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Discover Beijing with Checkin Accommodation

Beijing, only eclipsed by Shanghai in terms of size, is not only the political center of China - a position held for more than 800 years - it also plays an important role in the nation's cultural, economic, scientific, and academic life. Beijing itself has no shortage of wonderful sightseeing opportunities and is home to some of the country's best-known tourist attractions, including a section of the famous Great Wall of China. Among the city's many historical and cultural monuments are the Imperial Palace, Beihai Park, Coal Hill Park, and the Heavenly Temple, most of them within the well preserved historic city center. Other highlights include the mammoth Tian'anmen Square, numerous important temples, and new construction brought about by the city's increased prosperity and major events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Imperial Palace and the Forbidden City - The Imperial Palace, also known as the Forbidden City, is China's most significant building and can trace its origins back to the Yuan Dynasty of the 13th century. All told, this beautiful palace has been home to 24 Ming and Qing Emperors, earning its nickname of the Forbidden City due to the fact ordinary citizens weren't allowed access. Highlights include the Meridian Gate, built in 1420; the Golden River Bridges, five richly decorated white marble bridges; the 35-meter-high Hall of Supreme Harmony containing the splendidly decorated gilded imperial throne; the Hall of Preserving Harmony, which functioned as the Emperor's banquet hall; and the Hall of Military Courage, a permanent residence and private audience hall for the emperors.

Tian'anmen Square - is the world's largest inner-city square, designed to hold a million people and built to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Chinese Republic in 1958. Highlights include the Monument to the People's Heroes (Rénmín Yīngxióng Jìniànbēi), a 38-meter tall obelisk consisting of 17,000 pieces of granite and marble, and the splendid Tian'anmen Gate - the Gate of Heavenly Peace - completed in 1417 and once the main entrance to the Imperial City. Other features of note are the Museum of the Chinese Revolution with its exhibits illustrating the various stages of the Chinese revolution from 1919 and the development of the Communist Party, and the Chairman Mao Mausoleum where the body of Mao rests in a crystal sarcophagus.Address: Dongcheng, Beijing

Beihai Park - Beihai Park is one of the oldest surviving imperial gardens in Beijing. Among the most important structures are the Round Fort dating from the Yuan period of 1271-1368; the spectacular Hall of Enlightenment, built in 1690 and home to a one-and-a-half-meter-tall Buddha carved from a single block of white jade; and a large black jade vase from the early 12th century. Other notable features are the opulent residence of Song Qingling in which the widow of the founder of the Republic, Sun Yat-sen, lived for 18 years until her death (it's now a museum); the Living Quarters of Mei Lanfang (Mei Lanfang Guju), a famous male star of the Peking Opera who specialized in playing the role of a woman; the residence of Guo Moruo, where the famous writer and historian lived from 1963 until his death in 1978, built in traditional Chinese courtyard style; and the beautiful 17th-century White Pagoda on the Island of Exquisite Jade.Address: 1 Wenjin St, Xicheng, Beijing

The Temple of Heaven - The Temple of Heaven (Tiāntán) dates back to 1420 and incorporates a group of some of Beijing's most sacred buildings. Surrounded by lush vegetation, these lovely old temples and shrines are set out in two sections - one rectangular, the other semi-circular - which together symbolize heaven and earth. It was here that, on the day of the winter solstice, the emperor would ascend the Heavenly Altar in solemn ceremony to pray for a good harvest and offer sacrifices in the brightly decorated Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (Qinian Dian). Another highlight is the Hall of the Vault of Heaven (Huangqiong Yu), erected in 1530 and boasting a blue-tiled conical roof (it was used to store the ceremonial plaques of Heaven and the Officials). Be sure to also visit the temple's Echo Wall, which echoes to even the quietest of voices, an effect exaggerated by three unusual echoing stones.Address: Dongcheng, Beijing

Beijing National Stadium - Recognized the world over for its role in the spectacular Summer Olympics held in Beijing in 2008, the National Stadium (Guójiā tǐyùchǎng) - also affectionately nicknamed the Bird's Nest - is well worth a visit. Built at great cost, this remarkable structure owes its unique design to the influences of traditional Chinese ceramics and has, since the Olympics, been used to host large cultural events and performances including opera, pop concerts, and football matches. In winter, it's turned into the world's largest manmade indoor ski slope. Another nearby attraction is the National Aquatics Center, also known as the Water Cube for its attractive night-time display that sees it lit up and looking like a giant ice-cube. In addition to being the site of Olympic swimming events, part of the building has been turned into the fun Watercube Waterpark.

