However, the nerve centre of China is also a city imbued with history that inspires a whole population, fiercely proud of its unique civilisation founded thousands of years ago. The Great Wall of China is also well worth a visit. But before that, let yourself be swallowed up by the vibrancy of old Beijing and explore its past, which is now omnipresent. Your experience will be studded with mythical sites: the mysterious Forbidden City, the Summer Palace with its valleys and shimmering lakes. Then, a bit closer to the city, Peking University and of course, Tiananmen Square, where history still echoes, so palpable is its symbolic significance. China’s unrelenting move towards modernity is never more evident than in the glorious art collection on display at the National Art Museum of China or the National Museum of China.
Take the time to wander aimlessly in search of the city’s temples, and make sure you include the Yonghe Temple, one of its finest. Explore the hutongs, mazes of narrow alleyways where you’ll find Siheyuan, traditional homes, which have now been renovated to find a new lease of life as pretty shops or wickedly tempting restaurants.
The great French chef Thierry Marx once said that China was the mother of all cuisines. Beijing is an amazing culinary destination, popular with the leading names in the food world. French and international cuisine is constantly being reinvented here, as well as finding inspiration. At the same time, Chinese-born chefs, led by Da Dong, inspired by their travels and foreign influences, cook up delicacies for the most demanding of palates. Since the first emperors of China, cuisine has been a real art form here: you’ll find trendy restaurants celebrating the latest food trends, stalls selling street food and seafood at Pearl Market on street barbecues, whose delicious fragrances fill the capital. There are also more traditional places to eat, where you can enjoy some exquisitely prepared Crispy Peking Duck. The city’s markets, bustling with life, serve up a thousand and one different flavours and smells, and are a fascinating experience in their own right.
When the sun goes down, head to the Beijing Opera House, where you can learn about the country’s folklore. Entertainment is all about dazzling your senses, especially during the colourful celebrations for the Chinese New Year, or surprisingly, at Christmas as well: Beijing has become rather fond of this western tradition, which is now almost as popular as the Dragon Boat Festival. The city also has lots of sporting events on offer, including in particular the annual Beijing Marathon and the China Open. And no sooner had Beijing finished hosting the 2008 Olympics than they’re gearing up to prepare for the 2022 Games. There’s just no stopping this magnificent nation!