Welcome to Beijing! 欢迎来到北京
A magnificent adventure awaits in one of the greatest empires of the world. Beijing is one of the oldest and largest cities in the world, one of the places convulsed with an abundant history, culture, incredible landscapes and a burgeoning mixture of old and new. Ancient imperial palaces juxtapose with modern skyscrapers, the fascinating city presents a one- of-a-kind insight into China’s buzzing metropolis. Get ready to fall in love with modern marvels and to dive deep into the cultural offerings – from art, to poems to music. It’s not only the ancient architecture that will wow you, it’s the sublime temples and the extraordinary historical display along with the overwhelming streets that teem with life. A trip to Beijing is not an easy one and the planning might feel a bit too overwhelming at first, and that’s why we’ve created this guide to help.
To get the most out of your adventure, please make sure to read this itinerary from front- to-back. It is sectioned into three parts: prep, daily itineraries, and an appendix identifying everything you need to print (lodging, train tickets, etc).
PLANNING & BOOKING
The dreaded part of any vacation - planning! Every savvy traveler knows that it’s always better to plan and book early in advance to bag those irresistible bargains. Not only do you get to save up to 25% on flight and hotel prices, but you also get to never settle for second-best! Lower flight prices, room deals and early bird discounts are only some of the many benefits of booking your tickets, excursions and accommodation early on. We recommend planning and booking 3 to 6 months in advance – a surefire way to have a worry-free pre-holiday buzz when the time to travel is near!
FLIGHTS / BUS / TICKETS
The best time to book your flight is anywhere between 50 to 90 days in advance to avoid the unpredictable fluctuations of the prices. If you’re traveling in peak season (the summer months or the Chinese New Year), make sure you book well in advance as well.
We recommend buying a travel card that allows you to take the buses and the subway. You can purchase your ticket from the Beijing Railway station, and the city is extremely well-connected and public transportation is cheap.
You can also get around using taxis, as they’re plentiful, clean and cheap. Make sure, however, that you always have the name of your destination printed out in Chinese as most of them do not speak any English.
There isn't much that you can book ahead from home in terms of museums and attractions. It’s quite easy to go up to the window and purchase a ticket. A major disadvantage as well is the fact that most websites are in Chinese and do not have any English translations. The only thing you might need to book ahead is a private car to the Great Wall of China only if you will be skipping the bus option!
As a tourist in Beijing, you need to be very careful. The weather and food will be very different than what you’re used to and might cause some complications. It is vital that you buy good travel medical insurance so you’re covered in case of an emergency. After all...It’s better to be safe than sorry!
US Citizens will need to apply for a visa prior to their entry to Beijing. You’ll need to apply to the T-Visa so you can be granted entry as a tourist. To apply for a visa, you need to submit the visa application process, a passport with at least six months’ validity and a passport-style picture. Sadly, you have to drop off your application in person at Washington, D.C, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston or San Francisco. If you can’t make it, you can use a travel agent or a friend to help.
Unforgettable Moments - Beijing Highlights
Beijing has a staggering six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city alone (that’s one less than the whole of Egypt.) You’ll be lost in the beauty of sublime temples, walking through charming hútòng ancient alleyways that bustle with life, you’ll be discovering the majesty of the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. From walking along the Great Wall of China, to getting lost in night markets to exploring the modern arts scene…Beijing has a fascinating mixture of offerings that will keep you entertained throughout your entire visit.
Day 1: Arrival, rest and exploration.
We recommend taking a flight that arrives early in the morning to Beijing so you can have enough time to rest and then get acquainted with the city after. The Beijing Capital International Airport is the main airport and offers several options to get to the city.
The most convenient way to reach downtown is definitely through the Airport Express Line which takes around 20 minutes and will cost you about 25 RMB. We recommend buying the Yikatong card (which is a transportation prepaid and discount card) and top it up according to your expected usage.
