Beijing (北京市) alternatively romanized as Peking, is the capital of the People’s Republic of China. It is the world’s most populous capital city. Beijing is the second-largest Chinese city by urban population after Shanghai.
Combining both modern and traditional architecture, Beijing is one of the oldest cities in the world, with a rich history dating back three millennia.
As the last of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, Beijing has been the political center of the country for most of the past eight centuries, and was the largest city in the world by population for much of the second millennium AD.
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It has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites—the Forbidden City (故宫 博物院, map), *Temple of Heaven (天坛, map), *Summer Palace (map), *Ming Tombs (map), *Zhoukoudian (map), and parts of the *Great Wall (*Badaling, *Jinshanling, *Simatai, *Mutianyu) and the *Grand Canal — all of which are tourist locations.
The centre of the city and most important landmark is *Tiananmen Square (map) near the centre of the city. This is the world’s largest public square and a must see for all visitors from abroad and from elsewhere in China.
Siheyuans, the city’s traditional housing style, the more grand examples are the *Prince Gong Mansion (map) and *Residence of Soong Ching-ling (map). *Hutongs, the narrow alleys between siheyuans, are major tourist attractions and are common in urban Beijing. (*List of hutongs in Beijing)
In addition to the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City and the National Museum of China (map), other major museums include the National Art Museum of China, the Capital Museum (首都博物馆), the Beijing Art Museum (Wanshou Temple, map), the Geological Museum of China, the Beijing Museum of Natural History and the *Paleozoological Museum of China.
English is spoken by staff at the main tourist attractions, as well as at major hotels. Otherwise, English speakers are not common, so always get your hotel’s business card to show the taxi driver in case you get lost.
The Great Firewall of China blocks popular web services including Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google, and Yahoo (partially blocked include Wikipedia, BlogSpot, WordPress, and Tumblr). To overcome these restriction travelers use VPN services that unblock these favorite websites.