"The Northern Capital" Top 5 Page for this destination Beijing by mke1963

Beijing Travel Guide: 6,463 reviews and 16,200 photos

A timeline of humanity

After 4 1/2 years in Beijing, I have moved to London, England where I am starting on my London pages.

UPDATE: See latest pages on

UPDATE: See latest pages on Chengdu and Zhangjiajie/Wulingyuan with more to come on Dujiangyan, Luodai, Hangzhou, Qingdao and many South African destinations.

I'm compiling a "Best of VT" listing of great VT pages from all over the world.

Beijing is one of the world's great cities, perched at the very edge of the mass of humanity that is China. Many Beijingers do not even realise that there is very little to the north of them. Look at a map. Head past the tortuous, fractured hills past the suburbs and you are into the sparsely inhabited, perennially dry Nei Mongol, then Mongolia, and into the silent pine forests of Siberia, until you emerge on the icy shores of the Arctic.
All three of China's megacities - Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing - seem to lie outside China, looking in disdainfully. Guangzhou - maybe best resembling fire, spice and energy; Shanghai would be water, commerce, trade; Beijing characterised by wind, power and politics. The inside of China? Well perhaps the earth, toil and blood.
Beijing reflects, better than anywhere, the timeline of human civilization. From prehistoric man to third-generation mobile phones, you can find it in this northern capital. The museums, art galleries, restaurants, shops and neighbourhoods can show you all of China, and the more is revealed, the less you understand.
The sheer scale, depth and breadth of Chinese civilization is laid before you every day in Beijing. You can see a lot on one day, too little in a week, and not enough in a lifetime.


Beijing has a continental climate with long, hot summers and long dry, cold winters. Spring and autumn have beautiful weather: warm and dry, but both are xtremely short. Beijing temperatures move quickly from -5C to +35C within the space of a few weeks. Many tourists avoid spring because of the famed sandstorms, but there are less and less of these and they do not last long. The rain falls during July and August, and can bring everything to a grinding halt. Check weather.com for details by month.
Asthmatics should be careful because the pollution in Beijing, although improving almost month-by-month can be awful.
Beijing is on the very far northern edge of the North China plain, so is just 50m above sea level. However, the northern extension of the Taihangshan mountains fringe the city's western and northern suburbs and provide an impressive back drop when the sky is clear. There are enormous opportunities for walking in these hills.

Practical Information and the Reviews/Tips

Beijing can be a very expensive city to visit, but there are plenty of cheaper hotels offering good value. Realistically, tourists are going to use taxis. Buses are a great way to meet people though...usually several hundred at a time and in close proximity.
For longer journeys, use 1.60 taxis as they have a lot more space. They can be recognised because they are all Citroen ZXs, Volkswagen Jettas or Santanas. Learn to recognise 1.20s from the shape of the radiator grill. Don't be worried about waving 1.20s past if you want a 1.60...they understand!
Other than the obvious hotel and restaurant tips, I have put tips on guidebooks, giving directions to taxi-drivers, bookshops, and the airport in the General Tips and Transportation sections.

Further Afield

Around Beijing
While in Beijing, do spare some time to see the beautiful mountain countryside to the north and west of the city. You can quickly step back in time and meet friendly people - still Beijing folk - who are less cluttered up with making their next million, and more focused on a simpler, more sustainable life. Many of the 'out of town' places associated with Beijing are described in more detail in relevant sections on my pages for Beijing Shi (municipality).

The Great Wall is covered on pages for Huanghuacheng, Badaling and Huairou (for Mutianyu) .
Wilder parts of the Taihangshan can be reached in the area around Miyun and Haizi.
There are also attractions in the area of Changping just to the north of Beijing, and I'm planning more pages for Juyongguan and Gubeikou.

Travelling by Train in China
I travel a lot by train (42,000km in China in the last three years) but put most of the rail travel tips in my China pages. I have also written about rail travel and specific journeys in my blog ....use the 'Rail Travel' archive there for more information.
My China page has a lot of general and practical information about rail and air travel in China, including ticketing.

I have now added a lot more destinations on my Silk Road in China section from Xi'an through Baoji, Tianshui (and the Maijishan Grottos), Lanzhou, Wuwei, Zhangye (and Matisi Temple), Jiayuguan, Yumen, Anxi, Dunhuang, Yangguan and Yumenguan.

Random Place in China
The following link will take you to a straight to a random place in China. This will change every few weeks to a different place, usually somewhere small and off the beaten track! Have fun exploring!


Pros and Cons
  • Pros:People, architecture, spirit, ceaseless energy
  • Cons:People, architecture, spirit, ceaseless energy
  • In a nutshell:A timeline of humanity with Chinese characteristics
  • Last visit to Beijing: Jul 2007
  • Intro Updated Jul 29, 2007
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Reviews (153)

Comments (58)

  • vpas's Profile Photo
    Feb 10, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    very informative.thank you for sharing.regards from india,seetha

  • May 21, 2010 at 2:38 AM

    Very nice and informative pages...a must read for all visitors to this city!

  • lindyz's Profile Photo
    Jul 6, 2009 at 3:46 PM

    Beijing seems to be the cultural heart of China, and the first stepping stone in our visit this September. Great info and pics once again :)

  • easterntrekker's Profile Photo
    Mar 15, 2009 at 8:42 PM

    Wonderful pages . I deleted my pictures of so of our first day at the Forbidden City. I enjoyed seeing yours.

  • Oct 12, 2008 at 4:07 AM

    I have visited Beijing regularly since mid 90´s and bought stuff at the Silk and Pearl Markets and most of it has met my expectations. Generally it´s a better deal to pay some more for Chinese brands than for "North Fake" etcetera.

  • Jun 23, 2008 at 3:06 AM

    the map doesn't open. i've tried a hundred times now.

  • Nov 2, 2007 at 2:31 PM

    I travel to China five times a year. Its not all that bad as described. I buy great CD's and DVD's and great clothing but there are sus traders around and you should check everything you buy.

  • piglet44's Profile Photo
    Jun 10, 2007 at 6:55 AM

    Hey Mark brilliant site, going in Sept hope I can follow through on all your advice.First I will be down your way though (Stansted flying visit) cheers, Ruthi

  • crewrower's Profile Photo
    Apr 11, 2007 at 3:48 AM

    Wow, such a suprise to see that you've left China. Best of luck in London.

mke1963 Visits Here Frequently!


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