Grand temples, imperial palaces
and chic shopping malls
Beijingers know the many faces of their city, from peaceful pagodas in lush green parks like Jingshan to buzzing, futuristic business districts. It’s always humbling to stand in the vast expanse of Tiananmen Square, or wander down wide boulevards like Chang’an Avenue. Meanwhile exploring the endless alleys of the Forbidden City makes you feel like a welcomed dignitary.
Contemplate the celestial perfection of the Temple of Heaven, or the historic power that still reposes at the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Minutes later, you can be surveying trays of deep-fried scorpions on sticks in Wangfujing, or browsing the glitzy boutiques and mega malls of Sanlitun with the city’s dedicated upmarket shoppers.
It would take a lifetime or more to fully appreciate the 3,000 years of cultural treasures amassed at Beijing’s museums and galleries. Porcelain and jade artefacts attest to the imperial past at the National Museum of China, while modern art installations fill the post-industrial hangars of the Beijing 798 Art Zone. You’ll also find edgy creativity bursting from the warrens of narrow hútòngs and hidden courtyards around colourful Yonghe Gong Lama Temple.
Locals tend to agree that the best of Chinese culture may well be reserved for the dinner table. The culinary wealth of the capital is sourced from every corner of the country. Favourites like Beijing duck and the huŏguō hotpot, with a simmering broth or soup flavoured with piquant Sichuan peppers at its heart, never lose their appeal.