Home to the Forbidden City, the largest royal palace in China; the Great Wall of China at Badaling, one of the seven worldly wonders; and the Temple of Heaven, where Chinese emperors once worshiped, Beijing is the quintessential city of China and its sites and splendor should make it to the top of your must-travel destinations. While you're there, definitely take in the main attractions, but also don't miss the opportunity to dine in the teahouses, shop the markets, and jet-set to a surrounding water village like Tongli or metropolis like Shanghai.
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
Approximately 13 hours from LA
When to Go: Beijing at its best
The best months to visit are early fall between September and October when the weather is relatively dry and warm. For cheaper flights, you might also consider spring or winter. The rainy season runs from May to September and can also become extremely warm and muggy.
What To Do
See the Great Wall of China:
The paragon monument to China's history, the Great Wall is considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, stretching close to 4,000 miles across mountains and valleys from east to west. See it in the capital city of Beijing, or for the less-crowded (and a less touristy) view, go to the nearby town of Mutianyu.
Escape the tourist sites for an hour or two, and duck into one of Beijing's many teahouses. While you're there, sit back and relax, catch up on your reading, or just revel in each other over bottomless cups of jasmine tea. Many teahouses are clad with replica Ming dynasty furniture and some even feature live traditional Chinese music.
Spend time at the temples:
You don't have to go all the way to Tibet to find Buddhist monks. Go to the Yonghe Gong (the Llama Temple), an active place of worship for many Tibetan monks, where you'll see the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, The Hall of Everlasting Blessings, and the Tower of Ten Thousand Happinesses, to name a few. After you've seen the Buddhist monks, see the Daoist monks in Baiyun Guan (the White Cloud Temple).
Jet to Shanghai:
Take a flight to the bright metropolis of Shanghai. Known as the Paris of the East, you can take in the whirlwind by shopping Xiangyang Market, where you'll find all the take-homes you're looking for and more; then walk the Bund, a strip along the bank of the Huangpu River strewn with restaurants, bars, and world-famous Art Deco buildings.
-- Anja Winikka