© Shirley Gong / Culture Trip

Insider Travel Guide to Beijing

Beijing, China’s sprawling capital city, is where the country’s long history of dynastic rule meets its ambition to become a high-tech giant. This dynamic plays out in the city’s architecture; ultra-modern structures built for the 2008 Olympics jar with the temples, palaces and hutongs (narrow alleyways) that have defined Beijing for centuries. With six UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Temple of Heaven and the enormous complex of palaces that make up the Forbidden City, Beijing thrums with imperial history. Many visitors use it as a base from which to explore the Great Wall of China; Badaling, the most frequented and best-known section of the wall, is within easy reach of the city.

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Beijing culture

It might be the epicentre of Chinese history, but today Beijing is the country’s capital of cool. Former brothels are now stylish coffee shops, traditional hutongs house tiki bars and microbreweries, and a revolving carousel of works at the achingly trendy 798 Art Zone places the city comfortably at the forefront of modern Chinese art. While new restaurants routinely pop up all over, the best of Beijing’s cuisine can be sampled at its old-school hotpot and Peking-duck restaurants. As China’s cultural capital, Beijing also serves up a superb showcase of traditional entertainment, including Peking-opera playhouses and breathtaking acrobatic shows at Chaoyang Theatre.

Neighborhoods in Beijing