The Ultimate Guide to 3 days in Beijing

Travel Itinerary
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Gloria Lambrini
Itinerary by: Gloria Lambrini
5 months ago
Travel Blogger
Duration: 3 days

Itinerary Introduction

If visiting China is on your travel bucket list, Beijing is for sure going to be part of your trip. And so it should be. Beijing is the Chinese city with the most UNESCO cultural heritage: the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, the Ming Tombs, the remains of Zhoukoudian and the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. Aside from its rich culture and history, Beijing is also one of the most populous cities in the world (urban population 16.7 million in 2021). Its entertainment capital buzzes with never-ending parties. Beijing blends modernity and antiquity perfectly together and there’s something for everyone’s liking. Photo edit: Zhang Kaiyv on unsplash.com

Useful information about Beijing

The history of Beijing

Beijing, which means “northern capital”, has had many different names over the centuries. These frequent name changes were due to the various rulers, states and dynasties who overtook the city throughout its history. Just some of Beijing's former names include Jicheng, Yanjing, Guangyang, Youzhou and Zhongdu. During the Mongol dynasty, the city was named Dadu, before becoming Beiping in the Ming dynasty, and being renamed Beijing by the third Ming emperor. To add to the confusion, French missionaries used the name Peking in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which was also used by other Europeans for hundreds of years. In 1918, the official name was changed to Jingdu, before reverting to Beiping from 1928–1949, and it has been Beijing ever since.

The economy of Beijing

China has the second-largest nominal GDP in the world, and its capital, Beijing, has the highest GDP per capita in the country. A number of Fortune 500 companies have their headquarters in Beijing, and the city is only expected to grow in financial power. Services are the biggest driver of Beijing's economy.

A fun fact from Beijing

When it hosts the Winter Olympics in 2022, Beijing will become the first city ever to have hosted both the summer and winter Olympics, having hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The language in Beijing

Mandarin is China’s official state language, and while other dialects are spoken around the country and its provinces, it’s the most commonly used language in Beijing. It’s worth picking up a few simple words and phrases before you go. Use “ni hao” for Hello, “zài jiàn” for Good bye, and “xie xie” for Thank you (it’s polite to reply with “bú kè qi” – you’re welcome). For Yes, use “shì de” and for No say “bú shi”.

Best times to visit Beijing

It’s better to avoid visiting China during national festivals since it’s an occasion for millions of residents to travel across the country. Using public transportation during these periods can get stressful due to the crowds. Moreover, during the festivities, the most famous landmarks attract large numbers of visitors. Therefore, it’s advisable to avoid travelling during the first week of October (National Day) and during the New Year’s Celebration. The Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar – the precise date varies from year to year. Taking the weather into consideration, the best times to visit Beijing are from March to May and from September to October. These seasons provide the best climate. In contrast, summer temperatures can be hot and comfortable. Winter temperatures can get cold – with occasional snow. Additionally, winter air pollution is getting progressively worse.

Getting to Beijing

Beijing has two international airports, Beijing Capital International Airport and Beijing Daxing International Airport. From Beijing Capital International Airport, the quickest transport option into central Beijing is to take the Airport Express Line train from terminals 2 or 3, which takes around 20 minutes. There’s also an Airport Shuttle bus, which runs every half an hour, and takes just over an hour to reach Beijing Railway Station. Taking a metred taxi from the airport will take around 40 minutes, and will be more expensive, but it may be your only option if you arrive in the early hours of the morning, before the buses or trains start. If you arrive at Beijing Daxing International Airport, you can start your trip to Beijing in style by speeding on the bullet train to Beijing West Railway Station in just 20 minutes. Alternatively, take the metro from Daxing airport to Caoqiao Station, where you can switch lines to head into the centre.

Getting around in Beijing

Although Beijing is one of the largest cities in the world, getting around is very easy. The city is divided into numbered rings from the centre outwards. The city offers a great variety of public and private transport services. The best option is to travel by metro, as it is very easy to catch and takes you to most of the tourist sites at very low prices. Another option is to use the app Didi, the Chinese equivalent of Uber. With Didi, you can get around by booking your taxi and you will find that often the drivers speak a little English, unlike public taxi drivers.

