Capital Cities are country’s beating hearts, and always top on my list when I’m choosing a city break. Two of the most powerful and fascinating capital cities in the world are Beijing and Washington DC. A trip to either of these places will be one filled with rich history, cultural landmarks, fantastic food, and exciting energy. So how do these two Capitals compare?
Scenery / Activities
Beijing is both modern an ancient. Intricate skyscrapers tower over the city, whilst traditional temples, historical landmarks and the iconic Great Wall surround the metropolis. China honours its past whilst looking forward far into the future, and the architecture of Beijing is a striking representation of this ideology.
Meanwhile Washington DC’s historical intention comes second to its persona of power. Home to the White House, one of the power centres of the world, Washington’s Huge structural landmarks are a show of strength as much as they are memorials of history.
With so many spectacular sites to see in Beijing, you may need more days to explore, whilst Washington DC is perfect for a weekend city break.
For those who prefer to walk, The National Mall is an impressive promenade, where you’ll find an array of Washington’s best museums.
Whilst Washington’s grand monuments provide an insight into the American ideal of democracy, justice and power, Beijing’s monuments offer a chance to reflect on the past. Witness the flag-raising ceremony in Tiananmen Square before making your way to the Forbidden City. Once the residence to the Chinese Emperor, this palace complex of red brick and green tile is breath-taking.
Spend a day hiking The Great Wall and visit the Ming Tombs to see the spectacular royal garden. Step back in time at the Summer Palace and enjoy the tranquillity of this Qing Dynasty Imperial Garden.
I love to spend time in Politics and Pros, Washington’s independent legal bookstore and creative space
Meanwhile, Beijing is a bustling city with a pace to match its growth. Wander down WangFuJing Street and browse hundreds of stores selling traditional crafts, cheongsams, and fabrics.
Beijing wins this round for me with a score of 10/10 for its incredible landmarks and vibrant city character. Washington DC comes close behind with 9/10, it has less to explore than Beijing but is undoubtedly remarkable.
Food and Restaurants:
Both Beijing and Washington DC have vibrant and thriving food scenes with everything on offer from street stalls and local chains to high end restaurants. While Washington has every kind of cuisine you can imagine on offer, Beijing’s food scene, though global, is more refined.
Bad Saint is a sought-after haunt, where seasonally changing Filipino dishes have won national acclaim.
In Beijing, the phrase ‘have you eaten?’ is a recognised sign of saying hello. The city’s food scene lives up to the needs of this foodie nation. Taste the city’s best Peking Duck in view of the Forbidden City at Siji Minfu Peking Duck Restaurant. For something special, dine at Xin Rong Ji. This Three-Michelin starred restaurant serves sumptuous Shanghai cuisine, alongside panoramic views of the city at the upstairs China Bar.
Beijing wins this round for me with 10/10 for incredible flavours and distinguished cuisines, and Washington 9/10, because it has something for everyone.
Both cities have thriving and eclectic nightlife scenes, showing that they have as much to offer after-hours as they do in the day. Whilst Beijing’s evening activities range from beer tasting in microbreweries to enjoying traditional and spectacular shows, Washington’s nightlife focuses on cool drinking bars and clubs for dancing.
In Beijing start your evening at The Paulaner Bräuhaus. This German microbrewery, serving delicious beers and live music, is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
For something with a bit of spectacle, see a show at the Forbidden City Concert Hall, or catch a traditional drama in one of Beijing’s teahouses.
In Washington you’ll find everything from elegant rooftop cocktail lounges, to dive bars and underground dance clubs. Crimson View is the perfect place to watch the sunset over the Washington Monument. Sip cocktails at this penthouse rooftop bar and enjoy a selection of sumptuous snacks. For those looking to take it to the next level, Ultra Bar is a five-floor club, perfect for dancing the night away. Enjoy live rock music at Black Cat, or catch a comedy show at DC Improv.
Both cities have plenty on offer when it comes to nightlife, so they score equally in this round for me with 9/10.
Both Beijing and Washington DC have a range of accommodations across the cities, with everything from boutique boltholes to luxury hotels.
Washington has plenty of luxury hotels and some of the biggest names in hospitality. For a classic Washington experience, book your stay at the Hay Adams where opulent rooms are enhanced with unparalleled White House views. For something trendy, the Thompson Washington DC provides cool décor, smart service, and a prime location in Navy Yard.
Beijing’s hotels, much like the city’s architecture, are simultaneously futuristic and modern with touches of historical design that speak to its heritage. Stay at the Peninsula Beijing where extravagant amenities, including a first-class spa, are paired with elegant interiors and excellent service.
Dinner here is served in a wood-panelled gallery, with an elegant French menu enhanced by global ingredients.
Beijing wins this round for me with 9/10 for its variety of modern innovation and traditional design, and Washington with 8/10 for classic luxury.
So which Capital City scores highest? Beijing comes out on top with a score of 9.5/10 and Washington DC comes behind with a score of 8.7/10. Both cities are undeniable powerhouses with so much to see and do. Beijing’s ancient monuments alongside its striking modern skyscrapers make it a city like no other. Meanwhile, Washington DC is an important and grand location, and the beating heart of American political history. Visit both and you are sure to leave impressed!