Many tourist areas in Beijing are under renovation for the 2008 Olympics. The Forbidden City and the Summer Palace all had sections under renovation as of the middle of March 2006. Renovations on the Temple of Heaven are completed. As a plus, ticket prices were reduced for sights under renovation. Just be aware that prior to the Olympics there may be continued renovations.
about a 1.5 hour bus ride from the city, recommended but be aware of bus scams! Two or more sections nearer the city have been restored and are available for tourists to walk upon. One section even has a ski lift up and a toboggan (or ski lift) down. You may want to bring a jacket against the wind or cold in the chillier season - in the summer you will need lots of water, and it will be cheaper if you bring your own rather than rely on the vendors on the Wall. The Badaling section is the most famous, but also the most over-restored and crowded. Jinshanling, Huangshan and Simatai are more distant (several hours drive) but offer a better view of the wall in a less restored state with fewer crowds. Mutianyu has been restored, but far less crowded than Badaling. Crowds are a definite issue with the Great Wall: at popular sections at popular times, it becomes not the Great Wall of China, but rather the Great Wall of Tourists. It is possible to rent a taxi for a day to take you to these sites. Renting a taxi should cost ¥400~450. For this price the driver takes you wherever you want, and will wait for your return.
The least expensive way of getting there is to take the Bus #909 from (
de'sheng'men), just east of the Jishuitan Line 2 Subway stop. The journey lasts about one hour, and costs around ¥10. There are also official tourist buses that leave from Dongzhimen, Qianmen, and Beijing Railway Station. Another, not especially convenient, option is the train: the 8:06am (
sha'cheng) train leaves Beijing North Railway Station daily, and gets to Badaling at 10:49am. Return trip leaves at 14:34. The final option would be to hire a taxi for the day.
3. Forbidden City
Gu'Gong) (also known as the Palace Museum)
Get there when the gates open (around 8.30am) if you want to walk through the vast and spectacular courtyards in relative peace. This is truly the spot to appreciate the might and grandeur of the Imperial Chinese court during the height of its power in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Despite the transformation of the city around it, the Forbidden City remains mercifully relatively untouched. A few years ago there was a lot of local fuss when a Starbucks coffee shop opened in the Forbidden City, some interpreting this as a return to the bad old days of colonial domination. However, in July 2007, Starbucks decided to close the shop as part of the restoration of the Forbidden City, which is in part toning down the commercial locations inside the city walls. Only 2/5 area of the palace is opened, but some places are under restorations and will be opened before 2008.
Tian An Men Guang Chang)
Largest square in the world. Built by Mao to impress; his riposte to the Forbidden City, the square is surrounded by Soviet-style monuments and government buildings, and houses Mao's mausoleum at the end opposite the entrance to the Forbidden City. It remains an astounding place and a spot to linger and see visitors from all over China, many visiting their capital for the first time. There is a flag raising and lowering ceremony at dawn and dusk. There are 4 marble lions in front of the Tiananmen gate, the northwest one has a bullet hole on its stomach from the Tianamen Square massacre.
5. Temple of Heaven
south east of Qianmen and the Tiananmen Square. Not only a beautiful sight, but also surrounded by a vast public park popular with local residents practicing tai chi, dancing, and so on in the mornings and on weekends. Home to many ancient trees, this is also the greenest place in Beijing. Just a short stroll away from the historical sights will bring you to peaceful woods and, amazingly, solitude (especially toward the West Gate). The temple itself was the site where the emperor prayed every year for good harvests and fair weather. Can be reached by buses 2, 7, 17, 20, 110, 120, 726, 803, 826 to the West Gate;or buses 35 and 106 to the North Gate. Park and historical sights (like the temple) ¥35, park only ¥15.
6. Summer Palace
Yu He Yuan)
extensive gardens and the ruins of palaces constructed by the Qing emperors. Most visitors stay in the front hill area, but if you prefer quiet places, the west bank and back hill areas are good choices. There are some quiet and secret ruins, caves, and other fun stuff in the back hill area.
Beijing Dong Wu Yuan).
The Zoo was built on the sites of some ancient gardens, has lakes, pounds, pavilions and other beautiful old buildings. The Soviet revival Beijing Exhibition Hall is located nearby and has a Russian restaurant, "Moscow Restaurant".
8. Beihai Park
Beihai is a good place to take a glance at Zhongnanhai, heart of Communist China. There's a big island and white pagoda which was built in the 17th century. On the north bank, you can visit some small but beautiful gardens.
Yong He Gong) (also known as Lama Temple or Palace of Peace)
The temple was built by Chinese emperors who harbored a deep fascination for the Tibetan (Tantric) version of Buddhism. Over the years many Tibetan and Mongolian monks lived and taught here, and there are still monks in residence today. The temple is famous for its 18m statue of Maitreya Buddha carved from a single piece of sandalwood.
10. Prince Gong's Mansion
Gong Wang Fu)
The garden is fulled with Chinese tourists, and the mansion will be opened as a museum before 2008, which will display the life of princes during the Qing dynasty
in the northwestern corner of Beijing. A good place for weekend outings and picnics. Formerly a Qing imperial garden, today Fragrant Hills makes an easy short climb in the suburbs of Beijing. It's also home to the Fragrant Hills Hotel, designed by I.M. Pei (Louvre Museum Pyramid). Take buses 331, 726 to the last stop. ¥10,students ¥5.
12. Bejing Botanical Gardens
Beijing Zhi Wu Yuan)
steps away from the east gate of Fragrant Hill. Acres of greenery and flowers for those tired of urban smog and traffic noise. Sir Johnston, teacher of the last emperor Puyi, had a villa in Cherry Glen, a silent and beautiful retreat in the Gardens. In the spring, the gardens host special exhibits of tulips, peach and plum blossoms, peonies, and the like. Take buses 331, 726. ¥10,students ¥5.
13. The Hutong Villages
of Beijing most represent the traditional housing of Chinese locals. Some of the streets in the Qianmen Hutong have a history around 500 years, with unchanged street layouts. The Qianmen area is undergoing aggressive restoration and gentrification that will continue through 2010. As a result some of the streets are blocked by construction. The Hutongs are the perfect place to get a glimps of Chinese daily life. The majority of Hutongs have been demolished to make space for modern buildings. For these reasons, the Hutongs are considered very valuable and are a popular tourist attraction. Rickshaws carrying tourists weave in and out of the narrow streets of the Hutong Village to give individuals an up-close look at these homes.
14. Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution
is a great place to read the official Chinese version of what happened in Chinese military history, from ancient times up to 1949. There are also airplanes, boats, guns, missiles, rockets and vehicles on display (including U.S. military hardware evidently seized during the Korean conflict). The exhibit in "The Hall of the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea" was unfortunately inaccessible as of April 2007. You can pay an extra ¥5 to take a picture in a 1980's era Chinese tank. Entrance fee is ¥20.
16. China Aviation Museum
is a must see for all aviation fans. It is located about 50 km outside Beijing in Changping District and is probably better known by the name Datangshan. Best way to get there is to arrange a taxi from your hotel. The other more adventurous way is to take bus 912 from Andingmen bus station, just remember that 912 has some branch lines and not all of these go via museum. The museum hosts over 200 exhibits, many of them very rare. Entrance fee is ¥45.
Editor: canton fair