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Beijing, China

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Beijing, China

Beijing (北京 Běijīng) is the capital of the most populous country in the world, China, and its second largest city after Shanghai. It was the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors until the formation of a republic in 1911. Beijing is the political, educational and cultural center of the country and as such it is rich in historical sites and important government and cultural institutions.
The city is well known for its flatness and regular construction. There are only three hills to be found within the city limits (in Jingshan Park to the north of the famous

Forbidden City

). Like the configuration of the Forbidden City, Beijing has concentric "ring roads," which are... Read more

Beijing, China

Beijing (北京 Běijīng) is the capital of the most populous country in the world, China, and its second largest city after Shanghai. It was the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors until the formation of a republic in 1911. Beijing is the political, educational and cultural center of the country and as such it is rich in historical sites and important government and cultural institutions.
The city is well known for its flatness and regular construction. There are only three hills to be found within the city limits (in Jingshan Park to the north of the famous

Forbidden City

). Like the configuration of the Forbidden City, Beijing has concentric "ring roads," which are rectangular, that go around the metropolis.
Beijing is a dynamic, changing city. There is a mix of old and new all around (especially within the 3rd and 2nd Ring Roads). Here you can see the most modern, envelope-pushing technologies and social innovations butting heads with the most ancient cultural norms and social settings. The people here can seem a bit cold, but once you break the ice, you will find that they are very friendly and engaging.
Be prepared for customs and societal norms that are different from yours; see the China article for discussion. However most Beijingers are sophisticated urbanites, so things may seem less odd here than in rural areas or cities in the interior of China.
The city has hosted the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and will host the 2022 Winter Olympics.


Beijing means Northern Capital, a role it has played many times in China's long history. Beijing's history dates back several thousand years, but it first became notable in Chinese history after it was made the capital of the State of Yan under the name Yanjing. Yan was one of the major kingdoms of the Warring States Period, some 2,000 years ago. After the fall of Yan, during the later Han and Tang dynasties, the Beijing-area was a major prefecture of northern China.
In 938, Beijing was conquered by the Khitans and declared the capital of the Liao Dynasty. The Mongols seized the city in 1215. From 1264 Beijing served as the capital of a united China under Kublai Khan. His victorious Mongol forces renamed the city, Great Capital (大都). From there, Kublai and his descendants ruled their empire from a northern location closer to the Mongol homelands. During this period, the walled city was enlarged, and many palaces and temples were built.
After the fall of the Mongol-founded Yuan dynasty in 1368, the capital was initially moved to Nanjing. However, in 1403 the 3rd Ming emperor, Zhu Di, also known as Emperor Yongle, moved it back to Beijing and gave the city its present name. The Ming period was Beijing's golden era. The Forbidden City, the

Temple of Heaven

and many other Beijing landmarks were built in this period. The capital developed into a huge city becoming the religious and cultural center of Asia.
In 1644, the Manchus overthrew the declining Ming dynasty and established China's last imperial line - the Qing. Despite the changing political climate, Beijing remained the capital. The Manchu imperial family moved into the Forbidden City and remained there until 1911. The Qing built both the Summer Palace and Old Summer Palace. These served as summer retreats for the emperors and their entourages. During the 19th century, Western countries established foreign legations in the Qianmen area south of the Forbidden City. These came under siege during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.
The Qing dynasty fell in 1911. In the chaotic first years of Republican China, Beijing was beset by fighting warlords. Following the Northern Expedition, the Kuomintang moved the capital to Nanjing in 1928 and renamed Beijing as Beiping ("Northern Peace") to emphasize that it was no longer a capital. Beijing remained a center for education and culture throughout the Republican Era. When the Kuomintang was defeated by the Communists in 1949, the new government proclaimed a People's Republic with its capital at Beijing.


Beijing is characterized by its vastness and large distances between locations. Until recently, the city was almost entirely made up of hutongs with narrow lanes and single-story buildings. Now, many of the hutongs have given way to broad boulevards and modern buildings, contributing to an airy, sprawling feel, in sharp contrast to cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Beijing is the political center of the country with official buildings and embassy areas dominating the city. Beijing is also the historical and cultural center of China with many historical buildings and sites - especially within Ring Road Two. The city has undergone rapid modernization in recent years, with improvements in institutions, business environment, and work conditions.


Given their city's historical, cultural and political heft, Beijingers are justifiably proud to be citizens of the capital. An attitude is known as 大北京主义 or "Great Beijing-ism" is often used to describe their attitude toward people from other regions of China. They are often much more interested in politics and willing to talk about current events than people elsewhere in China. Beijingers also seem to focus on not losing face and often use humor to do so. However, many Chinese from other provinces find Beijingers very friendly and straightforward compared with people from Shanghai especially.


Beijing has a monsoon-influenced continental climate with hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. The best time to visit is in September and October, during the "Golden Autumn" (金秋). Spring is the season for dust storms and is otherwise warm and dry. Summer can be oppressively hot, and the tourist crowds tend to be the largest as well; prevailing winds from the south trap pollutants (mountains lie to the north and west), making summer the worst season for air quality. Winter is cold and dry, with infrequent, but beautiful, snow. Temperatures can easily fall below −10°C in winter and or just as readily rise above 35°C in summer as well.

