Beijing is the capital city of China, and is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Booking Beijing flights for a tour of this ever-changing metropolis will leave travelers breathless – from the historical sites to the commercial shopping and exploration, there is much to do and see in Beijing.
Probably the most known tourist destination in Beijing – and the first place to begin exploring the city – is Tiananmen Square. It’s the spot where Mao Zedong declared the formation of the People’s Republic of China, but Tiananmen Square is more commonly known as the site of student-led pro-democracy protests in 1989.
The Olympics arrived in Beijing in 2008 and the large clock in the middle of Tiananmen Square served as the countdown to the world’s greatest games.
The city is constantly undergoing transformation. Return travelers on flights to Beijing will notice a drastic change in Beijing’s landscape. Tourists will need to dodge construction cranes and orange cones to get to Beijing’s new hotels, shopping malls, sports stadiums and restaurants and nightlife options. But Beijing also offers a glimpse of China’s famed history, including national parks, temples, and the Great Wall of China. Find cheap flights to Beijing and take a good look around – the next time you fly to Beijing you might find yourself in a completely different city.
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September and October are dry and sunny with average temperatures in the 60s and 70s (Fahrenheit). Winter is quite cold; December and January temperatures can drop into the teens with cold winds off the Mongolian plains. April warms up to the 60s. Summer is muggy and hot, and July and August can reach the upper 70s.
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The busiest time is the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival), when the Chinese and visitors to China are on the move. The holiday season starts two weeks before the New Year and continues for two weeks afterwards. The New Year is in January or February (the date is based on a lunar calendar). Summer is the peak season for tourists, especially foreign tourists, and it can be difficult to find cheap flights to Beijing during this time. Labor Day (May 1) and National Day (October 1) are also big holiday weeks for the Chinese.
October through December is rainy season and it's also very cold in Beijing. The city is less packed with tourists and because of the rain, it can be difficult to get around to all the must-see attractions. However, this is the best time to find cheap flights to Beijing and discounted hotel rooms and tourist accommodations.
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Shuttle buses run regularly to the city center and major hotels. Metered taxis are also available, but it is recommended that passengers have their destination written in Chinese to avoid confusion. Travelling time to the city is about an hour.
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There are plenty of ways to get around this enormous city. Beijing has an extensive bus and subway network to get you where you need to go. The subway is fastest and easiest, but will be very crowded during rush hour. Buses are always crowded. The taxis run off of meters, and are very easy to find, but many drivers don’t speak English, so it helps to have your destination written in Chinese. Cycle rickshaws are another option, but you will have to bargain your rate, and some drivers demand more when you arrive at your destination. You can also rent a car and driver for the day, or rent your own car. Be aware that you won’t be able to leave the city limits if you’re driving. The city is too large to walk, but you can certainly take public transportation or a taxi to a particular area and then explore on foot. If you are brave enough, rent a bicycle and ride alongside the busy traffic. Biking is very popular in Beijing and bike lanes are clearly marked. If you get overwhelmed, go with the flow of cycling traffic, especially when crossing streets.
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- Sampling the Chinese food in Beijing is an absolute must. But don’t just to stick to Western favorites (albeit also Beijing specialities) such as roast duck, dumplings or hotpot. A Cantonese proverb says that if something walks, swims or flies with its back to the sun it is edible – and you’ll find anything and everything in Beijing, especially from the street markets. Be brave and sample something you wouldn’t dream of eating back home, such as silkworms, scorpions, sparrows, pigeons or cicadas. Try the street vendors at Wangfujing (which you can reach by the metro) for a taste of the exotic.
- If you’re visiting the Forbidden City (which almost every tourist will), take a detour to the roads to the north around the lakes. The houses here give a good sense of the way Beijing used to be. Rickshaws are available to hire if the walk seems too much.
- The recently opened Beijing Aquarium is the largest inland aquarium in the world and likely to be a much more enjoyable trip than the nearby zoo. Though the zoo has a good panda enclosure, most visitors from the West leave appalled at the care and conditions for the animals. The aquarium, on the other hand, almost always impresses, with lots of “hands on” exhibitions – you can touch starfish and sea cucumbers should you wish to – and performances by sea lions.
- The Underground City in Beijing is said to be better known by tourists than by Beijing residents. Built as a bomb shelter during the 1970s, it has been open to the public since 2000 and is a maze of 18 miles worth of tunnels. The tunnels were originally dug by volunteers and local citizens, even school children, on Chairman Mao Zedong’s orders and were intended to house at least 40 percent of the city’s population if needed. Today they are an eery reminder of the past conflict, standing deserted with more than 1,000 air raid shelters and spaces intended for shops, hospitals, schools and restaurants.
- Don’t just visit Tiananmen Square in the day. At night, the entire square is lit up and the atmosphere changes completely to the bustle of the day. Worth watching is the lowering of the flag at sunset by the army. However, don’t stay too late. At 10.30pm on the dot, the army moves everyone out of the square and locks it up for the night.
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