City guide: Beijing

China’s capital is the nexus of government, commerce and culture.

Beijing is many cities in one. It’s a 3,000-year-old city with ancient gardens and temples. It’s a thriving, technology-enhanced modern metropolis where nearly 22 million people live and work. It’s the seat of Chinese government and, therefore, the center of socialist market policies that have enabled the country to skyrocket to the world’s second-largest economy. Visitors to Beijing must follow strict guidelines on how to conduct themselves in social or business situations, but that hasn’t deterred them. The city draws about 4.4 million international visitors a year. Multi-faceted Beijing is an exciting destination for business and pleasure.

Getting to and from the airport

Beijing Capital International Airport is about 30 kilometers (19 miles) northeast of downtown. You can take a metered taxi from outside all three airport terminals. Expect the fare to be around 120 renminbi (internationally referred to as yuan or CNY). That’s about US$19.02 using the exchange rate US$1 to CNY6.31. Taxi fares start at CNY13 for the first three kilometers and then cost CNY2 per mile. Passengers pay extra for tolls, for journeys longer than 15 kilometers, during peak traffic (for which Beijing is infamous) and when travel speed falls below 12 kilometers per hour. Public transport options include the Capital Airport Express train, which stops at the airport’s Great Wall T2 and T3 terminals. The journey downtown takes 20 minutes with two stops—at Dongzhimen and Sanyuanqiao. The train connects to the main subway system. A single ticket costs CNY25.

Getting around Beijing

There are more than 66,000 taxis in Beijing, but they can be difficult to find, especially late at night. The Beijing Subway may be a faster; there are 21 lines, announcements are made in Chinese and English and the cost varies by distance. A rechargeable travel card requires a CNY20 deposit and a maximum CNY1,000 credit. You can recoup the deposit and any unused credits.

Where to stay

For luxury accommodation, try:

  • Shangri-La Hotel Beijing, 29 Zizhuyuan Road, Beijing 100089, Ph. +86 10 6841 2211
  • Conrad Beijing, 29 North Dongsanhuan Road, Chaoyang Beijing 100027, Ph. +86 10 6584 6000

For upscale lodging, check out:

  • Pan Pacific Beijing, No. 2 Hua Yuan St., Xicheng District, Beijing 100032, Ph. +86 10 6376 7777
  • Crowne Plaza Sun Palace Beijing, 12 Qisheng Middle Road, Taiyanggong Chaoyang District, Beijing 100028, Ph. +86 10 6429 8888

Mid-scale options include:

  • Aloft Beijing, Haidan, Tower 2 No. 25 Yuanda Road, Haidian District Beijing 100097, Ph. +86 10 8889 8000
  • Comfort Inn & Suites, 6 Gong Ti Bei Lu, Beijing 100027, Ph. +86 10 8523 5522

Things to see and do

BCD Travel’s Fibi Yu, a marketing specialist based in China, shares her recommendations for Beijing:

If you have a few hours to spare, escape the city center and take subway Line 4 to the Summer Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1998. Built as a playground for Chinese royalty, the 297 hectares of stunning landscapes, open water and man-made features became a public park in 1924. Entry costs CNY30 in high season from April to October with extra fees for certain gardens and galleries. Weekends during the summer can be crowded.

Another must-see UNESCO World Heritage site is the Great Wall of China. The most popular spot to reach it from Beijing is at Bedaling, around 60 kilometers northwest of the city, but visiting the wall at Mutianyu is less crowded. Entry costs CNY45. The steps are in good condition, with handrails and cable cars to help you on your way.

The Forbidden City is one of China’s top attractions and was the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Allow at least two to three hours to cover this stunning complex of 15th century palaces. It’s just north of Tiananmen Square, and can be reached on subway Line 1. Entry costs CNY40 from Nov. 1 to March 31; CNY60 from April 1 to Oct. 31.

Check out an amazing Chinese acrobatics performance at the Chaoyang Theater in the district of the same name. There are three performances daily, and ticket prices range from CNY220 to CNY700.

Tune into traditional Chinese medicine with a foot massage provided by a blind masseur. Beijing has a tradition of training blind masseuses in reflexology, which focuses on the feet to address a variety of ailments.

Where to eat

Beijing’s culinary options range from stalls selling street food to chic eateries. Note that locals usually eat dinner between 6 and 8 p.m.

Beijing’s signature dish is Summer Palace Peking duck—roasted duck eaten with pancakes, scallions and hoisin or sweet bean sauce. Try Duck de Chine at Courtyard 4, Gongti Beilu in the Chaoyang District; Ph. +86 10 6501 8881. The father-and-son team use a long-roasting method that creates full flavor.

For an upscale dining experience, go to My Humble House at Oriental Plaza Podium Level W3, Unit 01-07 No. 1, East Chang An Ave., Ph. +86 10 8518 8811.  The emphasis is on quality, artistic presentation and a mixture of traditional Chinese and international influences. Expect to pay CNY300 for a prix fixe lunch.

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