Demographics and geography

Beijing has a population of 17.55 million people (30% migrants) living on 16,800 distributed in 18 districts. The city borders Hebei Province to the north, west and south and Tianjin Municipality to the east.

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Beijing, China: Port Information

There are several cruise ports from which one can get Beijing.
The closest cruise terminal Tianjin is located in about 90 km from Beijing. You can get Beijing by using a transfer service, taking a bullet train, taxi, or long distance bus.

Get around Beijing, China

Though some residents of Beijing know conversational English (especially in the areas frequented by tourists or Haidian District's university cluster), one should not count on finding a taxi driver or passer-by who knows English well. Neither should foreigners with minimal experience with the Chinese language put faith in their ability to pronounce Chinese place names so that a local can understand. Before embarking on a trip around the city, it is best to print out the names of places you want to visit in Chinese characters or get your hotel front desk staff to write them out for you. When going to specific addresses, writing nearby intersections or basic directions can be helpful as well. Show the text to the taxi driver, or just ask for help on the street. In general, you will have a better chance of getting help in English if you address younger people, as many schools in China have expanded their English education in the last few years.
Crossing the road in China is an art and may be difficult for pedestrians unused to Beijing's particular driving styles. Before crossing, assume that none of the road users will give way to you, even if a policeman is present. Zebra crossings are ignored. Chinese drivers lean on the horn heavily and frequently play games of chicken with pedestrians and other vehicles. Should you hear a loud horn when crossing the road, always look around as there is probably a car right behind you or heading straight for you. Should you find several cars and bicycles veering towards you from different directions, do not try to run to safety; instead, stand still. For drivers and cyclists, a stationary obstacle is easier to avoid. Also note that traffic light crossings have zebra stripes painted on the road, but you should only cross when the walk light is green. As with pedestrian crossings in many countries, there is strength in numbers. When a mass of people crosses together, cars are more likely to stop or slow down.

What to see in Beijing, China


The center of the city and most important landmark is

Tiananmen Square

Near the center of the city, administratively in Dongcheng District. This is the world's largest public square, and a must see for all visitors from abroad and from elsewhere in China. The square is surrounded by grand buildings including the Great Hall of the People, the Museum of Chinese History, the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, the Qianmen Gate and the Forbidden City. It is also home to the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall and the Monument to the People's Martyrs and was also the site of the infamous massacre of student activists by the Peoples Liberation Army in 1989.
The National Stadium or Bird's Nest in Chaoyang District is a new major landmark and the symbol of the 2008 Olympic Games. Two contemporary buildings in Chaoyang District are remarkable landmarks: the CCTV Building (sometimes called The Underpants or Bird Legs by locals) and the World Trade Center Tower III. Both are outstanding examples of contemporary architecture.
There are also some remarkable remains from the medieval city including the Ming Dynasty City Wall Site Park (the only remains of the city wall) in Chongwen District, the Drum and Bell Towers in Dongcheng District, and Qianmen in Chongwen District.

Palaces, temples, and parks

The city's many green oases are a wonderful break from walking along the never ending boulevards and narrow hutongs. Locals similarly flock to Beijing's palaces, temples and parks whenever they have time. The green areas are not only used for relaxing but also for sports, dancing, singing and general recreation.
The most important palace, bar none, is the Forbidden city (故宫博物院) at the center of the city, administratively in Dongcheng District. The Forbidden City was home to the Imperial Court during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Unlike many other historical sights, the Forbidden City was relatively untouched during the cultural revolution due to the timely intervention of then-premier Zhou Enlai, who sent a battalion of his troops to guard the palace from the over-zealous Red Guards. The Temple of Heaven (天坛) in Chongwen District is the symbol of Beijing and is surrounded by a lively park typically packed with hordes of local people drinking tea, practicing calligraphy or tai-chi or just watching the world go by.
The Yonghegong (Lama Temple) (雍和宫) in Dongcheng District is one of the most important and beautiful temples in the country. Entrance fees (2014) : 25元. Just opposite is the Confucius Temple (孔廟); entrance fees (2014): 25元; open until 6 pm (5pm in winter), last admittance 30 minutes earlier.
Other parks are scattered around Beijing. Some of the best are Zhongshan Park (中山公园) in Xicheng District, Beihai Park (北海公园) in Xicheng District, Chaoyang Park (朝阳公园) in Chaoyang District and Ritan Park (日坛公园) in Chaoyang District. The Beijing Zoo (北京动物园) in Xicheng District is famous for its traditional landscaping and giant pandas, however like many zoos, the conditions for the animals have been questioned.
​Haidian District is home to the Summer Palace (颐和园), the ruins of the Old Summer Palace (圆明园), Fragrant Hills (香山), and the Beijing Botanical Garden (北京植物园). All are quite close together and worth a visit.

  • Nanluoguxiang(南锣鼓巷) Nanluoguxiang a total length of 786 meters and 8 meters wide. The Lane is a north-south channel during Yuan Dynasty, as the Beijing Hutong protected areas. That "the capital city of Square Lane alley set of five," said Luo Guo Lane.
  • JuYong Guan. Juyongguan Pass, also known as Juyongguan in Chinese, is located 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Changping County, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Beijing. It is a renowned pass of the Great Wall of China. Enlisted in the World Heritage Directory in 1987, it is a national cultural protection unit.
  • Olympic Water Park (奥林匹克水上公园). Covering a planned area of 162.59 hectares and a floor area of 32,000 square meters, Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park is designated as the venue for rowing, canoeing and marathon swimming competitions of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, and also rowing events during the Beijing Paralympics.

