A history of more than 3,000 years and a population of more than 23 million make Beijing a seriously mind-blowing capital. At once uber-modern and steeped in culture, it fuses the old and the new in a mishmash of epic proportions. Just take Tiananmen Square, the beating hub of the metropolis, where grand Brutalist monuments rub shoulders with the gabled gatehouses and dragon-writhed halls of the Forbidden City. Around that swirls a city replete with smoky pancake sellers and ancient hutong blocks, cutting-edge art galleries and fragrant parks peppered with golden gingkos. What's more, cheap flights to Beijing are a great way to jet into China as a whole. Search for your tickets and you could soon be treading wonders like the Great Wall or boarding trains bound for Inner Mongolia.
Beijing's greatest treasure is the UNESCO complex of the Forbidden City, a whole medley of throne rooms and plazas that was once the center of imperial China.
Shorten the bucket list by heading to this iconic medieval fortification as it wiggles over the dusty mountains of Badaling, 80 kilometers north of Beijing.
Transport yourself back in time with a stroll through the narrow lanes of Nanluoguxiang, where street-food sellers mingle with lantern-lit taverns.