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Beijing Travel Guide

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China’s greatest and most famous piece of architectural heritage as well as it’s strongest tourist magnet is the incredible Great Wall of China. This massive feat of human engineering, begun over 2000yrs ago is renowned for being the only manmade structure visible from the moon and stretches from Shanhaiguan Pass on the east coast to Jiaguguan Pass in the Gobi Desert. With a total length of 6000km, the wall zigzags across China spanning an even greater distance than the journey from New York to Paris. The part of the Wall accessible from Beijing at Simatai, 110km north east of the city is the third area of the Wall now open to tourists. Compared to the tourist-swamped Badaling and Mutainyu areas of the Wall, Simatai offers a less commercial, and less 21st century affected experience. The lack of souvenir shops and cable cars removes the tackiness infecting other parts of the Wall and allows the visitor to better appreciate this part of the structure, rebuilt in the Ming Dynasty.

Back within the city is the infamous Tiananmen Square. Resounding with the events of 1989, this massive open space was designed and built in 1651 then enlarged in 1958 to a size of about 100 acres. Bordered by the Mao Mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People (home to the National People’s Congress), Tiananmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace), the Changan Road, the Museum of the Revolution and the Museum of Chinese History with the Monument of the People's Heroes slap bang in the middle, a week could be spent purely exploring what is one of the largest public squares in the world. One of it’s major attractions is the Tiananmen Gate leading to the Forbidden City - forbidden as this 720,000 square metre complex was off limits to commoners for a good 500yrs or more. This is the palace from which the emperors governed China and is the biggest and best-preserved tour de force of Classical architecture in China….and who can resist taking an extended peek at what once would have got you killed?

Other must-see’s include the stunning classically landscaped Summer Palace with it’s man-made Kunming Lake, Longevity Hill, as well as countless halls, pavilions and temples. This unbelievably beautiful example of Imperial Chinese gardens is unmissable. Throughout the city there are also some amazing temples to visit including the impressive Temple of Heaven and the Lama Temple – once the home to the son and successor of the Kangxi Emperor. Beijing is a city unlike any other in China, it does not epitomise the rest of the country yet holds some of the country’s most incredible wonders. Budget a lot of time for this city, as you may stay longer than intended.

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