Your first full day in Beijing takes you to Tiananmen Square, which is both a center of modern civic life in Beijing and the gateway to the Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today it is surrounded by monuments to Chairman Mao and the Communist revolution that transformed China following WWII. Stroll through the square and enter the Forbidden City, the 180-acre precinct of China’s historic emperors. Begun in the 15th century, the complex grew to encompass palaces and gardens, quarters for the imperial family, and offices for bureaucrats. This vast compound houses many treasures of the Qing and Ming dynasties. Your next stop takes you to the traditional residential neighborhoods of Beijing, the hutongs, which you’ll tour in the most traditional way—via rickshaw. You’ll also be invited in to have lunch with a local family. In the evening, enjoy a Welcome Dinner of succulent Peking duck, a signature dish of the city, served with wine.
Walk along a section of the legendary Great Wall, a UNESCO-designated site that has been one of the man-made wonders of the world since its construction began in the sixth century to keep out invaders from the north. Back in Beijing, spend the evening enjoying a spectacular show that combines kung fu prowess with acrobatics and dance—it’s the best performance in town.
Start the day touring the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO-designated site completed in the 15th century. A masterpiece of architectural and landscape design, it influenced architecture throughout China for centuries. Later, you’ll visit the giant pandas at the Beijing Zoo. After lunch, fly to the ancient city of Xi’an and settle into the serene Shangri-La Xi’an hotel.