Clockwise from top: Great Wall of China, Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, Beijing’s financial district, painting at the Ming Tombs, the National Stadium, Chinese lanterns

From ornate temples and palaces to hip cafés and bars, Beijing’s attractions make it a great place to explore. In just over three decades, China’s capital has transformed itself from a socialist monolith to a cosmopolitan metropolis, with all the arts, culture, entertainment and glamor that entails. With Eyewitness Top 10 Beijing, it is yours to explore.

Less than 20 years ago, the residents of downtown Beijing were cycling around in their pyjamas, and mules pulling carts of bricks through the streets were a common sight. But over the last decade, the city has experienced an incredible rate of growth. Today, Beijing is dotted with Olympic sites such as the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube, state-of-the-art venues including the National Center for the Performing Arts, and edgy art districts such as 798 and Caochangdi, while Sanlitun is filled with chic boutiques.

Yet amid this cosmopolitan city, lovers of antiquities still have plenty to see. The Forbidden City anchors the capital, and the Summer Palace offers respite from city noise. The conical Temple of Heaven graces countless guidebooks, and there are houses of worship on almost every corner – from Taoist (White Cloud Temple) to Buddhist (Lama and Fayuan) and Confucian to Catholic. However, the city’s real charm lies in its hutongs – 800-year-old warrens that wind through the center – and a walk around Hou Hai lake, with its historical courtyard houses, offers a further glimpse of everyday life in Beijing.

Whether you’re coming for a weekend or a week, our Top 10 guide brings together the best of everything that Beijing has to offer, from temple fairs to traditional crafts and tea. The guide has useful tips throughout, from seeking out what’s free to avoiding the crowds, plus eight easy-to-follow itineraries, designed to tie together a clutch of sights in a short space of time. Add inspiring photography and detailed maps, and you’ve got the essential pocket-sized travel companion. Enjoy the book, and enjoy Beijing.

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