After pickup from your hotel, your guide will take your small group through the South Gate of the Forbidden City – the Imperial Palace for emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Containing up to 800 buildings and some 9,000 chambers, the area was strictly forbidden to the general public. Stand before the Meridian Gate and take in the wonders of the monumental grounds, including the striking gold and red hues of the imperial city.
Your guide, a leading architecture expert, will explain the significance of the intricate design and inform you about its history. Listen to anecdotes about China's Empress Dowager Tzu-hsi, who wielded power as head of the Qing Dynasty for half a century, and learn the fate of the last emperor.
Continue your sightseeing tour through a modern cityscape where future plans for urban development mix with the conservation of old Beijing. Your guide will inform you about the Japanese occupation, communist party rule and the global shift toward Beijing as a new center of power. Learn about Nixon and Kissinger's visit to China and their secret discussions with Mao Zedong as you view Soviet monuments of glass and chrome.
Head to the Summit Wing, a remarkable space near the top of the 81-floor China World Trade Tower III. Enjoy unrivaled views over the historic city center, including the hutongs, which demonstrate Beijing’s organic development with their narrow alleys that separate traditional courtyard homes.
Next, explore the Underground City, a nuclear bunker also known as Dixia Cheng. Covering an area of 52 square miles (85 square km) under Beijing, this subterranean complex at one time had about 90 entrances hidden in shops along the main streets. Mao ordered its construction as a bomb shelter during the 1970s in anticipation of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, but the network of tunnels has since been transformed into a top attraction.
After your visit, stop for lunch and a local beer in one of the capital's best microbreweries. Your tour of the metropolis ends with return transport to your Beijing hotel.