Updated: Feb 11, 2020
Last week my wife an I went to Beijing with one of the high speed trains (highly recommended), partly for business and partly for vacation. We‘ve been planning to go to Beijing ever since we first came to China. Friends and colleagues have recommended going there in autumn before the air pollution gets worse due to the start of the heating season.
The first couple of days my wife had to work so I took the opportunity to explore the town on foot. However, the air quality didn’t allow for long walks so I focussed on the CBD close to the newly built China Zun Tower (Citic Tower) and the CCTV Headquarters. I immediately realised how different Beijing is compared to Shanghai. I‘d consider Shanghai to be a livelier city with a lot of sightseeing venues, malls and good restaurants in close proximity. In Beijing you really need time and a good DiDi driver to go from one place to the next and sometimes venues can be 15-20 km apart from each other.
On the weekend strong winds helped to clean the air and the sun came out so we took the chance and walked from Tiananmen Square through the Forbidden City all the way north into the Hutongs around Jingshan Park. It‘s been really impressive and I can understand why so many Chinese journey there as often as possible. The museum inside the Forbidden City is the most important historic museum in China established in 1925, some 24 years before the Peoples Republic of China was founded. Unfortunately (at least for us visitors today), some of the treasures and items have been brought to safety during the war with Japan (1931) and shipped to Taiwan in 1949 where they are exhibited in the „National Palace Museum“ in Taipeh since 1965. Other treasures have been stolen or destroyed so parts of the forbidden City and other temples and sights in Beijing are not as rich in art objects as one might expect.
The best part of our trip was travelling to the Great Wall at Mutianyu. We’ve booked the trip one day in advance through an agency called WildGreatWall. Rick and our driver Yang have been extremely helpful and booking the trip over WeChat was very convenient. Rick sent the private driver to our hotel at our preferred time and arranged everything from refreshments to purchasing the tickets in advance. It was a really nice and relaxing trip, the sun was out all day and we managed to see one of the most beautiful parts of the Great Wall - according to several tour guides - within 7 hours, including the ride from Beijing to the Great Wall and back and without any „touristy“ detours to jade factories or tea houses.
We will definitely go back to Beijing next year, probably in spring or summer to get some better weather and see other parts of the Great Wall and the capital.