I've been to China quite a few times now, but I had always stuck to Shanghai or the Shenzhen area and I'd never had a chance to make it to Beijing. Beijing is what most people think of when they think of China and it's chock full of history and amazing things to see, so I was anxious to visit. I was finally able to make it happen back at the end of June and spent two days exploring the city and fitting in as many of the sights as possible.
First off, I'd recommend not visiting Beijing in the dead of summer. It was incredibly hot and humid and it was so insanely crowded at every sight we saw. That being said, summer was my chance to go, so I went.
I was traveling by myself and didn't want to deal with the hassle of trying to get to farther sights like the Great Wall at Mutianyu and the Summer Palace on my own, so I decided to book a two day small group tour. This was truly the best option for me and I'm so glad I did it, because I ended up with a really great group and we were able to take photos of each other and keep each other company on some of the longer car rides. The other best part was the guide we had for the tour. Her name was Sunny and she was excellent. She spoke perfect English and she had clearly been doing this for a long time, so she had all the tips and tricks and so many stories and facts to tell us, so she was really invaluable. You can contact her here (and I swear I wasn't paid to say this, but she really was awesome and truly recommend her as a guide).
On our first day, Sunny and our driver picked everyone up from our hotels and dropped us off at our first stop - Tiananmen Square. The square is truly massive and interestingly is the most important location for Chinese tourists to visit. There's a flag raising ceremony every morning at sunrise and people will camp out for hours to get a good spot to watch the ceremony every day. It's truly amazing. From the square, you can see the entrance to the Forbidden City/Imperial Palace and it's quite the sight to behold. The square is surrounded by government buildings and also the National Museum of China, which I didn't have a chance to visit, but I heard it's amazing.
From the square, we walked through the first gate into the Imperial Palace. The Palace is often called the Forbidden City because ordinary citizens were forbidden from entering the palace unless they had been invited by the Emperor. The city was full of incredible detail and continued on and on and on. It was also so full of people and nearly impossible to navigate at times, but was definitely a place you can't miss in Beijing.
Just a twenty-something with a full-time job and a full-time obsession with traveling. It's best to LiveTraveled.