How to spend an epic 5 days in Beijing China

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There are so many things to do in a city that even if you live there you may not get to see it all. This was the same for our stay in Beijing and we had a list a mile long on what to see in Beijing. We wanted to see as much as we could in Beijing and in the heat as well. We had a full 5 days in Beijing and we were going to make the best of that time.

Whether Beijing is your only destination in China with a 144-hour visa or you have other cities on your China itinerary we have put together this Bejing travel guide for you to get as much out of your time there as possible.

We had friends visiting us in China from Australia and we wanted to make it epic for them as well as us. There was just so much to see so this is what we did during our 5 days in Beijing.

Is Beijing worth a visit on my trip to China?

Many people will tell you that Beijing is a busy tourist city and we have to agree but there are times when you will be the only Western tourist at a place when you visit China especially if you independently travel there as we did. Most tourists are domestic tourists.

They are orderly and respectful but personal space is not something that they are used to so you might feel very claustrophobic at some of the sights in Beijing.

All of the places below we have visited in Beijing and we believe they should be a part of any Beijing Itinerary.

Learn More: If you are planning a trip to China there are some things you need to know. Use our epic guide to make sure you have everything you need before you leave home for your vacation in China

How to spend an epic 5 days in Beijing China

Unlock the secrets of Beijing’s rich history and vibrant culture with our guide on how to make the most of an unforgettable 5-day adventure in China’s capital city.

Day 1 in Beijing

After you have had a rest and hopefully a good night’s sleep in your Beijing accommodation it is time to hit the ground running with a visit to the Summer Palace first.

Summer Palace

This was one of the first places we decided to visit in Beijing. It is a beautiful park that has just under 3 kilometres of parkland and was an Imperial park in the Qing Dynasty. The main sites people like to visit are Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake but as you wander you can find many different types of bridges, temples, halls and pavilions to explore.

Visiting the Summer palace for an afternoon is one of the top things to do when you are spending 5 days in Beijing

Being such a large compound, it is divided into different sections. You can buy an entry ticket that only gets you access to the Palace grounds or you can buy a full ticket that gets you access to every other attraction (like Longevity Hill) called a ‘Through Ticket’ within the Palace grounds.

As you go you can decide what extra entries you want to pay for if you only get the Palace entry ticket. The Summer Palace is one of the best things to see in Beijing on your 5 days in Beijing trip.

Palace gardens30Y
Longevity Hill10Y each
Boat ride on Kunming Lake40Y each
Through Ticket 60 Y
Children under 1.2mFree

We decided with the crowds we would just purchase the entry ticket to visit the Summer Palace and then if we wanted to go up to the top of Longevity Hill to the Tower of Buddhist Incense we would pay for that as we went.

We highly recommend a trip up to the top of the Tower of Buddhist Incense. The views from there over Kunming Lake have to be one of the best things to see in Beijing. It is about 180 steps to the top though.

Scenic view of the Summer Palace in Beijing, showcasing its stunning architecture, gardens, and lakeside setting

We also took a short boat ride on Kunming Lake. It was sort of like a little ferry to Nanhu Island and the kids loved it. It also gave great views of Longevity Hill and the 17 Arch Bridge. If you are travelling in Beijing with children this will be a great place for them to have a bit of fun on the water.

Time needed at the Summer Palace

We spent 4.5 hours at the Summer Palace and we saw only the Palace, Longevity Hill, The Long Corridor, Nanhu Island, walked over the 17 Arch Bridge and went to the top of the Tower of Buddhist Incense.

If you wanted to you could easily spend the entire day roaming the park as it is one of the most stunning places to visit in Beijing.

How do I get to the Summer Palace?

We used Didi to get around while we independently travelled in China and we found it especially useful in our Beijing sightseeing trips. We used Didi to get to the Summer Palace as we found that by the time we purchased 4 tickets, navigated the signs and actually got to a place it was easier to order a Didi and get dropped off at the sight. Our trip out to the Summer Palace was 45RMB.