You can also get directly to your hotel using a taxi (which will cost anywhere from 90-110 RMB) but we recommend having the name and address of your hotel printed out in Chinese. Furthermore, make sure you take a taxi that has a meter.
Depending on when you arrive, and how good your skills are when it comes to dealing with jet lag, we recommend not planning anything too major for your first day.
The airport is exhausting and once you’re done with customs/immigration/luggage, you’ll want nothing more than to just settle down at your hotel.
After settling down at your hotel, stroll down Wangfujing Street which is the largest and most well-known shopping street in China. This action-packed pedestrian only street has all sorts of market stalls, shops, and even famous brand names.
Spend a few hours walking around and then have lunch at the renowned Quanjude Beijing Roast Duck restaurant where you’ll have the best roasted duck in Beijing.
After you’re done strolling around and sampling local food, we recommend attending an opera show. Beijing is known for its cultural and artistic offerings, and attending an opera show is a must-do. The Chang An Grand Theatre and the Huguang Guild Hall are great options that offer intensely visual and vocal experiences that will take you through a 3-hour-plus cultural rollercoaster.
Day Two: History
Morning - sunrise
It might not be everyone’s cup of tea to rise at the crack of dawn (literally), but you cannot miss out on the flag raising at Tiananmen Square. This is an event to be witnessed – one that provokes an inherent sense of patriotism and that holds a lot of political significance as well. We recommend having breakfast at Capital M, a restaurant that offers incredible views of the square and offers all sorts of European-inspired dishes as well.
You’ll then go back to exploring the largest urban public space in the world – the Tiananmen Square. There you can do a little bit of people-watching and taking in the sheer grandeur of this place and then you’ll be ready to get into the Forbidden City.
The Forbidden City will take at least 3-4 hours so we recommend leaving all afternoon to exploring it. This is China’s UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites and the most popular museum in the country as well. Impeccable red walls, sprawling gardens, and over one million treasures inside, you will be spoilt for choice.
There are over 70 halls and palaces (meaning almost 10,000 rooms) that you can explore along with dozens of galleries. Trust us on this one – wear comfortable shoes, be ready with your sun-screen and enjoy this key attraction.
If you still have time then try going to the Mao Mausoleum, as it’s a key attraction in Beijing and is right next to the Forbidden City.
This evening should be dedicated to exploring the authentic Beijing. We recommend visiting Hutong (Old Town) where you’ll spend a few hours exploring the hundreds of tree-lined alleyways that give you a glimpse of what Beijing was like hundreds of years ago.
You can also try the Donghuamen Night Market where you can pick up all sorts of gifts and souvenirs. Be prepared to haggle and bargain! It’s part of the fun.
Day 3: Palaces and parks!
Start your day right by having breakfast at Tang Palace where you’ll get to savor the taste of Cantonese morning tea, dim sums and much more. Head straight to the Summer Palace after – a long day ahead awaits!
The Summer Palace is one of the most gorgeous parks in Beijing and was built around 1100 for the royals. Think giant lakes, incredible architecture, and a huge number of attractions. Expect to walk around for 3 to 4 hours exploring 3,000+ structures, checking ancient temples and paddle on a boat around the lake.
After you’re done exploring the Summer Palace, head over to Yuanmingyuan, an incredible collection of gardens that will give you a glimpse into how beautiful the Palaces and Gardens were hundreds of years ago.
After you’re done, visit the Lama Temple, the biggest Zen Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. It’s a peaceful place where you can light incense, walk around exploring the shrines and most importantly – spin the Tibetan Prayer Wheel. Lastly, visit the Olympic Park by sunset.
Have dinner at Ms Na and savor the beautiful blends of various Chinese cuisines. If you’re in the mood for staying out, we recommend going to Sanlitun, the center of Beijing’s nightlife. This is where you’ll get to mingle with locals and expats and visit the Den, one of Beijing’s oldest bars.
Day 4: Great Wall of China day-trip!
To : Badaling
Duration: 1.5 hours each way.
