Beijing is an enormous municipality abundant in history, culture, beautiful landscapes, and fine cuisine. Beijing is an essential part of any Chinese itinerary. In fact, in 2017, more than 80% of our clients made Beijing either their only stop or one of their stops in China (see full report).
The Great Wall is the first thing that comes to mind when many people think of China. Beijing is usually considered the main gateway to the Great Wall as it is close to several world famous sections of the wall, including Badaling, Mutianyu, Jinshanling, Simatai, Gubeikou, and Jiankou.
If you only have half a day for the Great Wall, then Mutianyu would be the perfect choice — expect beautiful scenery and far fewer tourists than Badaling. If you can allow for one full day at the wall, then we highly recommend Jinshanling for its unbeatable scenery.
North of Beijing, the Ming Tombs offer a fascinating insight into the history of the Ming dynasty. The Mutianyu Great Wall and the Ming Tombs can be combined into a one day tour.
Two of Beijing’s most popular attractions lie in the heart of the city: Tiananmen Square, a symbolic and historically significant square, and the Forbidden City, the 600-year-old magnificent royal home complex. Opposite the north gate of the Forbidden City is Jingshan Park (also known as Coal Hill Park), where you can take in bird’s eye views of the whole Forbidden City.
For something more down to earth, Beijing’s low-rise, narrow alleyways, known as hutongs, offer a glimpse of the local culture and history. Strolling into a hutong, with its grey brick walls and upturned ‘artichoke-leaf’ roofs, you disappear into the Beijing of old. The noisy city melts away and is replaced by sleepy seniors sitting and watching the world go by, people going about their daily business, and the curious and delicious smells of truly authentic restaurants. If you want to visit the hutongs, you can join a regular hutong tour (either on foot or by rickshaw) or one of our guides can come with you to act as a translator, because we’re sure you’ll want to ask lots of questions!
There are certainly plenty of historical attractions to put on your Beijing bucket list (check out more Beijing attractions here). However, if you have three or more days in Beijing, slowing down your sightseeing schedule and dipping into local life and culture. For example, you could join the local people for some morning tai chi in the Temple of Heaven, take a class in a local handicraft such as calligraphy or Peking opera mask painting class, do some shopping in a local wet market or relax in a tea house or Chinese medicine spa.
Three days is usually enough for most visitors to see all the must-see attractions and still allow some time to catch your breath and enjoy some of Beijing’s excellent restaurants.
As the capital of China, Beijing is home to authentic restaurants serving cuisines from all around the country. Although we usually take our visitors to restaurants that serve Beijing local dishes, you can always ask your travel specialist or guide if you want to taste some other cuisines.
Speaking of local Beijing dishes, Peking duck is the one dish that you absolutely shouldn't miss. Whether you want to try upscale duck in a fancy restaurant or eat it with the locals in a tiny hutong hole in the wall, we can give you plenty of suggestions for the best places to eat Peking duck.
If you are a keen foodie, we can also arrange for you to try your hand at cooking some Chinese dishes or wrapping some dumplings (another popular Beijing dish!).
Although most of our guests prefer to stick to Chinese food while in Beijing, if you have a craving for Western food then you can find plenty of good quality options thanks, in part, to Beijing’s large and diverse expat population. In fact, some of our travel specialists are expats who have been living in Beijing for years so they can give you their honest opinion on any restaurant!
Ancient and modern collide in Beijing’s nightlife scene. You will never be short of choice on a night out in Beijing!
The area around Nanluoguxiang and the Drum and Bell Towers has plenty of hidden bars serving everything from craft beer to complex cocktails, while Sanlitun and the area around the Worker’s Stadium is the best choice for slick cocktail bars and nightclubs.
If you prefer a show, the Peking Opera show, the Chaoyang Acrobat Show, and The Legend of Kungfu are all good culturally-oriented choices. Beijing also has a number of live music venues that host shows by local and international artists (check expat listing websites like the Beijinger and Time Out Beijing for shows during your visits).
Beijing has a climate similar to Washington DC, cold in winter with occasional snow, and hot and humid in summer. April, May, and June are particular pleasant months to visit; in May you can enjoy picturesque flowering trees in the city’s many parks. July and August, while still good, can be hot. September and October are pleasant, green, and a popular time to visit (so do expect to encounter some crowds, especially during the week-long October holiday). November is still nice with a fall feel in the air. December through March are winter months, when there are usually fewer tourists at all the attractions.
Beijing Capital International Airport is the busiest international airport in China and one of the busiest in Asia. Most popular China travel destinations are easily accessible from Beijing via flight or bullet train (for example, both Shanghai and Xi’an are around five hours by train and 90 minutes by air from Beijing). All of this makes Beijing an ideal first stop for visitors to China.