This incredible city with a population of 12 million is the heart of political and economic activity in China. Following the democratic revolution against feudalism and imperialism which began in 1919, Chairman Mao founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and named Beijing as the capital.
The second largest city in China, Beijing is a focal point for education and culture, with over 30 universities and 60 hospitals, and innumerable museums, theatres, and other cultural attractions. The 2 million inhabitants enrolled in education are proof of its dedication to learning, and it houses the highest number of professional and technical personnel in the country.
Beijing has held a position of importance in China since the 10th century, when it served as the second capital of the Liao Dynasty, 1000 years after its origin as the small town of Ji in 1045 BC; its role as the capital has persevered through the Jin, Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties, all the way to the present day.
Named after the Tian’anmen Gate, ‘the Gate of Heavenly Peace’, this 122 acre square can hold half a million people, and is a popular spot to admire the twelve Jinshuiqiao, ‘Gold Water Bridges’ which span the Gold Water River. It has been the site of many important events in Chinese history, including the proclamation of the founding of the People’s Republic of China by Chairman Mao, whose remains are embalmed here.
Forbidden City – Imperial Palace Museum
Also known as the ‘Forbidden City’ or ‘Gugong’, the Imperial Palace was the residence of the imperial ruler of China for 491 years, through the reigns of 24 emperors. Covering an astounding 180 acres, with 9000 rooms and encircled by a 170 foot wide moat and a 10 metre high wall, the site is now home to the Palace Museum, which holds more than 900,000 priceless artefacts and is acknowledged as the most important collection of Chinese cultural objects in the world.
Great Wall of China
This immense fortification is one of the largest building projects ever carried out, stretching 4,500 miles from the Shan-hai Pass near Po Hai to the Chia-yü Pass in Kansu Province. Sections of the wall were built between the 7th to the 4th century BC as defensive structures for various castles of rival kingdoms; in the 3rd century these were connected to form a single stretch of wall by Shih Huang-ti, the first emperor of China as a united country. Although the wall has degenerated somewhat, it is still a remarkable sight as it marches its way through the Chinese countryside. Wide at the base and narrow at the top, the wall consists of a shell of rectangular slabs of stone in-filled with rubble, soil, and sand; it is topped with square bricks and limestone. Private lunch or dinner can be arranged on top of the wall.
Once known as ‘the Garden of Clear Ripples’, the Summer Palace is a vast expanse of beautifully landscaped parkland with a history stretching back for 800 years. Emperor Qian Long built the palace in the 12th century and surrounded it with extensive gardens, naming them ‘Longevity Hill’ after his mother. Having been raided and plundered, first by English and French forces, and then by the eight powers, the Summer Palace was restored by the Empress Dowager Cixi in 1903 to the glory it still retains today.
Temple of Heaven
This temple, built in 1420, was the place where the emperor performed private rites and sacrifices to appease the gods of water, agriculture, war, and religion, fulfilling his considerable responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of the whole population. The fascinating structure and décor of the temple reflects ancient Chinese beliefs that heaven was round and the earth square. Previously a private sanctuary, the temple was opened to the public in 1912.
Yong He Gong Lama Temple
The largest and best-preserved Lama temple in Han China, the Yong He Hong Temple was built in the Qing Dynasty, combining Han, Manchu, Mongolian, and Tibetan architecture. It houses an incredible collection of carvings, carpentry, and statues, made from gold, silver, copper, iron, and tin, including a 26 metre-high Buddha, as well as many other cultural artefacts and Buddhist art.
Dating from as early as 1413, the Ming Tombs, or ‘Shisanling’, are the burial sites for 13 of the 16 Ming emperors, and are situated 50km North West of Beijing in beautiful natural surroundings. Passing through an impressive archway dating from 1540, visitors walk a road flanked with engravings of animals and individuals, before visiting one of three tombs open to the public: Changling is the oldest and largest of the tombs, Dingling dates from the 16th century, and the less-frequented Zhaoling is the most recent.
