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Citywide architectural uniformity makes the boundaries of Beijing's official districts rather arbitrary, so we've avoided them in favor of maps showing in more detail the areas of most interest to visitors for their clusters of accommodations, restaurants, and attractions. Beyond the districts listed below, the metropolitan area stretches far into the countryside, adding perhaps another 5 million people to the urban population of around 12 million.

Dong Cheng -- Dong Cheng (East City) occupies the eastern half of the city center, spreading north and east from the southwest corner of Tian'an Men Square until it reaches the Second Ring Road, and occasionally spills over it. It includes the square itself, the Forbidden City, major temples such as the Yonghe Gong (Lama Temple) and Confucius Temple, and the major shopping streets of Wangfujing and Dong Dan. It's essentially the eastern half of the Qing-era Tartar City, north of the wall separating it from the Chinese City, of which the twin towers of the Qian Men (Front Gate) are the most significant remaining fragments.

Xi Cheng -- The western half of the old Tartar City, Xi Cheng spreads farther west beyond the line of the original city wall at the Second Ring Road. It is home to Zhong Nan Hai, the off-limits central government compound otherwise known as the new Forbidden City, Bei Hai Gongyuan, and the Bai Ta Si (White Dagoba Temple). The Shicha Hai (Back Lakes) and Di'an Men area within Xi Cheng, with its string of lakes and relatively well-preserved hutong, is where the last fading ghosts of (pre-1949) Old Beijing reside. It's popular among writers, musicians, foreigners teaching in Beijing, and other younger expatriates who haunt a collection of trendy bars and cafes at the waters' edge. Several minor sights here provide the excuse for a day's wandering.

Chaoyang -- Part urban, part suburban, Chaoyang sprawls in a huge arc around the northeast and eastern sides of the city, housing the three main diplomatic compounds, the Sanlitun and Chaoyang drinking districts, and the so-called CBD (Central Business District) around the China World Trade Center. This is the richest district in Beijing, the result, according to some, of the district's good feng shui.

The South -- If Chaoyang has Beijing's best feng shui, the old Chinese City south of the Qian Men, made up of Chongwen (east) and Xuanwu (west), both enclosed by the suburban sprawl of Fengtai to the south and southwest, has the worst. Squalid since its construction in the Ming dynasty, this is where you'll find the city's grittiest hutong and some of its best bargains on fake antiques, as well as Ming architectural jewels such as the Temple of Heaven (Tian Tan).

Haidian & Yayun Cun -- Sprawling to the northwest, Haidian is the university and high-tech district, referred to hopefully in local media as "China's Silicon Valley" and home to the Summer Palace. Directly north of town is Yayun Cun (Asia Games Village), home to Beijing's best new Chinese restaurants, and site of many Olympic venues.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.