What's the best travel guidebook for Beijing?

China is well-covered, and you’ve got great options if you want a general-purpose guidebook.
—Zach

My top 2 picks

Because I like to travel light, I have the Kindle-version of both books:

Gulou at night

Gulou at night. From the Photographers Field Guide to Beijing.

Why bother with a travel guidebook?

Read a book to cut through the noise. Equally as important for visitors to China, books are offline. When you’re on the road in China your data connection is going to be sketchy at best, you will want reliable, offline trip planning tools.

Pre-visualize your trip with print guidebooks

Both National Geographic and DK have awesome maps and photography in their guidebooks. This makes them useful for pre-visualizing your trip and what you might want to shoot. The editors of both these books have access to great stock image libraries – and they’ve done their homework. Start with these.

DK leans more towards explanatory visuals, with historical and architectural illustrations. Often enough, these diagrams are helpful for conceptionalizing how you might want to tackle that location with a camera that it is worth buying the book. The photos in Nat Geo’s guidebook are, well, they are Nat Geo. They are inspiring in the best way.

But print guidebooks are way too heavy to bring with you on the road! Make your shotlist, then leave them at home. The DK China guidebook is particularly massive. So if you’re the sort who really likes having an analog book with all that paper, ink and stuff, do your backpack a favor and just get their Beijing and Shanghai guide. It is much slimmer.

And if you’re wondering why I buy travel guidebooks for the city I know and love… Hey, nobody knows everything.

Websites worth your time

If you want to make better travel images, you’ll need to get up close and personal. TripAdvisor and Google reviews are great, but try these local, English-language websites and you’ll get more:

Use Streetview and take a walk

Taking a walk with Google Streetview is a good way for travel photographers to check out a new location – except Google doesn’t have Streetview data of China. Try Baidu Maps 百度地图 instead.

Cover from the book

You can read the Photographers Field Guide to Beijing for free. Get your copy before your flight boards.