What are the best things to see in Beijing, China?

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Before a fair number of these fell hostage to a Beijing Subway Line 8 works site, the hutongs just by Gulou (Guloudajie station on Line 2) were amongst some of the more "real" alleyways in Beijing... free from being "redone". Happily, there's the Bell and Drum Tower not far away — be sure to visit these before "redevelopment" is likely to "threaten" them as-is.

Take Line 4 to Xisi and exit there to see a mix of the old Beijing that you don't often see. There's a bookstore and a bank by the crossing that have been there for just about a century or so. Churches and Buddhist temples are around as well.

Two "tourist traps" are Tian'anmen and the Olympic Green, both considered cliché by locals but on every visitors' Must-Visit list. (Both, interestingly enough, require security checks!) Combine a Tian'anmen visit with either a trip of the Forbidden City (also a "Must-See") or the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall, which attempts to tell you the story of the city and where it's headed. The somewhat über-glitzy, redone Qianmen Shopping Street, is also in the vicinity, as is Paul Andreu's "Egg" or the National Centre for the Performing Arts. For more locals around Tian'anmen, try the side parks, especially Zhongshan Park.

Expats toting Macs or with "expensive international money" to spend will find refuge at either the Apple Stores at Xidan (Joy City) or Sanlitun Village. The latter is also home to a smorgasbord of international brands. To see how the locals shop, stay away from Wangfujing and instead head for Xidan.

Take Subway Line 4 to the Summer Palace or Yuanmingyuan to see two major "royal gardens" in northwestern Beijing, or head onto Tiantandongmen on Line 5 to see the Temple of Heaven. These more grandiose, more "royal" parts of the city are not to be missed.

If only to marvel at a railway station done as an airport, or to ride on the world's fastest intercity train to Tianjin, head down to the Beijing South Railway Station, the largest in Asia upon its August 2008 opening. For more interesting and modern architecture, check out the Beijing CBD around Guomao; be sure not to miss the CCTV "Big Pants" (a name that the officials are not too happy with!). There's also the Moma Linked Hybrid by Dongzhimen, which along with the Bird's Nest, was featured as one of the three most interesting modern buildings in city by international media in the run-up to the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics.

The city is too big to be discovered in two days' time or so. Give at least a full week to see the city. Remember, Beijing has five ring roads, so it's big!

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