Spring through April and May are also good months to visit Beijing, as this is when flowers start to bloom. Temperatures fluctuate (from 0-25°C/32-77°F) so pack plenty of thin layers and some warm socks. There are also fewer tourists, so you can explore the famous cultural sites in relative peace. Hotel prices also tend to drop this time of year compared to the busy summer months.
Beijing is an important world capital and global power city, and one of the world’s leading centers for politics, economy, and business, finance, education, culture, innovation and technology, architecture, language, and diplomacy. A megacity, Beijing is the second largest Chinese city by urban population after Shanghai and is the nation’s political, cultural, and educational center. It is home to the headquarters of most of China’s largest state-owned companies and houses the largest number of Fortune Global 500 companies in the world, as well as the world’s four biggest financial institutions. It is also a major hub for the national highway, expressway, railway, and high-speed rail networks. The Beijing Capital International Airport has been the second busiest in the world by passenger traffic since 2010, and, as of 2016, the city’s subway network is the busiest and second longest in the world.
Combining both modern and traditional architecture, Beijing is one of the oldest cities in the world, with a rich history dating back three millennia. As the last of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, Beijing has been the political center of the country for most of the past eight centuries, and was the largest city in the world by population for much of the second millennium A.D. Encyclopædia Britannica notes that “few cities in the world have served for so long as the political headquarters and cultural center of an area as immense as China.” With mountains surrounding the inland city on three sides, in addition to the old inner and outer city walls, Beijing was strategically poised and developed to be the residence of the emperor and thus was the perfect location for the imperial capital. The city is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, parks, gardens, tombs, walls and gates. It has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites—the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Ming Tombs, Zhoukoudian, and parts of the Great Wall and the Grand Canal— all tourist locations. Siheyuans, the city’s traditional housing style, and hutongs, the narrow alleys between siheyuans, are major tourist attractions and are common in urban Beijing.
Many of Beijing’s 91 universities consistently rank among the best in China, such as the Peking University and Tsinghua University. Beijing CBD is a center for Beijing’s economic expansion, with the ongoing or recently completed construction of multiple skyscrapers. Beijing’s Zhongguancun area is known as China’s Silicon Valley and a center of innovation and technology entrepreneurship.
Why visit Beijing in the Summer
From June to August, temperatures can reach a sweltering 40°C (104°F), with the added risks of heavy rainfall and high humidity. This doesn’t seem to deter international tourists, who flock to Beijing at this time of year. On the plus side, the Great Wall of China looks particularly breathtaking on sunny days.
You can also enjoy a leisurely boat ride on Kunming Lake at the Summer Palace, or escape the heat by visiting one of Beijing’s Hutongs (traditional narrow streets or neighbourhoods). Make sure you take plenty of sun cream and an umbrella to prepare for the changeable weather.
Why visit Beijing in the Autumn
September and October are widely considered to be the best months to travel to Beijing. Temperatures drop to a comfortable 15-25°C (59-77°F) and days are often sunny. Rain is kept to a minimum, although there’s no guarantee it will be dry so bring a raincoat. The city looks particularly attractive as flowers and trees transform into their autumnal colours. Beihai Park and Beijing Botanical Garden are a must-see. What’s more, September is the only month when Beijing Palace Museum displays their most prized ancient paintings.
A word of warning: October 1 marks the start of a week-long national holiday celebrating the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Many Beijingers will leave the city to visit friends and relations. In return, tourists from the rest of China flood into Beijing and the main cultural attractions become overwhelmingly busy. This week is best avoided if possible.
Why visit Beijing in the Winter
In winter Beijing gets very, very cold. Temperatures can drop to -9°C (16°F) and snow is a distinct possibility. It is very important to pack warm clothing – if you’re tall you might struggle to find appropriate clothing in Beijing.
Despite this, winter can be a great time to travel to the city as there will be very few international tourists. What’s more, if you’re in Beijing during Chinese New Year (falls on February 16 in 2018), you can take part in all the festivities the city has to offer, from fireworks to the Spring Festival Gala.