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Home Beijing Travel Guide How to Plan a Trip to Beijing: A Step-by-Step Travel Planner

How to Plan a Trip to Beijing: A Step-by-Step Travel Planner

In a lot of travelers’ eyes, Beijing is one of the most popular tourist destinations in China, boasting rich cultural ambience and a wide variety of historical sites, such as the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Yonghe Lamasery…

With so many attractions to choose from, planning a trip to Beijing could really be a difficult task. Here, we have a Beijing travel guide, offering travel tips and suggestions on itinerary, transportation, accommodation, etc., to help you make a memorable trip to Beijing, China.

 

What to See & What to Do in Beijing

1. Great Wall Exploration: Go Hiking or Camping

Beijing is well-known as one of the best tourist cities in China to view the grandeur of the Great Wall. Visitors can not only admire magnificent ramparts and beacon towers at well-preserved Great Wall sections like Badaling, Mutianyu, and Juyongguan but also marvel at the incredible vistas at Jinshanling or Simatai which were built against steep mountain ridges.

Tourists who travel to Beijing with families may choose Badaling or Mutianyu with a relatively gentle slope and perfect facilities like cable car and tram; experienced hikers may challenge themselves by exploring precipitous sections like the mentioned Jinshanling or Simatai, or even wild Great Wall sections like Jiankou, which have attracted numerous adventurers with the unspoiled beauty.

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Mutianyu Great Wall Beijing
Mutianyu Great Wall

2. Admire Magnificent Imperial Complexes

Beijing has been the capital city of China for more than 870 years, which endows the city with a great number of imperial heritages:

  • The Forbidden City must be the most celebrated complex, still showcasing its regal majesty with thousands of glorious palaces symmetrically constructed along the axis;
  • For a half-day leisure tour, Summer Palace – the retreat for the ancient royal family – could be a great destination. It entertains visitors with a serene view of Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill which are adorned with elegant halls, pavilions, and bridges;
  • The solemn Temple of Heaven is another must-see attraction impressing tourists with distinctive altars which served as the place for emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368 – 1911) to hold grand sacrificial ceremonies.

3. Hutong Exploration: Unveil Traditional Beijingers Lifestyle

The crisscrossing hutongs have become a museum of Beijing’s folk customs and history. Today, most of the hutongs are still residential blocks lined with traditional courtyards. There are still famous hutongs, such as Yandaixie Street and Dashilar Street, that have become bustling pedestrian streets filled with time-honored brands, food booths, and distinctive stores of various handicrafts.

The best way to explore hutong life is to simply wander along the alleys, or you may seek a unique experience by taking a rickshaw to tour around hutongs at Shichahai Area or South Luogu Lane.

Recommended Beijing Day Tours:

4. Savor Peking Roasted Duck at Time-Honored Restaurants

Gourmets should never miss the chance to sample the famous Peking Roasted Duck during their Beijing tours. The special taste mixed with the crispiness of skin and juiciness of meat had won this traditional cuisine an important place at the royal court.

Today, there are a lot of restaurants in Beijing, crowded with foodies from home and abroad, among which time-honored brands such as Quan Ju De (全聚德), Bian Yi Fang (便宜坊), and Da Dong Roasted Duck (大董烤鸭) have got the highest marks from locals and offer the authentic flavor of Peking Roasted Duck.

Beijing Food - Roast Duck
Beijing Roast Duck

How Many Days Will Be Suitable for a Beijing Trip  at least 3 Days

Beijing has no lack of historical sites and modern landscapes to fulfill visitors’ diverse tastes and interests. Usually, a typical Beijing travel requires at least 3 days to cover the essential sights of the city, and the following is a recommended itinerary for your reference:

  • Day 1: Tian’anmen Square & Forbidden City
  • Day 2: Great Wall hiking tour & Hutong tour
  • Day 3: Temple of Heaven & Summer Palace

If you have sufficient time, you may spend another one or two days exploring more about the city according to your own preferences. For example:

  • Take a magical trip to the Universal Beijing Resort to immerse in the fairy-tale world appearing in movies and cartoons;
  • Spend a whole day delving into the country’s splendid civilization at the National Museum of China;
  • Pay a visit to the Lama Temple as well as the nearby Imperial Academy and Confucius Temple to feel the strong cultural ambiance.