Local cuisine in Beijing

The local cuisine in Beijing is variously known as Jing, Mandarin and Peking cuisine. There is less of an emphasis on rice than other areas of China, given the capital’s drier climate. Meat eaters will want to try Beijing roast duck (also known as Peking duck, usually served with spring onions, cucumber and thin pancakes), while other popular Beijing dishes include jiaozi (dumplings), jiang jiang rou si (shredded pork with a sweet bean Beijing sauce), and zhajiang mian (noodles with vegetables and pork). For a popular and sociable meal, try a Mongolian hotpot: you’ll be served a pot of broth over a heat source into which you can add sliced meat and vegetables.

Tipping in Beijing

You won’t be expected to tip in Beijing, and in fact, it can be seen as impolite. However, if you’re staying at a higher-end hotel that is catered towards Western tourists, or eating at a restaurant with a largely Western clientele, you may want to offer a tip to your waiting staff.

Local customs in Beijing

It’s worth getting to grips with some aspects of Chinese etiquette before your visit. In China, you can greet people with a handshake or a nod, and it’s best to address the eldest – or most senior – person first. Take off your shoes when entering a home, and use the guest slippers that will be provided. Avoid pointing at anyone throughout your stay, and avoid whistling too, both of which can be seen as rude. At mealtimes, don’t use your own chopsticks to serve yourself from shared dishes, and leave a little food on your plate at the end of your meal as a gesture of honour to your host. Be mindful of being respectful at temples, monasteries and mosques.

Beijing - Travel Itinerary

Day 1

The Great Wall of China

The first day is dedicated to visiting the Great Wall - an absolute must-see.
06:00 - 07:00

Great Wall of China

Huairou District, Beijing, China
You can not come to Beijing and not visit the Great Wall of China: 不到长城非好汉, this phrase is a famous saying between Chinese people and it literally means “he who has never been to the Great Wall is not a true man”. Given the time to get there and back (an hour and a half/two hours depending on the section you decide to visit), I advise spending a whole day visiting the Great Wall. There are no direct connections from Beijing, but do not be discouraged, below I will show you how to reach the great wall independently. The alternative is to rely on organized tours but you will only visit the most touristic parts and you will have less time available to explore. Each section of the Great Wall has different characteristics. Choosing one or the other depends on a variety of factors: the budget, the time you have available, if you just want to admire the wall for views or if you want to walk along a stretch of the unrestored parts. There are easy sections and others are challenging, some even dangerous. The easiest way to get to the Great Wall is to book a private taxi that will drive you directly to the entrance of the site (hotels usually can provide this service). Photo credit: William Olivieri on unsplash.com
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Great Wall of China
Category Price Restrictions
Standard Free

Getting there

The easiest way to get to the Great Wall is to book a private taxi that will drive you directly to the entrance of the site (hotels usually can provide this service). Obviously, this option will raise the cost of getting there. For each section below you’ll find detailed information on how to get there using public transportation means.

08:00 - 10:00

Mutianyu

Mu Tian Yu Chang Cheng, Huairou Qu, China
Of all the sections of the Great Wall near Beijing, Mutianyu is the one that offers the best compromise between ease of access, not being too crowded and beautiful landscape. This section of the wall has been completely restored and its 23 towers have been restored to their original appearance. It is the longest stretch of the fully restored Great Wall open to tourists. Mutianyu is accessible to everyone, even for those who do not want or cannot take long walks, and this without losing any of the beauty of the place. The entire central section of Mutianyu between towers 6 and 19 is in fact easily accessible without excessive slopes or too many steps. Photo credit: Robert Nyman on unsplash.com
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Mutianyu
Category Price Restrictions
Standard 40.00 CNY
Seniors 20.00 CNY

Getting there

To get to the Wall you have to take the metro (line 2) to the Dongzhimen stop. Now you have to take exit C and follow the signs for the 916 Express bus, you can buy the ticket directly on the bus. You must therefore pay in cash and they do not give change. The price is 12 yuans per person. Once you arrive at the entrance to the Wall, you have several options. You can walk up to the top along a staircase or, if you want to avoid fatigue, choose the "comfortable" route: there is a cableway that reaches the first watchtower or the chairlift that takes you directly to the top, about halfway path. The descent, on the other hand, can be very fun, if you opt for the Toboga, the slide that takes you back to the valley.

