Beijing is dynamic city: ancient, historic structures nestled against gleaming high rise buildings highlight a truly cosmopolitan place. Despite the modern structures, the newness mingles well with the China of old; lovely parks peppered with old alleyways and traditional "Hutongs."
If you are concerned about a lack of Mandarin skills, worry not as English is found nearly everywhere.
At Beijing's Capital International Airport, it's easy to follow the signs toward customs. The baggage claims is also easily marked, and once outside Taxis are abundant. For the more budget-conscious, there is a new metro system that will take you to the heart of the city. It too is modern, as it was built for Beijing's Summer Olympics in 2008.
There are also many hotel options to choose from that suit every traveler's taste and budget. I chose to stay at the Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel a quaint inn found in the city center. The Double Happiness Courtyard garnered rave reviews on Tripadvisor, and is a family owned property set in an ancient Chinese house. The room had all the modern amenities of a bigger hotel and was furnished in lovely traditional decor, with each room opening out onto a courtyard. A wonderful breakfast and free wifi were added bonuses. The complimentary breakfast that was ample and delicious; a blend of East meets West, and set up in buffet style, with great coffee to boot!
If you happen to catch Beijing on a clear day, be sure to visit to the Great Wall. I was lucky enough to make the day trip in early spring when it was uncrowded by summer tourism. There are two options to get to the top: for the hearty, a hike up the several stairs can take about an hour. Alternatively, there is a lift similarly to a ski lift that whisks you to the top in minutes. The views of the surrounding valleys are stunning.
Other must stop visits include a trip to the spectacular Summer Palace which is not only extraordinary, but gives off an aura of serenity. Other notable musts include a stroll across the the iconic Tiananmen Square, and an afternoon marveling over the fantastic Terracotta Warriors. Oh yes, be sure to make time for the zoo for a look at the adorable Pandas!
With so many things to see in and around Beijing a visit is enough to keep you busy for days, but if you have time and want to venture further there are several daily fast-trains to dynamic Shanghai.
China is rapidly becoming a major tourist destination, and getting an entry visa has never been easier for American visitors.
Stay tuned for my next vlog from spectacular Hong Kong.
All photos and video by Barbara Benitez
Barbara Benitez-Curry is an avid traveler, writer and videographer who loves using mobile media to create a visual experience.