City guide: Beijing

Ventures and adventures await visitors to this ancient capital.

The 2008 Olympic Games gave China an ideal opportunity to show the world what Beijing has to offer. While Shanghai and Hong Kong are well-established destinations for stunning skylines and international commerce, travelers are increasingly heading to Beijing for both business and pleasure. The 3,000-year-old northern capital of China offers myriad cultural, historical, and culinary adventures, and is a center for technology, manufacturing and other fast-growing commercial sectors.

Getting to and from the airport

Beijing Capital International Airport is approximately 29 kilometers (18 miles) to the northeast of the downtown Dongcheng district. You can take a metered taxi from outside all three airport terminals. Expect the fare to be around 90 renminbi, or RMB, (approximately US$14.50) to downtown. Taxi fares start at RMB10 for the first three kilometers and then cost RMB2 per kilometer. Passengers pay supplements for journeys between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., single journeys longer than 15 kilometers and any road or bridge tolls. There is even a slow-traffic fare supplement, which kicks in when speed falls below 12 kph. Beijing’s notorious traffic jams can increase the travel time from the airport to downtown by as much as an hour.
Public transport options include the Capital Airport Express train, which stops at the airport’sGreat 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 RMB25.

Getting around Beijing

There are more than 60,000 taxis in Beijing, but they can be difficult to find in a city where the population is fast approaching 20 million. Taxis can be especially scarce late at night. The Beijing metro may be a faster way to get around the city center. Its seven lines are undergoing major expansion. Station announcements are made in both Chinese and English, and a single ticket costs RMB2.

A rechargeable travel card requires a RMB20 deposit and a minimum RMB20 credit. You can recoup the deposit and any unused credits.

Where to stay

For luxury accommodation, try the Fairmont Beijing, No.8 Yong An Dong Li, Jian Guo Men Wai Avenue, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100022, Ph: +86 10 8511 7777; Shangri-La’s China World Summit Wing Beijing, No.1 Jianguomenwai Main Street, Beijing 100004, Ph: +86 10 6505 2299; and Hilton Beijing Wangfujing, No.8 Wangfujing East Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing 100006, Ph: +86 10 5812 8888.

One upscale suggestion is the Renaissance Beijing Capital Hotel, No.61 Dongsanhuan Middle Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100022, Ph: +86 10 5863 8888.

Mid-scale options include Novotel Xinqiao Beijing, No.1 Chongwenmen Xi Da Jie, Beijing 100005, Ph: +86 10 6513 3366 and Holiday Inn Express Beijing Dongzhimen, No.1 Chunxiu Road, Dongcheng District, Beijing 100027, Ph: +86 10 6416 9999.

For an economical stay, try Super 8 (Beijing Guomao), No.18 Shuangjing Bei Li, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100022, Ph: +86 10 6776 3388.

Things to see and do

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

If you have a few hours to spare, escape the city center and take metro 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 RMB30 in high season from April to October with supplements 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 RMB45, and the steps are in good condition, with hand rails and cable cars to help you on your way. Imperial palace

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. The Forbidden City is in the center of Beijing, just north of Tiananmen Square, and can be reached on metro line 1. Entry costs RMB60 in high season (from April to October).

For a more sedentary activity, check out an amazing Chinese acrobatics performance at the Chaoyang Theater in the district of the same name. There are normally performances at 5:15 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. daily, and ticket prices range from RMB180 to RMB880 for VIP seating.

Tune into traditional Chinese medicine with a massage provided by a blind masseur. Beijing has a 50-year tradition of training blind masseuses in reflexology, which focuses on the feet as the source of all health problems. Several options are available, including the Jianqiao Blind Massage Center, Xinjiekouwai Dajie, Xicheng district, Ph: +86 10 6202 8519.

Where to eat

Beijing is making a concerted effort to boost food tourism. Culinary options range from stalls selling street food to chic and sleek eateries. Note that locals usually eat dinner between 6 and 8 p.m.

Summer palacePeking duck is Beijing’s signature dish and consists of roasted duck eaten with pancakes, scallions and hoisin or sweet bean sauce. Try Duck de Chine located at Courtyard 4, Gongti Beilu in the Chaoyang District; Ph: +86 10 6501 8881. The father and son team roast the duck longer than usual to create a fuller flavor.

Another traditional dish is Chinese hotpot, which you can find at Hai Di Lao, a popular restaurant chain with several locations in Beijing. Try the branch on the eighth floor of the Tianyingtai Department Store on Mudanyuan, Ph: +86 10 6203 3112. You can’t make a reservation and may need to wait at peak times, but the staff does their best to entertain you by offering games, snacks and even manicures.

For an upscale dining experience, try My Humble House located at Oriental Plaza Podium Level W3, Unit 01-07 No. 1, East Chang An Avenue, Ph: +86 10 8518 8811.  The emphasis is on quality, artistic presentation and a mixture of traditional Chinese and international influences. Expect to pay RMB300 for a prix fixe lunch.

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