Beijing is the capital of the most populous country in the world, the People’s Republic of China. It was also the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors until the formation of a republic in 1911. As such it is rich in historical sites and important government institutions.
Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008. Much of the city was in upheaval as infrastructure was being frenetically constructed and sights were being renovated for the Games. Post-Olympics visitors can look forward to some modern additions to the city’s attractions, including the “Water Cube” and the “Bird’s Nest.”
The Forbidden City is the spot to appreciate the might and grandeur of the Imperial Chinese court during the height of its power in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Despite the transformation of the city around it, the Forbidden City remains mercifully relatively untouched.
Hutongs are Beijing’s ancient alleyways, where you can find traditional Beijing architecture. Rent a bicycle and traverse some of the remaining hutongs. Visit the Temple of Heaven early in the morning to see thousands of people starting the day with tai chi. Or see a Beijing opera at the Laoshe Tea House near Qianmen station. There are always short shows in the afternoon. Admission is free, but you should buy a cup of tea.