Morning – the journey:
Nothing prepares you for the grandeur of the Great Wall of China or for the journey you’ll talk along the wall. And despite the fact that you cannot see it from space, it still remains one of the most famous wonders of the world.
The fourth day will be dedicated to exploring the Badaling part of the wall. Badaling is the most preserved and most visited section of the Great Wall of China so expect a lot of tourists around you. After all…It’s where Queen Elizabeth and Barack Obama visited!
Take Bus 919 from the Beijing center to Badaling which will last for about two hours and have a tour guide who shares useful information about the trip with you. After you arrive at the main ticket office, purchase a 40 CNY ticket (or 35 CNY in low-season) to be able to enter the great Wall.
You can also choose to take Tour Buses from the Beijing Sightseeing Centre, which cost RMB100 and include admission to Badaling. Make sure you get there at 6:30 am as lines tend to get very long.
Allow yourself an hour and a half to hike up the 4000+ stairs, or if you want to cheat a little you can take the cable car up. The scenery throughout the whole journey will be breathtaking, so don’t be afraid to rest, take pictures, and take it all in. Make sure to spot the 23 watchtowers and all the architectural details. We recommend taking the cable car because the downhill trek may be a little bit tricky. After you’re done, get lunch at the restaurant at the foot of the Great Wall.
Important: Wear the most comfortable shoes you can find, wear comfortable socks and have a hat + sunscreen with you if you’re visiting during summer months. If you’re visiting during winter, then we recommend layering up and wearing gloves as the winds are not the best thing to experience. Finally, bring snacks!
After you’re back in Beijing, you’ll probably have no energy to do anything at all after the tiring trek, so an early night is definitely advised. If you’re hungry, have dinner at one of the local restaurants near your hotel.
Day Five: Museums and Temples
Have breakfast at Tiens Tiens where you will fall in love with the numerous dessert options there.
Next head over to the Fayuan Temple. The temple dates back to the year 645 AD and is worth exploring for an hour or two. You’ll find all sorts of halls with ancient stone inscriptions, fine statues, and the bell and drum towers.
Next, you’ll visit the Confucius Temple which is the second largest Confucian temple in China and where you’ll find all types of ancient stone tables that are adorned with hefty inscriptions from scholars. Make sure you check out the Hall of Great Achievements, a room filled with shrines dedicated to Confucius, along with a lot of ritual items.
After you’re done and if you still have it in you to immerse yourself in Beijing’s culture and history, visit the Beijing Capital Museum where all arts and culture buffs will be more than satisfied. Think traditional calligraphy, artworks, 200,00 cultural artifacts and much more.
Beijing is famous for its acrobat shows, so we recommend heading to Chaoyang Theatre for one of the most famously excellent acrobat performances.
Have some classic dim sums and a bowl of casserole at Heji Nanquan Porridge, get a good dose of your morning coffee and then head over to the Temple of Heaven. Emperors used to pray there hundreds of years ago for good harvests and you’ll understand why when you get there. The place is extremely serene and bursts with vibrant colors and gorgeous decors. Check out the Hall of Prayer of Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the lavish Circular Mound Altar.
Next, visit Behai Park – a collection of old imperial gardens that date back to the 12th century and offer beautiful picture opportunities. Right in front of the Beihai Park is the Prince Gong’s Mansion where you can check out the space and the garden.
We recommend having lunch at the TRB (Temple Restaurant Beijing) where you’ll get to drink some vintage wine and eat European food
Indulge in Beijing’s music scene that has been going strong since the 1980’s and attend a gig. We recommend going to Jianghu for blues and folk museum, or What bar for psychedelic rock.
Day 7: 再见北京!
We recommend getting an evening flight so you can have a few hours to further explore the buzzing energy of Beijing.
If you have a few hours to spare, spend them immersing yourself at the 798 Art Zone. You’ll find all types of contemporary Chinese art – from wall murals, to sculptures to paintings to exhibit spaces…It’ll be the perfect goodbye to Beijing!
