Text Sophy Zee

Must go

The Great Wall: It’s not true that you can see it from space, but its length and immensity is daunting even in a country full of supersized architectural icons.

Trips to Badaling are easily booked from tour agencies in Beijing, or if you prefer a less touristy approach, there are biking or hiking tours.

Must see

Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City: It’s the heart of Beijing, literally. The capital spirals out from this former centre of government in concentric rings.

If you can wake up, attend the flag raising that happens every morning at about 5am. The time varies, so check with your hotel.

Must eat

Peking duck: There is a reason why Chinese food around the world tends to be Cantonese rather than from Beijing, but Peking duck is the exception. Try Da Dong for a flavourful duck with crispy skin. After that, steer clear of Beijing food as much as possible and go for Sichuan, Hunan or Hubei dishes.

Must buy

The New chic chinois: Traditional oriental motifs and communist kitsch are so last decade. A new generation of Chinese designers have set up shop at Nanluoguxiang and the 798 arts district.

For more conventional shopping, go to shopping areas Xidan and Sanlitun. For wholesale prices, try the Silk Market, Hong Qiao Market or Shijitianle Market (near the Beijing Zoo). Wangfujing also has lots of shops, but is very touristy.

Must try

A walk in the park: Whether it’s the Summer Palace, Yuan Ming Yuan or the Temple of Heaven the Chinese treat the grounds around their historical sites as public parks for opera singing, ballroom dancing, mass exercises, rope skipping and even belly dancing. Watch, or join in the fun.

Travel tips

Make full use of the subway system which is crowded but extremely cheap at two yuan per trip.
Beijing taxi drivers don’t accept tips and are scrupulously honest in general.
Planning and sensible walking shoes are in order as distances are big and attractions can be far apart.