10:00 - 11:00

Badaling

Yanqing District, Beijing, China
Badaling is the busiest and most touristic section of the Great Wall of China. This is because it is the most convenient and economical to reach from Beijing. The Badaling section of the wall that is open to visitors is 7.5 km long and is fully restored. There are a total of 30 watchtowers, 12 in the North and 18 in the South - built Ming style. Photo credit: Vincent Guth on unsplash.com
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Badaling
Category Price Restrictions
Standard 140.00 CNY

Getting there

This is the only section of the wall that can be reached by train - thanks to the recent opening of the fast line that leaves from the Beijing North station. The train arrives just a few steps from the funicular that will take you to the Wall. Remember that, despite the low price to take this train, it is mandatory to book your ticket online in advance on the Trip.com website. Or alternatively, you can take the bus: Line 877 from Deshengmen to Badaling at a price of 12 yuan. Deshengmen is located 5km northwest of the Forbidden City; it can be reached with Line 2 of the Metro, Jishuitan stop. Line 879 from Changling to Badaling for the price of 10 yuan.

11:00 - 12:00

Jinshanling

P62M+XFP Jinshanling, Luanping Xian, Chengde Shi, Hebei Sheng, China
The Jinshanling section of the Great Wall of China is only partially restored. It is considered one of the most beautiful sections precisely because it still retains the original features. In addition to the beautiful views and being able to walk with ease and for a relatively long distance on unrestored sections of the Wall, one of the peculiarities of the route from Jinshanling is that you can explore dozens of watchtowers positioned very close to each other. Photo credit: Joel Danielson on unsplash.com
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Jinshanling
Category Price Restrictions
Standard Free

Getting there

From Beijing there is a direct bus that leaves at 8 am and leaves Jinshanling at 3 pm. He will drop you off directly at the entrance to the Jinshanling ticket office. Outside of the high season traffic, the ride takes about 2 hours. The bus leaves from Wangjing West Station. To get there, you can take the subway (line 13 or 15) to the Wanjjing West stop, take exit B or D, and walk east for about 100-200 meters. Note that the timetables are subject to change. If desired, a cable car is available. It is located near the entrance, where the ticket office is, and will take you to the "Small Tower of Jinshan", just three watchtowers from the western end of the Jinshanling stretch.

15:00 - 17:00

Huanghuacheng

Huanghuacheng Great Wall, 安四路 Huairou Qu, Beijing Shi, China
Huanghuacheng is the only section of the Great Wall by the lake in Beijing. It is one of the best destinations for a Great Wall hiking tour. Visitors can also take a boat to see the Great Wall at Huanghuacheng from a different angle. The Great Wall, built during the Yongle period of the Ming Dynasty, hovers over the ridge and surrounds the shore of Lake Haoming. The landscape is spectacular. Photo credit: Johannes Plenio on unspalsh.com
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Huanghuacheng
Category Price Restrictions
Standard 45.00 CNY
Students 22.00 CNY

Getting there

Located 70 kilometres from Beijing city, it takes about 1.5 hours to get to Huanghuacheng by private car and 2 hours by public transport. To get to Huanghuacheng from Beijing Dongzhimen Hub, take bus 916 (Dongzhimen-Huairou Bus Station) to Nanhuayuan District 3, or take local train 916 to Yujiayuan, then take H21 (south of Yujiayuan intersection -Xishuiyu) to reach the viewpoint. (the bus departure interval is 20 minutes). Alternatively, take the 942 Express bus (Dongzhimen-Chawu Railway Station) out of Dongzhimen Station to Shanlizhuang, then take the H21.

19:00 - 21:00

Peking Opera

3 Hufang Rd, Xicheng Qu, China
The Peking Opera in Beijing combines music, vocal performances, mime, typical costumes, dance and acrobatics. There are also numerous alternative venues in Beijing where you could enjoy a show: check out the programme of Liyuan Theatre, Zhengyi Temple Theatre and Chang’an Grand Opera House. Ticket prices can vary between 20€ and 50€. Photo credit: Suthini, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Peking Opera
Category Price Restrictions
Standard 145.00 - 360.00 CNY

Day 2

08:00 - 11:00

Summer Palace

19 Xinjiangongmen Rd, Haidian Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100180
The Summer Palace in Beijing is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is a demonstration Chinese of Chinese garden design at its finest. There are an abundance of natural features including lakes and hills. These are combined with palaces, halls, bridges and other man made structures to create an area relaxing and beautiful garden. You'll also find incredible temples to explore here. All this makes the Summer Palace ensemble of gardens, lakes and palaces the perfect place to escape the chaos of the city. I advise spending a morning here, walking around the palaces and the lake, admiring the beauty and the sense of peace this place holds. It’s even possible to rent a boat and sail around the lake. Low season: Adults: 20 ¥ (2.80 €) Students: 15 ¥ (2.10 €). High season: Adults: ¥ 30 (€ 4.10). Students: 10 ¥ (€ 1.40). The ticket includes: Wenchang Gallery, Garden of Virtue and Harmony and a visit to the incense Buddha. Photo credit: Felix Luo on Unsplash
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Summer Palace
Category Price Restrictions
Standard 50.00 CNY

