Beijing

The city of Beijing has long been the centre for art, culture and politics. It offers a fascinating introduction to China. The primary capital for more than seven centuries its ancient past includes stunning imperial residences and parks, walls and gates. Explore the tombs of the Ming Emperors and visit the hutongs, the alley neighborhoods. See what was hidden at the mysterious Forbidden City. Wonder at the beauty of the Temple of Heaven, enjoy the Summer Palace and the Beijing opera like an emperor. Feast like one during a traditional multi-course Chinese dinner. Modern Beijing offers famous shopping districts, broad boulevards and modern museums. Stand in awe in the middle of Tiananmen Square and wonder at the centuries of accomplishment of the Chinese people.

Travel to Beijing, whether it's your first stop towards the Silk Road or the highlight of your trip to China.

Tour Beijing; the heart and soul of Chinese politics and society. Its history and culture make it one of the most visited cities in the world. Its striking landmarks, both old and new include the magnificent Great Hall of the People next to Tiananmen Square ( the largest city square in the world), the 800 year old Marco Polo Bridge, the 2008 Olympic sites and the nearby Great Wall of China, the symbol of the nation and host to thousands of visitors annually.

Beijing offers a wealth of discovery to intrigue and entertain travelers. The Forbidden City was home to twenty-four emperors until 1924. Its walls kept out the world, but now at the very heart of the city, it links many of the most prominent thoroughfares. Its 980 surviving buildings, mazes of corridors and enormous walls are all part of the world's largest palace complex and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The impressive modern architectural styles surrounding Tiananmen Square including the Mao Zedong Mausoleum and the granite Monument to the People's Heroes obelisk stand in sharp contrast to the courtyard houses and hutongs scattered throughout the city. The hutong originated during the Yuan dynasty as courtyards developed around water wells. In the past Beijing was filled with countless numbers of these and a hutong was the passageway between two courtyards.

Beijing tours have something for everyone.

Museums, parks and gardens will keep even the most ardent tourist busy in Beijing. Tour the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a masterpiece of landscape design. Its roof is covered with gorgeous blue glazed tiles and the echo wall carries the slightest whisper. The Summer Palace was once the summer retreat of Qing dynasty emperors. Its park is famous for its grandeur and beauty and its temples, palaces, halls and bridges truly evocative of the extravagance of its time.

Located on the outskirts of Beijing are the thirteen tombs of the Ming Dynasty. The Sacred Road is lined with intricately carved stone creatures and statues leading up to the Great Palace Gate to the tombs which built as an underground palace for the emperors' afterlife. Thirteen emperors were buried here. Changling, chief of the tombs, and Dingling, a huge underground complex are open to the public.

The Great Wall of China is just a short trip out of Beijing. Originally designed to protect the Celestial Kingdom from the Mongols, its fortifications are wide enough for troops and wagons and guarded by watch towers at regular intervals. There are several sections accessible from Beijing, with fabulous views of the serpentine wall making its way across the hills and valleys.

Beijing Shopping and Dining

Shop and eat to your heart's content, Beijing is a gourmet delight! Traditionally known as Capital City cuisine, as the center of government for countless dynasties, it attracted the most skilled chefs from around China who brought their regional specialties with them. Whether it's traditional Imperial Court food, dishes from the numerous minority groups and regions, the two hundred-odd snack foods common to Beijing or the bronzed crispy skin and melt in your mouth flavour of a traditional Peking duck. Silk Road Treasure Tours has the inside scoop on the best places to satisfy your cravings for Chinese food!

Traditional Chinese handicrafts in Beijing include cloisonné, jade and lacquer. Get your name stamp carved into a lovely block of stone and find a red lacquer ink box for stamping. You can also find silk, pearls, painted snuff bottles and all manner of fun curios. On Maliandao Street you can indulge your love of tea in the largest tea market in the city. Along Silk Street there are about 300 stores crowded along the 1 li (547 yards) stretch. Bargains on bags, shoes, handicrafts or sweaters can be had by honing your haggling skills with the shopkeepers.