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.
Do you need all the very best tips on visiting China?Read our epic China Travel Guide here
We had friends visiting us in China from Australia and we wanted to make it as 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.
Many people will tell you that Beijing is a busy tourist city and we have to agree but there are times where you will be the only western tourist at a place when you visit China especially if you independent 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.
Day 1 in Beijing
After you have had a rest and hopefully a good nights sleep in your Beijing accommodation it is time to hit the ground running with a visit to the Summer Palace first.
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.
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.
|Longevity Hill||10Y each|
|Boat ride on Kunming Lake||40Y each|
|Through Ticket||60 Y|
|Children under 1.2m||Free|
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 Buddist 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.
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 Buddist 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 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 send 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 it there
Day 2 in Beijing
Hopefully, you got a good nights sleep 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 price||Cost|
|Children under 1.2m||Free|
*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 in 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.
If you plan to visit the Temple of Heaven you use the 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
*If you plan on doing some shopping 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.
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 2 hours to get your shopping done. While you are here you can also go down to the basement level and get your self 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 at 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 on the 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 and especially when they are spending time in Beijing.
Mutianyu Great Wall trip
This was the section we decided to go on 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.
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 am 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.
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 from 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 your self
- 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
Day 4 in Beijing
We had this on our list and we were all so keen to visit Beijing’s top tourist attraction until we saw the crowds.
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!
So it’s on the list for next time but I still think it needs to be on any Beijing itinerary but 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.
|Children under 1.2m||Free|
*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 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.
It shares a common ground plan with the Forbidden City and had much fewer people in it!
It has temples and was actually the place where the Emperor’s 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.
This was a place we all wanted to see 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.
You will need to have your bag checked and you should have 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 works 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.
This is a park that is situated above the Forbidden City. It gives you beautiful views of the 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, tower and gardens for you to discover.
Other sites to see in Beijing
While we have given you our guide to 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 an 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 in. 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 Booking.com map below
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 bank notes 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. Many Chinese pay through Wechat or Alipay. The ICBC bank was the easiest to use with an English language option and less fees than other banks for withdrawals.
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 worlds largest high-speed rail network with trains travelling the country at up to 350 kilometres an hour. You can reach Beijing for 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. Nether the less you can hire cars at the major airports
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 by 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.
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More about the Author
Bec Wyld is a mother, wife and once reluctant traveller. Bec has been to over 30 countries across the globe. I have planned and stressed in all of these places. Becs writing can be found on Wyld Family Travel and as a guest poster and contributor on many other travel websites including Lonely Planet Kids