• (Clockwise from the top): Temple of Heaven, China Central Television Headquarters, Chinese opera character and Chinese milk bread.

(Clockwise from the top): Temple of Heaven, China Central Television Headquarters, Chinese opera character and Chinese milk bread. (Photo : Getty Images)

In the heart of China’s bustling capital and thinking twice to read a thick travel guide book?

One seasoned writer and traveler recommends--in less than five minutes--what to do and where to go when in the Forbidden City.

Sydney-based Irish travel and features writer, author--has so far penned six books--and blogger (“The Thoughtful Travel Writer,” “River Cruise Insight”) Brian Johnston suggests what he dubs as the “three-minute travel guide” for those wishing to travel to Beijing.

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From Geneva, Switzerland, the two-time recipient of the Australian Travel Writer of the Year Award (2004, 2006) moved to Chengdu, Sichuan Province, on Jan. 10, 1989.

Johnston left China on the first week of August 1991.

His two-and-a-half year stay in China paved way for him to write his first travel book: “Boxing with Shadows: Travels in China (1996).”

Reprinted in 2006, the 223-page book discloses the author’s views and feelings during his stay in the country, particularly his political commentaries concerning the series of pro-democracy protests at the Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Among the interesting selections of Beijing tourist spots, Johnston admits that the imperial palace never fails to give him pleasure each time he pays a visit.

“I always quite enjoy wandering through the Forbidden City, especially the quieter courtyards to the eastern side,” he said in a post on his professional Facebook account on Jan. 15, 2014.

Johnston likewise revealed in a previous post his appreciation of the Beijing Capital International Airport, which he finds “beautiful” and “awesome,” with a “luminous” customs area.

He compliments the airport for being “very shiny” and for the smooth flow of ingress.

“It’s a modern temple to travel and progress,” Johnston said.

Writing for Traveller, Johnston encourages people to do three basic things when in Beijing.

See timeless sites

Johnston’s must-see list for Beijing tourist spots places a priority on Chinese cultural awareness.

The award-winning writer recommends a visit to the century-old historical structures that serve as mute witnesses to China’s glorious past: the Forbidden City, Yonghe Temple, Temple of Heaven, and Summer Palace.

He, on the other hand, also encourages people to check out other Beijing destinations less popular among the crowd: a nook on the next block, a quiet corner there, a narrow street somewhere, or that bridge over there.

Tickle the taste buds

It’s not merely the architectural feats that constitute Beijing tourism.

Tourists can sample different Chinese delicacies, street food and other edible treats, particularly those found in night markets. Many might already be missing Donghuamen.

For a 10-course meal and two wine pairings, Johnston suggests Black Sesame Kitchen located near Jingshan Park. This hutong restaurant also offers cooking classes.

For a taste of the famous Beijing duck, tourists may head to Duck de Chine in Chaoyang District.

Inside Behai Park, Fangshan Restaurant--another recommendation by Johnston--prepares banquets featuring Qing Dynasty-inspired dishes. Talk about imperial meals.

Embrace the changing Beijing

Though Johnston remembers to advise a stroll at the Great Wall and a day tour at the Ming Tombs--the mausoleum complex lies at the foot of Tianshou Mountain--he nevertheless endorses a more contemporary set of options when people travel to Beijing.

People may drop by at 798 Art District, the water amusement park at the National Aquatics Center aka “Water Cube” and the Beijing Olympic Park.

The biggest “nest” in the world is made of steel: the National Stadium or the Bird’s Nest, which grows more appealing at night.

In a video by The New York Times, one male foreigner said that he witnessed how Beijing transformed into an “international city” from a city teeming with people moving around in bicycles.

Tourists, local and foreign alike, may not get tired of exploring Beijing.

“Just like wine, it tastes better the more you taste it,” said a Chinese guy, as quoted by The New York Times.

“You would love Beijing more if you felt it more,” he added.

It seems the best way to experience Beijing--and to fall in love with it--is to visit it.