China's capital is a cultural, political and economic powerhouse
If you're willing to explore – with phrasebook in hand, or on a tour – you'll be well rewarded.
Tiananmen Square is the largest public square on the globe. One of its flanking buildings is the entrance to the Forbidden City – the Gate of Heavenly Peace. A preserved palace with almost 1,000 buildings, the World Heritage-listed Forbidden City was home to emperors for almost 500 years from the early 13th century. Beyond it, exploring Beijing's old alleyways with traditional courtyard residences, or hutongs, is a delight. The Summer Palace is a must-see too.
Feast on local delicacy Peking roast duck and savour a drop in the tea houses. Brush up on your haggling skills at the numerous markets: Xizhimen (clothing) in Xicheng District; Silk Street (for more than just silk) in Chaoyang District; and Hongqiao (for pearls) in Chongwen District. If you're venturing 1–1.5 hours to part of the Great Wall of China, the section between Jinshanling and Simatai is less busy and touristy than parts closer to Beijing.