5 good reasons to go to Beijing
To see / do
Culture and History
The Temple of Heaven
Built by the Ming dynasty at the same time as the Forbidden City, from 1406 to 1420, this sanctuary is considered the culminating achievement of traditional Chinese architecture and symbolism. Both inside and out, its luxurious decor is a must-see that is worth having explained in order to understand it better.
To escape the stifling heat of the capital, the emperors built a leisure palace surrounded by vast lakes and gardens. The site covers 290 hectares and contains multiple pavilions, temples and sanctuaries dotted throughout this peaceful and harmonious setting.
Nestled in a valley to the north west of Beijing, this burial site contains the tombs of 13 of the 16 emperors of the Ming dynasty. It is quite simply one of the most beautiful burial grounds in China. You can visit it during a day trip. The must-sees include the “Spirit Way” and the Dingling Tomb.
This is one of the biggest temples in Beijing, and perhaps the most impressive. It was originally Emperor Yongzheng’s palace before it was given to Tibetan monks. It miraculously survived the cultural revolution and has been used by the regime to legitimize its link with Tibet. It remains a magnificent piece of architecture that is definitely worth visiting.
National Museum of China
They needed a museum on the same scale as the country itself... And that’s just what has been achieved! This vast museum covers every period from prehistory through to the cultural revolution. The section on Ancient China, containing some exceptional collections, is the most fascinating.
Zhongnanhai and Beihai Park
To the west of the Forbidden City there are several large lakes whose banks have become popular parks with magnificent pavilions and imperial buildings. They are pleasant spots for relaxing on the water’s edge or hiring a pedal boat on the calm surface of the lake dotted with lotus flowers. Hortensia Island is crowned by the White Dagoba Temple, a 36m high Tibetan stupa built during the Dalai Lama's visit in 1651.
Attend an opera
The Beijing Opera performs almost every evening in the magnificent Zhengyici Theatre, the last wooden theatre in the country. You can also watch this ancestral art at the Palace of Corporations or Prince Gong’s Mansion in summer. The performances are inspired by Chinese history and literature and combine singing, dancing, mime and acrobatics in a grand display of colourful costumes and extravagant make-up.
Time for tea
Tea culture is hugely important in China. Tea is drunk all the time, whether in a very succinct manner or, conversely, in a much more sophisticated fashion as part of traditional ceremonies in which the very finest teas are served. Tea Houses and Pavilions also regularly organise traditional music, acrobatics, martial arts and theatre performances, making them excellent places for discovering Chinese culture.
The legacy of the 2008 Olympic Games
The Olympic Games had a profound impact on Beijing, which had carried out major building work to clean up, modernise and equip the city for the occasion. With the construction of a new airport, doubling of the metro network and the creation of a high-speed train line, it was public transport that really benefited from the games. The Olympic Park is located 8 km south of the city centre. In particular, you can admire the famous National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, and the Olympic swimming pool Water Cube.
This imperial dish is the most famous in northern China. After being carefully dried and brushed with a sweet marinade, the duck is roasted over scented wood chips. It is then finely sliced and wrapped in a pancake with sauce, chives and cucumber, a real delight.
The home of Confucius, this region located further south is more agricultural than the area around Beijing. It is the capital’s major supplier of cereals, vegetables, fish and seafood, so it is not surprising that many specialities from this region are found in the city, such as sweet and sour carp or Moo Shu pork, served minced in pancakes with scrambled eggs and black wood ear mushrooms.
The capital of an empire
From Sichuan spices to delicious Cantonese dim sum, you will find specialities from all over the country in Beijing. Some dishes even originate from the steppes or distant Arab countries, especially those made with lamb such as Mongolian stew, a dish particularly well suited to the nomadic life of those living in caravans.
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