Beijing (formerly Peking) has been the stop–start capital of China since the Mongol Yuan dynasty. Beijing is one of China’s true ancient citadels. It is also an aspiring, confident and modern city. It is also an exceedingly busy city (nearly 14 million residents) with high-rise buildings, sprawling suburbs and international hotels.
Despite the city's overcrowded atmosphere, Beijing also features numerous attractions of histroical and cultural interest, of which some, such as the Great Wall, former Imperial palace (known as the Forbidden City), the Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace and the remains of Peking Man at Zhoukoudian, are UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites.
Chinese history and culture fascinates Western visitors, and Beijing is the place to start exploring it. The city abounds in imperial palaces, temples, mansions, gardens and tombs that epitomise classical Chinese architecture. It has 120 museums and more than 100 public gardens.
Beijing is located in the NE corner of China. Its city limits extend some 80km (50mi), including the urban and the suburban areas and the nine counties under its administration - in other words, it's huge. Though it may not appear so in the shambles of arrival, Beijing is a place of very orderly design. Long, straight boulevards and avenues are crisscrossed by a network of lanes.
Places of interest are either very easy to find if they're on the avenues, or impossible to find if they're buried down the hutongs (narrow alleys).