Beijing

Welcome to Beijing

Best known for its opera, iconic bicycles and signature duck dish, Beijing is the cultural and political centre of China, and has been so almost continuously since the 13th century. Indeed, its streets have seen their fair share of action; from ruthless emperors to the rise and fall of a communist dictator and European invasion to the Japanese occupation.

But, despite its rich history, the city bears few traces of its past. Much was lost during past wars and as much has been forfeited in various waves of modernisation. Recently, this has translated as a seemingly endless process of deconstruction and reconstruction in a turbocharged push to mould the city into one that speaks better of its position as a major superpower.

Still, with the likes of Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall as well as Victory Gate, the Taoist and Buddhist temples and the historic area around and including the drum tower, you could hardly say that Beijing has completely lost its heritage. Now, it's precisely this dramatic mix of old and new that makes the city so unique; incongruous combinations where communist slogans adorn the walls of luxury shopping centres and ramshackle hutongs compete for space with high rise buildings.

This metropolis offers new trends in architecture, music and fashion and serves as a magnet for businessmen, expats, students and travellers, as well as thousands of internal migrants that join the politically conscious and witty locals to try and make it in the fast and furious capital where it seems almost anything is possible.

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Quick facts

  • Inhabitants in China:
    1.32 billion
  • Inhabitants in Beijing:
    13 millon
  • Official language
    Mandarin
  • Currency
    Renminbi (RMB). Commonly known as Yuan or Kuai
  • Time zone
    UTC + 8
  • Emergency number
    Police: 110, Fire: 119, Ambulance: 120
  • Constitution
    People's Republic
  • Country phone code
    + 86
  • Country code
    CN, CHN
  • Local transportation
    Subway, (four different lines in expansion), buses