Museums and galleries

The museums in Beijing are not yet up to the standard seen in cities such as Paris, Rome and New York. However, the city contains one of the largest and most well-known museums in Asia; the Palace Museum is also known as the Forbidden City. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. China's government is determined to change the backward perception of its museums and has invested heavily in their development. It has also made most of them (not the Forbidden City) free to visit. However, for some museums tickets must be reserved three days in advance.
One of the most well-known museums in Beijing is the National Museum (国家博物馆) in Dongcheng District, which was recently renovated in 2011. The Military Museum (军事博物馆) in Haidian District has long been a favorite with domestic and foreign tourists. The Capital Museum (首都博物馆) in Xicheng District is a new high profile museum with historical and art exhibitions. The China Aviation Museum (中国民航博物馆) located in the Beijing/Northern Suburbs is surprisingly good and hosts 200+ rare and unique Chinese (mostly Russian) aircraft. Finally, some restored former residences of famous Beijingers, especially in Xicheng District, give a good insight into daily life in former times.
The contemporary art scene in Beijing is booming, and a large number of artists exhibit and sell their art in galleries around the city. The galleries are concentrated in some art districts, including the oldest and easiest accessible, but also increasingly commercial and mainstream, Dashanzi Art District in Chaoyang District. (Bus Line 401 - departing from Dongzhimen or San Yuan Qiao) Other newer and perhaps more cutting edge art districts include Caochangdi in Chaoyang District and Songzhuan Artist's Village in Tongzhou District.

What to do in Beijing, China

Walks and rides

  • The Great Wall of China (长城 chángchéng) about a 1-hour train trip or 1.5-hour bus ride from the city (be aware of bus scams). See Great Wall for general information on the Great Wall and see the suburb article for individual listings. The Badaling section is the most famous, but also over-restored and crowded. Jinshanling, Huanghuacheng, and Simatai are more distant but offer a better view of the wall away from the crowds. (As of March 2011, Simatai is closed for restoration. It is expected to re-open in the 2012-2014 timeframe) 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. Mutianyu has been restored but is far less crowded than Badaling and more popular with foreign visitors. The unrestored Jiankou section is dangerous and widely regarded as the most beautiful. It is possible to rent a taxi for ¥400-800 for the round trip including waiting time. 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.
  • Hutongs (胡同 Hútòng). Beijing's ancient alleyways, where you can find traditional Beijing architecture. They date back to when Beijing was the capital of the Yuan dynasty (1266-1368). Most buildings in hutongs are made in the traditional courtyard (四合院 sìhéyuàn) style. Many of these courtyard homes were originally occupied by aristocrats, though after the Communist takeover in 1949 the aristocrats were pushed out and replaced with poor families. Hutongs can still be found throughout the area within the 2nd Ring Road, though many are being demolished to make way for new buildings and wider roads. Most popular among tourists are the hutongs near Qianmen and Houhai. The hutongs may at first feel intimidating to travelers used to the new wide streets of Beijing, but the locals are very friendly and will often try to help you if you look lost.
  • Rent a bicycle. Traverse some of the remaining hutongs. There is no better way to see Beijing firsthand than on a bicycle but just be very aware of cars (Chinese driving styles may differ from those you are used to). See above for bike rental information.
  • Hidden City Game. 1pm - 5:30pm. Explore Beijing's hutongs in a monthly competition on weekend afternoons. It's the fun way to discover Beijing's history. Restaurants sponsor prizes. Look up expat magazines online for events starting in March. The second event for 2015 started at the Dadu Museum of Art, 28 Guozijian Street, Dongcheng District (near Yonghegong Lama Temple and Confucius Temple) on 09th of May. The following one will be definitely in June again.

Theaters and concert halls

National Centre for the Performing Arts in Xicheng District was finalized in 2007 and finally gave Beijing a modern theatre complex covering opera, music, and theatre. This is worth a visit even if you do not go to a performance.
The Beijing Opera is considered the most famous of all the traditional opera performed around China. This kind of opera is nothing like western opera with costumes, singing style, music and spectator reactions being distinctly Chinese. The plot is usually quite simple, so you might be able to understand some of what happens even if you do not understand the language. Some of the best places to watch Beijing Opera are found in Xuanwu District including Huguang Huguang Theatre and Lao She Teahouse. There is also a number in Dongcheng District including Chang' a Grand Theatre.
Acrobatics shows are also worth a visit if you want to see some traditional Chinese entertainment. Some of the best shows are found in Tianqiao Acrobatics Theatre in Xuanwu District and Chaoyang Theatre in Chaoyang District.
Drama plays have had a slow start in Beijing and are still not as widespread as you might expect for a city like Beijing, and you will most likely not be able to find many Western plays. However, some good places for contemporary Chinese plays do exist including Capital Theatre in Dongcheng District and Century Theater in Chaoyang District.
Classical music has got a much stronger foothold in Beijing than drama plays. Some of the best places to go are the National Centre for the Performing Arts and the Century Theater both mentioned above as well as Beijing Concert Hall in Xicheng District.