To get to the Summer Palace by bus, you can take the numbers 303, 331, 332, 346, 508, 579, or 584. These will take you to the East Palace Gate. You will need to get off the bus at Yiheyuan Station.

To get to the Summer Palace by train you need to take line number 4 in the Northwest direction to Beigongmen Station (or North Gate).

Top Tips for Visiting the Summer Palace

It is such a family-friendly park that you will find it great to visit with kids or without. There is space for a stroller but it would be hard to get it up all the steps if you want to go to the top of the Tower of Buddhist Incense.

  • You can take food with you if you want to spend the day and save money
  • It can get seriously crowded. Be prepared to wait
  • There is not a lot of shade so make sure you have sunscreen and a hat
  • Take some water but there are places to purchase more
  • Food and drinks are very reasonable if you need to buy them there

Day 2 in Beijing

Hopefully, you got a good night’s rest at your Beijing accommodation and are ready for day 2 in Beijing!

Temple of Heaven

This is a complex of buildings used in the Ming and the Qing dynasties for the Emperor to go to pray for a good harvest and it is one of the most amazing things to see in Beijing.

Through ticket priceCost
Children under 1.2mFree

*We suggest you get a THROUGH TICKET which will allow you to visit all sections of the complex.

Time needed at the Temple of Heaven:

We spent around 2 hours wandering the grounds of the Temple of Heaven and looking at the temples. We think this is a great amount of time when you are visiting the Temple of Heaven. It is one of the top Beijing tourist attractions so be prepared for it to be a busy place.

How do I get to the Temple of Heaven?

Again we took a Didi to the Temple of Heaven to maximise our time there. We had so many things to see in Beijing in 5 days that we didn’t want the hassle of getting the wrong public transport.

Dynamic urban scene in Beijing, China, featuring bustling streets, colorful signage, and a lively atmosphere.

If you plan to visit the Temple of Heaven you use train line number 5 to enter the Temple of Heaven through the East gate (It is the closest to the train station) You hop off the train at Tiantan Dongmen Station and take exit A. The East Gate entrance is right there.

If you prefer to take the bus to the East gate, try the buses numbered 6, 35, 36, 39, 41, 43

Top tips for visiting the temple of Heaven:

  • On a hot day, it will be amplified. Be prepared for it to be extremely hot on a warm day
  • There is shade but you will find it hard to get to if there is a large crowd
  • The crowds when we went were huge. It was a continued struggle to get through some of the gates although it was orderly
  • Even though it was extremely busy everyone was polite and waited for their turns
  • You can get cold water easily at the small shops there
The Temple of Heaven in Beijing, a magnificent imperial structure surrounded by lush gardens and symbolic architecture

*If you plan on doing some shopping during your 5 days in Beijing you can visit the Temple of Heaven and exit it through the East Gate. You can walk through the beautiful park next to the temple complex and make your way to Pearl Street (Hongqiao Market) which is only a short walk from the East Gate.

We know because we go! Are you planning on travelling to other cities like Xian, Chongqing or Chengdu on your trip to China? The rail system in China is amazing and easy to use. Our China train guide: how to book, collect, board and ride is exactly what you need to read.

Pearl Street Market (Hongqiao Market)

Many people go to China to do some serious shopping and I was the same. You can get everything here from clothes, bags, souvenirs and so much more.

Time needed at the Pearl Street Market:

That is entirely up to you but I think if you are there and you have things to get I would put aside a minimum of 2 hours to get your shopping done. While you are here you can also go down to the basement level and get yourself a lovely meal for a very good price in the food court there.

*We also visited the Silk Street Market in Beijing but I liked this one more and found the stallholders much less pushy, the goods at a better price and much more of a variety that was easier to find in the Pearl Street Market.

