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Beijing is the capital of the most populous country in the world, the People's Republic of China. With a population of 21.5 million people, it is the nation's second-largest city after Shanghai.
The two districts are located within or around the Second Ring Road and make-up the old walled city of yesteryear. Xicheng means West City and Dongcheng means East City. Surrounding these districts are Chaoyang, Fengtai and Hadian. These three districts hold impressive new urban and commercial development, have a population of many millions, and generate the economic prosperity of the city:
covers the eastern half of the central city area approximately up to Third Ring Road to the north and Second Ring Road to the east and south. This is the most important tourist district of Beijing, including the Forbidden City and Tian'anmen Square. Chongwen is a former district covering the southern third of Dongcheng, including the Temple of Heaven. Other important areas are Wangfujing (Walking Street), Gulou (the Drum Tower and Nanlougouxiang), Yonghegong (Yonghe Lama Temple) and Dongzhimen.
covers the western half of the central city area to just beyond Second Ring Road in the west and up to Third Ring Road to the north and south. It includes Beihai Park, Shichahai/Houhai area, Xidan, Beijing Zoo and the National Centre for Performing Arts. Xuanwu is a former district covering the southern third of Xicheng.
covers a large area east of the central city area stretching from Second Ring Road until slightly beyond Fifth Ring Road to the east. Includes the CBD, Sanlitun (the Village and Workers' Stadium), Olympic Green (Birds Nest, Water Cube and other Olympic venues), 798 Art Zone, Chaoyang Park, Ritan Park and various embassy areas
covers the northwest of the main urban area. It includes the New and Old Summer Palaces, Wudoukou, the Zhongguancun high technology industry and business cluster and Beijing's major concentration of universities.
covers the area south and west of Beijing. It includes Beijing West Railway Station.
Beijing is characterised by its vastness and large distances between locations. Until recently, the city was almost entirely made up of hutongs with narrow lanes and single story buildings. Now, many of the hutongs have given way to broad boulevards and modern buildings, contributing to an airy, sprawling feel, in sharp contrast to cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Given their city's historical, cultural and political heft, Beijingers are justifiably proud to be citizens of the capital. An attitude known as “Great Beijing-ism” is often used to describe their attitude toward people from other regions of China. They are often much more interested in politics and willing to talk about current events than people elsewhere in China. Beijingers also seem to focus on not losing face and often use humor in order to do so. However, many Chinese from other provinces find Beijingers very friendly and straightforward compared with people from Shanghai especially.
Beijing is generally served by Beijing Capital International Airport, for both domestic and foreign trips. Beijing Nanyuan Airport serves one domestic airline. Travelers should also consider Tianjin Binhai International Airport, which is in the first-tier city of Tianjin and just 35-minutes away by express train.
Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) in suburban district Shunyi (approximately 26 km (16 mi) to the northeast of the central districts), is the world's second-busiest and has three terminals. Travel between Terminals 1 and 2 is via a long corridor with travelators. A free shuttle bus runs between Terminal 2 and 3.
Before embarking on a trip around the city, have the names of places you want to visit written in Chinese characters. The staff at your hotel should help you and take their card to help you get back. Obtain as much detail as possible and take an up-to-date Sinomap guide with you.
When crossing the road in China, assume that none of the road users will give way to you, even if a policeman is present. Use zebra crossings but most drivers won't stop. Always look around as a car or bike may be right behind you or heading straight for you. Should you find several cars and bicycles veering towards you from different directions, do not try to run to safety; instead, stand still. There is strength in numbers, so when a mass of people crosses together cars are more likely to stop or slow down.
Beijing Subway is a great way to quickly get around the city and is clearly marked in English for travelers. For budget-conscious travelers or those wanting to stretch their legs, it may serve as a better mode of transport than taxis.
What to see
The centre of the city and most important landmark is Tiananmen Square in Dongcheng District. This is the world's largest public square and a must see for all visitors from abroad and from elsewhere in China. The square is surrounded by grand buildings including the Great Hall of the People, the Museum of Chinese History, the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, the Qianmen Gate and the Forbidden City.
The National Stadium or affectionately "Bird's Nest", in Chaoyang District is a major landmark and a lasting symbol of the 2008 Olympic Games.
There are also a number of remarkable remains from the medieval city including the Ming Dynasty City Wall Site Park in Chongwen District, the Drum and Bell Towers in Dongcheng District, and Qianmen in Chongwen District.
Palaces, temples and parks
The city's many green oases are a wonderful break from walking along the never ending boulevards and narrow hutongs. Locals similarly flock to Beijing's palaces, temples and parks whenever they have time. The green areas are not only used for relaxing but also for sports, dancing, singing and general recreation.
The most important palace, bar none, is the Forbidden City in Dongcheng District. The Forbidden City was home to the Imperial Court during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
The Temple of Heaven in Chongwen District is the symbol of Beijing and is surrounded by a lively park typically packed with hordes of local people drinking tea, practicing calligraphy or tai-chi or just watching the world go by. The Yonghegong (Lama Temple) in Dongcheng District is one of the most important and beautiful temples in the country.
Museums and galleries
Beijing has more than 100 museums but most are not visited by foreign tourists. The city contains one of the largest and most well known museums the world, the Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several museums may have free admission throughout the year or on certain holidays. Additionally, entry tickets must be reserved three days in advance.
One of the most well-known museums in Beijing is the National Museum in Dongcheng District. The Military Museum in Haidian District has long been a favorite with domestic and foreign tourists. The Capital Museum in Xicheng District is a high profile museum with historical and art exhibitions.
The language of Beijing is Mandarin Chinese. Standard Mandarin itself was the administrative language of the Ming and Qing dynasties and was based mainly on the Beijing dialect.
English is spoken by staff at the main tourist attractions, as well as at major hotels. Otherwise, English speakers are not common, so always get your hotel's business card to show the taxi driver in case you get lost.
Temple Fair Temple fair is a good choice to enjoy Spring Festival of Beijing. Every Spring Festival, there are dozens of temple fairs in Beijing, such as in Temple of Heaven, Ditan, Beihai, Changdian, Longtan Lake, Lotus Pool Park, etc.
The Grand View Garden Fair The Grand View Garden Fair is held every year during the Spring Festival. There are performances and quizzes at the theme of “A Dream of Red Mansions”, one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels.
Music Festival Annual May Day, National Day, there’s a variety of music festivals held in Haidian Park, Chaoyang Park, Tongzhou Canal Park or large parks in the suburban, such as the well known school-sponsored Midi-Music Festival, the Strawberry Music Festival under the label of Modern Sky, as well as the Beijing Pop Festival held in Chaoyang Park.