Beijing has four distinct seasons, a short windy spring, long hot summer, cool pleasant autumn and long cold winter.
The ideal conditions during autumn and spring make these popular times to book your flights to Beijing, however with an influx of visitors you may find airfare and accommodation prices are higher during in these months, so book in advance to get the best deals.
Autumn (September to October) is the most popular time to take a flight and visit Beijing, as the skies are blue, temperatures are mild and rain is limited. September and October are known as the “Golden Autumn” months due to the beautiful crisp yellow leaves of the maidenhair trees. Another attraction to visitors, during this time, is National Day. This celebration marks the establishment of the Central People’s Government in 1949. On this public holiday, a number of government events take place, as well as concerts and fireworks. If you’re in the area, head over to Tiananmen Square which is decorated for the festivities.
Generally speaking, Beijing is dry and windy (and sometimes a little dusty) during spring (April to May), which makes it another great time to visit.
In contrast, summer (June to August) and winter (November to March) see weather extremes which put off some tourists. Summer is the rainy season and also extremely hot. The time can be very busy due to a large number of domestic tourists. Winter, on the other hand, can be incredibly cold with strong winds. If you can cope with these conditions then this is the best time to try and find cheap flights to Beijing and discounted accommodation rates. The winter season also hosts the Chinese New Year celebrations. This festival is widely celebrated and the most important on the lunar calendar. Expect public transport to verge on the chaotic side, due to the majority of people travelling home to celebrate with friends and family.
Other busy times include school and public holidays, which leave Beijing very crowded.
Take a flight to Beijing and see the economic, political and cultural capital of China for more than 700 years. While there has never been any shortage of travellers (business or leisure) taking cheap flights to Beijing, the Olympics in 2008 showcased the city in spectacular style. Beijing has rocketed up – much like those famous fireworks during the opening ceremony – the must-visit lists.
The city sprawls more than Shanghai or Hong Kong – Tiananmen Square alone is big enough to accommodate one million people – but luckily, most of the iconic landmarks are fairly close to each other, and if you flag them, taxis are very cheap. The city is laid out in a grid. At its centre is the Forbidden City (in Dongcheng District), the enormous complex, home to the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The beautiful Temple of Heaven in Chongwen District is south east of Tiananmen Square, and is also notable for the wonderful park that surrounds the temple.
The Olympics added many new sights to the city including the National Stadium (also known as the “Bird’s Nest”), the National Aquatics Centre (the “Water Cube”) and the CCTV site.
After the sightseeing, sample some Beijing cuisine. An excellent place to do this is at the Wangfujing Snack Street, a night market where you can feast on tanghulu (a traditional treat, sugar-coated fruit on a stick) or baodu (quick-boiled tripe).
It’s not necessary to rent a car in Beijing as taxis are very cheap and the public transport system is excellent. The subway is fast, clean, punctual and cheap. The bus network is comprehensive and enormous. There are about 500 routes, but numbers 1-199 should be sufficient for getting around the city centre.
Taxis can be picked up outside Terminals 1, 2 and 3. If the trip exceeds 15km, there will be a 50 per cent charge to cover the driver’s journey back to the airport.
The Airport Express railway runs every 15 minutes between early morning and late evening. It makes four stops – Dongzhimen, Sanyuanqiao, T3 and T2.