The heart of Beijing is the massive Tiananmen Square, one of the largest public spaces in the world and scene of the brutal crackdown in 1989. Chairman Mao proclaimed the birth of People's Republic of China here in 1949 in front of half a million people, and his body lies in state in a massive mausoleum that is still visited by thousands every day. Capitalism may be in place in all but name, but there is still reverence for the founder of the communist state - Mao's giant portrait also hangs over the entrance to the fascinating Forbidden City, the main residence for a succession of pre-Maoist leaders of equally dubious moral certitude, the dynastic emperors.
Meanwhile the Great Wall - despite clichéd descriptions to the contrary - is categorically not visible from space, but remains one of the most impressive feats of human endeavor and well worth a visit. We can recommend several parts of the wall worth exploration and within striking distance of the city.