The Lama Temple - Also known as the Yonghe Temple, the Lama Temple is one of Beijing's most attractive and best-preserved temples. Built to generous proportions and equipped with many valuable works of art, the most important feature is the Hall of the Kings of Heaven (Tian Wang Dian) with its statue of Buddha surrounded by the four kings who are provided with symbolic objects (a toad, a sword, a snake, and a shield). Other important buildings include the Pavilion of the Four-tongued Stele (Yubi Ting), which houses a stele dating back to 1792 that contains the history of the Lama religion written in Chinese, Manchurian, Tibetan, and Mongolian; the Hall of the Buddhist Wheel (Falun Dian), the teaching and assembly hall of the monastery, its interior dominated by a six-meter-tall statue, two thrones, and numerous sacred manuscripts; and the largest building at the Lama Temple, the Pavilion of Four Thousand Fortunes (Wangfu Ge) with its enormous 18-meter-high sandalwood statue.Address: 12 Yonghegong Street, Dongcheng, Beijing

Beijing Capital Museum - Opened in 1981, the museum boasts a vast collection of artifacts including ancient items of porcelain and bronze, traditional calligraphy and artwork, along with many fine statues from Chinese and other Asian cultures. Other highlights of its collection of more than 200,000 important cultural artifacts - many originating from in and around Beijing - include the huge stele of Emperor Qian Long, weighing more than 40 tons, standing nearly seven meters in height, and containing ancient scripts and writings. Another modern Beijing landmark worth visiting is the National Centre for the Performing Arts (Guójiā dà jùyuàn), also nicknamed the Giant Egg. Considered one of the best opera houses in Asia, the building opened in 2001 and has since hosted many of the world's leading operatic performers - Address: 16 Fuxingmen Outer St, Xicheng, Beijing

Beijing Ancient Observatory - It is widely considered one of the oldest such observatories in the world. Among the 10,000-square-meter facility's many fascinating old pre-telescopic instruments are a celestial globe dating from 1673 and an 18th-century armillary globe depicting the planets, along with a number of large bronze instruments designed by the Jesuit missionary Ferdinand Verbiest. Once part of the old city walls, this tall brick tower serves as a museum offering a glimpse into the surprising amount of knowledge of the stars and planets that existed at the time.Address: 2 Dongbiaobei Hutong, Dongcheng, Beijing

The Fayuan Temple (Fǎyuán Sì) - also known as the Source of Law Temple - has witnessed many of Beijing's most important historic events, including serving as a prison for Emperor Huizong in the 12th century, a place of examination for the highest offices of state, as well as botanical gardens. Today, the temple is a place of worship and the seat of the Buddhist Academy, the most important educational establishment in China. Other highlights include the bell and drum towers in the first courtyard; the Hall of the Kings of Heaven with its fine statues; the Mahavira Hall housing Buddhas of the present, past, and future represented in 18 Luohan figures; and, one of the temple's most precious objects, a Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) ceramic statue in the Dabianjue Tang Hall.Address: 7 Fayuansi Front St, Xicheng, Beijing

Coal Hill Park - offers some of the best views in Beijing, particularly over Beihai Park Lake and the Forbidden Palace. Taking its name from the coal that was once stored here for the Ming Emperors, this largely man-made hill has splendid gardens and walkways, and an old acacia tree from which the last Ming emperor was supposed to have hung himself in 1644.

The Beijing Temple of Confucius - built in 1302 and dedicated to the great philosopher and teacher, Confucius, whose teachings dominated public and private life for centuries. One of China's best-known Confucius temples, the Beijing Temple once hosted many elaborate ceremonies honoring its namesake under the leadership of the emperor. A highlight is the Hall of Great Achievements (Dacheng Dian), home to numerous shrines dedicated to Confucius, his students, and other Confucian philosophers, as well as many old musical instruments and other ritual items used in the celebrations, which take place on the large terrace in front of the hall. Another religious site worth a visit for its fine exterior (non-Muslims aren't permitted to enter) is Niu Jie Qingzhen Si Mosque, built in 995 AD. Beijing's oldest and largest mosque, it's in the Muslim quarter and includes a minaret, a six-cornered moon observatory tower, and two pavilions featuring numerous steles with Chinese and Arabic inscriptions.

Beijing Zoo - In the northwest area of the city, the Beijing Zoo (Běi jīng dòng wù yuán) covers an area of more than 220 acres and was established in 1906, making it one of the oldest zoos in China. Boasting an impressive collection of close to 15,000 animals from 1,000 species - the largest in the country - the zoo includes many rare native species such as South China tigers, snow leopards, golden snub-nosed monkeys, and pandas, along with some not so rare such as the red-crowned crane and Pere David's deer. Address: 137 Xizhimen Outer St, Xicheng, Beijing

Capital M, address: 3rd fl, 2 Qianmen Dajie, Běijīng, tel: 010 6702 2727 The terrace of this swish but relaxed restaurant, with its unfussy menu of Mediterranean favourites, offers fine views over Qiánmén Gate and Tiān’ānmén Sq. The menu ranges across France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and north Africa and the signature leg-of-lamb dish remains as popular as ever.