Getting there

Take subway line 4 to the northwest direction and get off at the last but one station Beigongmen Station and exit from Exit D

12:00 - 14:00

Hutong

Da Hu Tong, Chaoyang Qu, Beijing Shi, China
The word "hutong" today refers to an alley in Beijing's old quarters that runs between rows of siheyuan. The siheyuan are the traditional courtyard houses around the Forbidden City where the Pekingese lived. They are living testimony of the history and culture of the city and show how it has evolved in recent decades. The hutongs travel the length and breadth of the ancient heart of Beijing, branching off in all directions. You have to be very careful not to get lost because in some neighbourhoods it feels like you are in a labyrinth! It is estimated that one of the longest hutongs has over 20 bends and changes of direction. There are also many dead ends, interrupted by the walls of one of the ancient traditional houses with the unmistakable grey tiles. Most Famous Hutongs: Dongxijiaominxiang: the longest hutong Yichidajie: shortest hutong Jiuwan Hutong: the curviest one Sanmiaojie Hutong: the most ancient (it dates back to 900 years!) I advise visiting Beiging's hustings around lunchtime to enjoy the wide variety of street food specialities that can be found at every corner! Photo credit: Max Chen on unsplash, Steve Long on unsplash
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Hutong
Category Price Restrictions
Standard Free

15:00 - 16:00

Lama Temple

12 Yonghegong St, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100028
The Lama Temple (Yong He Gong) in Beijing is the biggest Zen Buddhist Temple outside of Tibet. The dimensions of the temple are extraordinary. It has five courtyards in a row. The front structural layout of the temple is large and bright. It is characterized by sculpted walls with bas-reliefs, statues and decorated arches. The internal floor leads to the main rooms. Evergreen pines and cypress trees help create a peaceful and secluded environment. The rear structural layout is composed of a group of buildings, halls and pavilions that merge with each other. Gutters and ridges facing upwards and are beautifully intertwined, forming a suggestive architecture. As it is one of the most important places of worship in Beijing, dedicating some time to it is a must. The vision of the impressive Buddha sculptures, accompanied by the smell of incense, offers the possibility to experience the religious fervour of the Chinese up close. Opening hours: Daily 09:00-16:00 Photo credit: Sergio Capuzzimati on unsplash.com
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Lama Temple
Category Price Restrictions
Standard 25.00 CNY

Getting there

You can get there via Beijing Subway Line 2 or 5, get off at Yonghegong station, and exit from Exit F.

18:00 - 21:00

Wangfujing Night Market

Wang Fu Jing Da Jie, Wang Fu Jing, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China
Wangfujing is the main commercial street within Beijing. It is a long avenue that is almost exclusively pedestrianised and entirely dedicated to shopping. The street walk is continuous and there are always people coming and going. It is the perfect place for people-watching. It is here in Wangfujing that you find the famous Donghuamen Night Market, if you want to taste fried silkworms, live scorpions on a spit or grilled snake fillets. For something more conventional, head straight to the inexpensive food court of Oriental Plaza Mall, located at the bottom of Wangfujing on the corner of busy Dongchan'an Jie. Photo credit: Simon Shim on unsplash.com
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Wangfujing Night Market
Category Price Restrictions
Standard Free

Getting there

Located in the heart of the capital, 1,200 meters north-east of Tian'anmen Square, the Wangfujing subway station is located exactly at the southern end of the street.

Day 3

08:00 - 10:00

Temple of Heaven

A 1 Tiantan E Rd, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100032
At the top of the list of must-see attractions in Beijing is the fabulous Temple of Heaven. Its main temple is magnificent and certainly one of the most stunning buildings to be found in Beijing. A building of great beauty and rare harmony, you can get mesmerised by its enchanting appearance. In all there are 3 main groups of buildings that make up the Temple of Heaven. The temple itself is found in a large park, with green lawns and many centuries-old cypresses arranged in neat rows. Take your time to enjoy them at your leisure - you will not regret it. Opening Hours: Daily 06:00 - 20:00 Come earlier in the day to avoid the large crowds, which can accumulate during busier periods. Look out for the old Beijingers playing Chinese chess and cards. Photo credit: yongzhen xu on unsplash.com
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Temple of Heaven
Category Price Restrictions
Standard 33.98 CNY

Getting there

Subway line 5 til Tiantan East Gate Station, take the exit A1 or A2 of the station.

