When we think about great cities around the world, it’s easy to imagine London, Paris and New York. However, have you ever thought about the enchanting city of Beijing?
Of course, as the host city of the 2008 Olympic Games, the Chinese capital has progressed substantially in recent years and is now a tourism hub in Asia. While Beijing is among the most populated urban hubs globally, don’t let this put you off – there are plenty of locations to escape the crowds and enjoy an authentic Chinese adventure!
To learn about the rise of Beijing and what the best sights are, we spoke to FBI Travel’s Vera Schwartzbord who experienced the wonders of China on a holiday during May 2016. While Beijing is a relatively new destination for Australians, Vera first visited the city in 2006 and can shed light on how it has changed over this period.
The Great Wall of China
A trip to Beijing wouldn’t be complete with visiting the magnificent Great Wall. Stretching more than 21,000 km across China, it is the world’s longest wall and largest ancient architecture – dating back over 2,300 years. In fact, the UNESCO World Heritage Site holds such an awe-inspiring presence, it’s one of the only man-made structures visible from space!
However, you can’t just visit any part of the wall. Many sections are in poor condition with well-preserved portions located north of Beijing and around other major tourist hubs. This can mean long lines, taking time away from your holiday. However, while Vera endured this a decade ago, her decision to take a private guide during this trip paid dividends.
“We were taken to a remote section, which was not overcrowded with bus loads of tourists,” she said.
The guide was able to showcase more exclusive and unique spots of the Great Wall that the group wouldn’t have known otherwise. It is these special moments that can lift a good holiday to a great one.
While enjoying the rural Chinese air, Vera and her party could climb and walk along the wall – exploring the various intricacies of the historic wall. As for whether the man-made wonder of the world stands up to the postcards, Vera couldn’t be more complimentary.
“Everyone should make the effort to see it. Photos don’t quite do it justice as seeing it for yourself,” she gushed.
Tiananmen Square/ Forbidden City
If you are seeking further insight into Chinese history – look no further than Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City, ideally located in central Beijing.
Tiananmen Square was designed and built in the 17th century and has gradually grown in size over the years since. Today, Tiananmen Square is home to many important Chinese sites including the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People and the National Museum of China.
For foreign tourists, the square was made famous by the 1989 pro-democracy movement where thousands protested against the government – resulting in the deaths of many civilians. A photograph of a single man standing in front of a line of Chinese tanks remains one of the most poignant images of the protest.
For Vera, the atmosphere of the square was emotionally moving and certainly a location for remembering and respecting the past.
Adjacent to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City stands just as it did during the Ming dynasty between 1420 and 1912. As the Chinese imperial palace, it was the home of emperors and the heart of the government, hosting ceremonies, meetings and events.
The World Heritage Site consists of close to 1,000 buildings with many showcasing the beautiful architecture and great expanse of the 72 hectare grounds.
Vera said simply viewing the outside of the city led her imagination to run wild.
“I had a sense of wonder of what took place behind the walls,” she explained.
Of course, visitors can explore the massive palace complex for themselves or visit the comprehensive museum.
One of the standout locations on Vera’s Chinese adventure was the Summer Palace – a collection of palaces, gardens and lakes situated northwest of the Beijing CBD. Away from the hustle and bustle of urban China, the Summer Palace sits peacefully on the edge of Kunming Lake.
The Summer Palace architecture reminded Vera of Saint Petersburg – a city well-known for its grand buildings and colourful designs. Enjoying the “relaxing ambiance”, Vera ventured for a walk on the longest covered walkway and explored the grounds via boat. While the Summer Palace can be busy, Vera noted the large number of Chinese visitors – a complete change from a decade ago and highlighting that even locals recognise the beauty of the palace.
798 Art District
With some time to burn before her flight home, Vera found a quaint art precinct on the same road as the airport. Utilising old East German factories, there is a large concentration of contemporary art galleries. Vera described 798 as having a “really cool ambiance” and that the galleries were of “excellent standard” – ideal for art aficionados with a spare few hours.
The complex also features a number of lovely little restaurants, showcasing traditional Chinese food and beverages.
Fancy a trip to China with FBI Travel?
With the help of FBI Travel, we can ensure your holiday to China is filled with long-lasting memories. Taking advantage of our excellent local operators who use very knowledgeable English speaking guides, you can get an experience of China that few others get to enjoy.
Of course, one of the benefits of a guide is that in busy locations such as museums, you are able to skip to the most important parts quicker, avoid long queues and receive more in-depth knowledge.
FBI Travel can also offer a choice of hotels that are, more often than not, tried and tested by ourselves, to add an extra dimension to your comfort levels and overall stay experience.
To get your Beijing holiday plans underway, reach out to Vera Schwartzbord and the team at FBI Travel today or call 1800 FLY FBI.