September 28, 2015 | talktraveltome | Leave a comment When we first started talking about China being a possible destination on our round the world adventure, Beijing was a must for us and was actually what kickstarted our interest in visiting China in the first place. Being home to so many amazing historic locations including: the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and even more recently the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing was a place that we both really wanted to visit. As the pinnacle of our China Tour, you could say that we were both pretty excited when we finally arrived in the capital of China. We only had three days in this big city and a lot we wanted to get done…. so lets get to it! Our Guide to Beijing Getting Around: Like the other cities we’ve visited in China, there is a lack of English speaking people in Beijing but the MTR system is in english, very easy to navigate and our preferred method of getting around. The few times we did take a taxi we were sure to have the destination written out in Mandarin. We asked our hotel concierge to do this for us a few times and they were always more than happy to help. Here are the App’s we downloaded to help us get around China: Navigating the metro system: Explore Shanghai Metro, Explore Beijing Metro, Metro China Subway (includes metro system of other cities in China including Hangzhou). Communicating with taxi’s: China TaxiBook Offline Map: China Map. Air Quality (since pollution is a major issue throughout China): PM 2.5 We’d recommended all of these apps with the exception of the China Map app. It costs $4.99 and honestly didn’t work very well. Top Attractions: Our Must See and Do 1. Walk the Great Wall of China: If you’re making the trip to Beijing seeing the Great Wall is probably already on your list of things to do, and might even be the reason for making your way to China in the first place (it was for us). The Great Wall of China is more than 13,000 miles long and an incredible architectural achievement. We were expecting the Wall to be pretty amazing but it still blew away all our expectations. Standing on top of the towers and seeing how far it stretches across the mountain tops is something that we’ll never forget. The Great Wall is impressive enough as is, but the views from up there just make it that much more spectacular of an experience. If I were an enemy approaching China during the Ming Dynasty and saw the Great Wall I think I would just pack up my things and turn around. After all, attacking The Wall didn’t work out so well for the Wildlings in Game of Thrones (obligatory reference to The GOT Wall). Being so big, knowing where to start your visit can turn into a lengthly decision (get it… lengthly decision because it’s ridiculously long). There are several areas of the wall you can visit, some of which are completely restored and others that are destroyed and/or overgrown with the local landscape. Popular areas of the wall to visit include; Badaling (restored/most popular/touristy), Mutianyu (restored/less crowded but still popular), Simatai (less restored yet well preserved) and Jinshanling (unrestored/off the tourist path). We made our way to Mutianyu, which is about an hour and a half from Beijing. This is definitely a popular tourist destination which is made evident by the fact that you can take a cable car to the top of the mountain and then a tobogan down… That’s right, you can take a tobogan down the Great Wall of China. To avoid crowds and the heat, we’d suggest leaving as early as possible. We got there around 8:30am and had about 30 minutes to ourselves before everyone else started to roll in. There are buses that visitors can take from Beijing, however we ended up booking a car as it was more convenient and we could go at our own pace. 2. Forbidden City & Tiananmen Square: Located in the heart of Beijing, The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square offer an interesting glimpse into China’s past. This is a part of the city, that if you aren’t a history buff, we would recommend getting a tour guide for. We ended up booking a group tour with China Highlights and would highly recommend it. Our guide took us through Tiananmen Square explaining some of the history and culture before making our way into The Forbidden City. The line to get in can be a bit overwhelming, but once we arrived our guide took us through the less crowded areas to show us all the hidden gems within this incredible city. Oh and also we are famous in Beijing… no big deal! 3. Temple of Heaven: About 5km south of The Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven is a a religious complex where Emperors would come to pray. This was another one of those areas where if you don’t know your Chinese history (we don’t) it is worth hiring a guide. Unfortunately, we didn’t think to do a tour so we didn’t get to learn all of the details that this historic park has to offer, but we still had a great time seeing the beautiful architecture. 4. Shop at Silk Street and Hongqiao Market: As most people already know, China has an extravagant counterfeit game and if you want to check it out first hand head over to the Silk Street and Hongqiao Market. Both shopping centers have endless stalls ranging from clothing, accessories (handbags, sunglasses, shoes), souvenirs, jewelry, etc. However, if you’re in the market for pearls (yes, real pearls), both markets offer a great variety of pearls at a VERY affordable price. Obviously before buying anything do your research and know how to bargain! We bought some pearls as gifts for people back home and ended up paying a quarter for what they were asking for. Most vendors are pretty pushy, so just stand your ground on your price and don’t be afraid to walk away. We learned that walking away is your “ace in the hole” when it comes to negotiating at these types of markets. Start walking away and they will usually come running after you to accept your final offer. We’d strongly recommend not paying more than half of the original asking price. 