11:00

Hongqiao Market

Hong Qiao Shi Chang, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China
Located opposite to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing is Pearl Market. The market is world renowned for its trade in pearls. As well as pearls, you can find, clothes and silks, handbags and seafood. It's the perfect place to test out your bargaining skills. Photo credit: Eric Prouzet on unspalsh.com
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Hongqiao Market
Category Price Restrictions
Standard Free

13:00 - 14:00

Tiananmen Square

Dongcheng, China
At 800 meters long and 300 wide, Tiananmen Square is one of the biggest squares to be found in any city. Tiananmen is the place of a number of key historical events. It is here in Tian'anmen that Mao Tze Tung proclaimed the birth of the People's Republic on 1 October 1949. A short stroll across the square you will find the Forbidden City. Photo credit: Markus Winkler on unsplash
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Tiananmen Square
Category Price Restrictions
Standard Free

Getting there

Take the subway line 1 or 2: for line 1, you get off at Tiananmen East Station, for line 2, just get off at Qianmen Station.

14:00 - 16:00

Forbidden City

4 Jingshan Front St, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100886
Located in the center of Beijing, the Forbidden City was the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties. A key example of traditional Chinese architecture can be found here. The oldest building structure in the world, its construction began in 1406 and ended in 1420. It covers a total area of ​​about 150,000 square kilometres and is made up of 90 palaces, 980 buildings and 8704 rooms. Access to the Forbidden City is from Tiananmen Square, the gateway to Heavenly Purity and through the Meridian Gate, the place where the Emperor announced the new lunar calendar. The external courtyard is made up of three main buildings: the Palace of the Supreme Harmony, the Palace of Central Harmony and the Palace of the Preservation of Harmony. The internal courtyard, on the other hand, is made up of three structures positioned at the back of the city: the Palace of Heavenly Purity, the Palace of the Great Union and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. The Forbidden City is accompanied by buildings of eastern and western structure. The main exit is the Divine Power Gate, next to the Imperial Garden. Now there are no more ticket offices at the entrance, all visitors of the Forbidden City must get their tickets online. After the purchase it will not be necessary to have a physical ticket, just present your passport at the entrance door, through which the access time of your ticket will be verified.  High Season: April 1st - October 31st 8:30-17:00 Final Entrance 16:10  Low Season: November 1st - March 31st 8:30-16:00  Final Entrance 15:40 Photo credit: Rafik Wahba on unsplash, Yekaterina Golatki on unsplash
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Forbidden City
Category Price Restrictions
Standard 59.98 CNY

16:00 - 18:00

Jingshan Park

Jingshan Park, 44 Jingshan W St, Xicheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100009
The Jingshan Park is located right on the opposite side of the road of the exit from the Forbidden City. Originally it was an imperial park and was part of the Frobidden City. In 1928 it was opened to the public and with its approximately 2,300 square meters, it offers a breathtaking walk to the top of the hill. From here you can enjoy the view of the forbidden city from above. All this for the modest price of 2 CNY for the ticket. Opening hours: 06:00 - 21:00 (April-October) 06:30 - 20:30 (November - March) Photo credit: Juniperphoton on unsplash.com
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Jingshan Park
Category Price Restrictions
Standard 2.00 CNY

19:00 - 20:00

Beijing Duck

China, Beijing Shi, Dongcheng Qu, Dong Dan, Jinbao St, 88号金宝汇购物中心5层
One speciality you must try when in Beijing is the Peking duck. The Pekingese roasted duck meat is thin while the duck skin is crunchy. The most authentic versions of the recipe are characterised by little meat and a lot of skin. The duck is offered to diners cut into thin slices in front of them directly by the cook. The remaining fat, meat and bones can be used to prepare a broth, served as it is, or the meat can be chopped and stir-fried with sweet soy sauce. The duck meat served in this way is eaten with the addition of green onions or shallots, fresh cucumbers, sweet soy sauce, all wrapped in thin wraps. Sometimes, the slices of skin are served dipped in a garlic and sugar sauce. Photo credit: City Foodsters from flickr https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59070550
Article By: Gloria Lambrini
Price covers: Entry
Prices for Beijing Duck
Category Price Restrictions
Standard Free

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About the author

I'm a student of Chinese language and society from Italy, passionate about traveling, destination marketing and creating content on social media I'm looking forward to meet you all, follow me through my journey!

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