  • LIYUAN Theatre.
  • Opera/Kung Fu Show at LAOSHE tea house (near tien an men square).


  • Temple Fair Temple fair is a good choice to enjoy Spring Festival of Beijing. Every Spring Festival, there are dozens of temple fairs in Beijing, such as in Temple of Heaven, Ditan, Beihai, Changdian, Longtan Lake, Lotus Pool Park, etc. If you travel to Beijing during the Spring Festival, Temple Fair is a must-see.
Time: Spring Festival (late-Jan to early-Feb depending on Chinese Lunar Calendar)
  • The Grand View Garden Fair The Grand View Garden Fair is held every year during the Spring Festival. There are performances and quizzes on the theme of “A Dream of Red Mansions,” one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels. What’s more, costumes of ancient are available for people to take pictures.
Time: Spring Festival Location: outside the Chang'anmen(厂安门)
  • Music Festival Annual May Day, National Day, there’s a variety of music festivals held in Haidian Park, Chaoyang Park, Tongzhou Canal Park or large parks in the suburban, such as the well known school-sponsored Midi-Music Festival, the Strawberry Music Festival under the label of Modern Sky, as well as the Beijing Pop Festival held in Chaoyang Park.
Time: Labour Day (1 May), National Day (1 Oct)
  • Beijing Chrysanthemum Exhibition Held every year in major parks of Beijing. The Beihai Park Chrysanthemum Exhibition is the most famous, which has been held for more than twenty sessions, showing varieties of beautiful chrysanthemums.
Time: every November
  • Fragrant Hills Red Leaves Festival There is Cotinuscoggygria and maples in the west part of Fragrant Hills Park, as well as the hillside around the park, whenever before and after the frost, the leaves of these trees turn to read, and the mountains and plains of red leaves are as bright as fire, very spectacular.
Time: annually each mid-Oct to mid-Nov Location: Fragrant Hills Park
  • Yanqing Ice and Snow Tourism Festival Important winter tourism festival in North China, and it is always famous for its rich and wonderful landscape of snow and ice, snow activities, and unique style of folk landscape. The main activities are Longqing Gorge Ice, alpine skiing, snowmobiling, hot springs resort, snow Temple fair and so on.
Time: annually 10 Dec to the end of Feb Location: Shijinglong Ski Resort, Badaling Ski Resort, Longqing Gorge


  • Foot massage. Have a highly enjoyable and relaxing foot massage and/or pedicure etc (for a fraction of the price in the West) from any of the respectable and professional offerings in central Beijing (in the vicinity of the Beijing Hotel for example).
  • Ashtanga Yoga (Yoga with Yonnie), Andingmen in the [[Beijing/Yonghegong|Lama Temple]] and [[Beijing/Gulou|Gulou]] area, [7]. Australian Yonnie is Beijing's only registered Yoga Alliance 500hr certified yoga teacher. She has a boutique yoga studio and offers private classes to visitors to the city.
  • Cooking classes in a hutong, [8]. Try to create one of many Chinese dishes - from cold starters to famous noodles and dumplings. Beijing is a very interesting place for gourmet tours and exploration the cultures and traditions through food, with Black Sesame Kitchen and Hutong Cuisine being some of the options catered to English-speakers. The additional bonus of such learning is that you are acquiring new skills and bringing back home a piece of local culture along with fantastic taste of Beijing and North China cuisine. ¥2600-350.
  • Cooking Classes, Tea Tastings, Hutong Tours, Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1 Jiudaowan Zhong Xiang Hutong 北京东城区九道湾中巷1号 (, ☎ +86 159 0104 6127, [9]. Located in a traditional courtyard home in downtown Beijing, The Hutong offers many different Chinese culture programs. Visitors can attend market tours, Chinese and international cooking classes, tea tastings and tours, traditional Chinese medicine appointments, private meals and events, or just stop by the roof top terrace to get a view of the authentic hutong culture. Chefs, guides and teachers speak English, Mandarin, Spanish, Dutch and more by request. ¥100-250.
  • Debate, Runqiyuan Tea House, 65 Andingmen Dong Dajie 润琦缘茶馆 安定门东大街65号, [10]. W 20:00-22:00. If you find yourself a very argumentative person, look for intellectual exercise or just meet people you should attend at least one of the meetings of "The Beijing Debate Society" (DBS). DBS is a not-for-profit, non-religious, non-political organization that seeks to improve argument-building skills. DBS is governed by the British Parliamentarian Debates rules. The debating language is English. Free.
  • Take a hike, ☎ +86 10 6432-2786, [11]. The Beijing Hikers run a couple of trips every weekend and occasionally midweek as well, generally day trips to the mountains around Beijing (often including less-visited sections of the Great Wall). The trips include transportation from the Liangmaqiao metro station and English-speaking guides. The group also occasionally runs longer trips around China. ¥300-400.

