The capital of China - Beijing - was on the must-visit list of our trip in China. We arrived in Beijing by high-speed train provided by the China Railway Corporation. It was fast (1100KM in 4 1/2 hours), relatively clean and reasonable priced (about 120 CAD).
I expected Beijing to be large, crowded, traffic congested, modern and traditional. I didn't get disappointed. Beijing is huge. It is over 5.7 times bigger than Metro Vancouver by size and over 25 million people live here. This means it is 3rd biggest city in the world by population which you can feel when you travel in this city. We had no problems to discover this city by subway and bus. The traffic - especially closer to the centre - is pure madness and you may be better off walking. This city is jam packed with people everywhere. People on the street keep pushing each other around and there is zero personal space in many occasions. On our walks we definitely discovered some very modern buildings like Beijing National Stadium, CCTV Headquarter and National Centre for the Performing Arts. Contrary there are Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and Hutong all over Beijing which give a glims of the old Beijing, even so some of them feel quite touristy.
Being in Beijing meant to be reasonably close to the Great Wall of China. There are a number of different places to see and walk on this (partially restored) wall. It is usually quite crowded and the number of visitors per day are limited. It is definitely one of the most impressive constructions on this planet given that it is a huge wall of over 20000 Km in total and the first parts of it were build about 2000 years ago.
Beijing has a unique cuisine. In my point of view, Beijing Duck is one of the most famous dishes and therefore we made sure to have a full course Beijing duck meal. It consists of different thin sliced parts of the duck, served with a flat pastry, a dark brown gravy and it is sometimes served with a soup.
We were hit by significant smog in Xi'an and based on the air pollution reports Beijing is doing better than Xi'an. That said, I was suffering from significant smog related issues like running nose, coughing, headaches and burning eyes. I would strongly suggest wearing mask to protect yourself. It is not always easy to realize smog immediately but you can definitely feel it after a day walking outside, and than it is usually too late. We started putting on masked whenever we leave our place.
Overall Beijing is a interesting city. It is not the easiest city to get around as a tourist given the language difference, size and crowdedness. It definitely is worth a trip and there are some places in this city which are very unique. It is very important to come prepared because it is easy to get lost and google is not (always) available in China.