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Beijing Cruises

About Beijing (Tianjin), China

About Beijing (Tianjin), China

Tianjin is often compared to Beijing, perhaps merely because it is the ideal gateway city from which to explore the imperial capital. But this modern city bears more similarity to Shanghai, with its skyscrapers towering over the tranquil Haihe River. Also like Shanghai, it is a former concession port where foreign merchants established settlements as trading posts. Well-preserved European-style mansions and other buildings grace the cityscape.

For many visitors, the modernity of Tianjin doesn’t hold the allure of Beijing’s imperial treasures and monumental landmarks. Beijing’s history, after all, stretches back 3,000 years. Back then, the land upon which Tianjin rests was covered in the waters of the Yellow River’s estuaries. Beijing, once known as Peking, was a grand imperial capital from the 10th century AD until it became the capital of the new Communist nation in 1949. Throughout its long history, it has been many things to the Chinese people: the center of dynasties, home of the world’s largest palace, historic hub of ancient hutong neighborhoods, educational center and touchstone of history. Today, Beijing is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Great Wall, some segments of which undulate over the hills of Huangyaguan, or Yellow Cliff Pass.

Beijing Lifestyle and Culture

The arts thrive in Beijing, embracing traditions that date back centuries. Peking opera is considered one of the highest expressions of Chinese culture. Music and lyrics are critical to any performance, but artists are also well versed in gestures, subtle movements, fighting and acrobatics. More than 140 museums further celebrate Beijing’s and China’s arts and history, from the National Art Museum of China and Beijing Art Museum to the Beijing Museum of Natural History.

Cloisonné metallurgy is one of Beijing’s most revered arts, an elaborate and detailed craft that dates back to the 12th century BC. Lacquerware, another timeless art practiced for centuries, offers its own sophisticated and intricate patterns. Each of these practices requires a skilled hand and quiet patience, much like another Chinese tradition: the art of making tea. Teahouses are a mainstay of Chinese culture. But tea bags are frowned upon here; instead, a finely tuned, ritualized interplay of loose leaves and hot water produces the perfect cup.

Beijing Sights and Landmarks

In the center of Beijing lies Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest public square, with the capacity to accommodate over one million people. This massive gathering place, whose name translates to “Gate of Heavenly Peace,” is home to some of China’s most revered landmarks. In the mausoleum of Mao Zedong, the former leader lies in state. The Monument to the People’s Heroes is a ten-story obelisk honoring the fallen. The enormous Great Hall of the People hosts the Chinese Parliament. And the National Museum of China is dedicated to the arts and history of the nation. Just opposite the square is the entrance to the Forbidden City with its acres of elegant palaces, pavilions, courtyards and gardens.

Outside Beijing is the magnificent Summer Palace, a 700-acre garden and complex of buildings used by the Imperial Court to escape the summer heat of Beijing. Also outside the city lie the sacred burial grounds of the Ming emperors. Walk along the Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs, a long avenue lined with massive sculptures of elephants, lions and camels leading to the tombs. In the nearby Huangyaguan Hills is one of the most impressive and best preserved sections of the fabled Great Wall, with breathtaking views of the Chinese countryside.

Beijing Entertainment and Activities

Explore the ancient past of Beijing amid the labyrinthine warrens of its hutong district. These centuries-old residential alleyways, a series of low-slung homes connected by narrow lanes and courtyards, evoke Peking of old and are so important to the Chinese character that many of them are well preserved. Another restored treasure, the Lama Temple, was the Yongzheng Emperor’s former home and later became a Buddhist monastery attended by the Qing Dynasty. With its intricate Tibetan-flavored architecture, it is China’s best preserved lamasery, and its largest.

To immerse yourself in more recent history, visit the Olympic Green, venue of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. The complex offers another example of the massive scale of China’s building projects. The National Stadium, famously known as the “Bird’s Nest” for its sloping lines, was the site of one of the most magnificent opening and closing ceremonies in the history of the games. The National Aquatics Center, called the Water Cube for its translucence, is now a water park.

Beijing Restaurants and Shopping

Beijing’s cuisine dates back to the days of emperors. The “Emperor’s Kitchen” influenced the history of food in the city and in all of China. Located deep in the Forbidden City, thousands of cooks from all over the empire prepared their favored dishes here for the imperial family. The city’s most famous dish is Peking Duck. One place to experience real Peking Duck with all the flavors of the original imperial dish is Beijing Dadong.

Muslim restaurants are very popular in Beijing, and Crescent Moon Muslim Restaurant attracts local Muslims with its finely prepared lamb and noodle dishes. One international fine dining establishment is Georg, founded by Copenhagen designer Georg Jensen. In this intimate space, enjoy tasting plates with a Scandinavian touch.

For arts and crafts, visit the Panjiayuan Market. Some of the stalls are open every day, but it is busiest on weekends. Another enriching experience waits for you down the narrow warrens of the historic Shijian Hutong, where you will find shops such as Slow Lane, purveyor of handmade teaware, quality teas and clothing made from Tibetan yak wool.