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Featurette: Beijing

Beijing by night. Photo by Beth Green

From mysterious alleys to grand stadiums, Beijing has plenty of things to do and see for all kinds of travelers. Now, I love museums so on my trip to Beijing a few years ago I spent a whole day at the Forbidden City immersed in history, legend and amazing architecture and ornamentation. But, an eight-hour trip to the museum certainly isn’t everybody’s idea of a great time!

When we talk about “world cities” Beijing definitely deserves one of the top spots. For one thing, it’s one of the most populous cities on the planet, with *only* 20 million people, give or take a few. By contrast, New York and London each have about 8.3 million people. With that many inhabitants, you know something’s always brewing in Beijing!

Let’s take a look:

For the sports lover: Check out Beijing’s Olympic sites, such as the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube.  Or, practice some sports yourself by signing up for the Great Wall Marathon .

For the foodie: Peking duck doesn’t get better than in its hometown. Locals will hotly debate which restaurant has the best, most authentic roast duck and duck-based side dishes. Two of the most talked-about restaurants serving this traditional dish are Quanjude and Bianyifang. If you’re truly a gastrotourist, you’ll probably want to try both.

For the historian: The Forbidden City, as I mentioned, is fascinating. Beijing has countless other historical sites worth visiting as well. The Temple of Heaven is always packed with curious tourists, as is the Summer Palace, the Old Summer Palace, and the Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao. Just wandering through the city, you’ll find other venerable locales, too, so keep your camera at the ready.

For the shop-till-you-dropper: As a whole, China has amazing shopping opportunities, and so it’s no wonder that the nation’s capital has some great venues to explore for deals. We can’t possibly mention all of the great places to shop, but many travelers recommend browsing the Panjiayuan Flea Market for antiques and curiosities, Silk Street for souvenirs and cheap clothes, and Wangfujing Street for a mix of domestic and international brands.

For the spiritual traveler: Visiting temples and other places of worship in Beijing will give you lots of chances to seek divine blessing for the rest of your travels. Many of the temples in the city are also historical sites. For example, the Buddhist Wo Fo Temple is more than 1,000 years old and the Temple of Confucius was built in the 1300s. Wanfujing Catholic Church is a product of European missionaries’ work in the 1600s. Another important religious venue in Beijing is the Yonghe Lamasery, which also houses a school of Tibetan Buddhism.

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Beth Green

Beth Green is an American freelance writer who has lived in Europe and Asia since 2003. She grew up on a sailboat and, though now a landlubber, still enjoys a peripatetic life. She writes blogs, articles and suspense about travel, expatriate living, and many other topics. A social media addict, she’d love to hear from you about your favorite travel experiences.
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