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Beijing Travel Guide

About Beijing

Layered with tales of emperors, uprisings, grandeur and hubris, Beijing is an extraordinarily irresistible place to visit. It remains a momentous city with some extraordinary historical sites, although the billions invested in the run-up to last decade’s Olympics have left it as a thoroughly modern metropolis too. Top-quality hotels and restaurants abound, the subway system is world-class and the architecture, in many cases, is eye-catchingly contemporary.

Most visitors, however, come for the city’s more traditional attractions. Beijing’s vast centrepieces are the royal palaces of The Forbidden City and the open expanse of Tiananmen Square. Together, they straddle the dynastic era of ancient empire and the revolutionary rule of Chairman Mao Zedong. Further afield, The Temple of Heaven and the lakeside Summer Palace – both beautiful in their way – give further flavour of the city’s past.

On a very different note, a network of traditional hutong alleyways still showcases a unique inner-city atmosphere of slow-paced living. And most famously of all, the snaking Great Wall of China, set in rumpled green hills, is an easy day-trip from Beijing itself.

As capital of the most populous country on the planet, the city is also a wonderful place to sample the myriad different cooking styles for which China is known. Whether you’re braving the regional delicacies at Donghuamen Night Market (fried scorpion, anyone?), feasting on Peking Duck at a high-end restaurant or trying anything from Sichuanese to Uighur cuisine, the general rule is the same: in Beijing, food is taken seriously.

On a cultural level, there’s also much to explore. From opera to acrobats, art museums to classical dance and rock music to antique markets, this is a city where change is constant, buildings stretch ever higher and day-to-day life dizzies and dazzles. Some 21.5 million people live in Beijing - it’s safe to say they have a unique home.

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Featured Hotels


Double Happiness Beijing Courtyard Hotel

Most guests agree with the name when they stay at this low-key but friendly hotel in the lanes near the Lama Temple. The small, simple rooms come with Chinese-style furniture, TVs and a computer for checking your email, plus an extra serving of homespun charm, but it can get a little cold here in winter.

Red Capital Residence

Located in a 200-year-old courtyard residence, this boutique hotel moves the historic theme forward to the Liberation era, with rooms and communal spaces decked out with Communist antiques and Mao memorabilia. The five suites are fit for a Communist Party bigwig, with some of Beijing’s most unique interior design, and the bar is set in a converted underground bomb shelter.

The Orchid

Hip and perfectly located in a lane just a short stroll from the Bell Tower and Drum Tower, the Orchid is a slice of wood-floored, design magazine modernism in the heart of old Beijing. Rooms are compact but calming, with contemporary designer furnishings. There’s even a roof terrace with views over the hutongs.

Jingshan Garden Hotel

A cute budget hotel with calm, comfy rooms set around a similarly serene courtyard, Jingshan Garden Hotel is in easy striking distance of the Forbidden City. It feels just like you'd imagine a Chinese hotel to feel, down to the odd piece of old-fashioned lacquered furniture in the rooms. It has a decent restaurant too.

Temple Hotel

This former Tibetan Buddhist temple from the Qing Dynasty was saved for posterity by a UNESCO-endorsed restoration project. Buildings at the hotel have been standing for 250 years and they still swim with the air of times past. There are just eight well-appointed rooms, each with traces of the building's former life, firstly as a temple, then as a television factory after the Cultural Revolution.

Park Hyatt Beijing

Beijing’s highest hotel towers over the new central business district, and many guests come specifically for the panoramic views, particularly from the 66th-floor China Grill and the 65rd-floor bar. Undeniably one of the most opulent international hotels in Beijing, the Park Hyatt has 246 sleekly modern rooms and suites, with rainforest showers and spa-style tubs, plasma TVs, espresso machines and air purification systems.