Welcome to Beijing
Beijing is recognized as the political, educational, and cultural centre of the People's Republic of China. The Encyclopędia Britannica describes it as "one of the world's great cities" and it is not hard to see why - Beijing manages to maintain the majesty of centuries of history whilst holding its own as an exciting modern hub.
The city's layout was formed in the Yuan Dynasty, but reached the height of its architectural magnificence after large scale reconstruction during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Beijing retains much of its rich cultural heritage today, the most famous example being the Forbidden City, which housed emperors and their households for almost 500 years.
The Central North-South axis of the Forbidden City remains the central axis of Beijing, extending South to Tiananmen Square, and North as far as the Drum and Bell Towers, which faithfully announced the time to the populace every hour until 1924, when the last Emperor of the Qing Dynasty was forced to leave the Forbidden City, and western-style clockwork became the official means of timekeeping.
It would be a mistake, however, to focus on the city's past, without looking at the astounding changes that are occurring in its present. Beijing is among the most rapidly expanding cities in the world, in size, population and economic growth. New developments are constantly emerging, including skyscrapers, shopping malls, recreational complexes and sleek modern living spaces, and as such Beijing is now acknowledged as one of the world's most vibrant modern metropolises.
In 2008, Beijing hosted the Summer Olympic Games, one of the most spectacular sporting events ever held, and the city enjoyed enormous popularity, dazzling the world with its stunning ceremonies and friendly hospitality. World-renowned architects were invited to design the stadiums for the Games, and the buildings acclaimed today as masterpieces of architectural design include the famous "Bird's Nest" and "Water Cube". Other interesting new landmarks include the China National Grand Theatre, China Central TV Station, Linked Hybrid and the New Beijing Poly Plaza, co-existing harmoniously alongside ancient buildings and peaceful hutongs.
But Beijing is much more than exciting architecture and spectacular history. If you have had your fill of visiting palaces, temples, gardens, museums or landmark buildings, why not head out and have a little fun? Beijing has a thriving and exciting nightlife, with entertainment ranging from live Jazz, to teahouse theatre and the Beijing Opera. Enjoy a beer in one of the popular bars of the Chaoyang District, or try Houhai, 798 and Nanluoguxiang for a distinctive taste of Chinese culture.
Beijing offers a vibrant mix of old and new, tradition and modern life, that will never cease to amaze.