Flights to Beijing
The capital of the People’s Republic of China is a magical place rich with history and culture. Formerly known as Peking, the city is more than 3,000 years old, but has been inhabited long before that. Peking Man is the name given the discovery of human remains dating back 700,000 years.
One of the most populated cities in the world with more than 21 million residents, Beijing is the home of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games – and hosted the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. It is world renown for its stunning architecture, both ancient and contemporary. Here visitors can tour the splendor of The Forbidden City, the expanse of Tiananmen Square, and the vastness of the Great Wall of China.
For a more intimate look at daily life, there are the hutongs, neighborhoods of ancient narrow alleyways where daily life unfolds. Here visitors can explore private residences, gardens, workshops, vendors, and public baths.
One thing visitors are advised to prepare for is the city’s notorious air pollution. Be sure to monitor the levels, which can rise and fall with the weather. Reserve outdoor activities like gardens and temples for good air days and indoor activities like museums on bad air days.
Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) serves more than 70 domestic and international airlines, including Delta Air Lines. Located 18 miles northeast of Bejing’s city center, the airport has three terminals linked by an Inter-Terminal Shuttle Bus Service. Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 also are linked by a pedestrian passage that takes about 10 minutes to walk.
Terminal 1 is the smallest. It has a couple of fast-food restaurants and coffee shops, such as KFC and Starbucks. Terminal 2 has three levels. The first floor is for arrivals, the second for departures, and the third for restaurants, bars and shops, including duty free. Dining options, including Acasia Deli Café, Heineken, and Urban Food Market. Terminal 3, which opened in 2008, has four levels and is considered one of the largest airport terminals in the world. Restaurants include Ajisen Ramen, Gourmet Noodle House, and Crystal Jade Kitchen.
- Taxi stands are located outside the first floor of Terminal 1, the first floor outside Arrivals at Terminal 2, and outside the basement level of Terminal 3.
- When taking a taxi, have your destination written down in Chinese or indicated on a map. Be sure driver uses the meter.
- Shuttle bus service provides transportation from all three terminals to various destinations in Beijing, including the Beijing Railway Station and to Xidan in central Beijing, a short walk to the Forbidden City.
- Catch the shuttle bus on the west side outside the first floor of Terminal 1, outside Arrivals at Terminal 2, and outside the first floor of Terminal 3.
- The Beijing Airport Express Train picks up passengers from all three terminals and connects with Subway Line No. 2, 13 and Olympics Line.
Plan to spend the whole day exploring The Forbidden City, a massive complex of 90 palaces and courtyards spanning 178 acres in the center of Beijing. Constructed during the Ming Dynasty in the early 1400s, it is home to a stunning collection of historic artifacts and artworks, including paintings, ceramics, and jade.
Just outside the entrance to The Forbidden City is Tiananmen Square, a vast pedestrian plaza and one of the world’s largest public squares. It is the site of Mao Zedong’s mausoleum and the National Museum of China, home of many rare artifacts spanning thousands of years.
The Summer Palace from the Qing Dynasty is a complex of gardens, lakes and palaces representing classical Chinese architecture and garden design.
The 789 Art District, also called DAD for Dashanzi Art District, was formerly a military factory built during Chairman Mao’s time. Today it is a hip, eclectic destination for artists, designers, and foodies attracted to its many trendy galleries, studios, boutiques, restaurants, and bars.
The Great Wall of China, which is actually a series of walls built over the course of three dynasties, stretches across northern China. The sections near Beijing have mostly been reconstructed and are tourist friendly, but there are still some original ones where visitors are forbidden.
Vue Hotel Houhai is a sleek, modern luxury hotel in what was once a ‘50s-era government complex on Houhai Lake. There are 80 guestrooms appointed with minimalist design elements and dramatic lighting. Some come with hot tubs. Amenities include a rooftop bar offering panoramic views of the lake, and a swimming pool with DJ booth.
For something a little more low-key and more moderately priced, Orchid Hotel is a boutique hotel with just 10 rooms, some with private terraces overlooking the Drum and Bell Towers. There are also several full-service, private hutong residences a short walking distance away. The hotel serves an excellent breakfast and boasts an exceptional Middle-Eastern restaurant.
Budget-minded travelers might enjoy staying in the remains of a 500-year-old temple at Graceland Yard, a small rustic hotel with eight rooms near Beijing’s city center. Rooms are simple and classically designed with Zen Buddhist touches. There is no restaurant, but it’s close to several hutong neighborhoods with excellent dining options.
Beijing has a warm, temperate climate and experiences four distinct seasons. Spring and fall are fairly short, each season lasting just two months, while the summers and winters are long.
The coldest months are December through February, with average lows in the low 20s and highs in the 50s. The hottest months are June through August, with average highs in the low 100s and the lows in the mid-70s.
Beijing averages about 25 inches of rain a year, most of which falls during the summer months, primarily July and August. Sandstorms are common in the spring, but Beijing sees very little snow. Weather-wise, fall is considered the best time to visit.