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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Beijing Sightseeing
Beijing Sightseeing Guide - TravelPuppy.com
Overview

Over the centuries, Beijing has endured the effects of war and revolution, extensive industrialisation and a building upsurge to satisfy the demands of a growing, modern city. Skyscrapers dwarf colourful temples and the intimate courtyards of the hutongs, ande traffic moves at a snail's pace along the streets surrounding peaceful parks. Beijing was once a walled city but little remains today apart from the grand Tiananmen and Qianmen gates, situated at either end of Tiananmen Square. The imposing square houses the Great Hall of the People, China’s parliament, the Mao Tse Tung Memorial Hall, where the body of Chairman Mao lies, and the Monument to the People’s Heroes, an obelisk depicting significant events of the revolution.

Beijing’s main attractions are listed below, however the city and its environs are culturally and historically rich. If time permits, it is worth visiting the Old Observatory. Founded by Kublai Khan, it is presently a museum with a huge collection of Ming and Qing dynasty bronze astronomical instruments. The Beijing Zoo, is the world famous home of the giant pandas and is well worth a visit.

Outside the centre, most visitors go to Badaling (see Excursions) to walk on the Great Wall but another area is Mutianyu, to the northeast of the city, which has fabulous views. It is worth including Zhou Kou Dian (Peking Man Site), 48 kilometres (30 miles) southwest of Beijing, the site where 200,000 and 500,000 year old skulls were found in 1929. The original fossils were misplaced during World War II, however there is an interesting museum with many implements and animal bones dating from that period.

Tourist Information

There is not a walk-in tourist office in Beijing however information can be acquired from two main travel agencies, the China International Travel Service and the China Travel Service.

China International Travel Service (CITS)
Fuxingmennei Avenue
Tel: (10) 6601-1122 or 8292.
Web site: www.cits.net

China Travel Service (CTS)
2 Beisanhaun East Road
Tel: (10) 6462-2288.

For information and emergencies there is a 24-hour tourist telephone hotline (tel: (10) 6513-0828).

Passes

There are no tourist passes offered in Beijing.

Key Attractions

Tiananmen Square

Situated at the heart of cosmopolitan Beijing – the location of many historic events – Tiananmen Square was refurbished during the first half of 1999, to prepare for the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. There are now two green areas, trees and subtle ground-level lighting. Attractions include the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, where Mao Tse Tung’s preserved body is displayed, the Museum of the Revolution and the Great Hall of the People.

Transport: Subway Qian Men and several buses.
Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday 08:30-11:30, plus 14:00-16:00 Tues and Thursday (Chairman Mao Memorial Hall); daily 08:30-15:30 (Museum of the Revolution); varies for Great Hall of the People.
Admission: Free (Chairman Mao Memorial Hall); RMB30 (Museum of the Revolution); RMB30 (Great Hall of the People).

Forbidden City

Constructed in the 15th century, the Forbidden City (or Palace Museum) is a sprawling complex with courtyards, pavilions, halls, and gardens, which once housed 24 emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Today it houses a huge collection of priceless relics, including paintings, bronzes and ancient pottery, and is one of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city.

Tiananmen Square
Tel: (10) 6513-2255.
Web site: www.dpm.org.cn

Transport: Subway Qian Men.
Opening hours: Daily 08:30-17:00 (10 Apr-14 Oct); 08:30-16:30 (15 Oct-31 Mar).
Admission: RMB30.

Temple of Heaven

Just south of Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven (situated within Temple of Heaven Park), is China’s biggest temple complex, constructed in the 15th century and used for praying by the emperor to request good harvests. The architecture is exquisite and the roofs are adorned with blue glazed tiles. The grounds of this UNESCO World Heritage Site also boasts the Echo Wall, which carries the tiniest whisper.

Tian Tan Lu (north gate entrance)
Tel: (10) 6702-8866.

Transport: Subway Qianmen.
Opening hours: Daily 08:30-17:30; daily 06:00-20:00 (park).
Admission: RMB15.

Lama Temple

Northeast of the city, the Lama Temple, constructed in the late 17th century, was a centre of learning for the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Lamaism. Presently, there are approximately 70 monks (or lamas) in residence. The temple is a series of halls, linked by courtyards. An impressive 18 metre (59 feet) Maitreya, carved out of a single sandalwood tree, stands in the furthermost hall, and is accessible to the public.

Yonghe Gong Dajie
Tel: (10) 6904-4494.

Transport: Subway Yonghe Gong
Opening hours: Daily 09:00-16:30.
Admission: RMB20.

Drum Tower and Bell Tower

Every Chinese city at one time had drum and bell towers which were used to inform citizens of the time of day and to declare curfews. The Beijing Drum Tower, in the north section of the city, was originally constructed in the 13th century and reconstructed in approximately 1420 when the Bell Tower was originally built. The towers, which are very different in style, offer excellent views of Beijing.

Di’an Men Wai Dajie
Transport: Subway Gulou Dajie.
Opening hours: Daily 09:00-17:30.
Admission: RMB10 each.

Further Distractions

Beihai Park

Beihai Lake sprawls over almost half of the 67-hectare (168-acre) Beihai Park and is a popular location for skating in winter and boating in summer. Qiong Hua Island (Jade Flowering Island), situated at the southern end of the lake, can be reached by an arched marble bridge and houses a Tibetan Buddhist shrine (the White Dagoba) and the Temple of Eternal Peace.

Wenjin Jie
Transport: Subway Tiananmen Xi.
Opening hours: Daily 06:00-21:00 (park); daily 09:00-16:00 (halls and temples).
Admission: RMB5 (park); RMB10 (park and temples).

Jingshan (Prospect Park)

Just to the north of the Forbidden City, Jingshan contains a hill, known as Coal Hill, which boasts amazing views of the golden rooftops of the imperial buildings. 1 of the 5 pavilions on the summit –Wan Chun Ting (Pavilion of Ten Thousand Springs) – was once the highest point in the city.

Jingshan Qian Jie
Transport: Subway Tiananmen Xi or Tiananmen Dong.
Opening hours: Daily 06:00-21:30.
Admission: RMB2.
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