Top tips for visiting the Pearl Street Market:

  • Barter hard. Quarter it and go from there
  • Take small notes to pay the closest to the amount. Being given large fake notes as change can be a problem in the markets
  • There are toilets in the basement but they are only squats and you must have your own toilet paper
  • There are ATM’s on-site
  • Wear your backpack in front of you, have your money hidden in there and only get out what you need. If you splash a lot of cash they will know not to barter hard with you
  • Know your exchange rate so you can work out how much it is in your currency
  • Tag team if you need to with someone you are travelling with
  • Go with a budget

Day 3 in Beijing

We hope you are rested after a short day yesterday so you can get the best out of your Great Wall of China trip. This is top of the list for many people when they visit China especially when they are spending time in Beijing.

Mutianyu Great Wall trip

This was the section we decided to go on during our 5 days in Beijing as it was the one where we all had an opportunity to enjoy it. It has something for everyone in our group.

We caught the cable car up. We then spent about 3 hours walking around on the Great Wall.

Scenic view of the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China, set against a backdrop of lush greenery and rolling hills

We went to Watchtower 18-19 and then slowly made our way down to the chair lift.

We had hoped to ride the toboggan down the wall but there had been a tiny (and I mean a tiny amount) of rain for about 5 minutes and they had closed it. If you are in Beijing with kids the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall should be the place you plan to visit.

How do I get to the Mutianyu Great Wall section?

We went with Wild Great Wall and we loved it. We organised to be picked up at 6 a.m. from our Beijing hostel to get out and be some of the first in line to get tickets.

Fang our driver didn’t speak a lot of English but he was ultra organised and passed that onto us throughout the day with his guidance. He made sure we got our tickets first at the bottom station for entry, then walked us up to make sure we got the correct tickets to the cable car and toboggan.

"Impressive landscape featuring the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China, surrounded by picturesque natural beauty

He then made sure we got onto the correct shuttle bus and then guided us onto the wall itself. He was a brilliant Beijing tour guide and I highly recommend him.

Fang then took us to an excellent restaurant on our way with a stop to see the Bird’s Nest as well

Time needed at the Mutianyu Great Wall Section

We spent around 4 hours all up on the Great Wall of China with kids in tow.

Top tips for visiting the Great Wall of China

  • Take plenty of water with you if you are hiking up, around and down it. Pack extra and then take more
  • Even on a cloudy day at the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China, it can get crazy hot
  • There are some places where you can purchase drinks and light snacks on the Great Wall
  • Get there early. The earlier you get there the more time you get in sections by yourself
  • You don’t have to pay to get the chair lift or the toboggan down to the bottom you can hike down it

Other sections of the Great Wall near Beijing

  • Badaling
  • Jinshanling 
  • Juyonguan
  • Simatai

Day 4 in Beijing

We had this on our list to visit during our 5 days in Beijing and we were all so keen to visit Beijing’s top tourist attraction until we saw the crowds outside the Forbidden City.

Our friend’s daughter took one look at the line up at the entry gate and said ‘No’ The line was around 11-12 people wide and at least 30 deep.

It was crazy. If you can’t deal with crowds you need to really think about visiting the Forbidden City.

It must have been a sign though as we went to purchase tickets 15 minutes after they went on sale and all 80,000 had sold for the day. So it was no entry for us at all!

View of the Forbidden City in Beijing, a magnificent imperial palace complex with traditional architecture and grand courtyards

So it’s on the list for next time but I still think it needs to be on any Beijing itinerary I can’t give you any tips on the experience on the inside, sorry! I was just not willing to ruin an experience for a teen by pushing a visit.

Forbidden City

The Forbidden City has to be one of the most visited sites in the world and is normally on top of anyone’s list when they visit China. The amazing complex of buildings is a true treasure and is one not to be hurried.

Children under 1.2mFree

*The Treasure Gallery and the Clock and Watch Gallery are an extra 10Y each to enter

Time needed at the Forbidden City

The line was moving fast to allow entry for people from what I could see but my opinion would be to allow at least half a day or be ready to go when the crowds get too much.

