- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Travel to Beijing, China
Formerly known as ‘Peking’ in English, Beijing has been described as one of the world’s greatest cities. Although it serves as the national capital of the People’s Republic of China, and is the second largest city in the country, it holds greater significance than just that. It is, in fact, the political, educational and cultural hub of the country. Having been one of the Great Ancient Capitals of China, there is hardly any building in the city that is not steeped in history.
Layered with tales of emperors, uprisings, grandeur and hubris, Beijing is an extraordinarily irresistible place to visit. It remains a momentous city with some extraordinary historical sites, although the billions invested in the run-up to last decade’s Olympics have left it as a thoroughly modern metropolis too. Top-quality hotels and restaurants abound, the subway system is world-class and the architecture, in many cases, is eye-catchingly contemporary.
Most visitors, however, come for the city’s more traditional attractions. Beijing’s vast centrepieces are the royal palaces of The Forbidden City and the open expanse of Tiananmen Square. Together, they straddle the dynastic era of ancient empire and the revolutionary rule of Mao Zedong. Further afield, The Temple of Heaven and the lakeside Summer Palace – both beautiful in their way – give further flavour of the city’s past. If you want to get an even better glimpse of the Chinese royalty, a visit to the Summer Palace should be on your itinerary. Located on the western section of the city, the Summer Palace has been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Here you will be able to see a vast collection of gardens and palaces that served as summer retreats for the Qing dynasty rulers. Another World Heritage Site, and perhaps, Beijing’s best religious site is the Tiantan or Temple of Heaven. The rulers of both the Ming and the Qing dynasty used to visit this temple to pray to the Heaven for a good harvest. Do not forget to include a visit to the Pagoda of Tianning Temple and the Logou Bridge in your itinerary.