Ancient capital A tour of ancient Beijing begins with the grandeur of the 500-year-old Forbidden City, the imposing residence of Ming and Qing emperors and their courts. The imperial compound is home to 980 red-walled buildings with orange tiled roofs. Nearby Beihai Park and its centuries-old white pagoda is China’s best-preserved imperial garden. The geometrically balanced Temple of Heaven is a classic study in Taoist architecture. China’s most iconic edifice, the Great Wall, is a day trip you’ll never forget.
Modern metropolis Just as yin cannot exist without yang, ancient Beijing is balanced by a modern, dynamic metropolis. The 798 Art District is a factory compound that is now the centre of modern Chinese art. Several of Beijing’s most striking avant-garde buildings have Olympic roots, like the Bird’s Nest, where world-class athletic competitions are held. The Water Cube, where Michael Phelps swam into the record books, is an illuminated beacon of China’s entry into modernity. The Houhai area has emerged as the city’s newest nightlife district.
City of culture No Chinese city has the cultural richness and variety found in the capital. The National Centre for the Performing Arts, aka The Egg, is a massive orb featuring top music, dance and dramatic performances. For those who measure culture with their taste buds, Quanjude is renowned for its Peking duck. Antique shoppers will spend hours looking for bargains at Liulichang.