Where to go if you have 72 hours in Beijing?

From January 1, 2013, transit passengers from 45 countries will be able to stay in Beijing for 72 hours without a visa. This makes the capital city a convenient short-term tourist destination.

Famous sites include the Forbidden City where 24 emperors ascended the throne and exercised their strong power to the nation, Great Wall, one of the greatest construction wonders of the world, and Summer Palace, the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China. These are must-see places for the first time visit to Beijing.

Most people start their Beijing trip from the Forbidden City. When you climb up the hill in Jingshan Park, located to the north of the Palace Museum, you can have a bird’s-eye view of the whole compound as well as the central axis of Beijing.

Walk south across Tian’anmen Square – one of the largest squares in the world – you will arrive at Qianmen, an old pedestrian district, where you can stroll around an taste the miscellaneous traditional Chinese snacks. On this street there are two of Beijing’s oldest Peking roast duck restaurants, Quanjude, China’s biggest Peking roast duck chain restaurant, and Pianyifang, which uses a closed-oven roasting technique, is even older, dating back to 1416.

In the old days, lives in all Chinese cities revolved around the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower. They functioned as the official timepieces until 1924, when the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty was forced to leave the Forbidden City. From the top of the tower, you can have a birds-eye view to admire the entire city, and will be able to see hutong (traditional alleyways), one-story houses and courtyards in the area. It is in the places like this that you see how ordinary Beijingers live their lives.

The area around the Drum Tower is popular among young people, with hip-looking shops, restaurants, cafes and live music venues. Some of the foreigners who hang out here even speak with the Beijing accent.

From the Drum Tower, take a short walk to Houhai, a lake that has become known for its nightlife. There are numerous bars around Houhai, The lake itself is an attraction. Here you can row a boat in summer or ice-skate in winter.

Guomao is the center of the Central Business District (CBD), while Sanlitun is an area of shopping malls, bars and restaurants built around the biggest concentration of foreign embassies in Beijing. Sanlitun is a hodgepodge of international cuisine such as Spanish, Thai, Japanese, Turkish, American, and so on.

Beijing is one of the largest cities in the world. Some say you need a whole life to explore the ancient city’s glorious past and flamboyant present. But three days will give you a taste of something special and will definitely tempt you to return for a longer stay.

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