Beijing: My Personal Top 5
Like any other major city, Beijing has many positive qualities, things that make each stay here pleasurable and the only one of its kind. That is not to say that life in the swarming capital of China is devoid of any downsides, but in my eyes, it's definitely more than enjoyable. Among the 5 aspects of life in Beijing, the ones I cherish the most are:
1. Museums and Art galleries– there is a plenty of them and in most cases the entrance is absolutely free of charge, which apart from very interesting and diverse exhibitions (both Chinese and international artists are in evidence) in itself is a positive surprise, especially when keeping in mind that many Western museums charge as much as 15 EUR for a single visit. Perhaps I am too harsh, but sometimes it really feels that many countries have somewhat lost view of the importance of the concept of high culture that should be universally accessible and thus improve lives of all the members of a society. My favorite, out of Beijing's many public art galleries is decidedly the National Art Museum of China 中国美术馆.
2. Parks during the weekends are often bursting with Chinese people practicing calligraphy or playing unique instruments, such as Chinese violin, known as erhu. Many of Beijing's parks feature lakes, which for a very reasonable price you can explore by the means of a rented boat. Among the most popular parks are Beihai Park, the Summer Palace, Chaoyang Park and Taoranting Park.
3. Historical places. Well, this point is to a certain degree too obvious, for it is hardly conceivable that there are any individuals who may not associate the city with the Great Wall or Forbidden City, however save for them and some other recognized scenic spots, there is a number of less known places in kind of the Imperial Academy, the Bell and Drum Towers, fragments of the original City Walls and myriads of Taoist and Buddhist temples scattered throughout the city and its vicinity.
4. Modernity and safety. Despite the climate of the bygone ages permeating the everyday life of the city, modern day Beijing is anything but blindly concentrated upon its history and has the world's second most extensive subway system (the total length of which is still increasing at a mind-boggling rate) and simultaneously the busiest one. The city is conveniently connected with many of the country's metropolises by the system of high-speed railway, the thing still not too common especially in the US. Modern methods of payment (via Wechat especially), food delivered to your place without any additional fees (known as 外卖, literally sell out), or equally efficient online shopping of other commodities (products even from places located a few thousand kilometers from Beijing are often delivered within two days) certainly put Beijing among the world's most convenient places to live. In addition, the Chinese capital is an immensely safe place and after almost 2 years of living here (different neighborhoods) I have never experienced any unsafe situation.
5. Food. Beijing cuisine alike to local culinary preferences was greatly influenced by different regions of China, for instance, the famous Beijing Duck 北京烤鸭, originally comes from Shandong and one of the most popular dishes Gong Bao Jiding 宫保鸡丁，which is especially adored by the numerous expats, originates from Sichuan. What comes as a real treat for all the food lovers, Beijing is full of outdoor vendors offering skewers, shish kebabs and many different dishes popular among both local and foreign residents.