Beijing-A First Time Visitor’s Crash Course-guest post
Posted on May 31, 2013
Going to China? Awesome! Beijing, which is sometimes written as Peking, is the capital of China and one of the world’s most populous cities with over 20 million people. In such a huge city with a history that spans several millennia, you won’t be worried about finding things to do, but you might worry about finding the best attractions! Here’s the low-down for first timers in Beijing.
Where to Stay
Like any metropolis, there are loads of lodging options. When picking where to stay, think about your preferences (do you like the adventure of a hostel or the comfort of a nice hotel?) and your budget. The other critical factor for lodgings is location. Are you planning on walking or taking transit to most attractions? Then consider a hotel that is more centrally located.
Here are three of the best value hotels in Beijing:
The Prime Hotel Beijing runs at about $110 per night and is just a short walk to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, plus it is only a 15 minute drive to the Beijing railway station. This hotel has some of the largest rooms in Beijing.
The Howard Johnson Paragon Hotel Beijing costs as little as $54 per night and is located near Beijing’s business center, but is still quite close to Beijing’s major attractions. It features a modern aesthetic and lots of amenities.
The Traveler Inn Huaqiao Bejing’s rates start at $42 per night. It is next to the Baoli Theater, and the Beijing International Exhibition Center. It is walking distance from the Beijing railway station and also close to shopping and major attractions.
What to Eat
Of course, one of the best parts of traveling is eating all the delicious, new food! Beijing has a variety of exciting, local eats like Peking duck, Imperial Court Cuisine, hotpot, and outstanding street food (try the Jiajiang Mian—cold noodles in a delicious sesame sauce). Tasting a little bit of everything is absolutely recommended, but here are some of the not-to-miss eateries in Beijing.
Da Dong Roast Duck Nanxiancang Branch specializes in—what else?—Peking roast duck, which can be prepared with sugar to be crispy; with sweet sauce, leeks and cucumber; or with garlic paste. This restaurant has received several awards, including the “Best Chinese Restaurant of the Year.”
Haidilao Hot Pot Restaurant Xidan serves authentic Sichuan-style hot pot. In addition to tasty hot pot, the restaurant offers free ice water, fruit salad, nail care and shoe shines.
Jindingxuan Restaurant Ditan features Cantonese cuisine and is open all night. The restaurant, although most known for its Cantonese fare, also offers Sichuan and Huaiyang dishes.
What to Do
This is the reason you’re going to China: to do stuff! Beijing is packed with historical sites, culture, and nightlife ensuring its visitors will definitely not be bored.
The Great Wall of China is first on our list for obvious reasons. It’s one of humanity’s wonders and it is a piece of history. How you see the Great Wall depends on your style. There are lots of tours, but you could also explore on your own. The upside of taking a tour is that you can usually get transportation and the tour guides speak English. Another great option for outdoor-types is to hike the great wall. The most stunning and less-touristy outpost is by far Simitai just about two hours outside of Beijing.
The Forbidden City is the other most popular attraction in Beijing. It was the home of 24 emperors spanning the Ming and Qing dynasties and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There is a lot to see here (it has over 9,000 rooms), so schedule your time accordingly if you want a comprehensive tour. The magnitude of this imperial city warrants two-days of exploration for many visitors. Finding a guide to help you better understand the immense history is also really recommended.
Panjiayuan Market is a famous antique market located just west of Panijayuan Bridge. The market has 1,000’s of stalls and sells just about everything. Savvy treasure hunters might even find historical artifacts of memorabilia.
One of the best ways to get around Beijing is by the expansive and convenient subway system and most of these sites, restaurants, and hotels are accessible by subway. Above all, take time to explore the dense and historical neighborhoods and hutongs and open your mind for an unforgettable first adventure to a truly foreign land.
Angie Picardo is a writer at NerdWallet’s TravelNerd blog, where you can learn money saving tips on how to save up for Beijing sojourn by setting financial goals.
Julie is a librarian by day, die-hard travel fanatic and writer by night. When she’s not traveling, she’s either testing out a new recipe or being a foodie in Pittsburgh. If you're interested in seeing where she travels to or what she makes next, follow along via the links below!