The innermost of the city’s numerous defensive fortifications, the Hutongs, whose name comes from the Mongolian meaning ‘lanes’ or ‘paths’, are alleys created by walls spanning the gaps between buildings left by the Mongols. With more than 7000 hutongs to explore, some as narrow as 0.7m in width, visitors can spend many a happy hour wandering through the surprisingly well ordered lanes, each of which has an individual name and correspondingly fascinating story. Behind the walls that form the hutongs are the ‘Siheyuan’, hidden courtyards which are a tranquil space away from the bustle of the city. Displaying many traditional features and decorated with colourful designs, these courtyards used to house one family, but are now home to 4 or 5 as the population of the city continues to grow.
Built in 2008 for the Olympic Games, the National Stadium lies in the Olympic Green Village and serves as a tourist attraction as well as a venue for international or domestic sports events. Designed by, among others, Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, and the Chinese architect Li Xinggang, the functional beauty of the stadium was left to speak for itself as the steel structure was left unconcealed and unadorned. The shape of the stadium has earned it the nickname ‘The Bird’s Nest’, and it is said to cradle Beijing’s hopes for the future in its encompassing structure. With a project cost of around 33 million dollars, and having taken 5 years to construct, the stadium is well worth a visit.
National Aquatics Centre
Also known as the ‘Water Cube’, this impressive four floor building covers an area of 63,000 square metres, and houses the official swimming facility for the 2008 Olympic Games. Housing a 17,000 seat auditorium, as well as a tourist floor and the service area for the Olympic Games, the National Aquatics Centre sits to the west of the National Stadium in the Olympic Green Village.
798 Art District
Once the site of many state-owned factories producing electronics, including its namesake, Factory 798, this district has become synonymous with the cutting edge in contemporary art, architecture, and culture, housing galleries, studios, design companies, restaurants, and bars. Home to an eclectic mix of developmental alternative artists, the 798 Art District hosts world-class international and Chinese exhibitions, and has a strong influence on Chinese conceptualisation of urban culture and living space.
Beijing Sidecar Tour
The sidecar tour is a great way to see the lesser-known gems of Beijing without setting foot on busy public transport; see the hidden hutongs and markets, cruise through the beautiful hilly landscape of Beijing and enjoy a picnic on the Great Wall. Choose from one of three options: Beijing in a nutshell, a speedy overview of the city in 2 or 4 hours; Beijing in a glance, a one-day city tour; or the Wild Great Wall tour, an unmissable full day tour of the countryside and mountains, including a hike on the Great Wall.
Beijing Shichahai Sports School Kung Fu Class
The Beijing Shichahai Sports School is a prestigious institution training more than 800 athletes ranging from 6 to 30 years old, cultivating them to become high-level sports professionals. The esteem in which it is held is reflected by its many and varied visitors, including the King of Jordan, the President of the Commonwealth of the Dominican Republic, and the boxer Evander Holyfield, among others.
Rebuild the Great Wall
Help to rebuild a few bricks of a 400 year-old ruin of the Great Wall, a short distance from downtown Beijing; you’ll be presented with a certificate for your part in the restoration of this 2000 year-old wonder of the world, and given a pair of gloves to remember the experience by. You can also enjoy a champagne celebration on the wall, or even a private meal.
See the sights of China in style, from a bird’s eye view; you’ll be picked up from your hotel and driven to Badalang airport to board a safe and comfortable helicopter. Choose from one of two options: a 15 minute stunning aerial tour of the Badalang Great Wall; or a 30 minute trip which also includes the Yeya Lake, the largest lake in Northern China whose 1.5 million square metre surrounding wetland is home to an amazing 264 species of bird. You even have a chance to fly the helicopter yourself!
Gaobeidian Village Traditional Chinese Handicraft Class
Unlike many villagers who lost their land to the urbanization movement, the people of Gaobeidian opted to refuse the pay-off of the developers and instead decided to focus on giving visitors the chance to experience the culture and arts of the Chinese countryside. Home to many folk artists, Gaobeidian is a great place to learn about skills such as Peking Opera face painting, Chinese calligraphy, and traditional Chinese painting.
Lunch or Gala Dinner on the Great Wall
Return home with an unforgettable experience: an elegant and specially catered lunch or dinner on the Great Wall, with your company banner flying and a stirring drumming performance to entertain and delight.