Beijing preserves a large number of imperial palaces & gardens, temples and ancient tombs. Among the main highlights of the city are the Forbidden City - a former Imperial Palace, and Tiananmen Square - the majestic symbol of authority in modern China. Attracting millions of tourists every year the square is the geographical center of Beijing and the largest city square in the world. It occupies an area of 440,000 m2 and is able to accommodate up to 1,000,000 people simultaneously. The square's main landmark is the ancient Tiananmen tower built in 1417 and a 124 feet high monument to the People’s Heroes.
Another must see in Beijing is the UNESCO listed World Heritage - Temple of Heaven (Tiantan). The medieval complex of religious buildings was originally constructed in 1420 as a worship place for the emperor to pray to the God of Heaven. In the 16th century the Jiajing Emperor decided to build separate altars for heaven, earth, sun and moon, symbolizing harmony. Today it is a monumental park displaying Chinese cultural legacy.
The Beijing Hutongs are a vivid illustration of the authentic life of Beijing’s local people. “Hutong” in Chinese, means a lane or an alley, formed by rows of houses around a courtyard. Since the mid-20th century, the number of Beijing hutongs has dropped dramatically as they were demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.
The Summer Palace, also known as Yihe Yuan - Garden of Restful Peace, is one of the biggest remaining royal gardens and another World Heritage Site worth visiting when in Beijing. Firstly built in 1750, it later became the main residence of Chinese royalty at the end of the Qing Dynasty. Today this ‘Museum of Royal Gardens’ harmoniously radiates natural beauty and the grandeur of royal gardens, and is an excellent example of Chinese gardening arts.
Another gem of Beijing is the Yonghe Lama Temple - the largest and most well-preserved lamasery in present day China. Initially built in 1694 the building was the residence of Emperor Yongzheng and later in 1744 became the center of the Lama administration. As a result the temple reflects the symmetrical ancient Chinese architecture combining various architectural styles of the Han, the Manchu, the Mongolian and the Tibetan making the Yonghe Lama Temple the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet.
The massive, inimitable and compelling capital of China - Beijing is a traditional oriental metropolis with the pulse of buzzing modern city and the country's precious jewel.