Top tips for visiting the Forbidden City

  • The Forbidden City is CLOSED EVERY MONDAY
  • Pre-purchase your tickets
  • You need your passport to buy tickets
  • Be prepared to be disappointed if you just rock up and they are sold out
  • Be there at the opening if you can

Imperial Ancestral Temple (Tiamiao Park)

This is a huge temple complex located next to the Forbidden City and it is beautiful. It was the place we went to after we couldn’t get into the actual Forbidden City during our 5 days in Beijing.

It shares a common ground plan with the Forbidden City and has much fewer people in it!

Peaceful scene at Tiamiao Park in Beijing, featuring serene gardens and traditional architecture

It has temples and was actually the place where the Emperor stored their ancestral tablets.

We got to watch military cadets practising their marching with a senior officer and it was really interesting before making our way to the main temple area.

Tiananmen Square

This was a place we all wanted to see during our 5 days in Beijing and we made a great effort to go during the day. Tiananmen Square was under a lot of construction when we went and there was a large amount of security there.

An absolute must is to go and see Tiananmen Square at night. It is lit up and there are many people around enjoying a late dinner picnic. It is very safe but there is a large security presence.

Sculpture of Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing, a prominent symbol of China's revolutionary history

You will need to have your bag checked and you should have an ID on you to enter. You may also struggle to walk freely around as some sections leading up to it are sectioned off during the work on it.

Wangfujing Snack Street

This was the biggest Beijing tourist attraction that we had been told about and we headed there straight away. Unfortunately, it has been demolished and at this stage, we have no idea when it will reopen or even if it will.

Day 5 in Beijing

Your time is nearly up and we hope you have really enjoyed your 5 days in Beijing. This day is about getting the last little bits in and making sure you have seen all that you want to see while having a holiday in Beijing.

Jingshan Park

This is a park that is situated above the Forbidden City. It gives you beautiful views of the city.

Jingshan Park in Beijing, offering a panoramic view of the city and its historical landmarks, including the Forbidden City

We all stood at the top and wondered what it would have been like walking around the city and not having a clue as to what was going on inside.

Not only does the park give you beautiful views there are also so many things going on in it too. We watched groups of people just form a group and sing together. It was beautiful. There are people doing aerobics and Tai Chi which they encouraged us to join in with.

Within Jingshan Park are pagodas, towers and gardens for you to discover.

Other sites to see in Beijing

While we have given you our guide to 5 days in Beijing there are other things you may want to see while you are in Beijing. We had some of these on our Beijing itinerary as some of the other things to do in Beijing but we just ran out of time.

Other places to put on your Beijing itinerary

  • Beihai Park
  • Ming Dynasty Tombs
  • The Lama Temple
  • Traditional Hutong area (we stayed in a Hutong area)
  • Beijing Ancient Observatory
  • Beijing Zoo
  • The Old Summer Palace
  • Having a Peking Duck dinner

Some extra top tips for visiting Beijing

  • Entry for your child is based on HEIGHT, not age. If they are over 120cm tall they are classed as adult
  • Food is available at most places. You will find a traditional option and there are Western foods available too, you just may need to search a little longer for them
  • There are security checks at some places, please be aware that it may take you longer to enter a place
  • Some places have limited tickets per day due to the number of people wanting to enter. If you really want to visit a place you need to book
  • Most places you will go will be crowded but if you are aware it should not be a problem

Accommodation in Beijing

Many people assume that China is a cheap country to travel to. Yes, some parts certainly are, but Beijing is not. Accommodation in Beijing is as expensive as any Western capital city in the world.

You will find all types of accommodation from Hostels, apartments and hotels available in Beijing. If you looking for a budget option we highly recommend Heyuan Courtyard Youth Hostel. For more options please check the map below

Looking for accommodation in Beijing can be hard. We chose the Beijing Heyuan International Youth Hostel for our stay in Beijing. Great location, easy to walk to shops and English-speaking staff. More like a hotel than a hostel, there are rooms with private bathrooms. Read our review here!