5. Wander around Nanluoguxiang: Nanluoguxiang is a well preserved area of downtown Beijing and great example of a traditional hutong. Quick oxford dictionary definition: a hutong is a narrow lane or alleyway in a traditional residential area of a Chinese city, especially Beijing. However, the majority of Beijing’s hutong’s have been demolished to make room for commercial buildings, roads and high rises, so spending some time wandering a hutong will give you a unique look into Beijing’s history and culture. Within Nanluoguxiang there is a very busy central main street which caters to tourists, but the real look into the past can be found down the side streets. This is an area worth taking a stroll through and doing a little shopping or grabbing a bite to eat. 6. 798 Art District: “Beijing has a thriving art district”, a statement we didn’t know to be true until we talked with some Beijing locals. Within 798 you can find several galleries, art studios, unique art exhibitions, as well as trendy cafes and bars. 7. Olympic Park: For all you 2008 Olympic fans out there the Olympic Park is an absolute must visit. Incase you forgot, this is home to the arena where Michael Phelps won EIGHT gold medals in a single Olympic Game! Yes, we think it’s mandatory to reference Michael Phelps with any mention of the 2008 Olympic games. The Olympic Park is home to the famous Bird’s Nest stadium as well as the Aquatics Center. We’d suggest going at night as the lighting design on both buildings is still something to clap about even if no medals are being given out. However, that will change as Beijing will be hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics! Once you have checked out the Olympic Park we’d suggest walking to the Beitucheng metro station. It’s about 30 minutes, but during our walk we stumbled upon an area that was filled with outdoor karaoke, night rollerblading and elderly dance classes… it is a sight to be seen! Places to Eat For our last stop in China we wanted to make sure we hit the big three of well known Chinese cuisine. The Trifecta as we like to call it: Dumplings, Peking Duck and Hot Pot! 1. Mr. Shi’s Dumplings: Mr. Shi’s Dumplings has a special place in our heart and stomach, one because the dumplings are out of this world, and two, it was their seven year anniversary when we visited so we were offered free beer by Mr. Shi himself. The walls of this small restaurant are covered with messages that were left by previous customers from all over the world showing their love for Mr. Shi’s steamed and fried dumplings. 2. Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant: If you like duck you have to try Da Dong. It is a peking duck chain and some of the best food we had while we were in China. All of the ducks are cooked over a wood fire and then cut up in front of you at the table. It’s nothing short of perfection. 3. Haidilao Hot Pot: A hot pot is kind of like a Chinese fondue. You order the type of broth you want (we went with one spicy and another that was a mushroom broth) and then order vegetables and meats to add in. It’s like creating your own soup and it’s absolutely delicious. Most of the staff didn’t speak English so we weren’t 100% sure we ate it correctly, but whatever we did we enjoyed our meals! Accommodation Something we never thought we would have been able to say is that we slept in the China World Trade Center, a building that soars high above the historic city of Beijing. We were fortunate enough to have spent several nights in the China World Summit Wing, which is located within the China World Trade Center, in the heart of Beijing’s Financial District. The China World Summit Wing is a five star Shangri-La property and the definition of luxury combined with jaw-dropping views. We stayed in their Grand Premier Room (now doesn’t that sound fancy) which allowed us to see Beijing from a whole new height. The floor-to-ceiling windows let the views really take center stage when you entered the room. Our spectacular views included the CCTV Headquarters and even the Forbidden City. Besides the views, the room itself was elegantly decorated and kept with the theme of luxury and sophistication. We slept on cloud nine with a beautiful mural of misty mountains above our bed. Oh and we can’t forget about the bathroom let’s run down the list: LCD television in the mirror, bathtub over looking Beijing and marble everywhere. If we weren’t in a city with so much to see and do, we may have never left the room! However, once we did get back from wandering around the city, we took full advantage of the complimentary serving of tea and finger foods in the lobby located on the 64th floor. This made for a great afternoon break and snack on our way back to the room each day. If you want something a little more substantial than finger foods, the hotel has four restaurants and two bars, most of which have killer views of the city. In addition to glamours rooms and complimentary snacks, they also have an awesome spa and an indoor infinity pool where you feel like you’re on top of the world. We spent our last afternoon in Beijing soaking up some views from the pool as well as sweating out all the fried food we ate in their crystal and herbal steam rooms. Staying at China World Summit Wing is an experience you just can’t get anywhere else (after-all, it’s on the top of the tallest building in Beijing), and was the perfect place for us to have ended our trip to China. Thank you China World Summit Wing, Beijing, Shangri-La for hosting us during our stay! As always, our opinions are our own as we Talk Travel.