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  Capital entertainment  
2014-04-09 17:24:39
China Daily

Capital entertainment

Visitors can experience the loveliest and liveliest side of this overwhelming city in merely three days - visiting the age-old Forbidden City and Qianmen, shopping at the modernized CBD and Sanlitun, ice-skating on Houhai Lake or enjoying a dinner of Peking roast duck in a fancy restaurant.

What to do and where to go if you have 72 hours in Beijing? Mu Qian and Ye Jun recommend some of the must-go and a few of off-the-beaten track spots.

Starting Jan 1 in 2013, transit passengers from 45 countries - now the exemption list has expanded to 51 countries - will be able to stay in Beijing for 72 hours without a visa. This makes the capital city a convenient short-term tourist destination.

Beijing is one of the largest cities in the world. Some say you need a whole life to explore the ancient city's glorious past and flamboyant present. But three days will give any visitor a taste of something special and will definitely tempt them to return for a longer stay.

Famous sites include the Forbidden City, Great Wall and Summer Palace. These are must-see places for first-timers in Beijing. But the city can offer much more as many of its treasures are off the beaten path. Let's take a look, Most people start their Beijing trip from the Forbidden City, the palace grounds that were home to the emperors of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, which showcases traditional Chinese culture. But unless you climb up the hill in Jingshan Park, located to the north of the ancient palatial structure, you won't be able to have a bird's-eye view of the whole compound.

According to the dictates of feng shui, it is favorable to site a residence to the south of a nearby hill. Hence, Jingshan mountain was constructed artificially when the Ming emperors built the Forbidden City.

At 45.7 meters high, it is an easy climb. When you arrive at the pavilion on the top, you will have a great view of not only the imperial palace compound, but also the central axis of Beijing.

Donghuamen Road and Xihuamen Road, immediately outside the Forbidden City's boundary walls but within the moat, are perfect for a relaxing walk to soak up the nostalgic atmosphere. This is probably the only place in Beijing where your sight won't be diverted by high-rises that are popping up every day.

On one side is the Forbidden City, on the other, across the moat, are two royal gardens. If you are there early enough, before the other tourists arrive, you can imagine yourself in medieval times.

Walk south across Tian'anmen Square - one of the largest squares in the world - and you will arrive at Qianmen, a gentrified old district.

Stroll along Qianmen Pedestrian Street and go into an old lane called Xianyukou to taste the miscellaneous traditional Chinese snacks. But beware, some might taste a bit strange. For a safer choice, check out Du Yi Chu, which sells flower-shaped siu mai that is recognized as China's national intangible heritage.

The pedestrian street has two of Beijing's oldest Peking roast duck restaurants.

Quanjude, China's biggest Peking roast duck chain restaurant, preserves an ancient wall in its Qianmen joint, from 1864, when it was founded. Another restaurant, Bianyifang, which uses a closed-oven roasting technique, is even older, dating back to 1416.

The area also accommodates some of Beijing's best Western restaurants. Capital M at the northern end of Qianmen Pedestrian Street has a view of the Tian'anmen Square on its roof-top terrace.

Ch'ien Men 23, location of the old American consulate, houses French restaurant Maison Boulud, and Italian restaurant Sadler.

The founder of Maison Boulud, Daniel Boulud, runs a three-Michelin-star restaurant in New York, and Sadler's founder's restaurant in Italy holds two Michelin stars.

Love Beijing
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· China's Shenyang, Dalian offer 72-hour visa-free stays
· Beijing plans to ratchet up promotion of visa-free stays
· Beijing visa-free policy lures 10,000 visitors
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