Golden Peacock, address: Weigongcun, Beijing, tel: 010 6893 2030 Make sure you try the pineapple rice and the tangy dried beef at this unpretentious and popular restaurant. It specialises in the cuisine of the Dǎi people, an ethnic minority from southwest China. Weigoncun is a great place to try other minority cuisines, especially Korean, Mongolian and Uighur food.

Crescent Moon Muslim Restaurant, address: 16 Dongsi Liutiao Hutong, Beijing. Crescent Moon is the real deal – owned and staffed by Uighurs, it attracts many Běijīng-based Uighurs and people from Central Asia, as well as a lot of Western expats. The speciality is the barbecued leg of lamb. The lamb skewers are also delicious, and there's naan bread, homemade yoghurt and plenty of noodle options.

Lost Heaven, address: 23 Qianmen Dongdajie, tel: 010 8516 2698. Lost Heaven specialises in the folk cuisine of Yúnnán province. While the spices have been toned down, the flavours remain subtle and light and are guaranteed to transport you to China’s balmy southwest. Try the Dai-style roast pork in banana leaf, or one of the many splendid salads, such as the marinated beef salad and peppers or the Burmese tea leaves salad.

Jīngzūn Peking Duck, address: 6 Chunxiu Lu, tel: 010 6417 4075 Very popular place to sample Běijīng’s signature dish. Not only is the Peking duck here extremely good value for a whole/half bird, but you can also sit outside on its atmospheric wooden-decked terrace decorated with red lanterns.

Tiki Bungalow, address: 34 Jiaodaokou From the palm leaves and Exotica soundtrack to the carved totem poles and Polynesian knick-knacks, this is your quintessential tiki bar down to the finest detail. However, of course, it's all about the drinks, which is where Tiki Bunglaow really shines, delivering some of the finest and most extravagant rum-based cocktails you'll taste. All are based on vintage tiki recipes from the 1930s to 1960s.

Because Beijing is a huge city, necessity has forced it to develop fast and efficient forms of public transportation. With the 2008 Olympic Games, the subway system was extensively improved and extended. There are three main forms of public transportation: subways, buses and taxis (see separate article on taxis).

Bicycle - The most fun and often the quickest way to get around. Almost every road has a bike lane. Bike rental per day is around ¥50, or take advantage of Běijīng's bike-sharing scheme.

Subway - Quick, modern and easy to use (all signage is in Chinese and English), but often crowded, so don't expect a seat. Fares range from ¥3 to ¥8. It connects with the Airport Express train, which begins service at 6am, and there is also a surburban rail link which extends out to the Badaling section of the Great Wall. All the major mainline railway stations are serviced by the subway. The subway system runs from about 5am to 11pm daily.

Bus - Dirt cheap and they go everywhere, but difficult for non-Chinese speakers to negotiate, and often overcrowded. Per trip ¥2; with travel card ¥0.8.They run from about 5am to 11pm daily; the times of the first and last buses from the termini (not the bus stop) are displayed

Motor Rickshaw- Fares have to be negotiated (rickshaws don't have meters) and tourists are often heavily overcharged. We don't recommend using them.

Taxi- Cheap by Western standards but at certain times hard to find, and traffic jams can really slow things down. Flag fall is ¥13.

MONUMENTS

Chairman Mao Memorial Hall (Maozhuxi Jiniantang) Address: Tiananmen Square, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China - Tel: +86 10 6513 2277 Open: Tuesday – Sunday 07:00am – 11:00am

The Forbidden City Address: 4 Jingshan Front St, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China - Tel: +86 10 8500 7422 Open: Tuesday – Sunday 08:30am – 03:30pm

Gong Wang Fu Address: No.17 Qianhaixi Street, Xicheng District, Beijing 100009, China - Tel: +86 10 8328 8149 Open: Every day 07:30am – 04:30pm

National Centre for the Performing Arts Address: No.2 Xichang'an Street, Xicheng District, Beijing 100031, China - Tel: +86 10 6655 0000 Open: Every day 09:00am – 04:30pm

National Art Museum of China Address: 1 Wusi St, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100010 - Tel: +86 10 6400 1476 Open: Tuesday – Saturday 09:00am – 05:00pm

Jingshan Park Address: No.44 Jingshanxi Street, Xicheng District, Beijing 100009, China - Tel: +86 10 6403 8098

Beihai Park Address: No.1 Wenjin Street, Xicheng District, Beijing100000, China - Tel: +86 10 6404 0610 Open: Every day 06:30am – 09:00am 8. Beijing Zoo Address: 137 Xizhimen Outer St, DongWuYuan, Xicheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100044 Open: Every day 07:30am – 05:00pm - Tel: +86 10 6831 5131

Your Best Choice for Accommodation in Beijing