing Holiday

Beijing Photograps

Beijing Panorama Photos

Cultural Activities Photo Gallery

Beijing in Winter Photo Gallery

Beijing Videos

Beijing Photo Guides (alphabetical list)

798 Art Factory

BaDaChu Eight Great Sites Park

BeiHai Park

Beijing Botanical Garden

Beijing Zoo & Aquarium

Beijing Working People's Cultural Palace Park

Birds Nest Olympic Stadium

Central Business District (CBD)

ChangPu River Park

ChaoYang Park

Chinese Nationalities Ethnic Culture Park

Confucius Temple


Ditan Park

Drum and Bell Towers

Forbidden City

Ghost Street

Grand View Garden

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China near Beijing

Happy Valley

Imperial City Wall Park


JingShan Park

LianHuaChi Park

LiuLiChang Arts Street

LongQing Gorge

LongTan Park

Ming Tombs


National Center for the Performing Arts

Olympic Park

PanJiaYuan Market

Prince Gong's Mansion

Purple Bamboo Park

QianHai & HouHai, ShiChaHai


QingNianHu Park

Ritan Park

Summer Palace

TanZheSi and JieTaiSi

TaoRanTing Park

Temple of Heaven

The Place

Tian'AnMen Square

TuanJieHu Park

TV Tower


'White Clouds' Taoist Temple

White Dagoba Buddhist Temple

World Park

XiangShan Park (Fragrant Hills Park)

XuanWu Park

YongHeGong Lama Temple

Yuan Dynasty Dadu City Wall Relics Park

YuanMingYuan Park

Yuetan Park

YuYuanTan Park

ZhongShan Park

Beijing Visitor Guides

Museums and Galleries

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Beijing Map

Beijing's Lakes
Beijing's Hutongs

Food, Restaurants and Dining
The Beijing 2008 Olympics
Public Holidays in China

Spring in Beijing
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Summer in Beijing
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Chinese Language Guide

Beijing Postcards

Beijing Travel Tips

Beijing Travel Tips

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Travel Tips Six
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Your Beijing Trip

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History of China

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