What to eat and drink in Beijing, China


The best way to eat well and cheaply in Beijing is to enter one of the ubiquitous restaurants where the locals are eating and pick a few different dishes from the menu. Anyone familiar with Western currency and prices will find Beijing a very inexpensive city for food, especially considering that tipping is not practiced in China.
Some of the cheapest and most delicious meals can be had on the streets. Savory pancakes (煎饼果子 Jiānbĭng guŏzi) are one of the most popular street snacks, eaten from morning till night with most carts operating during the morning commute and then opening again at night for the after-club crowds and night-owls. This delicious pancake is cooked with an egg on a griddle, a fried dough crisp is added, and the whole thing is drizzled with scallions and a savory sauce. Hot sauce is optional. Diehard fans often go on a quest for the best cart in the city. This treat should only cost ¥2.50, with an extra egg ¥3.
Lamb kebabs (羊肉串儿 yángròu chuànr) and other kebabs are grilled on makeshift stands all around Beijing, from the late afternoon to late at night. Wangfujing has a "snack street" selling such mundane fare like lamb, chicken, and beef as well as multiple styles of noodle dishes, such as Sichuan style rice noodles, but the brave can also sample silkworm, scorpion, and various organs all skewered on a stick and grilled to order.
A winter specialty, candied haw berries (冰糖葫芦 bīngtáng húlu) are dipped in molten sugar which is left to harden in the cold and sold on a stick. You can also find variations with oranges, grapes, strawberries, and bananas, or dipped in crumbled peanuts as well as sugar. This sweet snack can also sometimes be found in the spring and the summer, but the haw berries are often from last season's crop.
The most famous street for food in Beijing is probably Guijie (簋街/鬼街 Guǐjiē), see Dongcheng District for further detail.
Street food in Beijing: Gui Street (簋街) is located within Dongzhimen, East of the street from Second Ring Road of the Western part of the Dongzhimen overpass and West of the street from East Main Street eastern end crossing.
Gui Street now showcases many excellent cuisines, the center of a food paradise. Stretching over one kilometer, 90% of the commercial shops in the street house more than 150 eateries. You can find most of the larger restaurants in the capital here.
Peking Duck is a famous Beijing specialty served at many restaurants, but there are quite a few restaurants dedicated to the art of roasting the perfect duck. Expect to pay around ¥40 per whole duck at budget-range establishments, and ¥160-200 at high-end restaurants. Peking duck (北京烤鸭 Bĕijīng kăoyā) is served with thin pancakes, plum sauce (甜面酱 tiánmiàn jiàng),and slivers of scallions and cucumbers. You dip the duck in the sauce and roll it up in the pancake with a few slivers of scallions and cucumbers. The result is a mouthwatering combination of the cool crunchiness of the cucumber, the sharpness of the scallions, and the rich flavors of the duck.

  • Guolin Home-style Restaurant (郭林家常菜 Guōlín Jiācháng Cài). This well-kept secret among Chinese people has some of the tastiest and most inexpensive ducks in all of Beijing. Half a duck is just ¥68. And all its other delicious, innovative dishes keep customers coming back: be prepared for a bustling, noisy atmosphere, though the interior is often quite nice. Locations all over Beijing—look for a sign with two little pigs—including at Fangzhuang, Zhongguancun, Wudaokou, Xuanwu, and more. You can find one north of subway Ping'anli on Xinjiekou Nandajie at no.45 (in theory it is open till 21:30, should you find it closed there is a great cheap eaterie at no.150 whose menu has photos of some of the dishes). 

Beijing is also known for its mutton hotpot (涮羊肉 shuàn yáng ròu), which originally came from the Manchu people and emphasizes mutton over other meats. Like variations of hotpot (general name 火锅 huŏ guō) from elsewhere in China and Japan, hotpot is a cook-it-yourself affair in a steaming pot in the center of the table. Unlike Sichuan hotpot, mutton hotpot features a savory, non-spicy broth. If that's not exciting enough for you, you can also request a spicy broth (be aware that this is flaming red, filled with peppers, and not for the weak!). To play it safe and satisfy everyone, you can request a yuan-yang (鸳鸯 yuānyáng) pot divided down the middle, with spicy broth on one side and regular broth on the other. Raw ingredients are purchased by the plate, including other types of meat and seafood, vegetables, mushrooms, noodles, and tofu, so it's also perfectly possible to have vegetarian hotpot. A dipping sauce, usually sesame, is served as well; you can add chilis, garlic, cilantro, etc., to customize your sauce. While "raw" sounds dangerous, boiling the meat yourself is the best way to ensure that more risky meats like pork are fully cooked and free of germs. In the city center, hotpot can run as much as ¥40-50 per person, but on the outskirts, it can be found for as little as ¥10-25. Low-budget types may reuse the spices or cooking broth from previous guests, although it has been boiling for several hours.
Beijing provides an ideal opportunity to sample food from all over the country. Some of Beijing's best restaurants serve food from Sichuan, Hunan, Guangzhou, Tibet, Yunnan, Xinjiang, and more.
For vegetarians, Beijing's first pure vegetarian buffet restaurant is located a Confucius Temple, see Dongcheng District for further detail.
Origus has numerous locations throughout Beijing and offers an all-you-can-eat pizza/pasta buffet for ¥39, including soft drinks and dessert bar. If you're in the mood for the Texan fare, head for the Tim's Texas BBQ near the Jianguomen subway station. They'll happily provide you with your favorite American food and drink. Tony Roma's has a location in Wangfujing (in the Oriental Plaza). Korean restaurants are also very common in Beijing. A frequent meal is the grill-it-yourself barbeque, including beef, chicken, and seafood items as well as some vegetables including greens and potatoes.
All luxury hotels have at least one restaurant, which can be of any cuisine they believe their guests will enjoy. You will find French, Italian, American, and Chinese restaurants in most hotels. Restaurants that serve abalone and shark fins are considered the most expensive restaurants in the city. Expect to pay upwards of ¥800 for a "cheap" meal at one of these restaurants, much more if splurging.