Luxury Hotels and Villas List
Staying at the Wangfujing area is the perfect opportunity for you to be placed strategically between all the major attractions. You’ll be right next to the main shopping street and you’ll be quite close to Tiananmen and the Forbidden City. This place teems with life and reflects the buzzing energy of Beijig that will definitely satisfying your cultural and shopping cravings. You’ll also be right next to some of the best restaurants, so you never have to go too far from the hotel if you’re tired!
Packing Made Simple!
Don’t forget the main essentials - passport copies, any other forms of ID, a guidebook, a translation app, a copy of your travel insurance and your credit cards.
Always have cash on hand.
Don’t forget to get your plug adaptor and convertor with you as well.
Your clothes will depend on the weather - Beijing gets extremely hot in the summer so opt for lighter clothes, and if you’re visiting in winter make sure to bring a lot of layers!
If you’re traveling during winter, make sure you also have a pollution mask with you as this is when the pollution is at its peak.
A backpack will be an essential addition to your trip since you will be walking a lot and it will be quite beneficial for your day trip to the Great Wall of China.
Comfortable shoes to walk around in.
The power sockets in Beijing are quite similar to the ones found in Europe but different to the ones found in the U.S. You’ll only need to buy a travel plug converter. If, however, you intend on bringing a hair dryer/curler/straightener, then you need to look for a power converter as well.
International: Dial the international access code (001 in US, 00 in Europe), then the country code (86 for China) then the number. Drop the initial 0 if there is one.
Domestic: If you’re calling from one number to another within China simply dial the phone number, including the initial 0 if there is one. No country code needed.
For this itinerary, allow 6 nights, 7 days.
ARRIVE: BEIJING (PEK) in the morning of DAY 1
DEPART: BEIJING (PEK) in the evening of DAY 7
Beijing has plenty of lodging options available that cater to all types of tastes. From luxury and boutique hotels, to B&Bs, AirBnB’s and hostels - the options are endless. Most places are also very well-connected to the center, so you won’t have trouble navigating around.
Beijing, China | DAY 1 - 7, 6 nights
Tickets & Reservations:
There won’t be anything you need to purchase online from before, unless you’re renting a private car on any of your days. Most tickets can be easily purchased from ticket windows there.
Recommended Airlines & Routes
From the U.S
If you’re flying from the U.S we recommend either Air China, Hainan Airlines or Delta. These are the best-rated airlines when it comes to this route and you’ll find direct flights from L.A, New York, San Francisco and more.
Flights from the U.K
If you’re traveling from the U.K, the best airline without a doubt is British Airways, while other airlines like Air France and KLM offer non-direct flights.
Apps, Transportation & The ‘Gram
Waygo: An award-winning offline visual translation app that will help you easily overcome the language barrier.
Didi Chuxing | China’s very own version of Uber.
ExpressVPN : Most social media apps are blocked in China and you’ll need a trusted VPN app to help you access those websites.
Baidu Maps: The Chinese version of Google Maps since they don’t work there.
TRANSIT BOOKING SITES
Insta Beijing - @insta.beijing
Visit Beijing - @visit_beijing
Time Out Beijing @timeoutbeijing
VSCO Beijing @vscobeijing
#visitbeijing #beijing #vscobeijing #timeoutbeijing #followbeijing
Most Instagrammable Spots in Beijing
Northeast turrets of the Forbidden City.
Temple of Heaven
Bird’s Nest and Water Cube
The Summer Palace
798 Art Zone
Beijing has a staggering population of 21.71 million.
Beijing is one of the oldest cities in the world with a history dating back to over 3000 years ago.
Beijing is home to 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Beijing is the second largest city in China and is the cultural hub of the country.
Waiters are not at all accustomed to tipping that some may even run after you to pay you back the extra money that you left.
Most toilets in Beijing are squat toilets.
The Forbidden City is the largest palace in the world.
Everyone in Beijing is really friendly - expect random hellos and greetings from people on the street!
Security is very tight so be prepared to get very thoroughly scanned and checked everywhere.