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10 Interesting Beijing Facts for Tourists

Beijing (北京 Běijīng /bay-jing/), previously known as Peking, is the capital city of the People's Republic of China. We're sure you knew that, but did you know that it is home to the longest wall in the world, as well as the largest palace in the world? 

Being China's second largest city after Shanghai, and dominating the north of China, there is a lot going on in Beijing. Here are 10 interesting facts for if you're already planning your trip to Beijing, or if you're just starting to think about it.

1. Beijing is home to the world's longest wall.

Great Wall at Badaling The Great Wall at Badaling

The Great Wall of China is one of the greatest sights in the world — the longest wall in the world, an awe-inspiring feat of ancient defensive architecture. Its winding path over rugged country and steep mountains takes in some great scenery.

The Great Wall has several different locations at which you can climb it, all of which have been built during different periods of time. Some of the most popular ones are Badaling, Mutianyu, and Simatai.

2. Beijing's Forbidden City is the largest palace in the world.

The Forbidden City The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is the largest palace in the world. It is also China's best-preserved imperial palace, and the essence and culmination of traditional Chinese architectural accomplishment. In 1987 the palace was nominated as World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, and it is also recognized as one of the five most important palaces in the world.

The palace has been home to 24 emperors during the Ming Dynasty, with construction taking 14 years between 1406 and 1420.

3. Beijing is, obviously, the best place to try the famous Beijing duck.

Beijing Roast DuckBeijing Roast Duck

You really shouldn't be leaving Beijing without trying the most famous dish: Beijing roast duck. The dish is made using white Beijing ducks, who are roasted with compressed air injected between the duck and its skin. Less smoky, hard wood is used, like pear, peach, or date branches, leading to a fruity flavor and a reddish color on the glossy skin of the duck.

There is a lot of other food to try while you're in Beijing too. If you want to know more about local food, check out this piece on how to eat like a local in Beijing.

4. Beijing's most popular souvenirs include calligraphy brushes and ink pads.

Chinese CalligraphyCalligraphy

There is plenty of souvenir shopping to be done in Beijing. Click here to find out more about Beijing's top 10 shopping areas. You will be able to find souvenirs at all of Beijing's top tourist attractions, and if you are on a tour with us you can ask your tour guide to take you to specialist shops too, if needed.

Don't forget to bargain!

5. Beijing was the capital of 6 notable dynasties and governments.

Chinese Flags at Tiananmen SquareChinese Flags

Beijing was the capital to 6 notable dynasties from over 21 centuries ago, which is why there are so many historical sites to explore. Here is the full list, with links for more information:

6. Beijing will be the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

The Olympic GreenThe Bird's Nest

One of the biggest sights in the city is the Olympic Park, built for the Summer Olympics in 2008. China's National Stadium, or the Bird's Nest, as it has become known, is the world's largest steel structure and the most complex stadium ever constructed. It is "one of the key engineering marvels in the world today."

As a testament to its significance, it's on the city's north-south axis, which also includes the Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square and the Temple of Heaven, travelling south. It is on the Olympic Green about 8km from the center of Beijing. Subway Line 8 was designed especially for getting around here, making visiting easy.

The city is currently preparing to host the Winter Olympics in 2022.

7. Beijing Municipality has a population of almost 20 million people.

Tian'anmen SquareTian'anmen Square on a clear day

Beijing Municipality has a population of almost 20 million, covering 16,800 square kilometers (or 6,487 miles). The city proper has a population of almost 12 million people, but it is likely that this data doesn't include many migrant workers coming from all over the country to look for work.

It's important to plan your time in Beijing well, as the distances are far. The city center is located at Tian'anmen (39.9087N, 116.3974E), between Tian'anmen Square and the Forbidden City, which should be one of your first stops when sightseeing!

While most of the ancient walls are no longer standing (with the inner gates taken away in 1965 to build the second ring road) you can still see one of the gates at Qianmen by Tian'anmen Square, and the watchtower at Deshengmen.

8. Breathing Beijing's air for six average days is the equivalent of smoking one cigarette

If you've only ever heard about Beijing's pollution on the news, you might be concerned about the air. However, the city has plenty of great air days, and the situation has improved a lot even in the last few years. In fact, breathing Beijing's air for six average days is the equivalent of smoking one cigarette: this is not bad for a large developing world city.

9. The best time to visit Beijing is May or October.

Autumn in BeijingAutumn in Beijing

Beijing is a city of extremes when it comes to its climate. The highest temperature in Beijing is 42 °C (109 °F) while the lowest temperature is -27 °C (-17 °F).

This means the best time of the year to go is right before summer, or just after. April, May, September and October are the most beautiful and comfortable months. Make sure to avoid national holiday periods though, as tourist sights are very crowded on these days.

While Beijing is often portrayed as battling air pollution on a daily basis, the situation has drastically improved since the 2008 Summer Olympics. China Highlights will provide air masks if you do happen to stumble upon a bad air day, and is flexible to changing your itinerary if the pollution is serious.

10. Beijing Capital International Airport is the second busiest airport in the world.

The city's other public transport infrastructure is also impressive, with 14 lines currently running on the subway (including 21 more lines to be added by 2020). Beijing's train stations are also built to carry the heavy burden of its huge population: 4 main stations, including one high-speed train station, service 590 trains every day, taking passengers throughout the entire country.Beijing Capital International Airport is the second busiest airport in the world following Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and the busiest in Asia.

Planning Your Beijing Tour

China Highlights customers at the Temple of HeavenOur customers at the Temple of Heaven

Due to Beijing's sheer size, if you've got time constraints, planning your trip well ahead of time is vital. If you still need some help planning your ideal Beijing tour, we've put together a guide to help you. You can also check out more facts about other major cities and attractions in China here.

We can help you tailor your own tour, depending on your requirements and what you wish to see while you're in Beijing.

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