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Best Time to Visit Beijing Autumn (September-October)

The climate of Beijing is actually suitable for traveling all year round. However, you will obtain the most comfortable sightseeing experience and view the most colorful scenery during autumn (September to October) when the temperature is moderate, and maple and ginkgo trees decorate the city with hues of fiery red and golden yellow.

 

Beijing Weather: Four Distinctive Seasons

Spring (March-May):

The temperature warms up in spring and flowers start to bloom, making it the best time to view colorful blossoms in parks. However, visitors should be aware of the large temperature difference between day and night. The climate is rather dry during the period with occasional sandstorms.

Summer (June-August):

Beijing welcomes its tourist peak season from July to August when the temperature is also at its highest point. Tourists are recommended to visit indoor attractions or summer retreats like Summer Palace and Yuanmingyuan Park in the daytime to avoid the intense heat.

The city will receive the most rainfall in summer. Please check the weather in advance and avoid going out when it is going to be a storm.

Autumn (September-November):

Autumn is a beautiful time of the year. Its cooler temperature makes it more comfortable to be outdoors, and the fresh air is exhilarating, offering visitors a comfortable sightseeing experience.

Winter (December-February):

Winter in Beijing is rather cold with an average temperature of around 0℃.  However, visitors can still have great fun by going skating in natural rinks at Shichahai, Beihai Park, Summer Palace…

Forbidden City Snow Scenery
The Forbidden City in the Snow

Where to Stay in Beijing

There is a great range of accommodation options in Beijing to suit different budgets, such as starred hotels, hostels, hotel apartments, guesthouses… Here, we list a few recommendations for you to decide according to your needs:

  • Qianmen Street Area: Qianmen Street is within 5-minutes walking distance of Tian’anmen Square, the National Museum of China, and the Forbidden City. You can find a few busy pedestrian streets in this region, which is very convenient for shopping and dining.
  • Wangfujing Street Area: Wangfujing Street is 30 minutes’ walk away from the Forbidden City. Praised as the “shopping paradise” in Beijing, it is one of the most prosperous shopping blocks in the city and houses a few upscale hotels.
  • Hutong Areas: Living in the traditional courtyards in Hutong can offer a distinctive experience to feel the traditional lifestyle of the city. This kind of accommodation can be found in hutongs near the Forbidden City, Shichahai, and South Luogu Lane.

 

How to Get to Beijing: Flights & High-Speed Trains

Beijing houses two 4F-level airports in the suburbs – Beijing Capital International Airport and Beijing Daxing International Airport – operating several domestic airline routes and international routes. Both airports are connected with the downtown area by subway.

As the high-speed rail network in China connects almost all the major cities in China, taking a high-speed train is also a comfortable way to get to Beijing.

Travel from Shanghai to Beijing

Flight: Frequent flights from Hongqiao Airport or Pudong Airport in Shanghai to either airport in Beijing with a duration of around 2.5 hours

High-Speed Train: Frequent trains from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station to Beijing South Railway Station with a duration of 4.5~6 hours

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Travel from Xian to Beijing

Flight: Frequent flights from Xianyang Airport in Xi’an to either airport in Beijing with a duration of around 2 hours

High-Speed Train: Around 20 daily trains from Xi’an North Railway Station to Beijing West Railway Station with a duration of 4~5.5 hours

Travel from Chengdu to Beijing

As there are only 5 high-speed trains heading to Beijing every day, taking a flight could be the most convenient way to get to Beijing from Chengdu. There are frequent flights from Shuangliu Airport or Tianfu Airport in Chengdu to either airport in Beijing and it usually takes around 2.5 hours to get to the destination.

 

Do I Need a Visa to Travel to Beijing?

Generally, foreign visitors must hold a China tourist visa (L-visa) to enter any city in China. However, Beijing has been implementing the 144-hour visa-free transit policy since 2013, which enables visitors from 54 countries and regions to have a 6-day stay in Beijing without a visa.

Upon arrival at the airport, please go to the counter that handles temporary entry applications, show your passport and airline ticket to the third country, and fill out the temporary entry application card, and then go through inspections at customs. After the inspections, you may go collect your luggage and start your wonderful trip in Beijing, China.

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