Beijing, also known as Peking, is the current capital city of China. Its history dates back more than 3,000 years and much of that history is still alive within its borders. Beijing literally means Northern Capital, a role it has played many times in China’s long history. It first became notable in Chinese history after it was made the capital of the State of Yan under the name Yanjing. The Mongols seized the city in 1215 and from 1264 it served as the capital of a united China under Kublai Khan. After the fall of the Mongol-founded Yuan dynasty in 1368, the capital was initially moved to Nanjing but was moved back in 1403 and received its present name.
Beijing is home to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the National Museum of China, as well as the Old and New Summer Palaces. These and other attractions are perfect for observing Chinese gardens, ancient architecture and Chinese culture from a range of periods in the country’s history. There are numerous temples within and just outside of the city for those who want to witness Confucius, Taoist and Buddhist landmarks or perhaps have a spiritual experience. One of the most popular places to view the Great Wall of China is at Badaling, located about an hour by train or 1.5 hour by bus from Beijing.
Known for its flatness and regular construction, the city has only three hills and its concentric ring roads are actually rectangular, like the configuration of the Forbidden City. Beijing boasts an extensive public transportation network, which includes an extensive subway system. There are bike trails, but travelers may find the pollution too oppressive for cycling. For more than 100 years, Wangfujing Commercial Street has been the best place to shop in Beijing. However, the Yashow and Silk Street Markets are also very popular.