Tea, tea, and more tea! Some shops are in malls, and others are stand-alone establishments. Whatever their location, always ask the price before ordering or else brace yourself for the most expensive egg-sized cup of tea in the world. You can experience different styles of tea ceremonies and tea tastings at tea houses especially in the Qianmen area south of Tiananmen Square. These can range widely in quality and price. Some tea houses are tourist traps whose main goal is to milk you for your money (See warning box). You can get a free tea demonstration at most Tenrenfu tea houses which are located throughout the city and at some malls. A private room or a quiet back table in a tea house with mid-range tea for two should cost ¥100-200. After an afternoon in such shops, the remaining tea is yours to take home. Once the tea is ordered, the table is yours for as long as you like.
As a tea-loving country and grower of much of the world's tea, coffee is not as easy to find but a taste for it—along with more expats dotted throughout Beijing—has seen more emerging middle class and students drinking it. For example, the city alone has 50 Starbucks locations. Most are situated around shopping malls and in commercial districts of the city. Other international chains such as Costa Coffee, Pacific Coffee and so on also have locations around Beijing. Coffee of varying qualities is also available in the ubiquitous Taiwanese style coffee shops such as Shangdao Coffee. These are usually located on the second floor of buildings and often offer Blue Mountain Styled Coffee, making places like restaurants seem a real bargain. Most coffee shops will offer wireless. Baristas in non-chain coffee shops may not be educated on how to make accepted espresso drinks, like lattes and cappuccinos. Espressos of Kaffa Cafe, a local coffee enterprise, and coffee technical developing organization, usually taste better and are more consistent.
Chinese beer can be quite good. The most preferred beer in China is Tsingtao (青岛 Qīngdǎo), but in Beijing, the city's homebrew is Yanjing beer (燕京 Yànjīng) and has a dominating presence in the city (Yanjing being the city's name from its time 2,000 years ago as capital of the state of Yan). Beer mostly comes in large bottles and has 3.1%-3.6 alcohol content. Both Yanjing and Qingdao come in standard (普通 pǔtōng) and pure (纯生 chúnshēng) varieties; the difference mainly seems to be the price. Beijing Beer (北京啤酒 Běijīng Píjiǔ)is the probably the third most popular brand. Craft beers are also making an appearance in Beijing, with specialty beers found in various German-themed restaurants throughout the city, as well as Beijing's first dedicated microbrewery, Great Leap Brewing (大跃), located in East Beijing's charming hutongs.
Great Wall is the most popular local brand of grape wine. Wine made in China does not have a great reputation, though this is changing. Giving wine as a gift is not a common custom in most places in China, and most people will not be accustomed to wine etiquette or appreciation (white wine is often mixed with Sprite). Imported red wines are usually of better quality and can be found in big supermarkets, good import stores, and some restaurants.
The most common hard liquor is baijiu (白酒 báijiǔ), made from distilled grain (usually sorghum) spirits. It comes in a variety of brands and generally for very low prices (¥8 for a small bottle) and should be avoided if you want to have a clear mind for your travels on the next day. One famous local style is called Erguotou (二锅头 Èrguōtóu), which has about 40-60% alcohol content and is made by several companies. It should be noted that the local Erguotou is sold in gallon containers, often on the same shelf as water and with a similar price-range and indistinguishable color. Care must be made not to confuse the two. Maotai (茅台 Máotái), the national liquor, is one of the more expensive brands, and it used to cost about as much as an imported bottle of whiskey—but now it costs a lot more. Wuliangye (五粮液) is another high-end brands. Due to its mild taste, Wuliangye might be a better option for first-time baijiu drinker. A large selection of imported liquor can be found at most bars and big supermarkets. One should better buy expensive liquor (both domestic and imported) from big supermarkets to avoid fake ones.

Shopping in Beijing, China

Throughout nearly all markets in Beijing, haggling is essential. Especially when browsing through large, "touristy" shopping areas for common items, do not put it beneath your dignity to start bargaining at 15% of the vendor's initial asking price. In fact, in the most "touristy" markets final prices can often be as low as 15%-20% of the initial asking price, and "removing a zero" isn't a bad entry point in the bargaining process. After spending some time haggling, never hesitate to threaten walking away, as this is often the quickest way to see a vendor lower his or her prices to a reasonable level. Buying in bulk or groups may also lower the price. How high or low the vendor sets the asking price depends on the customer, the vendor, the product's popularity, and even the time of day. Vendors also tend to target visible minorities more, such as Caucasians or people of African descent.
There are some interesting markets around Beijing where you can find all cheap (and often fake) stuff. Some of the most popular places are Xizhimen in Xicheng District, Silk Street or Panjiayuan in Chaoyang District and Hong Qiao Market in Chongwen District.
As an alternative to the markets, you can go to some of the shopping areas lined with shops. This includes Nanluoguoxiang in Dongcheng District and Qianmen Dajie Pedestrian Street, Dashilan and Liulichang in Xuanwu District.
If you are looking for traditional Chinese food shops, try Yinhehua Vegetarian in Dongcheng District, Daoxiangcun, Liubiju or The Tea Street in Xuanwu District and Chongwenmen Food Market in Chongwen District.
Visiting hotel shops and department stores is not the most characterful shopping in China, but worth a look. While significantly more expensive, they are less likely to sell truly low-quality goods. The old style of Chinese retailing is gradually being transformed by shops with a better design sense, and souvenir items are getting better each year. Silk clothing, table settings and so on and other spots around town, are worth a look, as are porcelain, specialty tea, and other traditional items. Some of the most popular areas for this kind of shopping are Wangfujing and The Malls at Oriental Plaza both in Dongcheng District as well as Xidan in Xicheng District.