How to get to Beijing

Beijing is serviced by 2 airports, Beijing Capital and Beijing Daxing International Airports. Beijing Capital is located 32 Kilometers from the city centre while Daxing is located 46 kilometres away.

High-speed rail is king in China. China has the world’s largest high-speed rail network with trains travelling the country at up to 350 kilometres an hour. You can reach Beijing from anywhere in China via high-speed rail. You can read our buying train tickets in China Post here.

China has an extensive network of highways that are of good Western quality. The traffic in Beijing is heavy at all times and best tackled by experienced city drivers. Nevertheless you can hire cars at the major airports

Money in China

The official National Currency in China is the rénmínbì (RMB) or some call it the Yuan. They come in 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, and 1 RMB banknotes as well as 1 yuan, 5 jiao, and 1 jiao coins.

We found for tourists you needed cash and smaller notes were better to have. Most Chinese pay through WeChat or Alipay. The ICBC bank was the easiest to use with an English language option and fewer fees than other banks for withdrawals.

Beware that large notes can be a part of a scam where they take the note at a shop, quickly exchange it for a fake and then accuse you of tricking them. Please make sure you have some smaller notes, especially at the markets in Beijing.

Where can I get Yuan from?

We used an ATM to withdraw the amount of money we needed for a couple of days at a time to save on withdrawal fees through our Australian Bank. Our debit card worked fine and so did our QANTAS travel money card. We recommend you do not use a money exchange service as you risk being ripped off. Use an ATM and withdraw what you need.

We did not exchange any foreign currency into Yuan while we were there but we did go to an ICBC bank to exchange Yaun for Euro as we had a lot left over. We needed our passports and about 1 hour to do this. We were thoroughly checked out and so was the money.

Top tips for using an ATM in Beijing

You will find many ATMs around the cities in China, especially in Beijing. They dispense anywhere up to 20000 yuan at a time sometimes higher in the tourist areas.

They are normally very secure with your own little booth to withdraw money from but you must take all of the usual precautions when you are carrying money. We found the ICBC bank in China to be the best as it had an English menu that was easy to use.

Like most major cities you need to be aware of your surroundings and be careful of skimmers on the machine. We used numerous ATMs in China and we had no issues. You should probably alert your bank as well if you are travelling to China to make sure they are aware and do not see your transactions as fraudulent and possibly cut off your access to your money.

Access to the Internet in China

We were all prepared for no internet for the month we would be travelling in China. We knew we would need some for our work but at the same time knew it may have been an issue as we had been told that the internet in China for tourists was hard to get even in hotels.

We decided to purchase Chinese sim cards from home in Australia before we left and had them in our luggage to put in our phones when we arrived in China. This is one of the essential things you need for travelling to China. If you are unable to do that we have some great deals here for you to check out.

Using a VPN in China

We downloaded Express VPN in Australia before we left and we did not have a problem with it while travelling in China. It does reconnect sometimes but we have not had any other issues.

This is an essential tool if you want to use the internet in China. If you plan on using the internet this is one of the top things you need for travelling to China.

Beijing is such a beautiful city and one that is very good for tourists. The people there are friendly and really want to do their best for foreigners. We found Beijing to be a great family city with plenty to do with our kids. There are families out and about at night as well.

We hope this post from us here at Wyld Family Travel has inspired you to plan a trip to China and spend some of your time visiting Beijing.

For more amazing ideas on where to holiday in China click through to our China Destination Guide page for more brilliant inspiration for planning your trip to China.

More travel inspiration for your trip to China

Rebecca Wyld

Content Creator/SEO Editor

Co-founder and SEO editor here at Wyld Family Travel. Bec has travelled to over 45 countries across 3 continents and is a journey with kids advocate. When Bec is not planning travel, she creates content for our family travel blog or does local community service work. You can find all of Bec’s detailed travel guides here on Wyld Family Travel and on other popular websites such as Lonely Planet.

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