Beijing, formerly known as Peking, serves as the captivating capital city of China. Nestled in the northern region of the country, Beijing stands as a cultural, economic, and political hub. It is bordered by Hebei province and the municipality of Tianjin, making it a significant national and international transportation junction.
Why Beijing Deserves Your Visit
As one of China’s six ancient cities and one of its four ancient capitals, Beijing entices both foreign and domestic travelers with its rich historical heritage. Boasting a history spanning over 3,000 years, Beijing serves as a source of inspiration. Annually, it welcomes approximately 140 million Chinese visitors and 4.4 million foreign tourists. Its international airport, the second busiest worldwide, provides convenient access to the city. Once within Beijing, navigating the metropolis is a breeze due to its extensive subway network, the world’s busiest and second-largest, second only to Shanghai.
Beijing’s historical significance is evident through its preserved inner and outer city walls. The city showcases numerous historical attractions, including palaces, parks, gardens, tombs, temples, walls, and fortified gates. Its museums house treasured artifacts from around the world, while its esteemed universities establish Beijing as a prominent center for learning. Furthermore, the city boasts seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, all of which serve as popular tourist destinations and offer an abundance of activities to enrich your visit.
The Best Time to Visit Beijing
To experience the most pleasant weather, plan your visit to Beijing between September and October. During these months, temperatures become cooler after the hot and humid summer season, which reaches highs of 37°C (99°F) in July and August. Summer can be uncomfortably hot and attracts a significant number of visitors. Winter, on the other hand, brings chilly temperatures, dropping as low as -15°C (5°F) in January. May and June also present favorable weather conditions once the windy spring season subsides.
Where to Stay in Beijing
When it comes to accommodation, Beijing offers a multitude of options based on location and preference. Hotels near the airport are ideal for those with late arrivals or early departures, but they may not be conveniently situated for exploring the city’s attractions. Budget-conscious travelers can find Western-style hostels and hotels in districts like Dongcheng and Xuanwu, with dorm rooms starting from CNY50 and double rooms at cheaper hotels costing around CNY200.
Three and four-star hotels are scattered throughout the city and range from CNY500 to CNY1000 per night. Discounts are often available on the listed prices. The most luxurious hotels, typically found in Dongcheng and Chaoyang districts, offer top-rated facilities but come with a higher price tag. Further away from the city center, resort hotels offer accommodations ranging from CNY1500 to CNY4000 per night, providing a luxurious escape.
Where and What to Eat in Beijing
Beijing’s renowned culinary treasure is undoubtedly the Beijing Duck, available at numerous establishments throughout the city. A whole duck typically costs around CNY90, while more upscale restaurants may charge around CNY200. For budget-friendly dining, explore the world of street food and local snacks, such as savory pancakes, which can be enjoyed for as little as CNY2-3.
The vibrant Sanlitun area in the Chaoyang district offers some of Beijing’s finest shopping districts, hosting numerous foreign embassies and an array of excellent dining options. Budget meals at local restaurants can be enjoyed for CNY15-20 per dish. For a diverse selection of mid-range Chinese and international cuisines, expect to spend between CNY80 and CNY200. Those seeking upscale dining experiences can indulge at Bei, located on Sanlitun Road, offering a fusion of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cuisine, with meals averaging around CNY300 per person. Additionally, Beijing boasts some of China’s best vegetarian and vegan food options, with mid-range restaurants charging approximately CNY80 per person.
Getting Around Beijing
The most convenient mode of transportation within Beijing is the subway system. As mainland China’s first subway system, it now boasts 22 lines and 370 stations, effectively serving most areas of the city. Fare prices range from CNY3 to CNY9. By 2020, the subway network is projected to expand to 30 lines, ensuring that 95% of residents within the fourth ring road are within a 15-minute walk of a subway station. Trains operate from 5 am, with the last trains departing at 11:15 pm.
With over 1,200 bus lines, Beijing offers an extensive bus network. Standard fares are typically CNY2, although utilizing the Yikatong metro card can reduce fares to as low as CNY1. Buses serve downtown areas, suburban regions, and offer night services. Tourist and sightseeing routes connect major attractions. Buses numbered below 200 operate from 5 am to 11 pm, while those above 300 run from 6 am to 10 pm.
With 67,000 taxis in operation, Beijing provides an additional transportation option. Starting at CNY13 for the first 3 km, each additional kilometer costs CNY2.3. If the taxi remains stationary for 5 minutes, an additional CNY2.3 is added to the fare. Official taxis in Beijing have license plates beginning with the letter ‘B.’ It is advisable to avoid unofficial taxis, as they are known for overcharging.
Getting To and From Beijing
Beijing Capital International Airport, located 32 km northeast of the city center, serves as the primary arrival point for international visitors. Air China, the national carrier, operates flights to 120 destinations domestically and internationally. Other Chinese airlines utilize the airport as a hub. With three terminals, it ranks as the world’s second-largest airport terminal and the second-busiest airport.
Traveling from Guangzhou to Beijing by air takes approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes, with fares starting from CNY1040. Short-haul international flights can sometimes be cheaper than domestic flights. For example, flying from Seoul, South Korea to Beijing takes exactly 2 hours and costs from CNY920. A direct flight from London to Beijing lasts just under ten hours, with prices starting from CNY11,520.
Multiple transportation options connect the airport to the city center. Taxis, ranging from CNY70 to CNY120 depending on the destination, are available, provided you join the official taxi line and avoid touts. The Airport Express train connects to Line 10 of the subway system, with a fare of CNY25. The last train departs at 11:10 pm. Airport Shuttle buses, departing every 10 to 30 minutes, offer various routes to locations across the city for CNY16.
Express buses provide direct transportation to Beijing from numerous destinations throughout China. With over 20 long-distance bus stations, the city offers multiple departure points, and some destinations are served by more than one station. Express buses primarily utilize faster expressways, ensuring comfortable journeys with durations ranging from one to twelve hours. Fares vary from CNY100 to CNY600. Sleeper buses equipped with bunk beds are slower but provide affordable alternatives for those willing to trade travel time for cost-effectiveness.
Beijing features four major train stations. Beijing Station, located in the city center, serves both normal and high-speed trains, traveling to thenorth and south. A high-speed train journey from Beijing to Xian takes approximately 4 hours and 20 minutes, with fares starting from CNY515 for a second-class seat. Slower normal trains to Xian operate nine times a day, with a travel time of over 11 hours and fares starting from CNY288.5 for a hard sleeper.
Beijing South Railway Station primarily serves high-speed trains traveling to the northeast or southeast, including Shanghai. A second-class seat on a train to Shanghai costs around CNY553 and takes approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes.
Beijing North Railway Station is currently closed for renovations and is scheduled to reopen by the end of 2019.
Is Beijing a Safe Place to Visit?
Generally, Beijing is considered a safe city, with instances of violent crimes against foreigners being extremely rare. The city maintains one of the lowest crime rates in Asia. However, petty crimes like pickpocketing can occur, particularly in tourist areas, buses, or crowded subway cars during rush hour.
Certain areas of Beijing are deemed unsafe, but as a tourist, it is highly unlikely that you will find yourself in these areas. Even if you were to request a taxi to take you there, drivers would likely refuse.
Beijing houses numerous international hospitals, making it well-equipped to handle medical emergencies. Should you require medical attention while in China, Beijing is the best-equipped city to cater to your needs.