Human activities began in the Beijing area some half a million years ago. The recorded history of Beijing as a city can date back to more than 3,000 years ago. In 1271 Kublai Khan renamed the city and decided to build it as the capital of his empire, and since then, Beijing served as a national capital for more than 700 years, being one of China's seven great ancient capitals. In this famed historical and cultural city, cultural heritage sites and scenic spots are found everywhere. Ancient palace groups, temples, parks, ancient pagodas with rock carvings, imperial gardens and tombs, former residences of historic personages throng the city side by side with modern buildings of museums and memorial halls.
Beijing has a total of 7,309 cultural heritage sites, including 42 under state protection and 222 under municipal protection. The Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan Park), the Summer Palace and the Ming Tombs (Shisanling) are on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Beijing has over 200 scenic spots open to visitors, such as the Forbidden City, the Beihai Park, the Ming Tombs, the Great Wall, Yonghegong Lamasery, Tanzhe Temple, Fragrant Hills, the Ruins of the Yuanmingyuan, the Eight Great Sites, Longqing Gorge, Shihua Cave and etc.
There are 456 tourist hotels, including 407 star-rated hotels offering a total of 84,000 guest rooms. Serving travelers to Beijing are 456 travel agencies with 5,000 tour guides speaking 21 languages. Beijing is one of the "Excellent Chinese Tourist Cities"; awarded by the China National Tourism Administration.