The carpet business is strong in Beijing, and you will find all manner of stores selling silk carpets and other varieties.

Safety in Beijing, China

Despite its size, Beijing is a very safe city, and violent crime is extremely rare. However, tourists are often preyed upon by cheats and touts, who attempt to pull some scams on tourists. Be especially cautious in the inner city, around Tiananmen Square, and on the tourist-crowded routes to the Great Wall.
On the other hand, fears of scams have led many travelers to be overly dismissive of Chinese people who approach them. Many Chinese are tourists in their capital for the first time as well, and they are genuinely curious about foreigners and may just want to practice their English and get a picture with you. Being asked to have your picture taken is very common, and there are no known scams associated with this. Be friendly but don't feel pressured to go somewhere you hadn't planned on going in the first place. If you are outside the tourist areas then your chances of being scammed drop dramatically.
Chinese people are very friendly to travelers and expats in general; seeing through a scam requires the same common sense as traveling anywhere in the world. Beijing scams are not particularly innovative or brutal in world-wide comparison, and as long as you keep your wallet out of sight, you can always walk away without fear of violence or theft. That said, there are some common scams to be aware of.

For tours to the Great Wall, be wary: the driver might just stop and set you off before your destination. Only pay afterward if you are sure to be at the destination. Do not go for organized tours to the Great Wall in the ¥100-150 range that is advertised by people handing out flyers around the Forbidden City (or in the latest scam, masquerading as the real bus service to the Great Wall which only costs ¥20, but is guaranteed to waste your entire day). Conveniently you are picked up from your hotel (so they know where to get back at you, in case you will not pay), you end up on a shopping tour, and afterward, you have to pay upfront to get back to the city. Of course, there are exceptions, and people showing letters of recommendation from their previous travels and pictures are usually ok, as are people offering trips to the wilder parts of the Great Wall (i.e., not Badaling or Juyong). Shopping tours are also advertised from certain hotels; ask in advance for a tour without shopping to be sure.
At the Bird's Nest, there will be people trying to sell you small items, such as Beijing 2008 Memorabilia, or toys that seem fun to play with. They will tell you that they are offering it to you for much less, then after you pay for your item, shortly after they will claim you never paid for it and will follow you around until you either give it back or pay again. Usually, they offer items to you at very good deals, but don't fall for the trick; you'll end up paying double, if not more.
Do not be tricked by students or young adults offering to go out for a beer or coffee to practice their English. Some scam artists will run up an elaborate bill by ordering food or alcohol and then expect you to pay for it or even half whether or not you do or do not eat the food they order. In Chinese culture, if someone invites you out for tea or dinner they pay the bill. If you are feeling this situation is about to happen, shift credit cards out of your wallet by going to the bathroom or while sitting at the table. The scam artists can be working with the restaurant, and the restaurant will ask you to pay with a credit card. Another sign, if it is a scam, is if they ask to follow you to a bank or back to your hotel to get additional money to pay them back. These people can come on very nice and come off as very nice people. If they want to follow you back to your hotel or hostel have them wait in the lobby and do not return. These people will likely avoid confrontation and eventually leave. These cases tend to happen mainly when you are alone. In any case, be nice and refuse politely; that will do the job for you.
Do not follow any "students" or Chinese "tourists" wanting to show you something. They are most likely scammers or semi-scammers. Examples include "art students" who bring you to their "school exhibition" and pressure you to buy art at insanely inflated prices. Tea sampling is another scam. It is free to sample tea for locals, but for should ask. Always get prices in advance and keep the menu if you are concerned. In one incident, after sampling 5 types of tea with two "students," a group of tourists was confronted with a bill for ¥1260! They even produced an English menu with the extortionate prices for sampling. Young attractive female "students" also try to lure male tourists to shops, restaurants or night clubs. The prices at such places can be extremely high for basically nothing.
In 2010 there were reports of aggression against people of foreign descent in Beijing from one club, in particular, Latte. The US embassy released a note in 2010 advising citizens of the USA not to go there. There are few details of what happened there. Since then many travelers and local expats have frequented there without incidence. These seem to have been isolated occurrences.
Fake alcohol can sometimes be a problem, not frequently but sometimes. A good rule is that if it seems a lot cheaper than other places you've been than you might want to think hard about whether to take that ¥5 or ¥10 shot. It might be cheap for a reason. For information on which bars serve fake alcohol and which ones don't check any local review site. You can find these sites pretty easily; they are just a search away.
Fake cigarettes can also be an issue. Be careful when making any purchases. Although it will be very hard for you to guess unless you are an expert smoker who knows his cigarettes like he does his wine.
Take care when offered a ride in a rickshaw (pedicab). Make sure you and your driver know where you are going to be taken in advance and agree on a price in writing. If not, you might get into an argument with the driver and end up paying a lot more than is fair. 
Be wary of fake money. You may observe Chinese people inspecting their money carefully, and with a reason: there are a lot of counterfeit bills in circulation. The most common are 100's and 50's. A few tips for identifying counterfeit bills:
Be very careful if someone wants to give back the largest currency bill by the excuse of "no change." In an attempt to pass you a counterfeit bill they may tell you that they have lowered the price for your benefit. Or, they may ask you to contribute an additional sum to pass you the ¥100. If they give you back all the change money plus the coins on top (though coins are rare in Beijing) take your time to check each bill carefully.
Another version of the above trick is when a vendor refuses to accept your ¥100 bill claiming that it's fake. The truth is most likely that he took your genuine bill and discretely changed it to a fake one which he now is trying to give back to you. Hard to prove unless you saw the swap.
To check any ¥50 and ¥100 bill you get, do this: most importantly, check the paper. If its torn, thin or very slippery, ask for a different bill. Next, check the watermark, it should blur out softly. If there are hard visible corners in the watermark, reject the bill. Last, check the green "100" imprint on the lower left corner. It should be painted on the bill so you can both feel and see a relief. If it's missing or not palpable, reject the bill also. Rejecting bills is not considered impolite. It is perfectly acceptable to hand back a bill and ask for a different one. If the vendor gets upset, you should consider canceling the purchase and moving on. If the coloring of a banknote is faded, it does not necessarily mean it is fake.

