The capital of the most populous country in the world, Beijing was also the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors. Popular for the incredible landmarks such as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, Beijing is also hosting the Summer Olympics of 2008.
Location and Geography
Beijing is the capital of People’s Republic of China and is one of the four municipalities of the country equivalent to a province. It borders Hebei Province to the North, South, West and a small section in the East. To the South East it borders Tianjin Municipality.
Beijing (Peking) is located on the west coast of the Pacific Ocean, at the northern tip of North China Plain. The northwestern part of the municipality is dominated by the Jundu Mountains, while the western part is framed by the Xishan Mountains. The Great Wall of China stretches across the northern part of the municipality. The wall used to defend the city against the nomadic incursions from the steppers.
The rivers flowing through Beijing municipality include Yongding River and Chaobai River, both part of the Haihe River System. The city is also the northern terminus of the Grand Channel of China, built across the China Plain. Miyun Reservoir is crucial to the water supply, being Beijing’s largest reservoir built on the Chaobai River.
The urban area is located in the south-central part of the municipality. It spreads in bands of concentric ring roads and the outermost ring passes through several satellite towns.
How to get to Beijing
The main airport is Beijing Capital International Airport located in Shunyi, about 20 km northeast of Beijing. Currently the airport is being expended and has now three terminals.
Other airports include Liangxiang Airport, Badaling Airport, Nanyuan Airport and Xijiao Airport.
Beijing also has many railway stations but the most important ones are the Central and Western stations.
Several expressways connect the city to the rest of the country.
Climate and Temperatures
The climate is harsh, defined as “continental monsoon”, characterized by hot and humid summers as a result of the East Asian monsoon. The winters are cold, windy and dry, as the city is influenced by the Siberian anticyclone. In January the average temperatures are at -7 to -4 degrees Celsius, while in July they are at 25-25 degrees Celsius. Most of the rain falls in summer (75% of the 600mm annually).
What to do
Although many locals speak some English, it’s better to print out the names of places you want to visit in Chinese characters before starting to explore the city. Show the text to the people on the street and they will help you.
The most important historical sites include: The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, The Great Wall, The Summer Palace, The Temple of Heaven and the Thirteen Mausoleums of Ming Dynasty.
The Forbidden City (see photo left), also known as the Palace Museum, is located exactly in the center of ancient Beijing and was the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties. In Chinese, the Forbidden City is known as Gu Gong or The Former Palace. Its grounds cover 720,000 sq meters that comprise 800 building and 9,999 rooms.
Tiananmen Square (see photo right) is the heart of Beijing. It’s located to the south of the Forbidden City, former residence of the Emperors. The square is surrounded by Soviet-like buildings and houses Mao’s mausoleum.
The Great Wall of China can be visited at many places along its lengths. Badaling and Juyongguan are closest to the capital and are always the most crowded. Mutianyu is also quite close to Beijing and it’s not that crowded.
Other landmarks include: The Police Museum, the Bell Tower, Chang An Avenue, Drum Tower, Front Gate, Imperial library, JIngding Bridge, Lotus Lane Underground City and dozens more.
If you plan to see a Giant Panda, head to the Beijing Zoo and Aquarium. The displays at the zoo aren’t great but the aquarium is very interesting and one of the biggest in the world.