Beijing (also "Peking", meaning "northern capital") is the capital and a direct-controlled municipality of the People's Republic of China. It is about 120 kilometres away from the coast, located in Hebei Province in the north-east of the country. You see the North China Plain in the south-east of the country and the mountains of the Mongolian Plateau in the north-west of the metropolis. The highest mountain in the area is the Ling Shan with a height of 2,303 metres. Beijing is the country's political centre and has an area of about 16,800 km², which s populated by almost 20 million people. The temperate continental climate in the city creates hot, humid summers and dry, cold winters.
Beijing looks back on a three-hundred-thousand-year old history, starting with the Peking Man. They already settled the area around the city 300,000 years ago and their remains, which are part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage now, were found about 50 kilometres away from the city centre in the 1950s. Another important period in Beijing's past was the rule of the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. The latter two left behind unique cultural monuments like the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Old and new Summer Palace. The Forbidden City is one of Beijing's main attractions and accommodates the Imperial Palace, another World Cultural Heritage site. Nowadays, the former residence of the emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasty contains the Palace Museum. Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world, is attached to the Forbidden City. It has room for over one million people and accommodates buildings like the Great Hall of the People, the Tiananmen, the National Museum and the Monument to the People's Heroes. Other sights and World Cultural Heritage sites in Beijing are the Temple of Heaven, Yonghe Temple, Confucius Temple, the Ming tombs, the National Stadium (called "Bird's Nest" because of its tangled steel beams) and the Great Wall of China. The latter is one of the seven wonders of the world and is located near Badaling, only about 70 kilometres away from the capital.
Travellers can experience both the international and traditional Chinese cuisine in Beijing. Besides many restaurants which serve dishes from all over the world, there are countless restaurants in which you can try Chinese food. One world-famous speciality from the city is Peking duck. The recipe comes from the time of the Ming Dynasty and its preparation is rather elaborate. The bite-sized pieces of meat are usually served with black bean sauce and spring onions. Another delicacy is the hot pot or Chinese fondue. Meat, noodles, fish and vegetables are cooked in a broth in a ceramic or metal pot and eaten with various sauces. Beijing's nightlife is lively and very intense. Countless bars, clubs and discos invite holidaymakers to go out and party. But watch out! In some venues, the music is very loud so that you better bring ear plugs. China's cultural metropolis offers shopping fans shopping centres and many street markets. You should, however, be aware of the fact that most goods are counterfeits.
Sightseeing, shopping and partying are the most popular leisure activities in China's capital. Many visitors also want to experience and discover things outside of the metropolis, which is why they go on trips to the Great Wall of China near Badaling. Almost 70 kilometres away from the city centre, you find the part of the Great Wall of China which was restored first, in 1957. Less crowded sections are Jinshanling and Simatai. Travellers can enjoy the wonderful mountainous landscape on a hike on the partly restored, partly decayed wall and take in pure history.
The best time for a trip to Beijing are the months of autumn and spring, when it is neither cold nor hot. From May on at the latest, temperatures exceed 30 °C and it can get extremely stuffy. In addition, violent storms and heavy rainfall often occur at this time of the year. The smog above the city is less dense in autumn and spring than it is in winter and summer. You are generally advised to wear a surgical mask because Beijing is one of the cities with the most severe air pollution. You should not drink tap water, not even if you boil it first. Hotels and private flats have water dispensers filled with mineral or cleaned water. Although most people speak English in the bigger shops and hotels, it is useful to know a bit of Chinese. Taxi drivers do not normally know English, which is why it is best to have a note with your hotel's address in Chinese letters with you.