Beijing is the capital of the People's Republic of China. It was also the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors until the formation of a republic in 1911.
Beijing is the political, educational and cultural centre of the country and as such it is rich in historical sites and important government and cultural institutions.
The city is well known for its flatness and regular construction. There are only three hills to be found in the city limits (in Jingshan Park to the north of the famous Forbidden City).
Beijing has a population of around 17 million people living on 16,800 km2 distributed in 18 districts. The city borders Hebei Province to the north, west and south and Tianjin Municipality to the east.
English is spoken by staff at the main Tourist Attractions, as well as at major hotels. Otherwise, English speakers are not common, so always get your hotel's business card to show the taxi driver in case you get lost.
Likewise, have staff at your hotel write down the names of any tourist attraction you plan to visit in Chinese, so locals can point you out in the right direction.
Anyone suffering from any sort of health conditions should consult medical advice before travelling to Beijing, especially those with breathing difficulties.
Air pollution has traditionally been a big problem in Beijing. Winter is the worst time as the cold air creates an inversion layer and traps the pollution in the city.
A white surgical face mask may help with the occasional dust storms. A much higher-grade filter is needed to prevent 2.5mm particulates from entering the body.
Beijing's water supplies are also commonly found to contain high levels of toxins which could cause illness so avoid drinking tap water.
Free WiFi can be found in all sorts of chain and independent cafes and fast food restaurants, and many sit-down restaurants as well. These cafes can look like restaurants from the outside, but most any place that is called a cafe will have Wifi. Wifi is also common in hostels and hotels. Faster connections may be available for a small fee.