You might think that a run-down of some Beijing facts and figures could include some Great Wall stats and possibly a tally up of the famous hutongs that are oh-so-explorable. But we’re not here to talk about those kind of numbers. We’re more interested in the real eye-openers this city can deliver, with a little pop-culture based fact checking along the way. Read on for the intel on ice bikes, excruciating foot massages and what you can really expect from a stay in a 7 star suite.
You can travel at 217mph under the Great Wall
This city timed the unveiling of its super-fast bullet train just right. Opening weeks before the Beijing Winter Olympics, the high speed rail line does a little more than ferry competitors from A to B. An onboard TV studio – and 5G connection, lets journalists drop the latest from the games live to your chosen streaming service. The 217mph top speed cuts journey times from Beijing to Zhangjiakou and Beijing to Yanqing by 66%. And, best of all for travellers to the city, it allows you to whizz under one of the seven wonders of the world.
There’s a museum devoted entirely to watermelon
You can’t compile a list of Beijing facts without mentioning the Daxing Watermelon Museum. One of the city’s quirkier museums, its walls are lined with wax effigies of the various iterations of watermelon that grow on farms across the globe. This Madame Tussauds of the watermelon world takes itself reasonably seriously, with sections devoted to culture, history and details of how the fruits are grown. Nip outside and you’ll see several varieties being cultivated. For a slightly more familiar set of wax models, the Beijing Wax Museum is a better bet.
Orbzii tip: All of the exhibits are in Chinese – so expect to just browse the melons and take in the absurdity, rather than learn any watermelon growing tips.
You can roam around the world’s largest palace
Several stately venues try to stake a claim on the world’s largest palace. And how you measure the size of your regal residence depends on the title you can claim. So in Beijing, facts and figures fans will want to get the measuring stick out for the world’s largest palace complex – the Forbidden City. 720,000 square metres of courtyards, halls and palace rooms sit within the imperial walls. Better yet, much of it is open to the public. Up to 80,000 people at any one time can be found clocking the cultural relics and scoping out one of the world’s most impressive palaces.
Sadly, there aren’t 9 million bicycles in Beijing…
A generation has been fooled into thinking Beijing is wall-to-wall bicycles. That famous Katie Melua song deployed a certain degree of creative licensing to turn around 90,000 bicycles into 9 million. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The roads are easy to navigate for one thing. But people in Beijing do LOVE bikes… but not necessarily on the road. Nip into an ice rink – or wander by a frozen lake and you’ll spot Beijing residents cycling on ice bikes. The bike which looks like a throwaway mishap from an episode of Scrapheap Challenge isn’t the sleekest of vehicles, but gets the job done. Give it a whirl next time you’re in Beijing. They’re certainly faster than the ice chairs.
You can get a foot massage, all over the city…
If you see these symbols, 足疗, feel free to pay for the services on offer. Roughly translated as pedicure, what you’re actually signing up for is a foot massage. Just don’t expect the masseuse to gently soothe your aching toes. Foot massages in Beijing are tests of your pain threshold. Expect to squeak out the occasional yelp as your feet are pummelled into shape by massage therapists who may find your pleas to stop mildly amusing. The end result is a pair of primed feet ready to walk on across the city. Getting there is the hard part.
Parts of the Great Wall are made with rice flour
When you’re being bombarded with Beijing facts and information, one that so often gets overlooked is how the Great Wall was built. Or, more specifically, what it’s made of. And this is where the construction of this 13,170 mile long wall gets truly mind blowing. Some sections are bound together with glutinous rice flour. We more commonly know this as ‘sticky rice’ on the takeaway menu, but apparently, when ground into flour, the paste is strong enough to hold together a seventh wonder. Food for thought, if you can forgive the pun.
You can book a stay in a 7 star hotel
Looking for a little luxury? A stay in the city’s 7 star hotel could be just the thing. Western design meets oriental architecture in the opulent Pangu Hotel. The luxe pad offers suite guests views over the Bird’s Nest, a personal butler, Italian marble bathrooms and… a digital fireplace. And the last on the list does start to hint that all might not be quite as luxury as it seems at the Pangu. It’s undoubtedly a 5 star stay. But the 6th and 7th stars? We’ll let you decide whether the views of the Olympic Park are worth it.
Beijing’s the first city to ever host both summer and winter Olympics
This Beijing fact seems simple enough, but when you start to dig into the logistics, it gets a little crazy. As hosts, Beijing needed to figure out a way to provide facilities for every single Olympic sport, including that all important snow. Which would be simple if the areas around Beijing were renowned for heavy blizzards every winter. Except… they’re not. Every snowflake of the 2022 Winter Olympics was fake. All of the stadiums, bar one, were repurposed from the 2008 Olympics and the city’s iconic Bird’s Nest became the first ever stadium to host the opening and closing ceremonies for summer and winter Olympics. Which all makes a visit to the Olympic Park worth adding to your things to do in Beijing list.