There are so many historic sites in Beijing that the most important ones require at least few days of sightseeing.
The biggest attraction is the Forbidden City - the seat of emperors of Ming and Qing dynasties dating from the fifteenth century, which is located in the centre of the capital. Its construction lasted 15 years – with 100,000 artists and artisans, as well as a million workers. It is one of the largest palaces in the world – it occupies the area 72 hectares and according to legend it has 9999 rooms. For this reason, in 1987, the Forbidden City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Forbidden City includes, among others, imperial gardens, the private apartments of the Emperor (Palace of Eternal Spring, Unity Pavilion, Palace of Training the Mind and the Palace of Heavenly Purity), the throne room, Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Central Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony , as well as several museums (Museum of Bronze, Museum of Clocks, Museum of Art). Due to the great number of rooms, tourists are not able to go through the whole complex - visiting the most important buildings and gardens requires several hours.
To the south of the Forbidden City is the Tiananmen Square – the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the largest square in the world, it is 800 meters long and 300 meters wide. Here is the mausoleum of Mao Zedong and the Monument to the People's Heroes, 38 meters high. Tiananmen Square is known for many groundbreaking political events - to this day it is a place for military parades and celebrations of the most important national holidays.
Northeast of the center of Beijing, there is the Lama Temple with fascinating traditional Chinese architecture. It is one of the largest and most important temples of Tibetan Buddhism - the entire complex covers an area of 60,000 square meters. It is also known as the Palace of Harmony and Peace, as it was originally the residence of one of the Chinese princes, and was later converted to a temple. It comprises, inter alia, the Pavilion of Eternal Happiness, the Pavilion of the Circle of Rights, the Wanfu Pavilion, and a 18-meter statue of Buddha of the Future. It opened for visitors only in 1981 - since then every year it is visited by over a million tourists.
Taoist Temple of Heaven, situated in the southern part of the city, is yet another monument which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is one of the most important religious places of the Empire period. The whole temple complex occupies an area of 2.73 km² and belongs to the Palace of Prayer for Good Harvests with a distinctive three eaves blue roof symbolizing the sky, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and the Round Altar, which once housed the Throne of Heaven. Currently, the place where it stood is considered by the Chinese as the centre of the Empire and the world. According to the custom one should stand on it and stomp on, that is why every day there are crowds of people waiting for their turn.
Visitors are also greatly impressed by the Summer Palace of Chinese emperors - a vast palace complex away from the center, built on Longevity Hill and around the Kunming lake. It occupies an area of 70 thousand m2. Around it is a park that represents garden solutions typical of Chinese culture. Nearly 70% of its area is occupied by artificial lakes. The entire complex is more than 3,000 buildings - arbours, residence, halls, etc.
Near Beijing, one can also see the portion of the Great Wall of China - one of the most important tourist attractions in the world, which ranks among the seven new wonders of the world. Its total length is not known - it is estimated that it may be about 6700 km. Currently, in the area of Beijing there are 6 major parts of this monument.
An unusual attraction for tourists, especially in winter, is a Chinese Taoyuan valley situated in Beijing, which is one of the most beautiful places in the world. In January and February its waterfalls freeze and turn into ice rock, which attracts many lovers of mountain climbing.
A visit to a Beijing hairdresser can also be a surprising experience for western tourists. The standard is that during washing the barber gives a customer a professional massage of head, neck, shoulders and back, which lasts usually one hour. During the massage the client rests in a comfortable reclining position. After an intense day of touring it guarantees a moment of relaxation!
Distinctive local dishes include seafood - especially shrimp - and green tea. In China, tea cup is filled repeatedly with warm water, therefore preserving all its richness, e.g. valuable compounds such as flavonoids. More sophisticated traditional dishes include Peking duck with crispy crust and a thin layer of fat. Preparation and serving of this dish is a whole ritual. Duck pieces dipped in plum sauce are wrapped in a thin pancake with chopped cucumber and shallot.
The specialty, for which Beijing is known, is a hot pot, or Asian way of cooking food. Guests choose the type of broth, and then put selected additives - vegetables, tofu, seafood, lamb, pasta - and cook them in special vessels the built into tables. This is served with a sauce, which may be seasoned, and wherein the cooked dish is soaked.
In Beijing one can also taste the dishes typical of other parts of China. The eastern part of the country features dishes with the addition of mushrooms, bamboo and soy sauce. The most popular dishes are dried salted duck, dried steamed tofu or pork meatballs in crab sauce. Western areas use ginger, Sichuan pepper and red peppers, and a characteristic dish is gongbao chicken. Dishes characteristic of southern China include rice noodle rolls and various kinds of dumplings and steamed buns, and characteristic ingredients are corn starch or oyster sauce. Cuisines in all parts of China have a wealth of flavours, which are usually hot and distinct, and intense aromas of dishes. Great attention is also paid to the appearance of food.
Most of the restaurants in Beijing are open from dawn to dusk. Many of them serve small snacks, buns, dumplings, pancakes made with fresh ingredients. They are served extremely fast and are therefore very popular among tourists who want to take a break from sightseeing and eat a small meal.
Beijing is not only the city full of tourist sites. It has numerous larger and smaller stores located primarily at Wangfujing Street.
Beijing Zoo Fashion District, is located at Xizhenmen Wai Street opposite the Beijing Zoo and can boast a wide range of shopping offers.
Liulichang is called Antique Shops Area, as its history dates back over 900 years. Here are the most famous antique shops in Beijing.
Beijing has several subway lines, more than 700 bus lines and about 70 thousand taxis, which makes getting around the city very easy. Bicycles are a popular means of transport among residents, because they allow for bypassing the most congested streets. Beijing has plenty bicycle rentals providing them for a small fee. One can also use a rickshaw, which is cheaper than taxis.
One has to remember that it is not possible to buy Chinese currency outside China. Therefore, you should buy dollars in Poland and exchange dollars for yuans upon arrival to Beijing. This is best done in the branches of the Bank of China, for which you need a passport. If you plan to return to Italy, you can exchange yuans for dollars only in China. In such a situation, you must show a receipt from the bank confirming that you previously exchanged dollars for yuans.
Golf is becoming increasingly popular in China. Golf courses are located mainly near large cities such as Beijing. The scorching and humid summer caused that Beijing built many water parks and swimming pools.