Traffic can be crazy in Beijing, and reckless driving is fairly normal. People honk all the time. Honking is not usually considered rude. It is simply another way to indicate that the driver is there. Be prepared for drivers to violate traffic laws even to the extent of going in reverse on highways to back up to a missed exit or driving on a sidewalk. Also, expect occasional road debris (a piece of wood or torn out tire) to be laying in the roadway. Pedestrians should be very careful crossing the street: People will stop for you, but they will honk. Keep an eye on the locals and cross with them — there is strength in numbers.

Free emergency telephone numbers:

Police: 110.
Fire alarm: 119.
Medical care: 120.

Remember these three telephone numbers; they are valid in almost every part of China.

Stay healthy

Tap water in Beijing is not safe for drinking. Locals always boil the tap water before they drink it, and you should too. Hygiene for cooked food is not an issue. Chinese people place a lot of emphasis on the freshness of their food, so any food you eat is usually cooked to order. However, be wary if you plan to eat cold or raw dishes.
Air pollution and Smog has traditionally been a big problem in Beijing like any other big city in China. Car exhaust, coal burning, and dust storms from the Gobi desert combine to make some of the worst city air on the planet. Winter is the worst time as the cold air creates an inversion layer and traps the pollution in the city. In 2013, Beijing was in the news for a sudden spike in its smog. The air quality was "beyond index," which can be fatal to those who are sensitive to air pollution.
It's a good idea to check the air-quality readings online first thing every morning, as well as the weather forecast for any expected winds or precipitation that may mitigate it later in the day. The regular readings from the U.S. embassy's air-quality monitor are on Twitter and thus blocked; however, they are mirrored at sites like this. If it is "unhealthy" or "hazardous," consider cutting back on your activities if they are likely to involve a lot of walking outside, in favor of visits to museums or shops. If you have a flexible schedule and plan to visit the Jinshanling Great Wall, the distance may get you away from the smog if you are lucky.
There are many hospitals in Beijing, but the public hospitals that most locals visit are not up to the standard that foreigners from Western countries are used to. Also, it is unlikely that any of the doctors or nurses would be able to communicate in English. Ambulance services are unreliable, and in the event of an emergency, taking a taxi is usually much quicker. There are several private hospitals in Beijing that are set up specifically to cater to expatriates, the most well known and expensive one being Beijing United Family Healthcare. The doctors and nurses at these hospitals can speak English, and the standard of care is usually far superior to what the local Chinese have to put up with. However, they are very expensive if you are not covered by insurance. Go to US Embassy's medical facilities listing for a complete list.

Language spoken in Beijing, China

The language of Beijing is Mandarin Chinese. Standard Mandarin itself was the administrative language of the Ming and Qing dynasties and was based mainly on the Beijing dialect. For language students, this makes studying in Beijing an excellent chance to learn the language in a relatively pure form. That being said, Beijing dialect contains nasal "er" sounds at the end of many words. Hence the ubiquitous lamb kabobs (羊肉串 yáng ròu chuàn) become "yáng ròu chuànr." Also, the Beijing dialect consists of many local slangs which have not been incorporated into standard Mandarin. Beijing taxi drivers are famously chatty and will gladly engage students of the language offering excellent chances to practice the language and get a feel for the changes in the city and country from an "Old Beijinger."
English is spoken by staff at the main tourist attractions, as well as at major hotels. Otherwise, English speakers are not common, so always get your hotel's business card to show the taxi driver in case you get lost. Likewise, have staff at your hotel write down the names of any tourist attraction you plan to visit in Chinese so that locals can point you out in the right direction.


3:04 am
August 21, 2019


20.95 °C / 69.71 °F
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28.24 °C/83 °F
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